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An Unexpected Light: Theology and Witness in the Poetry and Thought of Charles Williams, Micheal O'Siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill (Princeton Theological Monograph) [Paperback]

By David C. Mahan (Author)
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Item Number 357482  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   230
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 6" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2009
Publisher   Pickwick Publications
ISBN  1556355076  
EAN  9781556355073  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Description: ""Can poetry matter to Christian theology?"" David Mahan asks in the introduction to this interdisciplinary work. Does the study of poetry represent a serious theological project? What does poetry have to contribute to the public tasks of theology and the Church? How can theologians, clergy and other ministry professionals, and Christian laypeople benefit from an earnest study of poetry? A growing number of professional theologians today seek to push theological inquiry beyond the relative seclusion of academic specialization into a broader marketplace of public ideas, and to recast the theological task as an integrative discipline, wholly engaged with the issues and sensibilities of the age. Accordingly, such scholars seek to draw upon and engage the insights and practices of a variety of cultural resources, including those of the arts, in their theological projects. Arguing that poetry can be a form of theological discourse, Mahan shows how poetry offers rich theological resources and instruction for the Christian church. In drawing attention to the ""peculiar advantages"" it affords, this book addresses one of the greatest challenges facing the church today: the difficulty of effectively communicating the Christian gospel with increasingly disaffected ""late-modern"" people. Endorsements: ""Can poetry matter to Christian theology? To this question, David Mahan's book comprises a resounding 'yes.'With acute sensitivity and painstaking attention to literary detail, the author shows how Christian wisdom is hugely enriched by three major word-crafters. Far from muddying the waters of theological rigor, 'poetic performance' renders theology more precise, lucid, and faithful. An immensely important book, demonstrating just how badly the theologian needs the artist today."" --Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke University ""The engagement of theologians with the poetry of recent times has usually consisted of giving theological warrant to beauty and aesthetic gratification, of finding analogies between poetry and theology, or of discovering Christian themes in Christian and non-Christian poets alike. David Mahan, in An Unexpected Light, has achieved something distinctly new and different. He has taken three examples of Christian conviction inhabiting the contemporary world in the form of poems by Charles Williams, Micheal O'Siadhail, and Geoffrey Hill. With lovingly close attention to both form and content, he has brought to our attention the 'inscape' of these examples of Christian inhabitation in poetic form. And he has judiciously asked what Christian theologians can learn from a close reading of these poems for their own way of inhabiting our world today. It's an admirable achievement "" --Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University. ""David Mahan is a superb close reader of poetry and also a rich theological thinker. This book shows how poetry and theology can come together to light up the great questions of human life today. Above all, his profound engagement with three fascinating poets--O'Siadhail, Williams, and Hill--will expand the circle of those who recognize their great significance for the twenty-first century."" --David F. Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge ""David Mahan sheds'unexpected light' on poetry as a Christian discourse. He does this by deftly elucidating common intellectual ground shared by poets and theologians. Where he shines, however, is in showing how a poem means, how ideas actually become incarnate in texts. Mahan offers beautifully lucid analysis of demanding poets who, in his sure hands, become accessible, though never merely easy. He challenges us to see their work as not only speaking to our particular historical condition but, in quirky and reticent ways, as evangelizing our imaginations."" --Peter Hawkins, Professor of Religion and Director of Luce Prog

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More About David C. Mahan

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Mahan received his Ph.D. in limnology from Michigan State University. He has formerly served on the faculty of Western Michigan University and as field representative for the Michigan Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Currently Mahan is associate director of the Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies in Mancelona, Michigan.

David C. Mahan was born in 1960.

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More Than Mere Cultural Engagement  Jan 23, 2010
Mahan's book is nothing less than a marvel. He has done for modernist poetry what Begbie has done for music, Siedell has done for modern art, and (some will say) Johnston has done with cinema: he's given the church an articulate, brilliant, scholarly model of how to engage culture. A serious Christian, Mahan doesn't simply come to poetry with a particular worldview and offer commentary from a distance - instead he demonstrates that there are specific ways in which poetry is uniquely suited to unpacking the Christian gospel and the Christian life. An Unexpected Light is not without problems, I suppose, but they're minor. It really is essential reading for several groups of people:

(1) Anyone who has a low view of modernist poetry: As a group, analytic philosophers tend not to be very fond of poetry; and certainly not modernist poetry, which can come across as simply unclear. I say this from personal experience as such a philosopher. Mahan gently, but powerfully, shows that such a view is utterly mistaken (and mistaken in important ways). His posture isn't at all defensive, he simply models an approach to the poetic text that demonstrates how important poetry is for our understanding of theology in general, the gospel in particular, and the evangelistic task broadly construed.
(2) Anyone with a high view of modernist poetry: Mahan's careful, patient, yet enthusiastic reading of the poets is infectious to those who need convincing of poetry's value, but for those who need no convincing, his scholarship shows just how deeply its significance runs. Certainly, the chapter on Geoffrey Hill shows Mahan's powers as a scholar at their highest. His reading of Hill is informative, subtle and convincing.
(3) Pastors: Chapters 1 and 5 are fantastic, easily worth the price of the book, will give pastors a vision for what cultural engagement can look like, and will revitalize their own personal reading (it also helps model how their reading relates to both their evangelistic efforts and preaching). It also adds a layer of theological sophistication to a missional understanding of the local church's worship. (In this respect, I'd suggest reading these chapters alongside Begbie's Resounding Truth or Theology, Music and Time.) Chapters 2-4 will be hard-going for anyone who isn't trained in the close reading of texts, but will repay the effort expended. After reading chapters 1 and 5, the pastor will likely be able to make immediate use of the chapter on O'Siadhaill's "Gossamer Wall" in their preaching.
(4) Campus ministers: Whether parachurch staff, university employed, or volunteer, Mahan's model of engagement with the poetic text cannot fail to be an encouragement and example to those whose labors center on the university campus. To many, the mindset of the artist can seem impenetrable and totally foreign and even profoundly mistaken. Reading this book is incredibly helpful in helping the reader both to understand and (more importantly) to appreciate the artistic mindset. In addition, Mahan is a sure-footed guide who shows the reader how to see the themes of the gospel where they can seem obscured. And these are essential skills and instincts for the evangelist - especially when the mission field is the university campus.

One can only hope that Mahan will produce more work along this score. The church needs it desperately.

Luke Potter, University of Notre Dame

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