The Importance of Beauty to Christian Spirituality

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Chapter 3. Literature Review

Introduction

This chapter will present a survey and review of relevant literature on the topic of the relationship between the objective and subjective elements of God’s beauty in Christian spirituality. The aim of this review is not to cover all aspects of the topic of beauty in Christianity, but particularly to consider the relationship between the objective and subjective aspects of God’s beauty as it relates to Christian spirituality. In doing so, it will seek to identify the lacunae in the existing scholarship. The organisation of thought in this literature review will be conceptual, that is, structured around certain ideas relevant to the topic, rather than a historical survey.
First, this review will consider the key trends and developing perspectives relevant to the topic. Second, it will review the literature that understands the importance of beauty to Christian spirituality.Third, this review will survey the literature that has considered the topic of God’s beauty. This comes in three categories: exegetical or literary, theological, and historical. The review will consider if existing literature has made the case for God’s beauty on the exegesis of Hebrew and Greek words, pericopes or themes in Scripture. The next section will consider the work of theologians, both contemporary and historical, who have made the case for, or argued against God’s intrinsic, objective beauty. Third, the historical literature will be reviewed, considering books that track the church’s approach to God’s beauty through the ages. The historical literature will broaden to consider non-Christian philosophers who have contributed to the discussion during the ages. Fourth, it will evaluate the literature surrounding the subjective/objective dichotomy in epistemology, with particular reference to aesthetics or transcendentals. It will consider the literature following the development of this idea, and its progress through the Enlightenment era into modernity and postmodernity. It will review the literature that seeks to discuss the subjective/objective dichotomy, particularly forms of correspondence theory. It will survey the literature which considers modern Christian proposals for resolving this dilemma, particularly in regard to knowing truth about God and perceiving His beauty. Fifth, the review will consider writings on the subjective perception of God’s beauty. Finally, the review will identify the lacunae in the existing literature.

Key Trends and Perspectives

Within the burgeoning literature on beauty, one finds four trends relevant to this study. First, as noted in chapter one, a broader interest in the idea of beauty has returned. One sees this in works such as Alexander’s Beauty and Other Forms of Value (1968), Sircello’s A New Theory of Beauty (1974), Mothersill’s Beauty Restored (1984),Gadamer’s The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays (1986) Turner’s Beauty:
The Value of Values (1991), Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1997), Zemach’s Real Beauty (1997),Kirwan’s Beauty (1999), Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just (1999), Brand’s Beauty Matters (2000), Gilbert-Rolfe’s Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime (2001), Sartwell’s Six Names of Beauty (2004), Armstrong’s The Secret Power of Beauty (2005), and Scruton’s Beauty (2009). These more philosophical discussions on beauty display a renewed interest in the idea, even from those not religiously committed. Indeed, a fairly large number of journal articles and books reference beauty’s relationship to science and mathematics.2 The broader cultural milieu in which Christianity exists has turned its eye back to beauty.Within Christianity, the last fifty years have seen the development of the discipline of theological aesthetics, probably partly through the influence of Hans Urs von Balthasar.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology (Murphy, 2011),“[T]heological aesthetics addresses the place of beauty in Christian life”. This field of study explores Christianity’s relationship to the arts, and questions of imagination, cultural production, art and liturgy, creativity, and epistemology. While the scholarly output on this topic is too vast to exhaustively survey, the most prominent and prolific writers and philosophers of theological aesthetics include Jeremy Begbie, Frank Burch Brown, Edward Farley, Richard Harries, Paul Finney, Alejandro García-Rivera, John McIntire,John Navone, Aiden Nichols, Karl Rahner, Calvin Seerveld, Patrick Sherry, Paul Tillich,Gerardus van der Leeuw, Richard Viladesau, and Nicolas Wolterstorff. After a long neglect, particularly within Evangelicalism, books and journal articles are appearing seeking to define the role of the arts within Christian liturgy and in broader Christian life.The last few years have seen a growing interest in the writings of Jonathan Edwards on beauty. Few theologians placed beauty at the centre of their systematic theology like Edwards did. While Delattre’s (1968) work shaped much of what was to follow, much has been written in recent years on Edwards’ understanding both of the Trinity and of beauty (for example, Erdt, (1980); Lee (1976); Louie (2013); McDermott (2009); McClymond and McDermott (2012); Mitchell (2003); Spohn (1981); Strachan & Sweeney (2010); Venter (2010); Wooddell (2007).

