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by Michael Linton
What can Christian theology bring to music?" In chatty theological circles, a lot of folks seem to be asking that kind of question, but no one is asking it in greater breadth, with more enthusiasm—and footnotes—than the British theologian and pianist Jeremy Begbie. In the twenty years since his Aberdeen dissertation (Theology, Ontology, and the Philosophy of Art), Begbie has prodded this discussion with Voicing Creation's Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts (1991); Beholding Glory: Incarnation through the Arts (2000); and Theology, Music and Time (2000); as well as numerous articles, chapters in other books, and lectures on both sides of the Atlantic. He is also the founder of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts. Housed at Cambridge, the Institute's purpose is to "discover and demonstrate ways in which the arts can contribute toward the renewal of Christian theology." In January 2009 he will take up a post at Duke Divinity School as the inaugural Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology.
Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music is in many ways Begbie's magnum opus. Incorporating expanded versions of passages he first presented elsewhere along with new materials, the book received prepublication endorsements from Rowan Williams, N. T. Wright, and Nicholas Wolterstorff (among others), and their enthusiasm testifies not only to their admiration for Begbie's writing but also to the importance Begbie's subject carries for many influential figures today. They are convinced that Christians should think hard about the arts in general and music in particular. There needs to be a theology of it, and Resounding Truth is Begbie's outline of what that theology might be, or how "God's truth might 'sound' and 're-sound' in the world of music."
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about all that reverberation. Begbie is an important writer who has thought about this subject for some time. His work merits careful consideration. But ...