In Surprised By Hope, Wright has a chapter on ‘Building for the Kingdom’. He sees building for the kingdom as the task of Christians today. The ‘for’ is important. It’s not building the kingdom by our own effort. Instead, it’s getting on with the tasks God’s given us, which he will – in ways we don’t understand yet – use (and is using) in his kingdom.
He explores three areas of the task – justice, beauty and evangelism. Beauty is the one which surprised me. He sees it as the task of artists to show the world beauty. Beauty, he believes, endures.
He sees an impasse between artists who show the world’s ugliness without hope and those who refuse to recognise the ugliness and whose art is thus untrue. He wants Christians to help break this impasse.
The beauty of creation, to which art responds and which it tries to express, imitate and highlight, is not simply beauty which it possesses in itself, but the beauty which it possesses in view of what is promised to it : back to the chalice, the violin, the engagement ring. We are committed to describing the world not just as it should be, not just as it is, but as – by God’s grace alone! – one day it will be. And we should never forget that when Jesus rose from the dead, as the new paradigm, first example and generating power of the whole new creation, the marks of the nail were not only visible in his hands and his feet. They were the way he was to be identified. When art comes to terms with both the wounds of the world and the promise of resurrection, and learns how to express and respond to both at once, we will be on the way to a fresh vision, a fresh mission. (235-6)
I don’t have any startling insights here. I don’t know how to think eschatologically in writing novels (my art form). I’m aware that at the moment I’m striving to be less ideologically driven in my writing – not more. I tried in the wrong way to write theological fiction and it caused problems.
But I do know that I want to write about beauty. Too long in literature I’ve been fascinated by ugliness. Perhaps in response to the kitschy sentimentalism that I felt evangelicalism was pushing me to like. Time to restore beauty. Not that it wasn’t there, but now as a conscious drive.