Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Dyrness, William: Visual Faith

Book Review

William Dyrness: Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, Baker Books, 2001.
by Deborah Sokolove

Art and theological aesthetics are uneasy partners. For theologians who consider aesthetics, questions of beauty and the relationship of beauty to God are of primary interest. For many serious artists, as well as for those who write about their work, questions of beauty have largely been irrelevant for at least a century. Even artists who want to make work that is beautiful think less about what "beauty" means than what their art means. The primary questions of art, or what some might call "theories of art," have largely been those of meaning.

In Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue William A. Dyrness attempts to bridge this gap. Dyrness is a professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and a founding member of the Brehm Center for Theology, Worship, and the Arts based at that institution. With impeccable credentials in the somewhat conservative Christian Reformed tradition, he struggles to bring together the disparate fields of theology and art for an audience that is largely ignorant of the visual arts and which is struggling to come to grips with a culture that is increasingly visual. A second intended readership is the growing number of artists who identify themselves as Christian, but find themselves unable to bring their artistic vision and their theological understanding into harmony. His primary purpose in writing this book seems to be to articulate a new vision of art for that part of the Christian world that has been alienated from it, and to find a way for art to speak the Christian message to those w ho are alienated from Christianity. As he puts it,

The fact that much controversy attends the use of arts in worship, that artists in Christian communities continue to be marginalized, and that Christians still express confusion regarding their engagement with the arts indicates unfinished business. (67)