Jeremy Begbie

Published On


Page Range

pp. 21–40


  • English

Print Length

20 pages

1. Encountering the Uncontrollable

Music’s Resistance to Reductionism and its Theological Ramifications

This chapter explores the ways in which the practices of music press against reductionism, and the theological resonances this provokes. Music is especially effective in countering reductionist habits: it stubbornly refuses to be treated as an equivalent or merely an instance of something else, or as no more than its component parts. Music makes sense through the distinctiveness of its own forms of life. Attention is paid to one form of reductionism lying behind many of the concerns of this volume—‘naturalistic reductionism’—and especially on the paradigm of language that regularly attaches to it. This language paradigm is criticised, and it is argued that music’s challenge to reductive impulses and its favoured language push us in decidedly theological directions without denigrating the spoken and written word.


Jeremy Begbie

Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Research Professor of Theology at Duke University

Jeremy Begbie is Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Research Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School, and the McDonald Agape Director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts (DITA). His publications include Theology, Music and Time (2000), Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music (2007), and Abundantly More: The Theological Promise of the Arts in a Reductionist World (2023)