From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Theopoetics is an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetic analysis, process theology, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. Originally developed by Stanley Hopper and David Leroy Miller in the 1960s and furthered significantly by Amos Wilder with his 1976 text, Theopoetic: Theology and the Religious Imagination. In recent times there has been a revitalized interest with new work being done by L. Callid Keefe-Perry, Rubem Alves, Catherine Keller, John Caputo, Peter Rollins, Scott Holland, Melanie May, Matt Guynn, Roland Faber, and others.


Theopoetics suggests that instead of trying to develop a "scientific" theory of God, as systematic theology attempts, theologians should instead try to find God through poetic articulations of their lived ("embodied") experiences. It asks theologians to accept reality as a legitimate source of divine revelation and suggests that both the divine and the real are mysterious — that is, irreducible to literalist dogmas or scientific proofs.

Theopoetics makes significant use of "radical" and "ontological" metaphor to create a more fluid and less stringent referent for the divine. One of the functions of theopoetics is to recalibrate theological perspectives, suggesting that theology can be more akin to poetry than physics. It belies the logical assertion of the principle of bivalence and stands in contrast to some rigid Biblical hermeneutics that suggest that each passage of scripture has only one, usually teleological, interpretation. The dismissal of the aesthetic as a living part of language has turned the academic enterprise of biblical studies and theology into a language more at home with lawyers than poets. Theopoetics is the art of using words and thoughts that speak to the reader in an aesthetic and existential way to inspire spirituality in the reader.

Whereas those who utilize a strict, historical-grammatical approach believe scripture and theology possess inerrant factual meaning and pay attention to historicity, a theopoetic approach takes an allegorical position on faith statements that can be continuously reinterpreted. Theopoetics suggest that just as a poem can take on new meaning depending on the context in which the reader interprets it, texts and experiences of the Divine can and should take on new meaning depending on the changing situation of the individual.

Notable publications[edit]


  • Ricoeur, Paul (1976), Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning, Fort Worth: Texas Christian Press, ISBN 0-912646-59-4.
  • Wilder, Amos Niven (1976), Theopoetic: Theology and the Religious Imagination, Philadelphia: Fortress, ISBN 0-7880-9908-6.
  • Alves, Rubem (2002), The Poet The Warrior The Prophet, SCM Press, ISBN 978-0-334-02896-3.
  • Cruz-Villalobos, Luis (2015). Theological Poetry. Foreword by John D. Caputo [1]
  • Hopper, Stanley Romaine; Keiser, R Melvin (1992), Stoneburner, Tony (ed.), The Way of Transfiguration: Religious Imagination As Theopoiesis, Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 0-664-21936-5.
  • Faber, Roland (2003), Gott als Poet der Welt: Anliegen und Perspektiven der Prozesstheologie [God as Poet of the World: Concerns and Perspectives in Process Theology] (in German), Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, ISBN 3-534-15864-4.
  • Miller, David L (2006), Hells and Holy Ghosts: A Theopoetics of Christian Belief, USA: Spring Journal Books, ISBN 1-882670-97-3.
  • Miller, David L (2005), Three Faces of God: Traces of the Trinity in Literature & Life, USA: Spring Journal Books, ISBN 1-882670-94-9.
  • May, Melanie A (1995), A Body Knows: A Theopoetics of Death and Resurrection, Continuum International Publishing, ISBN 0-8264-0849-4
  • Keller, Catherine (2003), The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-25649-6
  • Bronsink, Troy (2013), Drawn In: A Creative Process For Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers, Paraclete, ISBN 1557258716
  • Harrity, Dave (2013), Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand, Seedbed, ISBN 1628240229
  • Keefe-Perry, L. Callid (2014), Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer, Cascade, ISBN 978-1625645203
  • Garner, Phillip Michael (2017), Theopoetics: Spiritual Poetry for Contemplative Theology and Daily Living, Wipf and Stock, ISBN 9781498243742

See also[edit]

External links[edit]