Saturday, March 01, 2008

I Have a Th.M Topic

My Calvinistic credentials have always been questioned because I have always been accused of planning too far ahead for there to be any real belief in providence. Well putting all that to the side I have decided to do my Th.M in Historical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary on the "appearance" of images in Presbyterian Churches. Beginning with a look at the once traditional Calvinistic outlook on images in the church building I will trace the development of church architecture in the United States from the beginning of the 19th Century to the end of the 19th Century and see how the architectural conceptions changed in Presbyterian Churches from the beginning to end of the century and how the theology of the Church allowed for the incorporating of stained glass, ornate imagery, and pictures of Christ within the sanctuary.

Should be fun.


DROLLORD said...

-What exactly is a Th.M?

"...on the "appearance" of images in Presbyterian Churches."
-What texts are you going to consult on the subject? Have a lot of people written on this one?

"I have always been accused of planning too far ahead for there to be any real belief in providence."
-I'd love to hear your accusers reasons.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

A Th.M is a "middle" degree between a M.Div and a Ph.D. The Th.M is especially for those of us who plan on doing Ph.D work yet do not have a thesis-option in our M.Div program that most Ph.D programs require.

As far as the texts I plan on building from Calvin, old Princeton, Thornwell, and others especially his work with the 2nd Commandment, and tracing its development into the appearance of idols in Presbyterian churches.

The last thing it was more a bit of sarcasm than serious.

Anonymous said...

What makes something an idol?

I think you will have some great reading on this subject, as the idea of idolatry cuts right to the heart of our rebellion against God.

But you'll have to make the case that a stained glass image that is supposed to represent Jesus is the equivalent of worshiping an idol.

I'll look forward to hearing your results.

will said...

Benjamin - interesting topic.

I was just wondering about that question, as it happens. I know the traditional Presbyterian view on the subject - and I had always been under the impression that the change occurred primarily in the 20th Century.

But then I thought of the number of 'rose' windows featuring a dove I have seen. Some of these are quite old - early 19th C or more. The dove could be a symbol of peace (from Noah usually), but it is also often a symbol of the Holy Spirit (from the baptism of Jesus) - which would, as I understand it, violate the Calvinist view on images.

So which was it intended to represent, and how did the change in thinking come about?

Benjamin P. Glaser said...


Look at Toby's response in the thread concerning idols as to why these things started to appear in mainline Presbyterian churches.

As far as the rose/dove I would have to think more about that. Part of me wants to say it would be ok to picture a dove but not Christ because we now what a dove looks like and the dove is not the imago dei. I'll think some more about this.

You right to say that Calvin spoke against images of any kind in the sanctuary. some people however get the impression he was against images of any kind which would be false.

Timothy said...

Interesting subject. We struggle with that here in our church. I want to put pictures of members of the congregation in the hallway outside the sanctuary, and some believe that all images are totally forbidden in the sanctuary building. My point is that the pictures are of those who ARE the church. We are about being a group of believers, not a building. Yet, not ignoring the ascetics of the building.

Look forward ot the reading...

Tim said...

Benjamin, that is an absolutely fascinating topic and I would love to read/see/buy your work when it is completed. This is a pet peeve of mine, as it is an obviously violation of the LC Q. # 109. I actually did a short paper on this subject in Ethics class while I was in seminary.

Glad to see you going to Erskine. I know you want to enter the pastorate, but if you ask around there would probably be good opportunity to preach and such at some of the local churches while you are there.

One more thing about images with regard to doves: there is a dove in the ARP logo, and I don't think it's supposed to be the dove of peace! Good providence in getting the ARP to change that!