My fall course on worship, theology and the arts

Several folks have inquired about the course I'll be teaching this fall with my wonderful new employer, Fuller Theological Seminary, and I thought I'd jot down a few bits about it here. I'm co-teaching with Todd Johnson a core course, titled "WORSHIP, THEOLOGY, AND THE ARTS TOUCHSTONE." It's a required course for all students wishing to major or concentrate in this interdisciplinary field. I'll be teaching in Houston, while Todd teaches from Pasadena, and we'll have a third campus, in Colorado, video-linked to us as well. It'll be exciting business.

Here is the official course DESCRIPTION:

"This course is the introductory course for all students entering Worship, Theology, and the Arts (WTA) concentrations at the master’s level. This course introduces the students in the WTA concentration to the methodology that will undergird their theological study of Christian worship, along with narrative, performing, and plastic arts. Beginning with Augustine’s philosophy of language and learning as introduced and developed in De Magistro and De Doctrina Christiana, and his assertion that all we have to communicate with are signs, words, and gestures, this course will explore methods of exegeting signs and gestures to supplement the exegesis of words. The course will be divided into modules, each one focusing on the application of this method to Christian worship and two art forms. One module will also focus on the topic of the Brehm Lectures, which the students will be required to attend."

Our core TEXTS are the Jeremy Begbie edited, Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts; Ben Edmonds, Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On and the Last Days of the Motown Sound; Catherine Gunsalus Gonz├ílez, Resources in the Ancient Church for Today’s Worship; Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art; and Edward Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe.

A sample of articles and essays that we'll have students read include:

- Peter King, “On the Impossibility of Teaching”
- Andrew Greeley, “The Sacraments of Sensibility”
- Barbara Nicolosi, "The Artist"
- Ivan Khovacs, “A Cautionary Note on the Use of Theater in Theology”
- Flannery O’Conner, “The Catholic Novelist and their Readers”
- Frederich Buechner, “The Gospel as Fairy Tale”
- Mary Charles Murray, “Image, Ear and Eye”
- John Berger, Ways of Seeing
- Jeremy Begbie, “The Future of Theology Amid the Arts”

Students will be required to listen to Marvin Gaye's album, "What's Going On," and offer a critical theological observations on The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (in LA) and the Chapel of Saint Basel (in Houston). They'll write a reflection paper on the observation of a ritual of Christian worship outside of their given tradition, and they'll be invited to interact with each other online all throughout the term.

It'll be a tremendous amount of fun, I have no doubt. If you're in the greater Houston area, which includes the Woodlands, Galveston, College Station, San Antonio and Baton Rouge (and, yes, beyond), and are interested in taking this course, I welcome you to contact the good folks at Fuller Texas.


Steven Carlson said…
Very exciting indeed, David. I'm slightly envious. I'm still pursuing my Masters in Theological Studies and my Masters in Counseling Psychology here at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. I'm currently in an independent study that I crafted on Theology of Aesthetics/Beauty/Creativity. It's extremely exciting to me and very empowering, very thrilling as a part of my calling. Here is a description of my course:

2 Cr Independent Study
Theology and The Arts
(Supervised by Mark Ryan, Fall 2014)

Course Objectives:

The student will develop a deeper understanding of the Arts understood through the lens of theology and in relation to the life and witness of the Church.

The student will gain an introduction to theological aesthetics, as well as practical guidance with respect to ministering to Artists and integrating their artistic works and performances into the life and witness of the Church.

Required Lectures/Readings

Jeremy Begbie, Theology Transposed: Re-Discovering the Gospel Through the Arts [pre-recorded lectures, available from Indp St Supervisor]
Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows for a Fallen World [250p]
Frank B. Brown, Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste [330pp]
William Dyrness, God and the Poetics of Everyday Life [350pp]
Jeremy Begbie, Sounding the Depths: Theology Through the Arts [260pp]
Gene Edward Veith, State of the Arts [260pp]
David O. Taylor, For the Beauty of the Church [210pp]
Daniel J. Trier, The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts [230pp]  

Course Assignments

Listen to/take notes on the set of audio lectures -- Theology Transposed: Re-Discovering the Gospel Through the Arts-- required for this Indp St.
Supply a 5-page (12pt, double spaced, 1” margin) outline and/or summary of the audio lectures.
Read each of the seven required volumes for this Indp St. (It is suggested that you read the volumes in the order they appear above).
Supply a 5-page (12pt, double spaced, 1” margin) reading response of the Taylor and Trier volumes with a special focus on how what you have read will enable you to serve artists in the church and pastors serving communities of artists.
EITHER-- compose an original 12-15 min piece of music (and supply 2-3 pages that identify how this piece reflects, incorporates, illustrates principles gathered from your readings); OR-- create a 4 week adult ed. curriculum such as might assist you in sharing/imparting the things you have learned from this Indp St to others. (Please note: you will need to identify your audience; make clear your overarching theme/topic; and produce 8 pages of outlines [2 pages for each week] that faithfully communicate the essence of what you would impart to those gathered).

There is much that I am supplementing this syllabus with. Your various articles are among them.

You probably don't remind me, but we met briefly at the CIVA conference in June of 2013 at Wheaton. My name is Steven Carlson ( ( (
Steven, this looks fantastic. So exciting, and I do hope it ends up being a fruitful course of study. Thanks for sharing it here. Are you taking it alone or is anybody else joining you in this study?

Every blessing to you regardless.

Steven Carlson said…
I am taking the independent study alone. I do have an arts group that I've started here at Covenant, full of sharing, discussing and learning from another that I am able to channel some of what I'm learning and coming across in my studies.
Thank you for your response. Hope your new station in Houston at Fuller is going well so far.
Blessings to you!


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