"Beholding The Glory: The Incarnation and the Arts," edited by Jeremy Begbie, was textbook for a Church Worship class taught at Wesley Biblical Seminary. I audited the class and did not read much of the assigned texts, including this one. To tell the truth, I was expecting to dislike this book, but reading it was truly an unexpected treat. I had expected it to be filled with pretentious language by writers intent on impressing their collegues. And there was some. But despite this, there was much good theology stated in plain but creative ways.
The book consists of eight essays which attempt to explain how theology (the Incarnation and the Trinity in particular) can be explored through various artistic mediums. Each essay deals with one kind of art form: poetry, literature, music, etc. All essays but one (the exception being the one on sculpture) were good. And even if some of them did not totally succeed in its aim(such as the essay on dance), the time spent with them is worthwhile.
The best essay is the last, written by the editor, Jeremy Begbie. In his essay Begbie confronts the difficulty some have in dealing with the Incarnation. One of the difficulties is that man tries to think of the Incarnation strictly in visual terms. The problem can be stated this way: "How can Divinity and Humanity co-exist together in the same space? Wouldn't the Divine nature swollow up the human?" Yet space need not be have to be conceived visually. When one plays a key on a piano, while the source of the sound can be known, the sound can occupy the entire room. No matter which way you face, you can hear the sound of the key being played. Now, if we play two keys at one time, we hear both distinct sounds at the same time. They occupy the same space, as it were, yet both keys remain distinct. If you want to use this explanation to deal with the Trinity, add a third note. All three notes remain individually distinct while inhabiting the same space. By rethinking what we mean by the concept of space, some who have had difficulties with the Incarnation and the Trinity can come to a new understanding of them both.
(This review, which has been slightly edited, originally appeared on 5/26/07.)