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Nathan Douglas

Suggestions for Arts Bible Study

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This fall I'll be leading a small Bible/prayer/support group for Christian students at my university's new fine arts campus. As most of the students involved are also undergrads in the school's various contemporary arts programs - film, theatre, dance, music, visual art - the main theme of our group is going to be "Art and Faith." What I'd like to see happen with the group is have a place where these students can connect with each other (especially in breaking down the little ghetto walls that sometimes form between different streams) and to pray and worship God together as we go deeper in learning how to serve him with our art-making, and how to love and honour him as we serve in our respective fields.

Our study material will be a mixture of examples from the Bible (Habbakuk, for example, who was a musician as well as a prophet) and other books (Through A Screen Darkly, and In A New Light, for example) that tackle the subject of art and faith and what it means to seek God through experiencing art, and to worship through the making of art.

So, what I'd like to ask the A&F community is this: could you suggest any such titles, or Biblical figures that spring to mind? Particular Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox approaches are all welcome. Our group is a mixture. We're only beginning to explore. Hopefully down the road we'll tackle more of the complexities in this topic, but for now it's going to be a broad introduction. Any thoughts?

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I've always found it to engage in this discussion through the discussion of Christian art.

Tarkovsky's ANDREI RUBLEV is must see material for this kind of study. It couldn't be a better fit for your topic.

And if you're looking for music, then the essential starting place is J. S. Bach's MASS IN B MINOR, the greatest and most sublime masterpiece of Western music. Music doesn't get any better. But beyond that, you also might want to take a look a Messiaen's QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME, which, just as Bach's MASS IN B MINOR, in a rich work of deeply earnest, worshipful musical theology, and was written and performed for the first time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp to an audience of prisoners and prison guards (at the very least, you should listen to the fifth movement, "Praise to the eternity of Jesus").

Edited by Ryan H.

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NW, of course the top100 films pose lots of potential reward for a film-centric study. I wonder, though, if Chariots of Fire might not be an interesting choice--the tension that runs between faith and the artist is well portrayed here, between faith and the athlete. It could be a great intro in wrestling with the inner tensions.

Barry Moser has a documentary out on his creation of the Pennyroyal Bible--fascinating, fascinating piece, but I'm not sure its distributed.

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could you suggest any such titles, or Biblical figures that spring to mind?

I would recommend that you avoid figures. The Schaeffer Art and the Bible approach is helpful, but it only takes one so far. (And honestly, not very far.) The most rewarding arts and faith type studies I have seen and participated in usually pick a work of recent theology, and then reverse engineer that theology for all of its connections to what it is artists do.

I would heartily recommend something like Wright's Surprised by Hope, for example. Start digging into the resurrection and talking about what that means relative to the creative urge. Create a context in which people are pushing themselves to talk about theology at more advanced levels, and the rest will follow.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I would heartily recommend something like Wright's Surprised by Hope, for example. Start digging into the resurrection and talking about what that means relative to the creative urge. Create a context in which people are pushing themselves to talk about theology at more advanced levels, and the rest will follow.

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I like Jeremy Begbie's book Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts.

You could also take a little trip down from the mountain when I do a reading in Vancouver in November -- you're at SFU, right? (Actually my book is not really very good for what you're doing. I'm just in shameless plug mode. The Begbie book is worthwhile, though.)

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Thanks everyone! I'm looking forward to pursuing these leads. If you feel led, prayers for the group would be appreciated.

Joel, I am at SFU, though with the move to Woodwards I'm actually rarely on the hill anymore. Congrats on the book! November should be a little calmer for me this fall than the last couple of years. I'll try to make it out to the reading. You have details in your book thread?

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Joel, I am at SFU, though with the move to Woodwards I'm actually rarely on the hill anymore.

Even better! That looks like a cool venture. And I'll add reading details when they're known!

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