Monday, May 08, 2006

A Theological Basis for the Arts

Here is an outline of what will become chapter 2 of the book. From the primary source, the Bible, we move to secondary reflection, the work of theology. The five widely recognized sources for theological thought are Scripture, Liturgy (how we have worshiped), Tradition, (how we have lived, our corporate history), Reason (how we think), and Experience (what we have seen, tasted, touched, heard and smelled of Christ). Karl Barth puts the task of theology in this way:

"Theology is an act of repentant humility, which is presented to humanity through his act. This act exists in the fact that in theology the Church seeks again and again to examine itself critically as it asks itself what it means and implies to be a Church among humanity."

Applied to our purposes here, theology seeks to examine the vocation of the artist in light of a Trinitarian God. The logic is simple: as with God, so with us; or more accurately, as with God in Christ, so with the artist in Christ. But again, the subject in question is not simply the artist, it is the Church. What does it mean for the Church to be the Church? If the Church is to be a reflection of the triune Godhead, then she needs to understand in what ways she is to reflect and represent the nature of God, which clearly possesses an aesthetic dimension.

If this world is made by God, then it is in someway a reflection of the way He exists within Himself, including a reflection of what we might call His imagination. If what He makes and how He makes it matters to Him, then it must also matter to the Church.

This in short becomes the iron shaft which will hold my argument together.

One final note. I appreciate all the comments that are being made about these chapter outlines and intend to reply to them in the comments section. Thus my responses to "A Biblical Basis." The objective as always is clarity of mind, clarity of speech.

A Theology of Art: In the beginning

A. Introduction

1. The importance of thinking theologically about our lives

2. The ways in which theology can help us better understand the nature and functions of art. A basic logic at work here: as with God, so with us. If God is creative, then so are we, created in His image. If God cares about the aesthetic aspect of this world, then so must we.

Topics covered: God, creation, humanity, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit.
Our method: following the basic outlines of Genesis 1.
The construct: first the idea, then the implications.

B. In the beginning God

1. The idea: God as Creator
a. Orthodox understanding
b. Contra ANE myths and Gnostic heresies

2. The implications
a. God as Poet, the Great Metaphorist
b. God as Maker of “non-utilitarian” things

C. In the beginning it was good

1. The idea: the doctrine of creation
a. Orthodox understanding
b. Contra all forms of dualism

2. The implications
a. It affirms the goodness of creation
b. It affirms the grace of creation
c. It affirms the goodness of our physical bodies
d. It affirms God’s authority over creation
e. It affirms the co-inherence of creation and salvation

D. In the beginning He created them in the image of God

1. The idea: the imago Dei biblically and historically considered
a. Orthodox understanding: the body-soul as good but fallen
b. Contra false dualism

2. The implications
a. We represent God on earth through our corporeality
b. We relate to God through our corporeality
c. We reflect God through our corporeality
d. As artists we ought to reflect both the goodness and the sinfulness of humanity

E. In the beginning, Father, Son and Holy Spirit

1. The idea: the doctrine of the Trinity
a. Orthodox understanding
b. Contra adoptionism and modalism

2. The implications
a. The collaborative God as model for the creative process of art-making
b. The community of God as model for the community of artists

F. In the beginning was the Word

1. The idea: the doctrine of the Incarnation
a. Orthodox understanding
b. Contra Arius and avatars

2. The implications
a. The final word on the goodness of the material world
b. The cross and resurrection as image of horror and beauty
c. The incarnation as rich metaphorical fodder for the artist

G. In the beginning the Spirit of God hovered

1. The idea: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
a. Orthodox Understanding
b. Contra all depersonalizations

2. The implication
a. The Spirit as the empowerment of all creative labors
b. The Spirit as the inspiration for new ideas
c. The Spirit as the invitation to prayer

3 comments:

Milton said...

David - have you studied Tolkein's ideas on creativity/myth and the Spirit of God?

Adam said...

David,

Hey man! I would love to hear your thoughts on the appropriate disconnect we should make between the art and the artist. If art is blasphemous or heretical, should the church shun it as we would a blasphemous/heretical person?

If we are "in the world," is it appropriate to withdraw ourselves from major elements of culture?

I'm clueless...

kate said...

What is an example of a non-utilitarian thing God has created? If you say the beauty of a sunset or a butterfly, those either have utility (camouflage, attracting a mate) or occur due to the nature of the world -- chemistry, physics, optics plus biology, etc.

What about the question that we have an aesthetic sense at all? I mean, why do we think a sunset is beautiful? If I lived on a planet revolving around a blue star, would I think blue light was the most cheerful instead of yellow?

Isn't "non-utilitarian" merely a way of saying we find some things beautiful?