Art is often viewed as being inherently spiritual. But what does it mean to describe an experience of art or beauty as spiritual? Is there a relationship between the spiritual experience a person has in the presence of a work of art and the Holy Spirit of Christian faith?
Theologian, musician, and educator Steven Guthrie examines particular areas of overlap between spirituality, human creativity, and the arts with the goal of sharpening and refining how we speak and think about the Holy Spirit. Through his exploration of the many different connections between art and spirituality, Guthrie uses the arts as a creative lens for exploring the Holy Spirit and offers a unique introduction to pneumatology. He also introduces an important idea from the early church that is now unfamiliar to many Christians: the Holy Spirit is the humanizing Spirit, whose work is to remake our humanity after the image of the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ.
This clear, engaging theology of the arts entitled Creator Spirit will be of interest to professors and students in theology and the arts, pneumatology, and systematic theology courses as well as thoughtful lay readers, Christian artists, worship leaders, and pastors.
Art is often viewed as being inherently spiritual. But what does it mean to describe an experience of art or beauty as "spiritual"? Is there a relationship between the spiritual experience a person has in the presence of a work of art and the Holy Spirit of Christian faith? Skilled theologian, musician, and educator Steven Guthrie examines areas of overlap between spirituality, human creativity, and the arts with the goal of sharpening and refining how we speak and think about the Holy Spirit. By exploring various connections between art and spirituality, he helps Christians better understand the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and offers a clear, engaging theology of the arts. The book includes a foreword by renowned theologian and musician Jeremy Begbie.
Steven R. Guthrie (PhD, University of St. Andrews) teaches religion at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he helped launch a new program in religion and the arts. He previously taught at the University of St. Andrews and was on the faculty of the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts. Guthrie contributed to the Encyclopedia of Christianity, coedited Resonant Witness with Jeremy Begbie, and is the author of numerous articles.
[Guthrie] invites us to enter the world of human artistry and reenvision the arts in ways that are illuminating, compelling, and always down to earth. . . . In these pages, you will encounter John Coltrane, Annie Dillard, and Wassily Kandinsky. You will rub shoulders with Augustine, Miroslav Volf, Gordon Fee, and--Guthrie's main theological companion--Athanasius. You will encounter a first-rate teacher who seems to be able to draw on a vast range of images and metaphors to press each point home. You will encounter a theologian who can bring clarity out of confusion without ever stifling a sense of openness and wonder. And most important, you will, by God's grace, encounter the work of the Spirit, sharpening your thinking and enlarging your vision, the Spirit who alone can, and will, remake all things.
-Jeremy S. Begbie,
Duke University Divinity School
This book participates in a growing movement interested in the intersection of art, faith, and spirituality. But this book also stands out as a leading voice in this field because of its breadth of vision for the sources and functions of the arts in human life and because of the specificity and clarity of its theological convictions about the work of the Holy Spirit and the expansive nature of salvation offered in and through Jesus Christ. The book's particular interest in Athanasius is especially welcome, inviting all of us to sharpen and deepen our theological vision and to wrestle with the astonishing implications of the incarnation for human flourishing.
-John D. Witvliet,
Director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary
The renaissance in pneumatology and pneumatological theology takes a quantum leap with this book, which propels us into other dimensions of the Spirit that allow us to see, hear, and perceive the signs of the coming kingdom in the arts, music, and even Scripture that have otherwise been beyond our ken. Creator Spirit is not just another book about the Spirit but rather one that participates in the re-creative work of the Spirit to make all things new and beautiful.
J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University School of Divinity; coeditor, Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies
Creator Spirit is a brilliant book! Steven Guthrie makes nuances exceedingly accurately, so that his readers are able to distinguish various ideas in Christianity (such as 'mortification' and 'beauty') from their mistaken use in historical and postmodern philosophies about the arts. Guthrie consequently frees us to recognize more clearly and biblically the labors of diverse artists and the liberating presence of the Holy Spirit. You will devour this volume, and it will increase your faith!
-Marva J. Dawn,
teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC; theologian; speaker
Creator Spirit brings the Holy Spirit and art together into the creative center of human life. Guthrie shows how the Holy Spirit and art illumine each other and, together, create spaces where God is glorified and we are allowed to become what God intended. This is one of the best treatments of the Holy Spirit's activity in culture.
professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary
Steven R. Guthrie has offered to a varied audience a study that is both challenging and captivating as it traces how and in what way the Holy Spirit is active in sanctified human artistry. Indeed, Creator Spirit itself reflects the beauty that its author seeks to describe. First, the book displays admirable proportion, balancing an analysis of the arts (music, visual art, dance) with theological, philosophical, and cultural concerns. Next, it provides keen pleasure for the reader in terms of its lively and compelling style and its rich content. Finally, it moves admirably toward a satisfying telos, even if, with all other human projects, it is not perfect. That perfection is instead attributed to the Author and Creator of all, whom this book glorifies, as Guthrie rejoices in the gifts and in the Gift, the Spirit who humanizes those who receive.
-Edith M. Humphrey,
William F. Orr Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Talk of the relationship between spirituality and aesthetics has become so commonplace in our culture that it has become both cacophonous and banal at the same time. In the midst of this situation Steven Guthrie has produced a theology of the Spirit and the arts that brings welcome clarity to the conversation while retaining an appropriate sense of mystery and openness. Creator Spirit is a compelling example of the sort of generous orthodoxy that is in keeping with the best intuitions of the Christian tradition.
-John R. Franke,
theologian in residence, First Presbyterian Church, Allentown, PA
We have seen a spate of books offering an 'incarnational' affirmation of the arts or a 'sacramental' aesthetic. But in Creator Spirit Guthrie gives us something we have been waiting for in discussions of theology and the arts: a pneumatology. Unafraid to engage popular conceptions of spirituality and art, Guthrie challenges the latent gnosticism in so much talk of 'spirituality,' returning Christian spirituality to the rehumanizing work of the Holy Spirit. The result is a kind of chemical reaction of mutual illumination: I have a new appreciation for the Spirit's work and a new excitement about the arts. I hope this book finds many, many readers.
-James K. A. Smith,
professor of philosophy, Calvin College; research fellow, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Theological discussions of the arts drawing directly on the categories of Spirit and spirituality are notoriously prone to vagueness and eccentricity. By contrast, in this important new work Steve Guthrie combines his technical expertise and experience as a practicing musician with a sure-footed treatment of core biblical and theological issues. The result is a compelling cross-disciplinary conversation that both advances the concerns of constructive Christian theology and offers insights and resources for those involved in the arts.
professor of divinity and director of the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Guthrie compellingly engages what may be the most profound, yet often the most trivialized, dimension of theological aesthetics. The result is a rich, reflective, and learned work that artists and theologians alike have been hoping for.
professor of the history of Christian art and worship, Vanderbilt University
In some ways, Guthrie's approach here is revolutionary in the realm of pneumatology. Instead of looking at Scripture and trying to figure out what it means in the practicalities of creative life, Guthrie looks at artists' experiences and then scours Scripture to make sense of them. While there are dangers in this approach, Guthrie is a careful and methodical theologian, even as he reveals himself as a deeply intuitive creator as well...For those looking for a fresh perspective on the Holy Spirit, Creator Spirit is a book that will provide much food for thought. While most of the insights themselves are not new, Guthrie's novel approach of examining the Spirit in light of His relationship to art and creativity presents them in a new light and this may help readers incorporate truths into their own lives or put concepts together in a way that they had not done before.
Englewood Review of Books
Quite wide-ranging, very well-written, and entirely readable.
Faith Improvised blog (timgombis.com)