Speaking to the Whole Person

Speaking to the Whole Person

BY Jay Smith
President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

April 2017 Inscribed

The Critical Place of Adventure and the Arts in Our Human Vocation

Yellowstone Theological Institute is truly “where faith meets adventure and the arts.” Adventure and the arts are two of the most powerful means of communicating the gospel in our culture, and are generally undervalued by traditional divinity school programs.

Adventure and the arts are the poles of culture. When we talk about adventure, we are thinking about interaction with nature in a fashion that brings exhilaration, joy, camaraderie, and community. Adventure includes sport, fitness, climbing, hiking, walking, and many other activities.

YTI has a professor dedicated to Theology and Adventure. We affirm that adventure activities not only appeal to culture at large, but also provide opportunities to connect and create community.

At the other pole of culture is the arts. The arts are generally divided into two categories: the fine arts and the performing arts. The fine arts are often understood to include painting, drawing, poetry, literature, and sculpting, while the performing arts encompass music, dance, and drama.

YTI supports the arts in our community, and also sponsors its own performing arts projects. The arts speak to a different part of the person than adventure does, yet still provide a similar sense of accomplishment, completeness, or wholeness. To be human is to be an adventurer and a creator. To acknowledge both the adventure and the arts as part of our natural human vocation gives Christians an opportunity to speak to the whole person through a variety of media.

Communicating the Gospel Through a Variety of Media

At YTI, all of our students are engaged in a variety of adventurous and artistic activities as part of their learning process. Whether they are coaching or playing soccer, tennis, basketball, skiing, climbing, or fly-fishing; or they are teaching or engaging in painting, drawing, dancing, or playing an instrument, these students are finding out how the gospel is communicated in a variety of media.

YTI faculty members are adventurers or artists or both. They have experience as players, coaches, and referees in soccer, basketball, tennis, BMX riding, climbing, skiing, and sledding. They are musicians, painters, illustrators, composers, and sculptors. This is on top of their experience as scholars, and students of the works of Origen, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Bonaventure, the Victorines, Calvin, Arminius, Schleiermacher, Herrmann, Barth, Niebuhr(s), Tillich, Balthasar, Henry, Moltmann, Pannenberg, Erickson, Grenz, and others.

To be a minister of the gospel is to be a whole individual: artist-adventurer, scholar and minister.

To be human is to be an adventurer and a creator

Adventure, Arts, and the Sciences

There is an interesting and unique juxtaposition of adventure and the arts in the most unlikely of places: the sciences. Rather than being inferior to science, the arts and adventure are part of the human exploration for knowledge.

At YTI, home of the Klein Gilhousen Center for the Study of Faith and Science, students are immersed in understanding the relationship of faith to the sciences and the arts. They find beauty, not only in a Schubert symphony, a Graham ballet, or a painting of Renoir, but also in the symmetry of a mathematical equation, the light spectrum of the Aurora Borealis, or the incredible wonder of cellular mitosis. YTI connects all aspects of life and faith.

And Idyllic Setting for Ministry Preparation

YTI’s hometown—Bozeman, Montana—is the fastest growing urban area in the Treasure State. A community of 40,000, Bozeman is home to a fine arts center, several ballet companies, a regional opera, an outstanding big band, a fine symphony orchestra, and a thriving indie music scene. Writers, composers, poets, musicians, painters, film makers, sculptors, and jewelry makers call the city home. Montana State University, with its schools of music, architecture, fine arts, and filmmaking, is also located in Bozeman. It is home of the award-winning PBS program, 11th & Grant, hosted by composer Eric Funk.

Bozeman’s location in the heart of the northern Rockies—just north of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone—also makes the city an ideal base camp for adventure in the great outdoors. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, skiing, snowboarding, and many other activities abound in the surrounding area.

YTI is the place where a student—no matter his or her passions—can thrive in adventure, the arts, or sciences while preparing for ministry in a brave, new world.