In the past year, I discovered the work of the late Leonard Shlain who introduced me to the connection between art and physics. Shalin documented how artists had, in their work, presaged all the major cognitive shifts that occurred as a result of the work of scientists.
Apparently, this idea has been quietly growing in my mind because in the past few days I have been enjoying something of a paradigm shift in the way I understand the work of theology. Most of my theological work has been an effort to try to make clear statements about theological ideas and then test them against the fund of human knowledge and experience. This process has its merits, but it almost inevitably leads to deciding what is correct on a right/wrong, black/white, or true/false axis. Meaning, which is the subject of theology, is almost never reducible to such absolute categories.
I have suddenly become aware that doing theology is much more like painting. Artists begin a painting with a vision; an image of something in their mind. It may be entirely imaginative, or it may be something that they see in the world about them. In either case, it translates to a mental image and it is this that the artist then labors to recreate on the canvas.
There is no true or false in the effort to express the image in the mind on the surface of the canvas. There is right or wrong color. There is only the artist's struggle to use whatever colors, textures, brush strokes, and whatever else can be called into play to translate what she "sees" in her mind into the terms of paint and canvas in the hope that the viewer will "get it".
Opthe is a vision within my mind that gives meaning to everything I think and do. I now see that my task is not so much to share the critical thinking that I am certain is vital to holding meaning that is healthy and enduring. What I really need to be doing is working to become a theological artist. I want to do what I can to create representations of the power and beauty of what I see in such a way that others can engage it... and maybe even "get it".
It feels like it's the right thing to do.