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CHAPTER 1. GENERAL INTRODUCTION 
1.1. INTRODUCTION
1.1.1. The Return of Beauty
1.1.2. The Resistance to Beauty
1.1.3. The Relevance of Beauty to Christian Spirituality
1.2. METHODOLOGY FOR DEFINING BEAUTY
1.3. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 2. DEFINING BEAUTY 
2.1. INTRODUCTION
2.2. DEFINITIONS OF BEAUTY 
2.2.1. Introduction
2.2.2. Classical Definitions
2.2.3. Transcendental Definitions
2.2.4. Subjective Definitions
2.2.5. Theological Definitions
2.3. ANALYSIS OF THE VARIOUS DEFINITIONS
2.4. A WORKING DEFINITION OF GOD’S BEAUTY 
2.5. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 3. LITERATURE REVIEW
3.1. INTRODUCTION
3.2. KEY TRENDS AND PERSPECTIVES
3.3. LITERATURE SURVEY
3.3.1. The Importance of Beauty to Christian Spirituality
3.3.2. Literature on God’s Beauty
3.3.3. Literature on the Objective/ Subjective Dichotomy
3.3.4. Literature on the Subjective Perception of God’s Beauty
3.4. SUMMARY AND LACUNAE
3.5. CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4. PROBLEM STATEMENT
4.1. INTRODUCTION
4.2. THE STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
4.2.1. The Main Problem
4.2.2. The Key Questions
4.3. THE ELUCIDATION OF THE PROBLEM 
4.3.1. Delimitations of the Study
4.3.2. Working Definitions of Key Terms
4.3.3. Presuppositions of the Researcher
4.4. THE VALUE OF THE STUDY 
4.4.1. Value to Christian Spirituality
4.4.2. Practical Value
4.5. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 5. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
5.1. INTRODUCTION
5.2. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 
5.2.1. Methodologies for Conceptual Argumentation
5.2.2. Disciplines for Academic Spirituality
5.3. REFERENCING AND FORMATTING
5.4. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 6. OBJECTIVE BEAUTY: THE IDEA OF BEAUTY IN SCRIPTURE AND CHRISTIAN HISTORY 
6.1. INTRODUCTION
6.2. BEAUTY IN THE BIBLE
6.2.1. Exegetically Considered
6.2.2. Canonically and thematically considered
6.2.3. Summary
6.3. BEAUTY IN CLASSICAL AND CHRISTIAN THOUGHT
6.3.1. Introduction
6.3.2. Classical and pre-Christian Writers
6.3.3. The Early Church
6.3.4. The Medieval Church
6.3.5. The Reformation Period
6.3.6. The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
6.3.7. The Late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
6.3.8. The Twentieth Century and the Contemporary Era
6.4. SUMMARY OF HISTORICAL STUDY
6.5. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 7. SUBJECTIVE BEAUTY: THE PURSUIT OF GOD’S BEAUTY AND AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE 
7.1. INTRODUCTION
7.2. ART AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
7.2.1. The Similarities Between Art and Religion
7.3. THE TENSIONS OF BETWEEN RELIGION AND ART
7.3.1. The Divorce of Art and Religion
7.3.2. Art as a Surrogate Religion
7.4. THE AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE
7.4.1. Perception
7.4.2. Immediate Response
7.4.3. Interpretation
7.4.4. Evaluation
7.5. CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 8. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF BEAUTY: CHRISTIAN PROPOSALS FOR RECONCILING “SUBJECTIVE” PERCEPTION AND “OBJECTIVE” TRANSCENDENTALS
8.1. INTRODUCTION
8.2. THE HISTORY OF THE SUBJECTIVE-OBJECTIVE DICHOTOMY .
8.2.1. The Problem Stated
8.2.2. Premodern Views of Subject and Object
8.2.3. Enlightenment and Modern Views of Subject and Object
8.2.4. Postmodern and Post-Secular Views of Subject and Object
8.2.5. Summary
8.3. EPISTEMOLOGICAL MODELS FOR APPREHENDING TRANSCENDENTALS
8.3.1. Introduction
8.3.2. Correspondence and Transcendental Truth
8.3.3. Correspondence Theory
8.3.4. Coherence Theory
8.3.5. Praxis Theory
8.3.6. Disclosure Theory
8.3.7. Evaluation of the Models
8.4. CHRISTIAN REALIST PROPOSALS
8.4.1. Introduction
8.4.2. Augustine and Pascal: Loving Intuition
8.4.3. Jonathan Edwards: Consenting Sensibility
8.4.4. Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis: Imaginative Rationalism
8.4.5. Michael Polanyi: Personal Knowledge and Indwelling
8.4.6. Summary and Implications for Christian Epistemology and Beauty
8.5. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 9. A PROPOSED MODEL OF SPIRITUALITY FOR PURSUING AND APPREHENDING GOD’S BEAUTY
9.1. INTRODUCTION
9.2. SUMMARY OF CONSTITUTIVE AND PROBLEMATIC DISCIPLINES
9.2.1. Introduction
9.2.2. Summary of Findings Regarding the Nature of God’s Beauty
9.2.3. Summary of Findings Regarding the Apprehension of God’s Beauty
9.2.4. Conclusions for a Model of Spirituality
9.3. THE IDEA OF CORRESPONDENT LOVE 
9.3.1. Correspondent Love Considered Philosophically
9.3.2. Correspondent Love Considered Biblically and Theologically
9.3.3. Correspondent Love Considered Historically
9.3.4. Correspondent Love Considered Aesthetically
9.3.5. Summary of Correspondent Love
9.4. A PROPOSED MODEL: CULTIVATING CORRESPONDENT LOVE FOR GOD
9.4.1. The Problem of Cultivating Desire
9.4.2. The Pattern for Correspondent Love
9.4.3. The Position of Correspondent Love
9.4.4. The Process of Correspondent Love
9.4.5. The Practices of Correspondent Love
9.4.6. The Model Considered Comprehensively
9.5. CONCLUSION 
CHAPTER 10. CONCLUSION
APPENDIX A 
WORKS CITED

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