Transforming Christian Thought in the Visual Arts:
Theology, Aesthetics, and Practice
edited by Sheona Beaumont and Madeleine Emerald Thiele

Routledge Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts, 2021
16cm x 24.3cm; 266pp; 92 illustrations (45 in colour)
printed on 90gsm matt coated paper
HB: 978-0-367-44321-4 EB: 978-1-003-00896-5. PB: 978-0-367-77608-4

In this book an international group of contributors demonstrate how Christian thought is often implicit within artworks and how, regardless of a viewer’s personal faith, it can become implicit in a viewer’s visual encounter. Among the voices speaking for spiritual transformation are theologians Ben Quash and Jonathan A. Anderson, curator Lucy Newman-Cleeve, and artists Sara Mark and Maciej Urbanek. Sheona Beaumont’s chapter, ‘Photography as the Bible’s New Illumination’, is available for download from her articles here.

Observations include deliberate juxtaposition of Christian symbols; imaginative play with theologies; the validation of non-confessional or secular public engagement; and inversions of biblical interpretation. A variety of case-studies and media such as a video-led interactive Easter, glow-sticks as sacrament, and visualisation of the Bible’s polyphonic voices enrich the discussion. Considering the diverse field at hand, the editors call for a greater interpretative generosity and more nuance around theology’s cultural contexts in the present era.

Here artists and theologians combine to seek the release of the energy of theology from its verbal and doctrinal restrictions and open it to the transformative aesthetics of both seeing and hearing. … Readers expecting an easy time will be disappointed. This is a difficult book to absorb, and it is meant to be. It is a reminder that when theology becomes easy, or known as something which the church somehow possesses, and which would be good for those outside if only they paid proper attention, then it is in serious trouble. Theology here is cast in the context of struggle and often puzzlement – and it flourishes in event and praxis.

David Jasper, Professor Emeritus of Literature and Theology at the University of Glasgow


Introduction by Sheona Beaumont and Madeleine Emerald Thiele

PART 1: Re-working the Bible Beyond Symbolic Expression

‘The Hearing Ear and the Seeing Eye’: Transformative Listening to the Biblical Image by John Harvey
Photography as the Bible’s New Illumination by Sheona Beaumont
The Visual Commentary on Scripture: Principles and Possibilities by Ben Quash
The Virgin and the Visual Artist as Theologian: Examining Two Marian Images by David Jones by Ewan King

Praxis I:
LAVANT 2018 Sara Mark

PART 2: Re-Shaping Institutional and Historical Cross-Currents 

‘A Sacred Art of the State’: Public Commissions for French Churches, Abbeys, and Cathedrals by Jonathan Koestlé-Cate
The Chapel at Royal Holloway: Visual Theology and Women’s Education by John Dickson and Harriet O’Neill
The ‘Sacred Pastoral’ as the Manifestation of Spirituality in the Work of Bishop William Giles by Marjorie Coughlan

Praxis II:
HS Maciej Urbanek

PART 3: Re-Discovering the Church Space in Liturgy, Performance, and Installation

Bin Bag Visions: Theological Horizons in Maciej Urbanek’s HS by Jonathan A. Anderson
Public Liturgical Theology Through Community and Public Art by Martin Poole and Stephen B. Roberts
Stations of the Cross & Stations of the Resurrection: Interdisciplinary Art Practice and its Implications for Visual Theology by Lucy Newman Cleeve

Envoi by Sheona Beaumont and Madeleine Emerald Thiele