Theology Through the Arts

Theology Through the Arts (TTA) was set up in September 1997 as a project within the Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies in the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. Phase 1 culminated in an International Arts Festival – ‘Sounding the Depths’, held in Cambridge in September 2000.
Phase 2 (2000-2005) has its academic home at the University of St Andrews. Its church-related work is undertaken at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

what’s it about?

TTA asks simply: what can the arts give to theology?

Massive shifts are taking place as we move from what the commentators call a ‘modernist’ culture through a ‘postmodernist’ one towards a relatively unknown future.

A growing disillusionment about the grand claims once made for the sciences has led many to the world of the arts and the imagination.

The communications revolution has made the arts accessible as never before.

Barriers between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art are crumbling rapidly.

People of all generations are increasingly artistically literate. Young people in particular are influenced in a myriad of ways by the arts.

The Church is waking up to these changes. It is likely that the arts are going to play an increasing role in the way people explore and learnthe Christian faith. ‘Theology’ is another name for this process of exploring and learning. It is ‘faith seeking deeper wisdom’.

Theology is not only done by academics, but by anyone who thinks seriously about the Christian faith. The project is about allowing the remarkable power of the arts to help us do theology better. For example, we ask:

How can the way we conceive the Trinity benefit from the model of musical polyphony, with its blend of distinct yet mutually enhancing melodic lines? What might improvisation, with its interplay of order and freedom, contribute to the way we discern the Holy Spirit’s activity in the world at large? What does the process of character-acting in film and on the stage do for our understanding of human identity, who we are and what we might be? How can an icon help us glimpse what it means to be created in the image of God?

Theology Through the Artsbelieves that through the arts, unfamiliar themes in Christianity can be opened up, familiar ones known in fresh and intriguing ways, difficult matters clarified, distortions avoided, and errors corrected. You begin to hear ‘a music that you never would have known to listen for’ (Heaney). And in the process, theology is refreshed as well as deeply challenged.

Throughout the project, the term ‘arts’ is being understood in a very wide sense, accommodating (at least) the practices of painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, music, literary fiction, poetry, drama, film, dance and architecture.