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‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord’ – that is what art does. Phyllis Novak

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Dyrness, W.: Poetic Theology of Everyday Life

Book info

William Dyrness: Poetic Theology, God and the Poetics of Everyday Life, Eerdmans – Grand Rapids, 2011.
 
'Protestants are making a strong showing in the aesthetic arena that they have traditionally neglected. William Dyrness' formidable historical survey of Reformed visual culture would have been enough, but his latest work, Poetic Theology, which could fairly be called a Summa of Protestant aesthetics, pushes the project well into the 21st century. Dyrness drives the last nail in the an-iconic coffin, and argues that Calvin's prohibitions against images, or his insistence to keep churches locked, were temporary measures never meant to be permanent features of Protestant life. Dyrness has the panache to distinguish Reformed aesthetics from its Catholic (Thomism) and Anglican (Radical Orthodoxy) alternatives, while still arguing for a symbolically rich, contemplative Protestantism, haunted by brokenness yet socially engaged' (Matthew Milliner).
 
What are the “poetics of everyday life”? What can they teach us about God? Art, music, dance, and writing can certainly be “poetic,” but so can such diverse pastimes as fishing, skiing, or attending sports events. Any and all activities that satisfy our fundamental need for play, for celebration, and for ritual, says William Dyrness, are inherently poetic — and in Poetic Theology he demonstrates that all such activities are places where God is active in the world. All of humanity’s creative efforts, Dyrness points out, testify to our intrinsic longing for joy and delight and our deep desire to connect with others, with the created order, and especially with the Creator. This desire is rooted in the presence and calling of God in and through the good creation. With extensive reflection on aesthetics in spirituality, worship, and community development, Dyrness’s Poetic Theology will be useful for all who seek fresh and powerful new ways to communicate the gospel in contemporary society.
 
“William Dyrness’s bold invitation to a poetic theology shaped by Scripture, tradition, and imagination — one luring us toward a fuller participation in beauty than argument or concept alone allow — reminds us that truth itself is beautiful to behold and poetic to the core. If poetry is in its deepest reflex an intensification of life, then Dyrness’s call for a poetic theology is one we ignore at our peril, reminding us that faithful living is not only about proper thinking but also — and, perhaps, more properly — about the texture of our living and the quality of our loving.” Mark S. Burrows Andover Newton Theological School
 
“Makes a strong case for aesthetics as one of the avenues used by God to draw human beings near to him and his glory. . . . A wonderful journey through Reformed spirituality and a wake-up call for Reformed theology.” Cornelius van der Kooi Free University, Amsterdam