One more reason why Duke Divinity would be a great place to study

Jason reports that Jeremy Begbie will be moving to Duke University later this year. Is there another university that can match the faculty there?

Stanley Hauerwas, Richard Hays, Douglas Campbell, Greg Jones, Sam Wells, Reinhard Hutter, Geoffrey Wainwright, Curtis Freeman, Ellen Davis, Joel Marcus

Jeremy Begbie has over twenty years carved himself a niche in the area of music and theology. He has led the way with the programmes 'theology through the arts' and the institute for theology, imagination and the arts'. He is the author of voicing creation's praise (T & T Clark, 1989), theology, music and time (CUP, 2000) and most recently resounding truth (Baker, 2007). I'm hoping Geoff will give us a review of this latest book soon.

chocolate Jesus

Christfrontpage I'm coming a little late to this party, but wanted to post on this only so that those who might not have heard about the story would. See comments here on the same topic from kester and ashley. The chocolate Jesus is a life-size sculpture of Jesus on the cross made out of chocolate. If this wasn't bad enough (for some American Christians), Jesus is also naked and you can see his penis. I think that Jesus is naked is the real reason the Catholic League and others have got this piece banned from the public eye. I think its brilliant. A great prophetic act showing how we've commercialized the easter story into chocolate eggs and long weekend. Ashley suggests if we created mini-chocolate Jesuses (probably need to be clothed!) they would find a market. We get so offended, but more offensive is the way we live our lives as if God doesn't really matter. So our offensive ends up being empty and hollow - like an easter egg!

Film and Theology Books

Over the last few years a number of good books on theology and film have been published. I love films and I enjoy trying to interpet and understand them beyond mere entertainment. The books below are all serious attempts to bring theology and film into conversation and understand how theology can interpret film.

___ Explorations in Theology and Film
(eds. Clive Marsh and Gaye Oritz, 1997, Blackwell)
___ Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Robert K. Johnston, 2000, Baker)
___ Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Cinema and Theology (Gerard Loughlin, 2004, Blackwell)
___ Cinema and Sentiment: Film's Challenge to Theology (Clive Marsh, 2004, Paternoster)
___ Cinema Divinite: Religion, Theology and the Bible in Film (eds. Eric Christianson & et al, 2005, SCM)
___ Flickering Images: Theology and Film in Dialogue (eds. Anthony Clarke and Paul Fiddes, 2005, Smyth & Helwys)

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.

Towards Becoming a Creative Church

creative adj 1 inventive and imaginative 2 creating or able to create

Recently I've been painting big pictures in my head on what it would like to see the children and young people of Bunyan Baptist be encouraged to be creative and expressive in their faith; to locate God’s story in their own medium and language. So much of children and youth work is leader-led, the children are constantly on the receiving end. I want to see “craft activities” that are child-led and meaningful - a space for them to create and not the regular "paint-by-numbers" stuff. ‘Too often activities that are labelled as creative … are about filling time, learning a set of techniques or decoration rather than being truly creative, intellectual activities. Pre-printed, adult-directed and mass-produced art work does not lead to creativity. The images that children create using these methods are not their own’ (Duffy, 1998).  Back at Easter the art work produced by some of my young people was so fantastic and powerful. It was something more powerful (or perhaps just different) than the medium of words or music.

John De Gruchy,a South African theologian, says 'there is an urgent need for the visual arts to find their rightful place within the life and witness of the church.'   I like that. We need a theology of art (see the work of Jeremy Begbie and his gang at the divinity school at St. Andrew's for more). We need “art” which is appreciated and welcomed by the whole church. Another quote says this:

“In opposition to the many destructive images that surround us, art, like theology, may yet offer something different, something life-giving and life-affirming, a critical view of our existence, a call to change, a glimmer of hope, an anticipation of what may be and could be” (Gesa E. Thiessen)

Creative arts which encourage and give expression to a Christian imagination which enable our children and young people to build vision and virtue outside that which is given them.

Pete Ward says 'Where artistic creations are to be used in worship the desire is that God will become present to the whole community through them' (Youth Work and the Mission of God).

This post represents some sketchy theological theory of something I want to read up on more and develop at a greater depth.