Friday, December 08, 2006

Aesthetics and Eschatology

"I came across this passage in Norman Davies' epic history, Europe, in a section analyzing the ultimate collapse of European communism. He said: 'Artists and believers were often the only people who could imagine a world without communism.' To the extent that fantasy books paint a picture of a world that is in some way more heroic, more humane, more beautiful and hopeful than this one ... that is something that people really respond to, and I'm all for it. Perhaps the number of people who are willing to wade through a hopeless and depressing book is dwindling."
-Stephen Lawhead in this interveiw

True art, I suggest, approximates more and more to the vision of the way things are and the way things shall be. We humans know in our bones that we are children of the present creation, which is simultaneously both glorious and shameful, and that we are designed for a fuller creation, a new order, a world flooded with the creator’s glory, full of justice and joy and, yes, beauty. The point of new creation is that it is the redemption and transformation of this present creation, with its shame and horror overcome; that is the way, if I can put it like this, to the reconciliation of Isaiah’s dilemma. And the true point of biblical apocalyptic, as opposed to the distorted and dualistic versions which have been so powerful and prevalent in our day, is that biblical apocalyptic is all about God’s future breaking in to the present, seen in glimpses, known above all in Jesus, and best expressed not in abstract theology or even in preaching but, yes, in genuine and visionary art. Apocalyptic, both in form and in biblical content, is not about the denial of the present creation, but about the overcoming of its sorrows and the realising of its promise. Apocalyptic is the key to understanding, and re-expressing, the beauty of God."

N.T. Wright in Apocalyptic and the Beauty of God, (mp3 here)

This is a sculpture Wright talks about at the end of that lecture, it's called Tree of Life and is made entirely out of "entirely from decommissioned weapons: bits and pieces of old AK47s, bullets and machetes..."
What a great image of swords beaten into pruning hooks!

Edit: From the quotes above, perhaps it's not surprising that Left Behind is aesthetically poor as well as eschatologically poor.

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