Art and the Doctrine of Creation
Imprint: Baylor University Press
Sales Date: 2022-10-01
256 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.99 in
- Published: October 2022
Art is an outworking of God's creative process, a tangible participation in the shaping of the world. Through our artistic endeavors, we both express our understanding of creation and imbue that creation with new meaning. Four artists in particular—the poet Czeslaw Milosz, filmmaker Terrence Malick, novelist Marilynne Robinson, and lyric essayist Annie Dillard—actively wrestle with a world that reflects God's glory while remaining at times deeply and troublingly obscure.
In Lyric Theology, Thomas Gardner unfolds the ways these four important contemporary figures, drawing on modes of thinking rooted in lyric poetry, explore what the world looks like when seen as created and received as a gift. Lyric thinking, he argues, dramatizes a mind and spirit reaching toward a beauty and complexity that can never be fully grasped but yet can be lifted up in praise and wonder, bafflement and song. The specific lyric responses on display here— resisting meaninglessness, wrestling with contrary impulses to both celebrate and turn away, embracing as revelatory the failure to see fully, and redeeming the world by lifting its particulars into song—can be seen as acts of theological thinking, deepening and extending the doctrine of creation by living out its implications in the world.
If the world were created out of nothing save the desire to extend the love expressed within the Trinity to creatures who might reflect it back in wonder and praise, lyric ways of making sense of the world—breaking free of straightforward conceptualization and argument and exploring inward, nuanced, and continually made and remade responses to the world's particulars—bring this idea forward as a living thing. Drawing on his own work as a literary scholar and a lyric essayist, Gardner here gives us the tools to both understand and join in performing creative theological explorations of great subtlety, beauty, and originality.
1 Czeslaw Milosz: The Immense Call of the Particular
2 Terrence Malick: Always You Wrestle Inside Me
3 Marilynne Robinson: But if the While I Think on Thee
4 Annie Dillard: In Touch with the Absolute at Base
"With an appropriate eloquence, and a measured theological intelligence, Thomas Gardner has provided us with a remarkably instructive demonstration of ‘lyric theology.’ It is hard to imagine how anyone who cares about the interface between theology and literature could not be inspired by this book."~Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and the McDonald Agape Director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, Duke University
Lyric Theology simultaneously deepens and enriches our understanding of lyric thinking and illuminates the work of four contemporary American ‘lyric artists.’ Gardner’s readings make a persuasive and engaging case for the importance of lyric theology, which considers ‘what the world looks like from within the theological idea,’ both in the making of contemporary art and in our response to it.~Miriam Marty Clark, Associate Professor of English, Auburn University
Not all theology is undertaken in the same mode. This masterly study helps us identify and appreciate some of the great theological voices of recent times. That they are not academic but lyric voices is, Gardner persuades us, a sign of genuine hope and a reason to be thankful.~Trevor Hart, Honorary Professor, University of St Andrews
This book deserves a readership well beyond those invested in the field of literature and theology, or those interested in modern literature. Gardner’s highly readable reflections on lyric theology provide food for thought for wider scholarship on the language of theology, informed by theological engagement with the arts.~Elizabeth S. Dodd, Literature and Theology