Gesa Thiessen

Visiting Scholar, Sarum Centre for Theology, Imagination and Culture


Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen studied theology and ecumenism at the University of Tübingen and at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, before completing her doctorate at Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Dublin, in 1998. Since 1993 she has lectured in systematic theology, with special focus on theology and the arts, at Milltown Institute, Mater Dei Institute of Education, All Hallows College, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and at Trinity College, Dublin. She has published widely on faith and the arts and on ecumenical theology. She is also a non-stipendiary minister (Prädikantin) in the Lutheran Church in Ireland.

Research Interests

  • Theology and the Arts, Theological Aesthetics
  • Ecumenical theology, Ecclesiology
  • Theology of God, Revelation and Faith
  • Liberation theologies
  • Individual theologians and thinkers

Book Publications

  • Called to Freedom – Reformation 1517–2017, ed., Dublin, Wordwell, forthcoming 2019
  • Remembering the Reformation – Luther and Catholic Theology, eds. Declan Marmion, Salvador Ryan, Gesa Thiessen, Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 2017
  • Apostolic and Prophetic – Ecclesiological Perspectives, Eugene, OG, Cascade, 2011 and Cambridge, James Clarke, 2012
  • Ecumenical Ecclesiology – Unity, Diversity and Otherness in a Fragmented World, ed., London/New York, T&T Clark/Continuum, hbk. 2009, pbk. 2011
  • Trinity and Salvation – Theological, Spiritual and Aesthetic Perspectives (Studies in Theology, Society and Culture, Series eds. D. Marmion, G. Thiessen, N. Hintersteiner), ed. with D. Marmion, vol. 2, Oxford/Bern, Peter Lang, 2009
  • Theology in the Making – Biography, Contexts, Methods, Dublin, Veritas, 2005 (ed. with D. Marmion)
  • Theological Aesthetics – A Reader, London, SCM Press, 2004 and Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 2004
  • Theology and Modern Irish Art, Dublin, Columba, 1999

Journal Articles / Book Chapters / Encyclopedia Entries (since 2000)

  • ‘Not so Unorthodox: A Reevaluation of Tricephalous Images of the Trinity’, Theological Studies, 79:2, Summer, 2018, 399-426.
  • ‘Glimpses of Revelation: Faith, Beauty and the Arts’, Touchstone, 2018.
  • ‘God, One and Three – Artistic Struggles with the Trinity’, Princeton Theological Review, Festschrift for Gordon Graham, 21:1, Autumn, 2017, 51-61.
  • ‘Images, The Role of’, entry in: Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation, eds. Mark A. Lamport and George T. Kurian, vol. 1, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, 365-7 (also: Member of the Advisory Board of this two vol. Encyclopedia).
  • ‘Church Art, Lutherans and’, entry in: Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation, eds. Mark A. Lamport and George T. Kurian, vol.1, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, 137-9.
  • ‘Luther and the Role of Images’, Remembering the Reformation – Luther and Catholic Theology, eds. D. Marmion, S. Ryan, G. Thiessen, Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 2017, 167-92.
  • ‘Luther never intended split from Rome’, The Irish Times, 7 February 2017.
  • ‘Martin Luther and his Quest for the God of Grace’, Reality, Jan.-Feb., 2017, 22-25.
  • ‘Pathways to God: Theology, Imagination and the Arts’, Search, 38:3, 2015, 157-65.
  • ‘Theological Aesthetics’, entry in: Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, vol. 6, editor in chief: Michael Kelly, 2nd edition, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2014 (3000 words).
  • ‘Artistic Imagination and Religious Faith’, Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts, ed. Frank Burch Brown, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2014, 77-90.
  • ‘Grace, Faith and Good Works – A Lutheran and Ecumenical Perspective’, Religious Life Review, vol. 52, 2013, 251-55.
  • ‘From Wittenberg to St Finian’s, Dublin: Proclaiming the Word of God and Martin Luther’, Treasures of Irish Christianity, A People of the Word, vol. 2, eds. Salvador Ryan and Brendan Leahy, Dublin, Veritas, 2013, 156-58.
  • ‘From Segregation to Community in Christ’, Treasures of Irish Christianity, People and Places, Images and Texts, eds. Salvador Ryan and Brendan Leahy, Dublin, Veritas, 2012, 247-50.
  • ‘The Lutheran Church: Confession, Church, Congregation, Denomination’, in Denomination – Assessing an Ecclesiological Category, eds. Barry Ensign-George and Paul Collins, London/New York, T&T Clark/Continuum, 2011, 50-66.
  • ‘Dreifaltigkeit – Gott denken als Trintät’, Erhalt uns Herr pei Deinem Wort, Glaubensbekenntnisse auf kurfürstlichen Prunkwaffen und Kunstgegenständen der Reformationszeit, eds. Dirk Syndram, Jutta Charlotte von Bloh, Christoph Münchow, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden/Sandstein Verlag, 2011, 72-73.
  • ‘”Blessing” in the visual arts’, Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR), 30 vols., editors Choon-Leong Seow, Hermann Spieckermann, Hans-Josef Klauck, Paul Mendes-Flohr, D. Apostolos Cappadona, Bernard McGinn, Eric Ziolkowski, et al, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, from 2008 (entry publ. in 2011). The EBR won a CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Title, published by the American Library Association in 2011.
  • ‘The Future of Irish Theology: An Ecumenical Perspective’, Doctrine and Life, vol. 60, no. 5, 2010, 52-57.
  • ‘Imaging the Dogma of the Trinity’, Communio Viatorum (Charles University, Prague), LI, 1, 2009, 4-21.
  • ‘Converted through an Image: Paul Tillich’s Theology of Art’, translated into Czech: ‘Konvertitou díky obrazu: Teologie umĕni Paula Tillicha’, Konverze a Konvertité, Quaestiones quodlibetales, no. 9, eds. Jiři Hanuš and Ivana Noble, Brno, Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury, 2009, 61-69.
  • ‘Seeking Unity: Reflecting on Methods in Contemporary Ecumenical Dialogue’, Ecumenical Ecclesiology – Unity, Diversity and Otherness in a Fragmented World, ed. G. Thiessen, London/New York, T & T Clark/Continuum, 2009, 35-48.
  • ‘Images of the Trinity in Visual Art’, Trinity and Salvation – Theological, Spiritual and Aesthetic Perspectives, eds. D. Marmion and G. Thiessen, Studies in Theology, Society and Culture, vol. 2, Oxford/Bern, etc., Peter Lang, 2009, 119-40.
  • ‘The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’, Irish Theological Quarterly, vol. 72, no. 1, 2007, 74-87.
  • ‘Theological Aesthetics’, The Cambridge Companion to Karl Rahner, eds. Declan Marmion and Mary Hines, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 225-34.
  • ‘Seeing God – A Brief Outline of Aesthetics in Patristic Theology’, Milltown Studies, 54, Winter 2004, 1-8.
  • Introductions to the six sections in Theological Aesthetics – A Reader, ed. G. Thiessen, London, SCM Press / Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans, 2004: ‘General Introduction’, 1-7;  ‘The Early Church’, 9-13; ‘Medieval Church’, 59-63; ‘The Reformation’, 125-129; ‘17th – 19th Century’, 155-59; ‘The Twentieth Century’, 203-208.
  • ‘Towards a Theological Aesthetics: Karl Rahner’s Contribution’, in Theology and Conversation, Towards a Relational Theology, Jacques Haers, Peter de Mey, eds., Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium CLXXII, Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2003, 857-64.
  • ‘Genius in One House’, an article on the brothers Thomas and Heinrich Mann in Lübeck, The Irish Times, 5 January 2002.
  • ‘Exploring a locus theologicus: Sacramental Presence in Modern Art and its Hermeneutical Implications for Theology’, in selected papers from the 2. LEST Conference in Leuven, 1999: The Presence of Transcendence, Thinking ‘Sacrament’ in a Postmodern Age, eds. Lieven Boeve and John Ries,, Leuven, Paris, Sterling, VA, Peeters, 2001, 213-22.
  • ‘Dorothee Sölle: A Radical Theologian’, Milltown Studies, 46, Winter 2000, 93-111.
  • The official translation into English of Karl Rahner’s last talk, held at the Katholische Akademie der Diözese Freiburg, ‘Erfahrungen eines katholischen Theologen’, in A. Raffelt (Hg.), Karl Rahner in Erinnerung, Düsseldorf, Patmos Verlag, 1994: ‘Experiences of a Catholic Theologian’, Theological Studies, ed. Michael Fahy SJ, Marquette University, vol. 61, March 2000, 3-15 (with D. Marmion).

