Divine Inspiration: Kyler Schubkegal
Reported by Megan Stewart
Once Kyler Schubkegel graduates from George Fox University (GFU) in May, the college will be losing not just a student but also a member of their William Penn Honors program and an enthusiastic participant in their keyboard ensemble.
Schubkegel’s next destination? Yale Divinity School, where he will be seeking his Masters of Arts and Religion (MAR) on a full-ride scholarship. He plans to spend two years there, networking with and learning from Yale Divinity School’s diverse population, which includes people from a variety of religious backgrounds.
His focus? On how the visual arts, music and literature affect one’s religious experience. He chose Yale specifically for the Institution of Sacred Music (ISM), due to the interdisciplinary research opportunities it provides, or, as he put it, “the chance to become chums with a bunch of music students and divinity students.”
Through the ISM, students from both schools take courses together and share research. Schubkegel has a unique opportunity in that ISM allows for a more flexible curriculum, permitting students like him more freedom to pick and choose courses for their degrees, depending on their individual interests.
“That institution really strives to create a space where people can engage in interesting conversations that no one else is having,” said Schubkegel. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
There were a number of factors involved in Schubkegal’s development of interest between art and religion.
He grew up in a “distinctly Christian context,” with a father who was a pastor, and thus became exposed to spirituality and religion from a young age. Ever since he can remember, Schubkegel has also loved classical music and became especially enamored with it once he started to play the piano. His love for literature formed later, cultivated through thought-provoking literature classes, especially those involving books written in early Christian and medieval times.
Though the divinity school application was time-consuming, and he had to work hard to maintain his grades, Schubkegel had essentially been preparing himself for the program for years. Everything in his life had led to this career path.
Schubkegel is especially interested in how people view and define beauty.
“In the Christian tradition, God is not just the source of beauty, but He is actually beautiful himself,” said Schubkegel. Acknowledging that the statement is seemingly paradoxical, he admitted it might be odd to describe God, who’s supposedly invisible, as beautiful.
“But that’s where the theology of incarnation comes in,” said Schubkegel. “Because when God shows us to Himself in Christ, we have access to all the beauty that is God. And so, informed by that Christian tradition, I see the beauty of the world as an expression of the beauty of God.”
While it’s sometimes difficult to recognize the beauty all around us, Schubkegel believes that, if you do allow yourself to put in the time and the energy, you will find that your relationship with God will be changed.
Schubkegel counts Johann Sebastian Bach as his favorite composer because of his work’s ability to showcase God’s beauty. Though it’s not usually detectable to people unfamiliar with his Lutheran background, some of Bach’s work evokes the essence of the Trinity.
Bach did this through creating a triple fugue. A single fugue is music that with one main melody throughout, with smaller melodies woven seamlessly into the piece. Therefore, a triple fugue has three distinct main melodies that while different, flow together in a complementary way, such that the entire work manages to feel cohesive. This is how one might describe the Trinity: God the Father, His only son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
As for what Schubkegel wants to do with all his accumulated knowledge and his passions, the future GFU graduate doesn’t have a definite answer.
“I’ve got several ideas. At some point in my life, I’ll probably want to do more research probably in the doctoral level, but I am definitely interested in doing church work,” he said.
A mixture of both academia and jobs within the church would be his ideal.
Whatever allows him to “foster the dialogue between the life of the mind and the life of faith, and ultimately help people see and appreciate and understand the beauty that has drawn me to Christ—that would be a dream,” he said. “That would be my dream job.”