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The Beauty of God: A Short Course in Theological Aesthetics
Is beauty a name for God? This series, led by Mark McInroy, presents “theological aesthetics,” a burgeoning field of academic study that views beauty as a divine attribute, or property of God. Topics include not only God’s beauty, but also the beauty of the world as reflection of divine beauty, the theological justification for images of God, the decline of beauty in the modern period, and the contemporary reaction against the modern trivialization of beauty.
Sunday, April 19: “The Beauty of God in Patristic Theology” presented by Dr. Mark McInroy. In the ancient church, God was routinely and enthusiastically described as beautiful. This session examines the accounts of God’s beauty in patristic theologians such as Augustine of Hippo, Origen of Alexandria, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Some ancient church figures intriguingly describe God’s beauty as radiating invisibly from Jesus Christ, as paradoxical as such a notion might sound. Additional topics include the beauty of the world as a reflection of God’s beauty.
Sunday, April 26: “Breaking Beauty: Icons and Iconoclasm” presented by Dr. Mark McInroy. Are images of God false idols? In the eighth and ninth centuries worries about images of God reached a fever pitch. Iconoclasts (or “image-breakers”) issued vigorous denouncements of images, and they destroyed countless icons in their zeal for imageless devotion to God. These events provoked ancient Eastern theologians such as John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite to articulate a theological rationale that supported the use of images of God. Although their arguments proved to be persuasive in the Christian East, Western Christianity received their ideas differently, resulting in a mixed legacy concerning the use of images in the West.
Sunday, May 3: “Decline of Beauty and Rise of the Sublime in the Modern Period” presented by Dr. Mark McInroy. Today we are familiar with phrases like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This session examines the circumstances that have given rise to the prevalent view that beauty is subjectively determined by the individual, and not objectively present in the world. This diminishment of beauty is accompanied by the rise of the “sublime” as a category developed by modern philosophers such as Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant.
Sunday, May 10: “Beauty’s Return, Theological Aesthetics in the Contemporary Setting” presented by Dr. Mark McInroy. In the mid-twentieth century, dissatisfaction with the modern view of beauty found expression in the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), who inaugurated the field of theological aesthetics as a response to the loss of beauty in modern theology. In addition to examining Balthasar’s rehabilitation of beauty for contemporary theology, the session will explore the implications of beauty for evangelism and apologetics.
Sunday, May 17: “Reflections on St. John’s StoryCorps Project.”