We live at the “far end of modernity,” in a post-modern world where reason and science reign supreme and yet where people yearn for a sense of something more mystical–hence the rise in things as diverse as spirituality, yoga, political activism, or the religious pursuit of commodities. Author David White looks at the world and sees a tremendous need for a truly Christian response, recognizing that at its core, Christianity has always engaged with art as an expression of the deeper reality of things than the merely material. “Things in the cosmos disclose their materiality not as structures of thought but as forms of art,” he states. (p 13)
Tending the Fire that Burns at the Center of the World is a call to rediscover that expressiveness, a call to look again at the creativity of God at the core of the Christian faith. White’s book is an academic treatise and he looks at what several scholars say on the subject, yet the book is accessible and includes practical applications. “Beautiful things are not simply inert, to be consumed or watered; they speak a gracious word of wisdom.” (p 67)
The book is divided into 3 main sections: Beauty as Social Imaginary, which calls us to remember beauty; Beauty as a Foundation for Formation, which looks at the theoretical underpinnings in creation, the surpassing beauty of Christ, and the idea that creativity is native to Christianity; and finally Liturgy as Art, and Art as Liturgy, which presents worship as art and includes a section on lament and hope. Tending the Fire is a thought-provoking and even life changing work that opens the soul to worship. It inspires the reader to want to create–to write a poem, paint a picture, or simply go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the world around us. Highly recommended.