It is widely believed that there is something transcendent about the arts, that they can awaken a profound sense of awe, wonder, and mystery, of something “beyond” this world. Many argue that this opens up fruitful opportunities for conversation with those who may have no use for conventional forms of Christianity.
Jeremy Begbie—a leading voice on theology and the arts—in this book employs a biblical, trinitarian imagination to show how Christian involvement in the arts can (and should) be shaped by a vision of God’s transcendence revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. After critiquing some current writing on the subject, he goes on to offer rich resources to help readers engage constructively with the contemporary cultural moment even as they bear witness to the otherness and uncontainability of the triune God of love.
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Jeremy Begbie has been a central and seminal figure in the recent revolution in theology and the arts. Begbie’s argument here, both learned and lucid, is that only when we allow for a more explicitly biblical and Trinitarian vision of God will the vague claims for transcendence in the arts begin to make sense. This book will challenge and illuminate the whole field.
— N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
A fruitful ambiguity resides in the title of Jeremy Begbie’s splendid new book, Redeeming Transcendence in the Arts. Who is the agent of the ‘redeeming’ promised on the cover? On the one hand, it is Begbie himself, whose incisive analysis redeems the category of ‘transcendence’ from the wispy, dualistic, conceptual fog where it has, in late modernity, been stranded. But on the other hand— and more profoundly—the implied agent of the redeeming is the Creator God, whose otherness and uncontainability are disclosed precisely in and through the specific acts of overflowing, self-giving love narrated in Scripture. Begbie contends that God’s transcendence is not a matter of distance from the world; instead, it is precisely a ‘redeeming transcendence’ that acts to restore the creation. Human works of art participate in that redeeming work through ‘sympathetic resonance,’ being taken up into the triune God’s action to bring ‘the integrity of creation to its fulfillment.’ This is brilliant theological writing that illumines our cultural setting and challenges readers to receive the arts with newly opened eyes and ears.
—Richard B. Hays, Duke Divinity School
Jeremy S. Begbie is Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School, founding director of the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, and senior member at Wolfson College, Cambridge. A professionally trained musician, he has also written Voicing Creation's Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts and Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music.