rock & redemption

24 August, 2005 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment


Some of the most suggestive and creative theology is to be found outside religious texts. It's certainly where some of the most insightful and surprisingly rich reflections can be found. Those of us whose professional tools include the Bible and the tradition need to recognise that our theological imaginations are shaped and limited by these tools. That isn't to say anything bad or critical – it is to acknowledge reality. We look through a lens which has been polished by the medium in which we work. Musicians look through a different lens. Theirs is the lens of lyrics, the symbol systems of musical traditions, rhythms, sound, cadence and rhyme. And it colours their theology. That's why find the theology in certain songs to be far more exciting and creative than much of the very worthy stuff I read in theological text books. It's not usually the content so much as the vehicle. There are startling things to be discovered.I reckon few do it better than the (not-very-holy) trinity of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen. That's why I'm running a course at the Windermere Centre on Rock & Redemption (21-24 November). It's an opportunity to do some very serious theological exploration – but also to listen to some good music on the way. I'm not doing it alone.I'll do 3 sessions on Cohen's music. It will be a straightforward case of using songs as an entry into theological areas. So we will look at brokenness & grace ("Anthem"), sex & sacramentality ("Hallelujah") and kingdom & eschatology ("Democracy"). Peter Noble, Moderator of the URC Wales Synod, is looking at Springsteen as a way of exploring the gospel and evangelism. He will look at Bruce's treatment of the American Dream (see my post "The Boss & Gethsemane") as an example of how to understand the gospel and evangelism. He will look at the construction of a redemption narrative which first of all exposes and confronts the present "bad news" prophetically, moves through the evocation of an alternative reality of promise (Hope & Dreams?) and then to a summons to discipleship. It yields an understanding of gospel and evangelism that is prophetic and passionate but not pietistic. It is radically communal rather than individualistic, yet utterly self-involving.Lance Stone, former lecturer at Westminster College, Cambridge, and soon-to-be minister of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge, is looking at Dylan's music as providing an interesting window in the nature and function of the Bible in preaching and faith. Taking some of Brueggemann's insights into post modern, postliberal views of the Bible, Lance sees the open-endedness of Dylan's lyrics and their ever-retranslatable quality as an important parallel to understanding the Bible's function. Because the songs never allow closure, their meaning can never be frozen buit is always able to open new vistas in a different time and place.So if you want to do some serious theology, or if you like the music, or the Lake District, you can't go far wrong. If all three of those are your "thing", you can't fail. Meatloaf was right when he said that "Two out of three ain't bad"), but I reckon any one thing on its own will be a good enough reason to be here! So download the Booking Form and get registered while there are still spaces …

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Entry filed under: christology, mission, music.

stop the wall! read this and be very, very afraid …

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