Triune Beauty And The Ugly Cross Towards A Theological Aesthetic -- By: John-Mark Hart

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 66:2 (NA 2015)
Article: Triune Beauty And The Ugly Cross Towards A Theological Aesthetic
Author: John-Mark Hart

Triune Beauty And The Ugly Cross
Towards A Theological Aesthetic

John-Mark Hart

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God’s triune beauty is most fully revealed in the ugly spectacle of the cross, and the close connection between the concepts of beauty and glory in scripture reveals how a cruciform theological aesthetic can illuminate our understanding of God, humanity, and salvation. Moreover, Christian discipleship calls for counter-cultural ways of seeing beauty and being beautiful in the midst of a broken world. This cruciform aesthetic also informs the limited but powerful role that the arts may play in the human vocation to behold, delight in, and reflect the beauty of God by the power of the Spirit.

1. Introduction

The human heart is created to delight in and reflect the infinite beauty of the triune God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ declares that this beauty is most profoundly revealed in the ugly spectacle of the cross. These two realities — the immutable beauty of the Trinity and the irreducible ugliness of Christ’s death — are the starting point for any Christian theological aesthetic. This should already make it clear that such an aesthetic is concerned with the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Rather than merely reflecting on the arts from a Christian perspective, a robust theological aesthetic will articulate the manifold ways in which the beauty of God and the Gospel can transform our character, our lives, and our vision of the cosmos. In this article, I aim to sketch out some biblical contours for such a theological aesthetic.

My argument has three parts. First, I consider the close relationship between divine beauty and divine glory in the biblical witness and then point towards some ways in which the theme of God’s glorious beauty runs through the heart of four major areas of Christian doctrine. Second, I draw upon Luther’s distinction between theologians of glory and theologians of the cross in order to ward off some idolatrous tendencies that often creep into Christian reflections on beauty. This section develops a cruciform aesthetic that beckons us to participate in the true beauty of God’s self-giving humility and love. Third, I analyse the roles that art and aesthetic beauty may play in the Christian vocation to live for the glory of God in the power of the Spirit. My central argument, which unfolds throughout these three sections, is that the Gospel of Christ invites disciples to embody a counter-cultural way of being beautiful in the world through joyful participation in the cruciform glory of divine love.

2. The Beauty Of God

In scripture the concepts of ‘beauty’ and ‘...

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