Is Your Theology Sufficiently Poetic?

William Dyrness explains why it should be.

William A. Dyrness, Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life.

Dr. Dyrness explains that everyone is religious, in the sense that all people are devoted to ideas of beauty, goodness, and truth, which serve to orient their lives, and come to expression in personal, moral, social, and cultural ways. This reality creates for the Christian a possible point of contact with his unbelieving contemporaries.

For most people the search for truth has been replaced by a search for pleasure. This is not in itself a bad thing, since we are all capable of knowing the pleasure of the Lord in Jesus (Ps. 16.11). Because of this desire for pleasure, all of life is in some sense aesthetic. The better we understand aesthetics, the truer our lives can be. People are defined by what they love. Since God is at work throughout creation and culture, people who engage in these are engaged with God, even though they may not recognize Him. People define themselves by what they “make” of their lives. If we truly love God, we will want to make all our life to be like Him.

Poetry helps here because it creates images we can learn to desire.

People create signs, symbols, and tokens of the things they desire; they pursue daily rituals in order to achieve their vision. These become benchmarks and pointers to ultimate reality. Thus our lifestyle bears witness to our creed: “The individual events are like so many notes, which we struggle to compose into a melody.” Sin confuses and corrupts this process; grace renews and restores it. Art-making is thus a theological process and discipline, and can become a lure, beckoning us on to God. Beauty can serve to point us to God. For all this to work, it must be situated in and interpreted by the larger narrative of Scripture.

Dr. Dyrness commends the practice of meditation and contemplation. Biblical visions enable and encourage active obedience. Church, and an historical, social, and symbolical space, must work to make its proper contribution to the project. Thus the Church becomes a community with a fresh and beautiful vision for the world, and this has far-ranging social, cultural, personal, and political implications and applications. Thus we must:

  • Learn to value all culture (keeping Scripture as our final authority)
  • Learn to use culture as a starting-point to talk about God
  • Engage poetic theology to work toward a restored world
  • Learn to read the beauty of God in creation
  • Take up the life of the cross as the true symbol of Christian life
  • Focus on the City to come

This is an excellent book, deserving careful reading and re-reading.


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