Christianity, Art and Transformation: Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice

Article excerpt

Christianity, Art and Transformation: Theological Aesthetics In the Struggle for Justice by John W. de Gruchy Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001. $60.00 (cloth). ISBN 0-521-77205-2.

THIS BOOK PROVIDES a much needed theological aesthetic and connects both theology and art to social ethics or "transformation." As a professor at the University of Cape Town, de Gruchy became aware that "apartheid was not only unjust but also ugly" (p. 1). By studying the relations of ugliness and oppression to their opposites, beauty and redemption, de Gruchy saw the need to connect theology, aesthetics, and social ethics.

In a richly nuanced study he surveys the hot and cold relationship between the Christian church and art, from the pre-Constantinian appropriation of Hellenistic images to the 20th century when Nazis adapted late romantic aesthetics for their evil ends.

Concluding that the misuse of art and ethics "demands a theological aesthetic" (p. 94), de Gruchy provides one with an analysis of the aesthetic theories of von Balthasar and Barth with frequent references to Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, mediating the conflicts among these aesthetic theories from a surprising source, Bonhoeffer. …