Book Reviews

  • in: Arts and Christianity, Christianity and Literature, Milltown Studies, New Blackfriars, The Furrow, Irish Theological Quarterly, Philosophy and Theology, Studies, The Irish Times, Theological Studies

Conference Papers and Invited Lectures (selected)

Cambridge University; Charles University, Prague; Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven; Liverpool Hope University; Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin; Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Dublin; Royal Hibernian Academy Gallagher Gallery, Dublin; RTC, Galway; St Patrick’s College, Maynooth; Trinity College, the University of Dublin; University of Copenhagen; University College, Cork; University of Exeter; University of Innsbruck; University of Jena; University of Vienna; University of Wales, Lampeter; Yale University.

Fellowships / Editorships / Grants / Awards

  • 2016: Appointed to the Advisory Board for the publication of Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and the Reformation, eds. Mark A. Lamport and George T. Kurian, two vols., Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
  • 2013: Elected Member of the Expert Advisory Group on Ecumenism, Community of Protestant Churches in Europe/Gemeinschaft evangelischer Kirchen in Europa (GEKE).
  • March-April 2011: Visiting Research Fellowship, Long Room Hub, Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College, Dublin.
  • 2009: Appointed as Editor (with Declan Marmion and Norbert Hintersteiner) of the Series: Studies in Theology, Society and Culture, Peter Lang Publishers,
  • February-June 2006: Visiting Fellowship, research sabbatical at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven. This research sabbatical was part-funded by the Department of Theology at KU.
  • 2003: Two week residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, County Monaghan, Ireland, an international artists’ and scholars’ retreat.
  • 2002-2011 Book Review Editor, Milltown Studies, Milltown Institute, Dublin.
  • 2002: Two week residency and stipend at the Heinrich Böll Cottage, Achill Island, Co. Mayo. Awarded by the Heinrich Böll Committee (Achill), Mayo County Council and the Arts Council of Ireland.
  • 2002 Elected Honorary Fellow in Systematic Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter.
  • 2001-2006: In each of these years I was awarded research grants from Milltown Institute for peer-reviewed research projects.