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Liturgy as a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in Christian Worship

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How do the arts inform and cultivate our service to God? In this addition to an award-winning series, distinguished philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson rethinks what it means to be artistic. Rather than viewing art as practiced by the few, he recovers the ancient Christian idea of presenting ourselves to God as works of art, reenvisioning art as the very core of our being: God How do the arts inform and cultivate our service to God? In this addition to an award-winning series, distinguished philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson rethinks what it means to be artistic. Rather than viewing art as practiced by the few, he recovers the ancient Christian idea of presenting ourselves to God as works of art, reenvisioning art as the very core of our being: God calls us to improvise as living works of art. Benson also examines the nature of liturgy and connects art and liturgy in a new way. This book will appeal to philosophy, worship/liturgy, art, music, and theology students as well as readers interested in engaging issues of worship and aesthetics in a postmodern context, including Christian artists and worship leaders.


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How do the arts inform and cultivate our service to God? In this addition to an award-winning series, distinguished philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson rethinks what it means to be artistic. Rather than viewing art as practiced by the few, he recovers the ancient Christian idea of presenting ourselves to God as works of art, reenvisioning art as the very core of our being: God How do the arts inform and cultivate our service to God? In this addition to an award-winning series, distinguished philosopher Bruce Ellis Benson rethinks what it means to be artistic. Rather than viewing art as practiced by the few, he recovers the ancient Christian idea of presenting ourselves to God as works of art, reenvisioning art as the very core of our being: God calls us to improvise as living works of art. Benson also examines the nature of liturgy and connects art and liturgy in a new way. This book will appeal to philosophy, worship/liturgy, art, music, and theology students as well as readers interested in engaging issues of worship and aesthetics in a postmodern context, including Christian artists and worship leaders.

30 review for Liturgy as a Way of Life: Embodying the Arts in Christian Worship

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Liturgy as a Way of Life is a phenomenal book on art, worship, and life from a theological and philosophical perspective. Through a deconstruction of modernist conceptions of art and a reconstruction drawing on the work of continental philosophers such as Chrétien, Gadamer, Marion, and Derrida, Benson presents a paradigm for the arts in which we are all artists, improvisers in God’s image in all that we do, as His living works of art. This is a great book for anyone interested in philosophy who Liturgy as a Way of Life is a phenomenal book on art, worship, and life from a theological and philosophical perspective. Through a deconstruction of modernist conceptions of art and a reconstruction drawing on the work of continental philosophers such as Chrétien, Gadamer, Marion, and Derrida, Benson presents a paradigm for the arts in which we are all artists, improvisers in God’s image in all that we do, as His living works of art. This is a great book for anyone interested in philosophy who also has an interest in the arts in general and/or the relationship between the arts and the church. See the full review on my blog

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    Definitely the weakest book in the Church and Postmodern Culture I've read so far. Benson makes some excellent arguments against the Kantian notion of the artist as an individual genius. The strongest parts of the books were where Benson was engaging philosophy and aesthetics (the more theoretical side of the work) but when he switches to "practical philosophy" Benson succumbs to the evangelical tendency of reducing everything to "we do this because of Jesus." This was always a let down after th Definitely the weakest book in the Church and Postmodern Culture I've read so far. Benson makes some excellent arguments against the Kantian notion of the artist as an individual genius. The strongest parts of the books were where Benson was engaging philosophy and aesthetics (the more theoretical side of the work) but when he switches to "practical philosophy" Benson succumbs to the evangelical tendency of reducing everything to "we do this because of Jesus." This was always a let down after the very well argued theoretical side of things. A better rating for this is 3.5 stars but goodreads doesn't give that option.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Keith Willis

    Really interesting book. Topics revolve around liturgy, art, improvisation, beauty, art, and the church. Benson rambles at some points and you don’t always get a solid conclusion to certain topics, but his primary argument that “Christians should see their lives as a work of art that acts like liturgy” is strong. In fact, his unique perspective on this subject matter help the reader to think about this topic in a different way than one might from a standard book on liturgy. His advice on includin Really interesting book. Topics revolve around liturgy, art, improvisation, beauty, art, and the church. Benson rambles at some points and you don’t always get a solid conclusion to certain topics, but his primary argument that “Christians should see their lives as a work of art that acts like liturgy” is strong. In fact, his unique perspective on this subject matter help the reader to think about this topic in a different way than one might from a standard book on liturgy. His advice on including artist in the church is also very helpful. He has great insights and experience on this topic and will help ministers think about artists in the church better by giving language to this situation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alec

