Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture: Conversations with the Work of David Brown

This year the annual conference of the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of St Andrews—held 6-8 September—will focus on the recent work of the Revd Dr David Brown FBA, Professor of Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture and Wardlaw Professor at St Andrews.  Chaplain and Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford, from 1976 to 1990, Van Mildert Canon Professor at Durham University and Durham Cathedral from 1990 to 2007, Fellow of the British Academy from 2002, a former member of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England, and a current member of the Doctrine Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Brown is a distinguished British theologian whose thought over the past two decades has turned to the relation between theology and the broader culture in which it is set, particularly as expressed in the arts.

His research has resulted in a series of five major books published by Oxford University Press, the diverse yet connected themes of which will be the focus of the conference.  The fundamental thesis underlying all five volumes is that “both natural and revealed theology are in crisis, and that the only way out is to give proper attention to the cultural embeddedness of both.”  Responding to the richness of the Christian tradition and undeniable presence of “divine generosity” within more recent art and culture, Professor Brown explores various artistic contributions both within the Christian tradition and outside the Church. The fourth book—God and Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary (2007)—was short-listed for the 2009 Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing.

Topics considered will be biblical interpretation, doctrinal development, the relationship between imagination and revelation, the visual arts, religious experience as mediated through architectural and natural environments, music (both classical and popular), the body, film, popular culture, literature, drama, liturgy, and the sacraments.  The speakers are interdisciplinary, international, and ecumenical, representing Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic perspectives: William Abraham (Southern Methodist University), Richard Bauckham (St Andrews), Tina Beattie (Roehampton), Jeremy Begbie (Duke), Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary), Trevor Hart (St Andrews), Gavin Hopps (St Andrews), Clive Marsh (Leicester), Margaret Miles (Graduate Theological Union), Ben Quash (King’s College London), Charles Taliaferro (St Olaf College), and Graham Ward (Manchester), with a response by David Brown.

There will also be an interesting range of plenary session chairs who will also be part of the conversation (see website for more details).  The deadline of the call for papers has been extended to 20 July.  The short papers do not have to be directly on Professor Brown’s work, but simply on related themes, and in addition to the original six we have added four more tracks to better reflect the breadth of the five volumes under consideration:

Revelation in Art and Image
Doctrine and Development
Literature and/or Music
Space and Place
Pop Music / Pop Culture
God and the Body
Liturgy and Ritual
Natural Religion and Religious Experience
Sacramentality and Re-enchantment
Interpretation and Tradition

For more details, including registration information, see the conference website

N.B. Clergy and students may register under the ‘unwaged’ category for a considerable discount.


  • Wesley Vander Lugt is the former editor of Transpositions. He earned his PhD at the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts (ITIA), where his research focused on the dynamic interplay between formation and performance in the theodrama. Currently, he is lead pastor at Warehouse 242 and Adjunct Professor in Christianity and the Arts at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC

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