Ordinary Theology and Film: An investigation Drawing on Unconventional Depictions of God in Western Cinema


The short yet varied history of theology’s engagement with film is often marked by an absence of both good theological method and the use of sound and rigorous tools from the discipline of film studies. This study modifies noted Practical Theologian, Jeff Astley’s conception of Ordinary Theology, (in which the formally untrained ideas of people are investigated) to examine films, rather than people. The cinematic data set in this case is unconventional depictions of God in Western cinema, 1936-2017. That range is bookended by 1936’s “The Green Pastures”, and 2017’s “The Shack”, both featuring African-American Gods, yet other depictions include unconventional approaches in categories such as ethnic grouping, age and conduct. A Practical Theology method using film studies tools such as Jens Eder’s ‘character clock’ enables incisive theological examination of these depictions. Reflection on these unconventional depictions, which have previously received scant attention from their originating traditions, will provide the basis for new metaphorical models of God. These will deliver new and provocative insights to church, academy and society in both methodology (Ordinary theology drawing on film) and theology (new contemporary understandings of the nature of God).


Jonathan Sargeant, PhD candidate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry


Level 3, Forgan Smith East (1), St Lucia Campus, The University of Queensand