    The philosophical scope of Liturgy as a Way of Life extends well beyond the horizon that Bruce Ellis Benson's lucid, yet professorial prose might initially suggest. Benson's attention to clarity enables readers to answer the central question "How should Christians relate to art?", a question that is becoming increasingly relevant due to the necessary efforts of postmodern thinkers like Benson to deconstruct the modern artistic paradigm inaugurated by Immanuel Kant. Further, Benson uses jazz as h The philosophical scope of Liturgy as a Way of Life extends well beyond the horizon that Bruce Ellis Benson's lucid, yet professorial prose might initially suggest. Benson's attention to clarity enables readers to answer the central question "How should Christians relate to art?", a question that is becoming increasingly relevant due to the necessary efforts of postmodern thinkers like Benson to deconstruct the modern artistic paradigm inaugurated by Immanuel Kant. Further, Benson uses jazz as his model to illuminate the idea of "improvisation." Improvisation is the process of drawing on tradition while making continual alterations that preserves a contemporaneity with the past lived out in the present. Benson's point is "we are all improvisers in all that we do" because we are always working with who or what has always/already come before us. This seminal work "improvises" upon the ideas of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Louis Chretien, Jean-Luc Marion, and other theologians and continental philosophers. It stands as an exemplary model of how postmodern ideas are influencing the church in a determinedly positive way. Liturgy as a Way of Life validates the connection between art and Christianity by deconstructing the modern aesthetic paradigm, reminiscent of how logical positivism's downfall enabled the heightened acceptance of Christian philosophy in academic circles. Returning to the original meaning of liturgy, Benson shows how the call and response is fundamental to the very fabric of humanity. God calls everyone to the vocation of the artist. Liturgy is precisely how people respond to this call, living out their existence as God's works of art. Developing Marion's distinction between icon and idol in God Without Being, Benson analyzes how people realize their own existence as icons, following Jesus' example as eikon, image of the invisible God. Benson presents liturgy as the very function of an icon of God. We are constituted as God's works of art insofar as we point to him by both "improvisation" and deconstruction, subverting whatever is untrue and finding ways to infiltrate and transform the world. This reveals the Christian's dual role as both artist and prophet. Benson's underlying logic is that as Christians and, thus, God's works of art, we communally constitute the church. The realization of our existence as works of art conditions our interaction with art in the world in a fundamentally cooperative way. As a result, it is untenable to divorce Christianity from art, for the two are always/already intimately linked: Christianity is constituted by art, icons that point to God. This is how we live in the world and this is what it means for liturgy to be a way of life. Benson inspires his readers to live liturgically in a precise and profound way. This is philosophy in its truest form, recalling ancient philosophy's core mission as the cultivation of the soul. Liturgy as a Way of Life opens up new questions about art in the church and what it means to realize ourselves as fundamentally liturgical and communal beings. Benson deftly weaves phenomenology and theology with a remarkably clear account of the historical context of art in the church, resulting in a text that will inevitably leave its readers genuinely transformed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    William Smith

    Excellent read! In moving toward his main emphasis in the book concerning each of our lives being liturgically-shaped works of art, Benson discusses the world of art and disabuses the reader of the notion that artists are to express themselves no matter the communal ramifications. The all too common notion that those who specialize in art need to be weird is debunked from a good, biblical, Trinitarian perspective. Instead, he says that we are all artists with some specializing and gifted in cert Excellent read! In moving toward his main emphasis in the book concerning each of our lives being liturgically-shaped works of art, Benson discusses the world of art and disabuses the reader of the notion that artists are to express themselves no matter the communal ramifications. The all too common notion that those who specialize in art need to be weird is debunked from a good, biblical, Trinitarian perspective. Instead, he says that we are all artists with some specializing and gifted in certain areas who always need to be living for one another ... especially when we produce works of art. I found his use of "improvisation" instead of "create" in dealing with art helpful. There is nothing wrong with the word "create." Nevertheless, "improvisation" speaks more to our reliance upon God and others for what we do. (This moves him to a thought-provoking discussion concerning intellectual property and copyrights.) We borrow everything we do and are meant to improve it in some form or fashion. The discussion of worship/liturgy in principle was good. The "intensive liturgy" (corporate worship around Word and Sacrament) shape us for the "extensive liturgy" (the worship of our lives throughout the week). I think he could use some improvement on what the shape of the liturgy should be. If you want a book about that, you need to turn to a book like The Lord's Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship. But overall, I highly recommend this book, especially to artists and burgeoning artists.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Luís Alexandre Ribeiro Branco

