THEOPOETICS: THE LAST WORDS OF MY DPHIL THESIS

by luketarassenko

Here are the last words of my DPhil thesis, ‘Theopoetics: Kierkegaard and the Vocation of the Christian Creative Artist’, passed by the University of Oxford this year. (In order to understand it fully you may or may not need to refer to this post.)

I am posting them here because:

-At the start of the year I resolved to post content on this blog regularly and I am struggling to find time to do this while schoolteaching

-I am currently experiencing existential confusion about what my doctorate was for other than changing a letter in front of my name

-Someone out there might be interested in them

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In attempting to sketch a summary outline of a preliminary theopoetics which might be expanded in a future project, I now enter a more “direct-indirect” mode of writing myself, departing from the academic idiom for a moment, and close this thesis:

God is the Master Artist. Everything that he does is artful. Out of infinite possibility, he brings forth beautiful actualities that fit together wonderfully to display majestic unity, diversity and richness. These, the glories of the natural world, testify to his own reality, beauty and goodness in an indirect-indirect mode, pointing like a sign back to him in a way that does not provide a logical proof for his existence but nonetheless witnesses to his personality and character similarly to how a human artwork witnesses to the personality and character of its maker. Within this creation, the Master Artist also creates multitudinous miniature artists, the crowning glory of his creation, who possess something of his own creative powers. Very mysteriously, these artists have the freedom, presumably as the Master Artist does, to create and poetise in whatsoever manner they please, to do good or do evil, to love him or not to love him. To reach out to and reveal himself to these artists, the Master Artist poetises himself in the likeness of a human being,[1] incarnating himself into his own artwork like an author making himself a character in his own story. As an incarnate human artist, the Divine Artist tells more indirect-indirect stories about himself and also utters more direct-indirect statements that point to his identity and explain that belief in him is the way to cooperate with the overall theme of the Artwork. This is his most direct form of witness to himself.

Meanwhile, some of these miniature artists take it upon themselves to adopt the earthly occupation of making creative artworks, apparently as modelled to them by the Master Artist. Of these, some are those who have chosen to try to cooperate with the overall theme of the Artwork as it is revealed by the incarnate Master Artist by believing in him. These Christian artists, theological poets, theopoets under the Great Theopoet, may pray and hope that their work will too be incorporated into the overall theme of the Artwork of creation and woven into some greater good by the Master Artist. However, in the exercising of their theopoetics, these theopoets still have a free choice to make as regards their methodology: Some simply get on with this occupation without thinking too much about how to do it. Some seek to gesture towards the Master Artist through their artwork in a more indirect-indirect way. Some seek to gesture towards the Master Artist through their artwork in a more direct-indirect way. If they are to follow the example of the Master Artist most completely, how should they go about their art? By employing both indirect-indirect and direct-indirect witness to him. This thesis is, at the very least, a plea with Kierkegaard for Christian creative artists to consider how they might possibly witness to Christ through their creative artwork. At the very most, it is an argument with Kierkegaard for at times taking a more direct-indirect approach to communicating a conceptual Christian message through creative artwork, even if that communication spills over into the artwork of life or the artwork of gospel proclamation.

[1] Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments trans. E. Hong and H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 36.

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