Unbent by Beauty: The Role of Art in Spiritual Formation
Wes Vander Lugt

The tragedy of the human condition is that we are dispositionally bent inward on ourselves rather than oriented outward in love toward others, God, and his world. Spiritual formation, therefore, is the lifelong, holistically human process by which the Spirit unbends us and straightens our dispositions. Art has a unique role in this process because of its power to unbend us intellectually, emotionally, relationally, and habitually. This is why, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, art has played a central role in the story of God’s revelation and restoration of a bent and broken creation. Through a wide variety of examples—poetry, music, photography, painting—this presentation makes the case that art has a unique ability to unbend us toward fully human, spiritually vital existence, and should therefore feature prominently within formation-intensive activities such as worship, education, therapy, and spiritual disciplines.


Wes Vander Lugt (PhD, Theology, Imagination, and the Arts, University of St Andrews) is Lead Pastor of Warehouse 242 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Adjunct Professor of Christianity and the Arts at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His books include Living Theodrama: Reimagining Theological Ethics (Ashgate, 2014) and Theatrical Theology: Explorations in Performing the Faith (Cascade, 2014).