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?
Hans Urs von Balthasar is arguably one of the greatest-and certainly one of the most influential-Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. Awarded the prestigious Paul VI Prize for theology and designated a Cardinal just before his death in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, Balthasar’s writings have clearly helped to shape the theological style of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. His seven-volume series The Glory of the Lord provides a rich and complex theological aesthetics approaching God (unusually) through the transcendental attribute of Beauty (Glory) rather than directly through Truth or Goodness, and drawing not only upon theology but upon the entire breadth of the European literary and religious tradition-ancient, mediaeval, modern, and postmodern.
Understandably, The Glory of the Lord in its very extent and range is difficult to assimilate. In The Word Has Been Abroad, Aidan Nichols, one of Britain’s most accomplished and lucid theological writers, succeeds in summarizing the essential theological content of Balthasar’s monumental work, against the background of the living Christian tradition to which it bears such impressive witness. In this way, Father Nichols has provided a much-needed key to understanding one of the most difficult but important writers of our time.