Prophets, Artists, and Prophetic Artists

Last month, I attended a wonderful event at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Brehm Center – The Brehm Lectures. My friend and colleague Makoto Fujimura was one of two keynote speakers, along with Duke Divinity’s Dr. Ellen Davis. Following the event, I was invited to write a response – a reflection on my experience listening. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote (read the whole essay here):

As my vocation has placed me squarely at the crossroads where the arts, the Judeo-Christian faith, and the common interests of humanity at large intersect, I am grateful for the perspective and insight I gained through Dr. Ellen Davis (view video) and Makoto Fujimura (view video) at the 2011 Brehm Lectures. For several years, I have wrestled with other artists and creative catalysts – and within myself, in the closet of my own mind – to understand the very questions that provided context for these lectures. Specifically, I have considered the role the arts played in the way the Hebrew prophets communicated God’s word to God’s people, as well as the prophetic function of art today. The Brehm Lectures provided additional fuel for my exploration of these themes.

Any serious study of the prophets calls for careful consideration of the artistry that permeates these pages of scripture. Poetry and performance art were integral to the Hebrew prophets’ effective communication of God’s message. As Dr. Davis pointed out, Jeremiah was “one of the greatest poets ever to compose in Hebrew.” From the very beginning of our record of Jeremiah’s interactions with God, metaphor is pervasive. The branch of an almond tree and a boiling pot are images of God’s watchful eye and warn of impending disaster. Throughout the book, Jeremiah relies heavily on poetic devices to communicate God’s heart to God’s people. (Read more…)

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