art and incarnation

Tuesday night was a great discussion. A couple folks asked me to post some of the notes and create space for further dialogue.

The discussion began with an over view of :Trevor Hart's “Through the Arts: Hearing, seeing, and Touching the Truth” from Begbie, Jeremy ed. "Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts" (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000) pp1-26.

The direction of the discussion went toward how art helps us rethink the platonic dualism's affect on modern western Christianity's theologies of incarnation.

Platonic philosophy is suspicious of the particular, natural world because in his presuppositions was that this bodily world existed below the universal, divine, spiritual world and the work of transfiguration was like Prometheus' fire, stolen from the divine realm.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our* hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Galatians 4.4-7

Pauline theology suggests that art is not an act of transgression against the divine creative work but an act of faithfulness because of the new reality in Jesus Christ. The poetry at the begining of John's gospel claims that the locus of the meaning of words and word itself (the logos) has become part of the created world. The counsel of Nicea insisted that all of broken creation has been assumed in Christ. God stepped into creation and “earthed his own way of being” within creation and doing so has “drawn us into” the same possible participation in the “matrix of divine meaningfulness” without leaving behind our humanness (Hart,22).

Hart proposes that the Arts serve as a parable of the incarnation
1. So art is a faithful response to belief in the Incarnation (Hart, 15)
2. Art is useful to cast light on (though not circumscribe) the incarnation


1. “How is the transfigurative dimension of art (the way in which art hands back more than nature initially grants it) to be understood in relation to the theme of the redemption or transformation of our broken and fallen humanity and world in Jesus? (Hart, 21)

2. Is there any sense in which art itself, through its capacity to transform our vision of and response to the world, shares in or corresponds to that redemptive activity of God? (Hart, 21).

3. How is art a creative interaction to transform the culture of the church? Is this worth the time and energy?

4. What could this mean for the church’s western modern theologies of salvation and the traditional ideas of atonement and the arithmetic of sin management?

Cohort Recap

In case you missed the September Cohort meeting, here is what we covered.

We began with a prayer from Irenaeus’ regula fidae. We then took turns introducing ourselves to each other. The group was quite diverse (a lovely change from many emergent gatherings). We had inner-city youth workers, PhD students, pastors, church planters and seminary students. Moreover we were an ecumenical bunch: comprised of Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians Presbyterians and Evangelicals. More importantly the group was split almost in half by men and women and we had a number of different ethnicities represented. The group was varied and this facilitated the fecundity of our dialogue immensely. While in seminary, I was very active in the Central New Jersey Cohort and although I enjoyed my time there very much, I was refreshed to enter into dialogue with a group that did not mark diversity according to facial hair preferences.

Troy then led us through the four rules or commitments of Emergent: 1) Commitment to God in the way of Jesus Christ; 2) To the Church in All its forms; 3) To God’s world; and 4) To each other. We then broke up into small groups to flesh out the implications and meanings of these convictions. Our two-hour fellowship was closed with a Kenyan Prayer:

From the cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me.

The fellowship and discussion were positive, and a great start for our cohort this year. However, we still have work to do. First, we need to open the discussion even further to include Catholics, Orthodox and other groups. The absence of these important voices limits both the breadth and depth of our discussions. Second, Troy and I are facilitators and organizers but we are all co-leaders in this endeavor. To that end, we will provide you all with some suggested reading in anticipation of our monthly chats. This way we will all have at least a casual acquaintance with the monthly topic. This should both ameliorate the profundity of our dialogue and decentralize the teacher/student authority structure to which many of us are so accustomed.

BTW: This Month’s meeting will be held at Manuel’s Tavern, which is located at the corners of North and Highland Aves. The meeting will be upstairs in the Nest from 8-10 on Tuesday, October 25th. Hope to see you all there. Peace.

meetings last tuesday of the month

We had a great meeting last Monday. Jake should be posting some reports from that but anyone is welcome to pipe in about what was helpful.

From everyone's feedback we will be meeting on the last Tuesday of each month from 8-10pm, locations to be determined each month. The next two months will cover the arts and community. For Jan-June we are looking to cover religion & postmodern philosophy, urban renewal, holistic youth ministry, and racial reconciliation in Atlanta.

October 25th we will be discussing the redemptive use of the arts. Go ahead now and order Jeremy Begbie's "Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts" and read chapter one, "Through the Arts: Hearing, Seeing, and Touching the Truth" by Trevor Hart. You will find the book in most theological libraries and can get it for $13 from Amazon. I'm still working on lining up a good conversation partner or two for us on this. But be sure and pass this along to the artists in your midst.

November 29th (fifth Tuesday of that month, after thanksgiving), Steve Hayner, Professor of Evangelism at Columbia Theological Seminary and former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship will be facilitating a discussion on the topic of "Community." More about the November meeting in November.

Also be sure to check out the Paste Rock-N-Reel Festival , October 22,23 in Decatur. Amazing artists of all sorts... and not unrelated from our topic of discussion this month!

About Us

You're a part of a bigger conversation, a bigger story of God's creation unfolding and realizing it's Creator's dreams in the clue of Jesus. Gather monthly to re-imagine how we can best participate locally in this conversation, story, dreams. This is an Emergent Cohort meeting to flesh out four commitments: to God in the way of Jesus, to the Church in all its Forms, to God's World, and to One Another. This is a theological conversation for any practitioners in the way of Jesus.

What is Emergent?

If you are interested in learning more about the larger movement we are a local expression of, visit Emergent Village.