Dogmatic Aesthetics

Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson

Stephen John Wright
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Dogmatic Aesthetics
    Book Description:

    The identification of God with beauty is one of the most aesthetically rich notions within Christian thought. However, this claim is often at risk of becoming untethered from core Christian theological confessions. To avoid a theological account of beauty becoming a mere projection of our wildest desires, it must be reined in by dogmatics. To make this case, this book employs the thought of Robert W. Jenson to construct a dogmatic aesthetics. Jenson’s whole theological program is directed by exploring the systematic potential of the core doctrines of the faith that finally opens out into a vast vision of the beauty of God and creatures: “God is a great fugue . . . the rest is music.” Taking Jenson’s cue, the account of beauty presented in this book is propelled by a core conviction of Jenson’s theology: the sole analogue between God and creatures is not “being” or any other metaphysical concept, but Jesus Christ.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-6989-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Steve Wright
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-52)

    G. K. Chesterton, in a show of disgust at the sight of a row of telegraph poles, once pronounced, “A straight line is always ugly. Beauty is always crooked.” What Chesterton overstates is true; beauty is not contained within the uniform or the symmetrical—the merely neat—but branches out in unexpected ways like a tree. Christianity recognizes this truth in its attribution of beauty to God; beauty is primarily located within the divine life, which is unconstrained by principles such as “straightness” or “uniformity.” God’s life, at least in its expression towards creatures, is rich with grace, and grace...

  7. 1 The Simple Beauty of the Trinity
    (pp. 53-100)

    In the introduction, I argued against basing a theology of beauty on theanalogia entisand proposed that theology possesses its own resources to develop an aesthetics. This dogmatic approach to aesthetics makes use of the traditional notion of beauty as a transcendental by making the triune God revealed in Christ the center of its reflections, which leads to the question: how is beauty predicated of the triune being? If beauty were simply added to a list of divine predicates seemingly necessitated by a perfect being, it would not be clear how the resulting aesthetics would be Christian. The rules...

  8. 2 The Cruciform Beauty of Christ
    (pp. 101-142)

    In the previous chapter, I argued that beauty is predicated of the triune being by “running it across the three.” Trinitarian theology supplied a way to consider the proportion or shapeliness of the Godhead, and I considered the way in which the tradition has viewed the Spiritasbeauty. I will now give my attention to the role of Christology in aesthetic discourse.

    God reveals beauty. If God’s form were confined to the innermost depths of divine being, we would be confronted again with the ineffable sublime, and God would not be beautiful. God’s beauty is a revealed beauty, and...

  9. 3 The Contingent Beauty of Creation
    (pp. 143-172)

    In the previous chapter, I argued that Christology provides the point of encounter between divine beauty and the world. Because Christology prevents the resolution of all finite creaturely beauties into absolute infinitude—which Hegel does—it allows theology to conceptualize God’s relation to the contingencies of history without subjecting God to them. In this chapter, I will interrogate the nature of God’s relationship to creation.

    Creation’s beauty proceeds from the transcendence of God as Creator; accordingly, creation is the work (poiesis) of God. In this chapter, I will discuss how creation is the art of God. If God did not...

  10. 4 The Beauty of the End
    (pp. 173-234)

    In the previous chapter, I argued that the distinctiveness of creaturely beauty arises from the fact that, for creatures, essence and existence are not identical. Creaturely beauty is gloriously ephemeral, heightening the sense of its contingent givenness. However, the perished beauties of creation share in the potent hope of resurrection. Christian hope entails a future in which divine beauty perfects human beauty.

    This chapter will consider beauty in relation to the doctrine of eschatology. Jenson critiques Rudolf Bultmann’s depiction of a formless eschatological future. I argue that the poetic language required to evoke the end should not be misunderstood to...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-238)

    “God’s infinite beauty is that Christ died to bring all history to its crisis and was raised for all.”¹ Robert Jenson’s theology demonstrates a theological aesthetic that grounds all beauty in the events of the gospel. Where David Bentley Hart, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and others maintain distance between God and creation by way of a metaphysical doctrine of analogy, Jenson takes transcendence to mean God’s intimate embrace of creation. The beauty of history is the beauty of the particular narrative of God with creation disclosed in Jesus Christ. In the chapters of this book, I have shown that the...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  13. Index
    (pp. 257-263)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)