In this podcast I explore how images influence our understanding of reality and the sacred through conversations with thought leaders on art, visual culture, and religion. Each episode delves into a different area of visual theology, opening to spiritual wisdom while deconstructing an image-saturated world.
W. David O. Taylor
New Creation and the Artist's Role
David is Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and the author, editor and co-editor of numerous books on art and Christianity. In addition, he has written a range of scholarly essays, lectured widely on the arts and produced a short film on the psalms.
In this episode, David and I discussed the biblical concept of new creation and how it applies to the making and experience of art. We also talked about the fundamental place of creativity in human life and some of the ways that art can help heal a broken world.
Matthew J. Milliner
Images of Mary
Matthew is associate professor of art history at Wheaton College. He holds an M.A. & Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University, and a Master in Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. Matthew is a five-time appointee to the Curatorial Advisory Board of the United States Senate, and was awarded a Commonwealth fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He has written for publications ranging from The New York Times to First Things, and is author of The Everlasting People and the recently published Mother of the Lamb.
In this episode, Matthew and I sat down to discuss issues around the depiction of the Mother of God. We also talked about the influence of Marian images on Christian faith and Mary’s place in relation to contemporary images.
History and Legacy of Visual Theology
Wilson Yates is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religion, Society and the Arts at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church with dual standing in the United Church of Christ. He has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and Yale Divinity School, and a visiting professor at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley.
In this episode, I invited Wilson to speak about the history and legacy of Visual Theology in modern times. We discussed how the field has evolved and what it has meant for our understanding of the relationship between art and religion today.
Iconoclasm, Beauty, and Aesthetics
Natalie is a constructive theologian interested in how Christian doctrine can speak to the complexities of modern life. Drawing on literary and visual works, she interprets theological ideas together with a range of themes, including images, iconoclasm, beauty, gender, and feminism. She trained at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Duke before arriving at Baylor University, where she is currently the Associate Professor of Theology in the Religion Department and an affiliated faculty member of Women’s and Gender Studies.
In this episode, Natalie and I discussed the controversy around public monuments, and the ways that beauty can be approached from a Christian perspective. We also talked about feminist theology and the relationship between asceticism and abundance.
Orthodox Christianity and Sacred Art
Peter teaches courses in theology, spirituality, and the arts at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, where he is professor of systematic theology and founding director of the Institute of Sacred Arts. His books include Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth, Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings on the Biblical Creation Narratives, Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence, and How to Be a Sinner: Finding Yourself in the Language of Repentance.
In this episode, Peter shares his knowledge and experience with Orthodox Christianity and we discuss what makes an image or object sacred. He also clarifies some common misconceptions regarding differences between the Western and Eastern Churches.
Father Garabed Kochakian
Visual Theology in the Armenian Church
Father Garabed Kochakian has authored several books for the Diocesan Department of Christian Education about Ecumenism in the Armenian Church and published books on Art and Iconography in the Armenian Church. As a specialist in Armenian Sacred Art and Theology, Father Garabed presently delivers lectures on Armenian Art, Illuminated manuscripts, and Armenian Ecclesiastical Architecture to various groups and parishes of the Diocese and for universities. He has painted Icons for seven of the parishes in the Eastern Diocese and continues to paint Icons and Illuminations in the Armenian tradition.
In this episode, Father Garabed and I discussed the images, objects, and architecture of our shared Armenian Apostolic Christianity.
Jennifer Allen Craft
Jennifer is Associate Professor of Theology and Humanities at Point University in West Point, Georgia where she teaches courses in systematic theology, philosophy, and the arts. She is the author of Placemaking and the Arts: Cultivating the Christian Life and has had work published in numerous other academic and popular venues. Jennifer lectures widely on the topic of theology and the arts, and her main research focuses on the theological significance of place and the arts’ role in our practices of placemaking.
In this episode, Jennifer and I discussed the nature and theological significance of the concept of place and the ways that images define the spaces we inhabit. We explored the impact of commercial images and the influence of the handmade, and some of the unexpected ways that creativity shows up in our ordinary routines.
Atheism and the Theology of Popular Culture
Kutter is the William K. Brehm Chair of Worship, Theology, and the Arts, as well as associate dean of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, and associate professor of theology and culture. He is actively engaged in writing and speaking on the interaction between theology and culture—particularly film, television, and online media—in both academic and popular forums.
In this episode, Kutter and I discussed the relationship of atheism to Christianity, how the images and media of popular culture can support our spiritual journey and the theology of television. We also talked about the ways images in the media frame our ideas about the world and influence our beliefs.
Robert K. Johnston
Theology and the Cinema
Robert is Senior Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary where he has taught students how to engage both biblically and theologically with movies, popular culture, and contemporary fiction. Robert has been a member of the ecumenical juries at the Locarno, Cannes, and Venice Film Festivals. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church.
In this episode, Robert and I discussed how cinema can feed our spiritual growth. One of the foremost figures on the subject of theology and film, Robert shared his thoughts on an array of issues, from how the movies have influenced the public’s perception of Christianity to the ways film can inspire theological reflection. We also talked about the challenges posed by new technologies that have influenced the way we watch films in our current digital age.
Religious Visual Culture
David is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in the doctoral program in Religion at Duke University with an additional appointment in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke. He is a recipient of many grants and fellowships, including support from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Getty Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, and fellowships at Yale University and Princeton University.
In this episode, David and I discussed the nature of visual culture, both secular and religious, and the ways our beliefs and ideas about the world are influenced by the images we consume. We also explored how ideas about the sacred, enchantment, and revelation function through different modes of visual culture.
Robin is Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Her research and publication focuses on the relationship between early Christian art and literature and examines the ways that visual images and architectural spaces should be regarded as modes of theological expression.
For this episode, I sat down with Robin to talk about Christian architecture. She explained some of its essential characteristics and how the design of a church reflects theology. We also discussed the role of images and objects in relation to the spaces of churches and cathedrals, and how architects approach the design of a place for worship. Robin and I also delved into some of the current challenges in designing religious architecture and how architects might best respond to the spiritual needs of a congregation.
Spirituality in Contemporary Art
Taylor is visiting associate professor of art history at Wheaton College and project director for “Thinking about Thinking: Conceptual Art and the Contemplative Tradition.” This research project seeks to make new connections between the conceptualist art-making strategy and the benefits of spiritual contemplation. He is the author of "Memento Mori in Contemporary Art: Theologies of Lament and Hope." He has served on the board of directors for the organization Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) since 2015.
In this episode, Taylor and I discuss the place of spirituality in contemporary art. We talked about how artists approach spirituality today and how the gap between contemporary art and Christian life might be bridged. We also focused on conceptual art, an approach to artmaking that, despite appearances, can often reflect Christian ethics.
Protestant Aesthetics, Modernism, and Theopoetics
William is Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, where from 1990 to 2000 he served as Dean of the School of Theology. His teaching and research interests focus on the relation of the Christian Faith to culture, especially to the visual arts and on missions and global theology. In addition to many articles and reviews he has published several books including "Rouault: A Vision of Suffering and Salvation" and "Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue."
This episode begins with Bill sharing his thoughts on the importance of art to spirituality and the historical and theological reasons behind different ideas about images found in Protestantism versus Catholicism. We also talked about the often unseen but fascinating centrality of Christianity within Modern art. Then we unpacked the subject of theopoetics, with Bill distinguishing its primary traits and how it connects art to daily life.