Young People and Spiritual Formation
My Library

NT Wright on Art and the Artist

Tomwrightheadshoulder I went last night to the 2nd F. D. Maurice lecture at King's College London given by NT Wright entitled 'The Bible & the Christian Imagination'.  A simple summary would be that Wright was looking at how the biblical tradition encourages artists to re-imagine the world. Here are some of my notes. They miss out some key points in the argument. 

Wright began by looking at Isaiah 6.1-5 and 11.1-9 and the tension between the present and the future. So that 'the whole earth is full of his glory' (6.3) and 'the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh' (11.9). 

There are two trends in art either sentimentalism (seen most starkly in kitsch) or brutalism.  The church tends to stray towards a sentimentalism.  Sentimentalism is the seraphs songs without Isaiah's recognition that he and the people have unclean lips. Brutalism is the opposite, a darkness without any light. Wright argues that art at its best is neither merely sentimental or brutal.

Moments of beauty are glimpses of God's future world breaking in - creation is designed for something richer than it is - art then is an anticipation in the present. Art can have a priestly role/function. Arts are then not just decoration, but pathways into the imagined world of the God of the Bible. Art should not just illustrate, but embody and expound of God's new creation. Artists should lead the way and capture the possibility of new creation in the present. So the Psalmist sings 'sing to the Lord a new song'.   

In a lot of places the emerging church is becoming the home of artists, because there art is allowed this priestly (and maybe also prophetic) role.  It seems to me that the emerging church with its engagement with culture and celebration of the arts is attempting something of what Wright is suggesting.   

Next Wednesday (1st March) is the final lecture entitled 'The Bible, Postmodernity & the New Imperialism', which I think will focus on Wright's emphasis of God's future breaking into present and what this means for politics. The lecture will be held in the Great Hall (King's College London, Strand Campus) and will start at 5.30pm.



suonds interesting...

I'm always interested in how the arts relate to Christianity and Christian practise...

Karen Armstrong in the myth book talks at the end about how art and film and literature are becoming the mythmakers of our secularised world... It seems logical that a church that is largely devoid of any sense of mythos would try to tap into the arts...

and this is somethign which should be encouraged I think, and artists given much more freedom.

Steven Harris

You were at the lecture? Where were you sat?

It was top quality stuff, save for the guy who had a bee in his bonnet about Tom Wright lecturing on Art and Music for some reason.

andy goodliff

I was sitting two thirds to the back on the left hand side (facing the front). I was with Mark Greer. We thought you might be there but couldn't identify you!

Steven Harris

I was about 4 rows back in the middle in a dark green hoody. I was the one that asked NTW how the church could maintain a coherent relationship between sincere and devout faith and the arts/music without descending into kitsch claptrap.

I'm not 100% sure that I'l be there next Weds but are you going?

andy goodliff

I remember that question ... good question ... yeah I'm planning to be there ... but will have to shoot off before questions, to get back to stevenage for something ...


we were sat right in front of the bloke with a bee in his bonnet - I could have so easily turned round and bopped him one!


Do you know if there will be a transcript, Andy?

Steven Harris

Hey Andy,

I'm going to be at the lecture tomorrow so drop me an e-mail if you're going too and you want to get a coffee beforehand or something.

Kyle Potter ( is also going to be there too.

Douglas Knight

Hi, I'm the one who had a bee in his bonnet about Tom Wright lecturing on Art and Music. You can find my reason - or at least my question - over at the D K blog. I am sorry I didn't find this thread in time or introduce myself to you all after lectures.

The comments to this entry are closed.