Professor Dyrness talks about “The Discipleship of the Eyes” at the Preaching in a Visual Age Conference
Prof. Bill Dyrness at the Preaching in a Visual Age Conference
“What does it mean to ask God to be in our looking?” Fuller
Professor Bill Dyrness asked a group of conference-goers at the fourth annual
Preaching in a Visual Age Conference held on November 1 through 3.
Sitting in the historic Warner Brothers theater, which now
houses Ecclesia Hollywood church, and surrounded by paintings in the
conference’s make-shift gallery, Dyrness made the distinction between seeing what is in
front of our eyes and seeing what God is showing us through it.
“Part of our problem is that we make seeing into a
metaphor,” Dyrness explained. It is common to say, “Oh, I see,” to mean that we
understand something, Dyrness said. But there are truths and revelations that
God can give people through what they are physically seeing.
“That is the gift of preaching,” he said. “Preaching helps
us see what we didn’t know to look for, but is truly there.”
Dyrness told the group that preaching and worship is about
helping others see their world and life with spiritual sight, which doesn’t
negate physical sight, but enhances it.
The key to this augmented sight is the vision of Jesus—to
see the world through the physical and historical life and work of Christ, Dyrness
said. However, people may have difficulty seeing Jesus in the present world,
because there is no physical Jesus. People will have to figure out how to look
at things and others in terms of Jesus’s absence, Dyrness said.
He noted that people of the Jewish faith can’t accept Jesus,
because they do not see the world redeemed. “That’s a very real absence for
us,” Dyrness said. But he referenced Hebrews 2:8, in which the apostle Paul
says that although we do not at present see the subjection of all things, “we
do see Jesus.”
Dyrness emphasized that artists have a special gift of
teaching people to see what is before their eyes in terms of things unseen.
“The special gift of art is paying attention to things,”
Dyrness said. “The special gift of Christian art is paying attention to things
in terms of our faith.”
Still, people from the Protestant tradition may be at a
disadvantage, Dyrness said. He explained that often in the Christian tradition,
sight is not about the present, but about the future.
“To talk about the present is an over-realized eschatology,”
Dyrness said of the traditional view. “It’s like trying to make it that we’re
already living in heaven.”
This is a mistaken view, because we do see, Dyrness said.
“When [the Apostle] Paul says we see through a glass darkly, he doesn’t say we
don’t see at all. He says we see, but not what we will see.”
Dyrness noted that looking in terms of Jesus is an important
part of discipleship, because when our perceptions are trained,
it rules our feelings and emotions and we become the kind of people God wants
us to be.
“It seems to me that the goal of Christian life and worship
is to make people so that their tacit knowledge, practical wisdom, becomes
deeply informed by Scripture and the Spirit,” Dyrness said. “Preaching and
worship should be that exercise of telling us and showing us how to look for
what we should be seeing.”