I was recently asked by a friend for some recommendations of theology books on beauty, for a class he will be teaching. I gave him a few suggestions, but I was reminded in the process that there is quite a deep well of books on similar topics, not least of which is Hans Urs von Balthasar’s massive (and massively expensive) 7-volume work, The Glory of the Lord.
So, I offer this introductory list of theology books on beauty, with the realization that these few books will get us started thinking in this direction, but they only scratch the surface.
*** What theology books on beauty would you add to this list?
Alejandro R. Garcia-Rivera
The claim has been made that we are gripped today in an aesthetic crisis” with considerable theological ramifications. Aesthetics, which has existed since the first human heart was moved by the influence of the beautiful, has played a major role, both implicit and explicit, in theological reflection. In The Community of the Beautiful Alejandro Garcia-Rivera draws from the North American philosophical tradition and Hispanic theological thought to propose a new aesthetic principle: a redemptive building of the community of the beautiful.
The Community of the Beautiful focuses on the premise that religion and beauty go together. Yet today hundreds of theological treatises continue to speak solely of the “truth” of their claims. The Community of the Beautiful addresses this silence with a proposal about the relationship between God and the beautiful. It asks the question: How can the finite human creature name the nameless, perceive the imperceptible, make visible the invisible? The answer is what Hans Urs von Balthasar called a theological aesthetics.
The Community of the Beautiful is not simply an analysis of Balthasar’s theology; there exists a more personal and concrete reason for a reconsideration of the connection between God and the beautiful. The experience of a particular living ecclesial tradition, the Latin Church of the Americas, may be a guide to a world that lost its confidence in the religious dimensions of the beautiful. Garcia-Rivera recasts the question of theological aesthetics posed above in light of the religious experience of the Latin Church of the Americas so that the question becomes: What moves the human heart?
To answer that question, Garcia-Rivera draws on along-ignored philosophical tradition. The philosophical semiotics of Charles Peirce and Josiah Royce enter into dialogue with the theological aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar to describe the traditional transcendentals, the True and the Good, as communities. The final transcendental, the beautiful, enters into conversation with the semiotic aesthetics of Jan Mukarovsky and the religious experience of the Latin American Church to become the dazzling Vision of the community of the beautiful, God’s community.