When I taught Western Civilization to 10th graders quite a few years back, I loved talking about the middle ages and cathedrals, especially how stained-glass windows were the most significant medium for peasants/serfs to understand the gospel. The images, beautiful artwork, adorned the dark corridors of the oft-cold churches. Because Latin was a foreign language for the locals, the only way to communicate was through pictures. Interesting with Dyrness’s book Visual Faith, he wants the church to return to the beauty of artwork as a way to communicate what has been lost in the use of words alone. His reasoning has nothing to do with the lack of understanding the language, but rather, the protestant evangelical church (his self-ascribed tribe) focuses too much on words with an insular use of art. He wants a broadening of the imagination when it comes to encountering God in worship. His premise is that the visual awakening opens up ways that have been lost through the Reformation and Enlightenment (in both social and ecclesial forums). The use of art, in particular paintings and sculptures, what one would consider classical art, offers opportunities to “respond to the gracious presence of God with the whole of their beings.”
At times, a book will capture my attention through a fresh and creative perspective that seems to resonate with my own thinking and imagination. Other times, a book disturbs me enough to be able to discern more clearly exactly what I’m thinking. Then there is a book like Dyrness’s, well written; however, I find myself swimming in water that I already know and have a difficult time finding traction that will offer new words to articulate my own thinking. So while I find myself mostly agreeing with Dyrness (except for emphasis on classical art as the main source of artistic imaginative work), I did not feel like I drawn into a dialogue. Rather, I was given a prescriptive for how to make the protestant church more interesting through the use of art.
With that said, I have to comment on his use of Simone Weil’s perspective. Her mystical understanding of how we encounter God invites me into a deeper longing to consider the beauty of this world – in classical art and more. In Dyrness’s summary of her words, “There are three ways that people are drawn to God: through affliction, religious practices, and by the experience of beauty. The first two, she points out, have been virtually eliminated from modern life, leaving the third. Among white races, she argues, ‘The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us.’”  If it’s true that innate in all of us is a desire for intimacy with a Holy God, then the beauty of this world – manmade and in nature – speak volumes of the character of God. Dyrness offers, whether it’s created by a Christian or not, the beauty of art has the capacity to “open up windows on the human situation in a way that other cultural products cannot.” Weil goes on to speak of beauty as an experience for “radical decentering.” Beauty becomes a transcendent means by which we encounter God, inviting us to forget about our own need for attention to direct our attention to another. With this effect on the interior life, beauty holds a unique role as another way to remember we are created in the image of God – the master creator of all art.
Every morning I walk in the woods with my dog, and now my new puppy. The beauty in the sunlight streaming through the evergreens and maples reminds me of the surpassing greatness of God’s amazing creation. The freshness of the soft dew on the plants and ground instills in me a sense of God’s presence in this sacred place. I stand amazed at the various types of green to which I smile at the imagination of God’s artist palette. All the while, I am worshiping God in His beauty. My faith increases, my heart is changed, my hope deepens. In the imagination of God’s creativity, I am drawn to open up my imagination as well to the Kingdom of God, both here and not-yet.
 William A. Dyrness, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 22.
 Simone Weil, Waiting for God (Minneapolis: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009), 101.
 Dyrness, 19.
 Ibid, 150.