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Faith and Beauty: A Theological Aesthetic

“Aesthetics” and “theological aesthetics” usually imply a focus on questions about the arts and how faith or religion relates to the arts: only the final pages of this work take up that problem. The central theme of the book is beauty. The author employs a new typology of western texts on beauty and a theological analysis of the image of God and redemption to counter the centuries-long tendency to ignore or marginalize beauty and the aesthetic as part of the life of faith. Studying the interpretation of beauty in ancient Greece, 18th-century England, the work of Jonathan Edwards, and 19th- and 20th-century philosophies of human self-transcendence, the author explores whether Christian existence, the life of faith, and the ethical exlude or require an aesthetic dimension in the sense of beauty.

Table of Contents

    • Preface vii
  • 1 Beauty as the Beast: Traditional and Postmodern Expressions 1
    • Beauty and the Postmodern 2
    • Beauty as the Beast in Christian Traditions 6
    • Hebraic and Christian Iconoclasms 8
  • 2 Beauty as Being: The Irrepressible Character of Beauty 15
    • The ‘Great Theory of Beauty’ 17
    • The Olympian Cosmogonies 17
    • The Platonic Tradition 19
    • The Great Theory in the Middle Ages 20
    • The Process Transmutation of the Great Theory of Beauty 23
    • Beauty as Being 26
  • 3 Beauty as Sensibility 31
    • Precursors of the Eighteenth-century Turn 32
    • The New Problematic of Beauty in the Eighteenth Century 33
    • The Psychological Relocation of Beauty 34
    • The Problem of Taste 35
    • The Sublime 36
    • Legacies and Ambiguities 38
  • 4 Beauty as Benevolence 43
    • Primary and Secondary Beauty 44
    • Beauty as Community 45
    • Beauty and God 46
    • The Problem of Objectivity 47
    • Beauty and Self-transcendence 48
  • 5 Beauty in Human Self-transcendence 51
    • Human Self-transcendence without Beauty 52
    • Self-transcendence as Passionate Subjectivity 52
    • Self-transcendence as Intentional Meaning 54
    • Self-transcendence as Radical Responsibility 55
    • The Aesthetic Aspect of Self-transcendence 57
    • Beauty as a Transcendental Condition of Experience 57
    • Beyond Self-preoccupation through Beauty 59
    • The Beauty of the Graceful Body 62
    • Summary 64
  • 6 Paths to Beauty in Twentieth-century Theology 67
    • Anti-Aesthetic Protestant Approaches to Beauty 68
    • Twentieth-century Catholic Theologies of Beauty 74
  • 7 The Beauty of Human Redemption 83
    • The Image of God as Self-transcendence 85
    • Formal and Ethical Self-transcendence 86
    • The Image of God as Potentiality and Actuality 87
    • The Imago Dei as Beautiful 88
    • The Despoiled Image 89
    • The Beauty of Redemptive Remaking 93
    • Redemptive Self-transcendence 93
    • Surmounting the Dichotomy of the Ethical and the Aesthetic 94
  • 8 Faith’s Aesthetic Sensibilities 96
    • Beauty, Pathos and Joy 101
    • Beauty and Pathos 101
    • Joy: Beyond the Dichotomy of Rigorism and Satisfaction 103
    • Faith without Beauty 107
    • Arts in the Life of Faith 110
    • Synopsis 117
    • Aesthetics 117
    • Beauty 117
    • The Western Story of Beauty 118
    • Theological Aesthetics and Redemptive Transformation 119
    • Index 121