Announcement: The World As It Is
I’m writing a book. The kind that gets published, not just the kind that people talk about and then never finish. I’d better finish it: I have a deadline for the manuscript and a publisher who already has cover art done. You might call that pressure. (I do. But it’s of the very best sort: the kind that makes me buckle down and get things done.)
In which case, you’re guessing about the sort of book it’s going to be. After all, I’m posting it here, on Ars Artis—not on Ardent Fidelity—then it’s going to be about art. You’d be right, of course, though I had to think a little about where to post this.
It’s called The World As It Is: A Theology of Art. You can see why I had a little trouble deciding where to put it: it says "art" and "theology." But here it belongs. This is a book about art with theological moorings, not theology with a little application to the arts. As things stand, the book will be published by Cruciform Press sometime later this year, as long as I get my manuscript handed over on time. (Which I will. Like I said: deadlines are wonderful.)
Truth be told, that subtitle is a bit of an overstatement. The book will be pretty short—only 20,000 words or so, hardly long enough for a fully fledged theology of anything. (One friend insists that it’s not a book because it’s not long enough. I keep telling him he’s wrong—but he’s half right. Call it a "manifesto," but without all the political undertones that suggests.) In any case, I’m glad it’s going to be short. Writing a book is hard. The point is to get across a simple idea—-evangelical Christians should embrace art oriented toward beauty and worship instead of evangelism and instruction—and to do it well.
By beauty I mean the deep kind that sears your soul and makes you get outside yourself, not the kind that turns you inward with surface sweetnesses that go nowhere. By worship I mean full-throated revelry in the world God has made channeled into the act of sub-Creation, not one more three-verse-and-a-chorus song for Sundays.1 By evangelism and instruction I mean what we evangelicals have normally thought passed for good art: tracts in the form of novels and devotional guides in the form of CDs.2
A couple things the book isn’t:
- It isn’t just one more chance to go ragging on Christians about the arts. We have plenty of that. I have Matt Anderson and Stephen Carradini to thank for helping me reorient in some important ways.
- A full-fledged theology of art. I mentioned this above: I just don’t have the space to do that. Frankly, I don’t think I have the education, either. I love this stuff, and I’m delighted to have a chance to be writing it, but I have a long ways to go before I’m an "expert." Maybe in another couple decades.
- A world-changer. I’m giddy to be getting to write a book at all. I’m grateful to the Cruciform guys for giving me a shot. I hope somebody reads it and likes it and goes and makes some good art afterward and, God willing, that their art is just that little bit better because they read the book.
A couple of things the book hopefully will be:
- A celebration of art done well.
- A work that draws heavily on the things other thinkers far better at this than me have said. You know me: there are going to be lots of quotes from Tolkien here (you really can’t beat On Fairie Stories), not to mention some of the other usual suspects like Lewis, Chesterton, Schaeffer and possibly Ryken. I expect to pull on Andy Crouch and J. D. Hunter, too—and maybe, for the wildcard, some Gene Veith.
- Well written and interesting. I’m working harder on this than anything I’ve ever written, and then I’m handing to people who are better writers than me to tell me what’s wrong with it. And the guys at Cruciform (1) are good at this and (2) won’t let me fly too high with my language—which, as anyone who’s ever read one of my first drafts knows, is a very good thing.3
- God-honoring. This one is the most important. I want people to come away savoring God more. Too, I want them savoring him in a little different way than before. I want them to taste and see that the Lord is good as they subcreate.
And that really sums up what I’m going for with The World As It Is. I’m going to keep it short and sweet and to the point—I don’t have a choice! Again, readers who know me (and let’s be honest: that’s everyone reading this little announcement) know that’s a good thing.
Here’s a cover, just for fun:
Now, back to the actually important bit: writing the thing.
I don’t have a problem with those. Not exactly. But it’s not what I’m talking about here.↩
Plenty of good here, at least in the latter category. I just don’t think these works usually constitute art, or at least very good art. But more on that in the book.↩
There’s a fun story in here involving my first draft of my physics capstone and the word “flowery”—but I’ll leave it for another day.↩