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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Art, Science, Faith, Community

All together, these can work glory.

I came across this article from a few years back as I was doing some work in creational theology. Mark Sprinkle reports on an innovative collaboration between biological science and art in the Summer 2015 issue of Image (“Ecologies of Knowing”). 

Botanist Stephen Tonsor and graphic artist Natalie Settles have combined for a number of years to explore what art and science have in common and where they differ as ways of knowing. Settles’ art, like Tonsor’s science, pays detailed attention to ordinary things – twigs, rocks, buds, and a particular kind of grass – in exploring the relationship between individual items and the ideal of the class to which those items belong. Her art pays loving attention to everyday subjects, bringing out overlooked beauty as a way of gaining a glimpse of God. She considers art an important resource for knowing God and asks of her own art, “What does it mean to embrace art as a tool to see a particular facet of God...?”

Tonsor, too, looks at his work as a scientist as a way to contemplate what the two “variously call the numinous, the divine, or the sacred.” In her work Settles borrows from a 19th century wallpaper artist, thus bringing forward, in new and valuable ways, contributions from the past.

The collaboration of these two reminds us both of the value and limits of each discipline as a way of knowing. Sprinkle derives an important lesson from their work together: “they suggest that only in community – in an ecology of ways of knowing – can we begin to adequately trace the contours of what is.” 

Would that our faith communities - our local churches - would have a vision for more such collaborative efforts to help church members realize more of the Presence and glory of God in everyday things.


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