Opening theology

A quote for the day:

Art is only one clue amongst others to another way. Perhaps a theology of art can never claim the urgency of feminist, green or liberation theologies. Its task is, none the less, to journey with them towards a more open theology in which the Church does not imagine itself as the sole purveyor or channel of grace, but as responding, with all sentient beings, to the structural grace of life itself.

George Pattison, Art, Modernity and Faith, p. 189.


Image: Paul Klee, Ad Marginem (1930)

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3 thoughts on “Opening theology

  1. The term ‘theology of art’ is generally thinking about art through the lens of a theological tradition and the art is seen as a way of deepening the experiences of that tradition. When this is the case, there is much art that is deemed inappropriate because its subject matter is at odds with something in that religious tradition (sexuality is often such a subject). A true theology of art means that the art is an epitemological tool used to explore what we consider to be the divine without a-priori reference to a religion. The possibility of a theology of art lays in epistemology and when approached from that sector very interesting avenues open up in areas such as neuroscience,cosmology, the nature of revelation, etc. Traditional theologies and art have had a troubled history and while established religious traditions generally find a place for art in illustration or decoration, the religious category that better fits the nature of art is prophecy. The arts are about epiphany (alethea) and as such the arts come before theology because you must have the event before you can theologize about it. Few religious establishments appreciate new sources of prophecy. Artists working as theologians tend to be ‘outsiders’ and their lives often look like that of other prophets.

  2. Thanks Tom… do I detect a little Heidegger in your use of “aletheia”?

    I agree that epistemology is of vital importance in a “theology of art” – art as a different way of knowing, which extends to our experience of the divine… even outside, as you say, of “a priori references to religion.” Art may indeed offer the possibility of new, more “open” theologies. Thanks for your insights!

    My interest most recently has been in phenomenological accounts of art – looking at the way it “shows” and “appears” as an analogue to “revelation.”

    1. I worked on the editorial staff of ‘Philosophy Today’for several years and yes, I do like Heidegger but have moved well beyond him in the several decades I have ‘mused’ about issues re ontoaesthetics. I do owe him (et alia) thanks for the distinction between metaphysics and ontology which has become fundamental in my understanding of the art process. Revelation is an issue both because of its diversity and because its validity is couched in such old cosmology. The phenomenological approach to art is something that Marcel DuChamp worked with before the philosophers did. I find that it eventually leads to mysticism and there are some very interesting investigations in neuro-science currently in that realm. When Eliade makes the distinction between the three types of ‘shamans’ he is entering into the anteroom of the ability to epiphanize. I wish you luck on this blog as it comes in a time in history when a new global culture is being born and art has always played a part in imagining the touch points of cultures.

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