Taking Flesh: Christology, Embodiment and the Arts

Taking Flesh: Christology, Embodiment and the Arts

The most basic of Christian claims about the world is that its Creator has himself taken flesh and dwelt among us. These lectures traced resonances between this claim and the realities of our shared human condition as manifest in the arts.

Rev Dr Trevor Hart

Trevor Hart is the Rector of St Andrew's Episcopal Church and an Honorary Professor in the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He has had a distinguished career (B.A. Durham; Ph.D. Aberdeen), Professor of Divinity and formerly Dean of the Faculty of Divinity, St Andrews. Together with Jeremy Begbie, Hart founded the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts, serving as its first Director from 2000-2013. He delivered the 2008 New College Lectures, God & the Artist.

Trevor teaches and publishes in Christian doctrine and systematic theology. His academic interests include the contemporary reformulation of the Christian tradition and the engagement of Christian theology with other disciplines. One of his major research interests has been the nature and roles of human imagining. He is completing a book which explores the claim that imagination may be a primary focus of God’s redemptive action.

Trevor’s main role is now pastoring his Church. He remains an Honorary Professor in the University of St Andrews and continues in scholarship, lecturing and publishing as time permits.

Trevor is married to Rachel, and they have two adult children (Jonathan and Naomi), one teenager (Deborah) and a Border Terrier (Grizzle).

Lecture 1 | ‘Clayey lodging’: being human and why matter matters 


The opening lecture considered the peculiar ‘predicament’ of being human; straddling the spheres of material and non-material creaturehood. Trevor Hart argued that the doctrines of incarnation, resurrection and ascension help us to understand that meanings associated with the arts furnishes a healthier picture of human knowing.

Lecture 2 | 'Earthy epiphanies': the incarnation of meaning and the meaning of incarnation in the arts

In some modern theorizing and criticism surrounding the arts, there are tendencies to grant the meanings and experiences they generate an exalted status. Yet, no matter how sublime or transcendent their semantic freight, all works of art trade in earthy and fleshy realities even as they grant epiphanies transcending materiality. These concepts were considered in relation to painting, music and theatre.

Lecture 3 | 'Heavenly bodies': why Wagner was right about art and wrong about God

Richard Wagner had a radical vision for the arts that was theologically informed and inspired. Although his beliefs were unorthodox, his quest for a ‘total work of art’ grapples more seriously with the nature and implications of our embodied condition than most contemporary Christian worship, which remains predominantly verbal, individualistic and cognitivist. Might the true ‘hallowing’ of things by God’s creatures necessarily involve a multi-sensory and imaginative ‘total’ engagement?

An interview with Professor Trevor Hart by the Centre for Public Christianity is also available to view.