Where have all the poets gone?

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Bruce R. Pass


Against the background of a diminished presence of poetry in the life of the Church, this essay sets out to trace the theological contours of poetic expression. The territory covered takes in the poetic texts found throughout Scripture (where we see poetry sanctified for the purpose of divine revelation) to the use of poetry in worship (where we see how it has sanctified the Church to doxological purpose). An absence of poetic texts in Church life risks two possible outcomes. First, it provides fertile ground for an arid rationalism as a result of uncoupling of the imagination and affections from the knowledge of God. Second, it can contribute to a sidelining of aesthetics in Church life and a resultant dichotomizing of the sacred and secular. The essay concludes by considering how churches might respond to the absence of poets. This takes in new approaches to the use of the Psalter in worship and the composition of poetry that reflects the impulses of contemporary Christian life.

(This paper was selected as the winning entry in the 2016 Fraser Essay Prize competition.)

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