Apocalyptic and the Beauty of God

Any of our readers with a tolerance for some fairly high-falutin' language and an interest in a theme underlying this blog, a theological analysis of the vocation of the arts (and perhaps particularly among artists with an eye to the eschatological horizon, as in the case of U2), might enjoy this sermon on "Apocalyptic and the Beauty of God" given two days ago by N.T. Wright. Excerpt:
[T]he point of art, I believe, is not least to be able to say something like that, to draw attention – not, indeed, to a shallow or trivial pietistic point, as though to lead the mind away from the world and its problems and into a merely cosy contemplation of God’s presence, but rather – to the multi-layered and many-dimensioned aspects of the present world, to the pains and the terror, yes, but also to the creative tension between the present filling of the world with YHWH’s glory and the promised future filling, as the waters cover the sea. When art tries to speak of the new world, the final world, in terms only of the present world, it collapses into sentimentality; when it speaks of the present world only in terms of its shame and horror, it collapses into brutalism. The vocation of the artist is to speak of the present as beautiful in itself but as pointing beyond itself, to enable us to see both the glory that already fills the earth and the glory that shall flood it to overflowing; to speak, within that, of the shame without ignoring the promise, and to speak of the promise without forgetting the shame. The artist is thus to be like the Israelite spies in the desert, bringing back fruit from the promised land to be tasted in advance; that story, indeed, is one of the moments when (surprisingly within the narrative) YHWH promises that not only the promised land but the whole world will be filled with his glory (Numbers 14.21; cf. 14.10).... Here is the challenge, I believe, for the Christian artist, in whatever sphere: to tell the story of the new world so that people can taste it, and want it, even while acknowledging the reality of the desert in which we presently live.

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