Theological Aesthetics: A Reader

Theological Aesthetics: A Reader

Theological Aesthetics: A Reader

Theological Aesthetics: A Reader


While interest in the relationship between theology and the arts is on the rise, there are very few resources for students and teachers, let alone a comprehensive text on the subject. This book fills that lacuna by providing an anthology of readings on theological aesthetics drawn from the first century to the present. A superb sourcebook, Theological Aesthetics brings together original texts that are relevant and timely to scholars today. Editor Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen has taken a careful, inclusive approach to the book, including articles and extracts that are diverse and ecumenical as well as representative of gender and ethnicity. The book is organized chronologically, and each historical period begins with commentary by Thiessen that sets the selections in context. These engaging readings range broadly over themes at the intersection of religion and the arts, including beauty and revelation, the vision of God, artistic and divine creation, God as artist, images of God, the interplay of the senses and the intellect, human imagination, mystical writings, meanings of signs and symbols, worship, liturgy, doxology, the relationship of word and image, icons and iconoclasm, the role of the arts in twentieth-century theology, and much more. A sampling of the more than 125 primary sources The Early Church: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Ambrose, Tertullian The Medieval Church: John Scotus, Anselm, Hildegard of Bingen, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi The Reformation: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries: George Herbert, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Schleiermacher, Coleridge, Newman, Ruskin, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard The Twentieth Century: Tillich, Rahner, Bonhoeffer, Barth, von Balthasar, Nicholas Berdyaev, Jeremy Begbie, Richard Harries, Sallie McFague, Joan D. Chittister


‘Another reader?’ the exhausted student or lecturer might exclaim, and quietly add, ‘Does this subject deserve an anthology, is there actually enough material to be gleaned from theology, past and present?’

A few years ago when I was engaged in doctoral research on the relationship between theology and the visual arts, especially with regard to modern Irish painting, the search for sources related to (theological) aesthetics took much time and effort. Naturally, here and there I came across relevant texts, yet no work was available which provided a collection of original texts or an overview of the history of aesthetics in a Christian context. the theme for another venture thus became clear, a reader on theological aesthetics as a source book for scholars and students.

Through the process of assembling, editing, writing and proofreading I have enjoyed, and am grateful for, the assistance of colleagues and friends at Milltown Institute and from further afar, in particular, Una Agnew, Finbarr Clancy, James Corkery, Bernadette Flanagan, David Kelly, Peter de Mey (Leuven) Patrick Mullins, Kevin O’Higgnis, Thomas O’Loughlin (Lampeter), Kieran O’Mahony, Patricia Quigley and all the Milltown Institute library staff, Ruth Sheehy and Margarita Synnott.

My sincere thanks go to Brian Grogan, President of Milltown Institute, whose generous support made it possible for me to continue my work on the Reader. My very special thanks are due to George Pattison (Oxford) for his many comments on the form and contents of the Reader. I appreciate his invaluable help and encouragement in bringing the Reader to a conclusion. I thank Patrick Sherry (Lancaster) for helpful comments. My thanks to Thomas Dalzell for his thorough reading of, and commenting on, the introductions. I also valued the assistance and courtesy from both Anna Hardman and Barbara Laing at scm Press in the process.

A delightful Easter of 2002 in the windswept Heinrich Böll Cottage on Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland, provided an occasion for concentrated work in the former living room of the writer; my thanks to the Heinrich Böll Committee on Achill Island, Mayo County Council and the Arts Council of Ireland for their affording me this opportunity.

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