LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Five Minutes with...William Edgar

Today I’m kicking off another new feature. Called “Five Minutes with...” these features will be shorter than normal and are meant to spark questions and provoke thought rather than provide lengthy answers. My first five-minute interview is with William Edgar, Professor and Coordinator of the Apologetics Department at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He serves on several boards and is a Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum, a speaker and advisor in the Veritas Forum programs, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and more.

Professor William Edgar studied musicology at Harvard and Columbia. He has written about music and he plays in and manages a professional jazz band. “Music is part of my soul, and it’s been in our family for generations,” he says. “I cannot live without it. Plus, it is one of God’s best gifts.”

In Edgar’s essay, “Why is the Light Given to the Miserable?” in the excellent It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (Square Halo Books), he asserts that Romantic composer, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), was not afraid to address the problem of evil in his music. What might we learn from his courage in facing "the drama of human suffering with passion, but not always with clear answers"? “The same lessons as Job teaches us,” Edgar says. “We know God is good, but we don’t see how and why he allows evil. We know there will be final justice, but we don’t see how the chaos of the present world is fully in his control.”

Still, Edgar urges artists who follow Christ to avoid the extremes of pessimism and optimism and “forge a third way: hopeful realism.” He sees a big difference between joy and happiness. “My aesthetic is moving from deep misery to inextinguishable joy.”

Edgar, author of several books, wrote Taking Note of Music, which he calls “an attempt at a biblical theology of music. It asks where music comes from and what is its purpose.” He takes a “somewhat unusual approach of rooting music in the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26 ff., and the role of Jubal. I explore such questions as the power of music and its place in the world.”
In addition to writing about his love of music Edgar, Apologetics Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, has written an apologetics book, Reasons of the Heart. When asked how followers of Christ can share and defend their faith in a way that reaches the culture, he says, “I urge them to get over on to the ground of an unbeliever’s heart and world view in order to help him/her to see their inability to live successfully on their basis in God’s world. Culture is not a bridge, but the life we all live. To reach our culture is to reach humanity in the midst of its life.”

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