    There are few spots in this book with we could discuss, but I will take only one, the issue regarding the copyrights and the church public service. I will be very resistant to such approach from any musician or copyright organizations that tries to have the church charged for the purpose of any Christian music. In fact, my church was committed several years ago for each song we use to sing and the number of people in the church service singing those songs. I refused the payment and recommended t There are few spots in this book with we could discuss, but I will take only one, the issue regarding the copyrights and the church public service. I will be very resistant to such approach from any musician or copyright organizations that tries to have the church charged for the purpose of any Christian music. In fact, my church was committed several years ago for each song we use to sing and the number of people in the church service singing those songs. I refused the payment and recommended the organization which was charging us to file a court case because I refused to pay. I can sympathize a bit when the writer discussed art in the church, and of course there are many artists in the church, but they are there as anyone else that went to church to worship. The church is not a disco or anything similar to it and it is not just because an organization appears and say that we bear to pay for people's gift that is implemented in the church we should pay. It is not a matter of money and skill, it is a matter of worship, ethics and living faith. Sadly the author writes about on the ground of art instead of church theology of worship.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Heather Goodman

    I really enjoyed this book. Combines some great thoughts of Robert Gelinas (Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith), James K.A. Smith (Desiring the Kingdom), and Calvin Seerveld (Rainbows for a Fallen World), such as the communal nature of art (and responsibility to the community)and the artist as craftsman (my word, not his) rather than inspired genius. These ideas take the pressure off the artist to be the lone genius but remind the artist of her true responsibilities to God and com I really enjoyed this book. Combines some great thoughts of Robert Gelinas (Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith), James K.A. Smith (Desiring the Kingdom), and Calvin Seerveld (Rainbows for a Fallen World), such as the communal nature of art (and responsibility to the community)and the artist as craftsman (my word, not his) rather than inspired genius. These ideas take the pressure off the artist to be the lone genius but remind the artist of her true responsibilities to God and community, that the artist searches for beauty and truth in community (both immediate and universal) in worship to God. But I was disappointed because the book seemed fractured and disjointed. Several threads could have been explored more, and it ended abruptly. And it was never clear if the book was geared more for artists to encourage them to pursue arts in worship of God or for all believers to live artistically as part of their humanness. Also, the writing wasn't stellar. The author clearly loves the word "yet", for example. Still, I'd recommend the book, especially as a primer on the nature of the artist.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marcás

    As usual, we can see just how much Kant is to blame. Haha. Namely how he's played a nefarious role in tearing apart beauty, goodness and truth; paving the way for pedantic pretensions of art critics (cultists) and their inane arbitrary 'values'. Consequently, encouraging a commensurate coarse low- brow culture for the 'uninitiated'. The Asher Lev story was well chosen and points back to a richer artistic motivational matrix. Benson's reflections on Man as an improvising, liturgical, creature gen As usual, we can see just how much Kant is to blame. Haha. Namely how he's played a nefarious role in tearing apart beauty, goodness and truth; paving the way for pedantic pretensions of art critics (cultists) and their inane arbitrary 'values'. Consequently, encouraging a commensurate coarse low- brow culture for the 'uninitiated'. The Asher Lev story was well chosen and points back to a richer artistic motivational matrix. Benson's reflections on Man as an improvising, liturgical, creature generally go quite a long way, as he cites The Scriptures, prayer books and spiritual writers copiously; interjecting plentious culture, mainly musical, references and philosophical examples as eloquent stanchions to incarnate his mini manifesto. Some academic meat is served from Chretien, Schmemann and Marion without overcooking. (Thankfully Derrida is only cited once or twice and I just managed to survive that turgid interruption to an otherwise interesting chapter.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Easily the weakest of the "Church and Postmodern Culture" series. Good ideas, but the thesis was argued poorly. Random examples like "My Name is Asher Lev" were relied upon heavily, but without follow-through. You'd be better off reading "The Heart of the Artist" by Rory Noland and "Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative" by Robert Webber. Easily the weakest of the "Church and Postmodern Culture" series. Good ideas, but the thesis was argued poorly. Random examples like "My Name is Asher Lev" were relied upon heavily, but without follow-through. You'd be better off reading "The Heart of the Artist" by Rory Noland and "Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative" by Robert Webber.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Lee

    As some who goes to a liturgical church and has a degree from a art school in film this book made a lot of sense.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brannon Hancock

  12. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Garcia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Jones

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Smith

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lance

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Graham

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Wheeler

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tr0yisbald

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Platter

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jon Scruggs

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joel Call

  25. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Coats

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Goodman

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Nicholas

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