Fides quaerens intellectum is the idea that living faith naturally seeks a more complete understanding of God in relation to his creation. It has motivated Christian education from the very start. Although Ars quaerens intellectum—"art seeking understanding"—is by contrast a contemporary locution, in the Christian context of this volume it is a parallel to the more familiar phrase. "Art" here includes human making of the sort associated with any craft; this volume focuses on those usually called "fine" arts, namely poetry, painting, sculpture, and musical composition.
The contributors to Art Seeking Understanding contend that art in almost any medium is typically born of a desire for some kind of understanding—perhaps of the potential in their medium, an aspect of the external world, or of the artist’s own compulsion to create. An artwork may be prompted by a desire for greater understanding of transcendent realities. A distinctive value of the collaboration represented in this book is thus the reflection of artists themselves set alongside remarks by philosophers, theologians, literary critics, art historians, and musicologists. Together, these authors argue that there is a tacit if not explicit theological dimension to art-making that reveals itself readily in religious art but also in works that may have no such conscious motivation.
The artist, like all human creatures, is made in the image of God ( imago Dei), but as both Scripture and tradition suggest, may in fact realize more intensively than the rest of us an aspect of the divine Maker. In turn, those who appreciate art may come to acquire an understanding of the nature of the Original Artist indirectly through allowing the works of gifted artists to spark their imaginative reflection. In this way, art "speaks" to us theologically in ways that substantially enrich our knowledge of our Creator and his creation. This volume invites readers to consider how God speaks, his characteristic poetic voice, and the influence of that voice on our knowledge of the holy.
David Lyle Jeffrey is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities at Baylor University. Jeffrey earned his PhD from Princeton University and is also the author or editor of many books, including The King James Bible and the World It Made and We Were a Peculiar People Once: Confessions of an Old-Time Baptist.
Robert C. Roberts is Distinguished Professor of Ethics, Emeritus, at Baylor University (philosophy). He works primarily in moral psychology, with special attention to the role of emotions in moral and spiritual character. His latest book is Recovering Christian Character: The Psychological Wisdom of Søren Kierkegaard.
While many of art’s recent intellectual partnerships are on the rocks, Art Seeking Understanding offers further evidence that the longstanding marriage of Biblical wisdom and artistic practice remains a stable and joyful union, fruitful enough to produce eloquent volumes such as this.
~Matthew J. Milliner, Professor of Art History, Wheaton College
This volume is exemplary in its approach to the arts as a form of theological understanding. Not only does it include deep scholarly insights on a diverse range of theological topics in conversation with the arts, but it also draws on the rich experience of visual artists, musicians, and poets to show how the arts and the artistic process can be a true and embodied form of theological insight. What a wonderful and timely contribution to the field of theology and the arts!
~Jennifer A. Craft, Associate Professor of Theology and Humanities, Point University
This is a collection of excellent papers about what we might call ‘Christian Poetics’, the reflection on works and workings of art from a Christian point of view. One of the valuable features of the collection is that it contains papers not just by philosophers, theologians, biblical scholars, literary critics, art critics, and musicologists, but by well-known practitioners in the fields of poetry, painting, sculpture, and music. The book is a rich contribution to our understanding of how art serves God as we both make it and enjoy it.
~John Hare, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale Divinity School