Recent years have witnessed fruitful conversations about the interplay between Christian theology and the arts. But what these dialogues need most, according to Duke Divinity School theologian Jeremy Begbie, is a firmer grounding in Scripture, the classic creeds, and a Trinitarian imagination. In his latest book, A Peculiar Orthodoxy: Reflections on Theology and the Arts, Begbie draws together such topics as beauty, natural theology, divine and human freedom, and the role of emotion. Jennifer Craft, associate professor of theology and humanities at Point University, spoke with Begbie about the mutually enriching relationship between faith and the arts.
You highlight the value of Reformed theology for conversations about the arts. How do you see it affecting the way we think about and practice the arts in Christian communities?
It’s hard to explain trends. But in the ever-growing ferment between theology and the arts, there are signs of a new interest in the Reformed tradition. The tired old caricature of Calvinism as anti-art has been radically revised. The legacy of writers like Hans Rookmaaker, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Calvin Seerveld continues to be felt, and many are finding that a Reformed outlook brings a much-needed freshness to old debates.
Perhaps its most important contribution is a refusal to blur the boundary between God and world. This doesn’t mean treating God as divorced from the world or indifferent to it. But it does mean seeing the cosmos as made to praise God in its creatureliness—and believing that the arts witness to God most powerfully when they aren’t trying to play at being God. The artist can explore, celebrate, and develop the stupendous variety of the physical world, but ...1