From the journal Image, an exclusive on-line interview with Dr. Jeremy Begbie on "the often-uneasy relationship between religion and contemporary art."
Image: In the current issue of IMAGE you review two books on the visual arts, but you are also known for your deep knowledge of music, both as a performer and as a theorist. How do your interdisciplinary interests affect the way you do theology?
Jeremy Begbie: As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in finding connections. My father, who was a physiologist, loved to trace the links between his discipline and visual art and poetry. It was always natural for me to look for links between music and the other arts, and, when I came to faith, to search for resonances between music and theology.
By its very nature, theology is concerned with God in relation to every facet of life and experience. I think being a good theologian means being multiply alert—with eyes and ears open in all directions to the multiple ramifications of Christian truth. That’s what I try to show when I teach and write—and I can’t think of wanting to operate in a more closed, categorical way.
Image: Your review touches on the way two thinkers—a secular critic and a Christian critic—deal with the relationship between contemporary art and religion. Is there any hope for developing intellectual common ground between the communities these two writers represent?
Jeremy Begbie: I believe there is, and that’s because I believe in the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is the go-between, the one who makes all fruitful communication possible.
The danger is in thinking we can find some neutral common ground, some space that is unaffected by our deepest commitments. That is impossible. The Christian enters into honest and respectful conversation with the non-Christian not by suspending commitment, but as someone committed to a particular God, eager to find signs of the activity of this God wherever they may be found, and open to learning more about what this God might be up to in the world. It is this God who will find the common ground for us. For many years I have been engaged in conversations with artists of little or no faith, and often been astonished at the way spiritual matters emerge quite naturally. But I find it fruitless if I pretend to be uncommitted.