Theology as Science and Art

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I just saw Tim’s Vermeer and I’m so impressed with Penn Jillette right now!

The premise: Tim Jenison (a friend of Jillette’s, inventor of the Video Toaster, master tinkerer and all around Texas rich guy) tries his hand at matching one of the greatest oil painters of the renaissance, the Dutch Master, Johannes Vermeer, by painting a duplicate of The Music Lesson, a masterwork in the use of color and light.

The only problem Tim has is that he is not a painter.

And this begins the story of a fascination that spans years; the mystery of how Vermeer created such photorealistic images in oils and the attempt to reverse-engineer his methods and duplicate his results.

Anyway, if you go in for this kind of odd documentary like I do, it’s crazy good.

This movie is not simply about the glorious obsession of an engineer-artist, but the intersection of technology and art – one of my favorite topics and, apparently, one of the magician-producer, Penn Jillette’s as well.

Today, we tend to put technology and art into separate categories. This was not true during the Renaissance. The Lutheran Reformers would never have made such a distinction.

Christian Theology was considered (and this before the Reformation) to be the Queen of the Sciences.

The concept of Theology as science is foreign to our ‘enlightened’ century where the subject has been removed to the Liberal Arts category.

For NRP, theology is both science and art.

As science, theology has a Subject Who has condescended to make Himself available for study (our systems begin and end with Jesus). His life and sayings were recorded in part by friends as well as enemies. His trial, execution and resurrection were recorded by eye witnesses. We have excellent transmission of those testimonies by every standard of historical research – no one who’s done the work denies this part. That data drives the propositional truths of our faith.

As art, it comes with the way these truths relate to one another and the weight and focus given to each in the context of historical narrative (which is the way God revealed himself – perhaps because, as science has shown, we are hard-wired for story). How these observations and systems of thought continually relate to the scriptures, as a frame to a picture, is another aspect of the art. How these truths are communicated is still another.

For a culture that oscillates at the bustling intersection of art and technology, we want to present and communicate the art and findings of our theology in technologically advanced and artful ways, just like the Reformers did in their day.

Ultimately, the arbitrary divorce between high tech and high art is silly. I think Tim’s Vermeer does a great job of demonstrating this truth.

I promise I haven’t spoiled the movie. Go see for yourself!

P.S. Incidentally, we will be an all Mac shop. Haters need not comment.