On Earth As It Is In Heaven: Artists And The Kingdom Of God (Trevor Hart, University Of St. Andrews)

The following are a few personal notes from Trevor Hart’s evening lecture tonight, hosted by friend Steve Guthrie of Belmont University. Trevor is a highly regarded theologian and Honorary Professor of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

He teaches on theology, imagination, and the arts. He is the founding director of The Institute for Theology, Imagination, And The Arts (along with friend Jeremy Begbie of Duke University).


Heavy sedation and a thick leash often accompanies the arts in the faith.

How did we move away from being the patron of the arts? The iconoclasm of the Protestant times – producing a crisis for artists. Catholicism in the South kept fine arts going, but in the North art turned toward landscapes, architecture, and portraiture. These practical art forms produced pay checks for artists of faith.

Today? The Arts are now in splendid isolation from everyday life.

What does a “new heaven” and a “new earth” – according to Dorothy Sayers – have to do with artists?

Sir Ken Robinson – a democratic approach to creativity

The Latin word, creo, before the 15th century, was only used when referring to God. After, it was used to refer to human beings.

The “Divine Artist” is now a human, powerful being. Now man is the measure of all things. The fact that God creates the material was conceded, but the focus in human creativity rose above it. King Canut discovered the tide does not stop just because a high achiever tells it to.

Some say humans are, at best, samplers and copiers, and that the language of creativity is to be reserved for God. C.S. Lewis suggested this as well. We apply form, at best. Human creativity is shot through with hubris – we are only “makers.”

Another way – reimagining creation.

“Let there be…” is the language of a great artist. Creation is not just a moral act, but an aesthetic act.

Sayers – Humans are now “partner and rival.” We have over-reached. Sometimes our physical ruin becomes our spiritual redemption.

God has placed himself in partnership with us in acts of creation, but remains primary. He places himself under constraint, and conscripts us to work with him.

Creation and constraint – in Jewish history, creation is “unfinished,” we participate in its completion.

Only God will complete the New Creation, but we will be parables of that New Creation to come.

Who God has called you to be, he now calls you to offer back to him. Our artistry may indeed be our greatest gift. Not as a utility, but as the best you have to offer.

We know we’re doing it as we do it. Handing it over is a liturgical, a Eucharistic act.

Rowan Williams – “To uncover what is generative in the world.” We are called the change the world “into itself.”

“The artist is an acute form of a wider human calling.”

Tolkien coins the phrase “sub-creation” – it is genuine, but subordinate to God’s creation.

Unlike other origins myths (like Prometheus stealing fire), our God welcomes our imaginative and creative engagement with the world. We participate, while not overtaking in our minds or perception of ourselves the primacy of God as Creator.

Dorothy Sayers – Towards A Christian Aesthetic, The Mind Of The Maker

Jonathan Sacks – To Heal A Fractured World

Rowan Williams – Grace And Necessity


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