What courses did you teach during the spring semester?
The seminar course “Topics in Theology and the Arts” was a journey through the major writing on theology and the arts over the last 30 years. We explored the great swell of recent interest in this field, and I tried to help students see that they now need to carry the momentum forward.
In “Spirit, Worship and Mission,” we explored the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in conversation with the arts. It’s been astonishing to see how renewal in the Spirit often goes hand in hand with a renewal of painting, literature, and music. (Just think of the Wesleys.)
Third, in a course on Dostoevsky’s novels, a group of frighteningly able third-year students and I wrestled with the profoundest issues of life and death — Dostoevsky has that effect! In the future I expect to be teaching very similar material, but to add more options to the curriculum. In addition, we are developing an arts concentration within the new doctor of theology (Th.D.) degree program.
Any plans for special events in the near future?
A major book of essays entitled Resonant Witness will be published by Eerdmans in 2010.
We are also planning a cluster of major events at Duke in 2011, involving collaborations between theologians and artists. There will be a pilot project in 2010 at King’s College, Cambridge, culminating in a performance of James MacMillan’s new St. John Passion in King’s College Chapel. MacMillan is probably the best known classical composer in Britain, and a passionate Christian. He is very keen to work with us.
In terms of research, along with a steady stream of publishing that pursues the critical issues in this field, we want to see the arts integrated more thoroughly into the theological curriculum. I think we can do far more to encourage (and equip) faculty to incorporate the arts as a natural part of their teaching. I am glad to say this is happening already — but we could do much more. We also want to establish a regular cluster of events each year here at Duke that will pull together the best of current theology with the best of the arts. Faith and the arts are not water-tight boxes but more like two musical chords that enrich each other, sounding much better together than on their own.