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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Denis Dutton and Alejandro García-Rivera on Beauty

I recently came across two thoughts on Beauty: today I saw a video of Denis Dutton, past philosophy of art professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Beauty and evolution .....



And yesterday I read an essay on Beauty and the problem of evil by Alejandro García-Rivera, past professor of Theology at The Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in the book Theological aesthetics after von Balthasar by Oleg V. Bychkov and James Fodor. Here's the beginning of it ....

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Chapter 13 - On A New List of Aesthetic Categories

Taking Well of God

I have been asked many times, "What has brought me to seek theology in the arts?" The answer to that question lies within the core of my own questions about my faith and the God that is the subject of that faith. How shall I speak of a good and mighty God when all around me -- indeed in my own life -- I see and experience overwhelming human tragedy, conflict, and suffering. At these times I realize that I cannot ground such talk on the truth of God's revelation or on the goodness of God's intentions. There needs to be a different starting place, a place that addresses the question of suffering in a way that does not take me into the thicket of explaining that God is good and all-powerful, and yet also allows such suffering to happen.

Gustavo Gutiérrez made an important observation about theology in his illuminating study of the book of Job. Gutiérrez points out that at the end of the narrative, God is pleased with Job not because he spoke correctly but because he spoke well of God. Indeed, God rebukes Job's theologian-friends precisely because they try to explain away Job's suffering by insisting that God is good and powerful. Job, on the other hand, insists that his suffering is not consistent with such a view of a good and powerful God: therefore, God has been unjust to him. God thus praises Job for not succumbing to easy explanations of God's intentions. Job's friends spoke correctly about God's power and goodness, not well about God in Godself. Gutiérrez's insight into the book of Job has been of crucial interest to me as a theologian trying to understand human suffering in the light of a belief in a good and powerful God.

Yet Gutiérrez's insight leaves contemporary theology in something of a quandary. Contemporary theology continues focusing its energy on trying to speak correctly of God -- in terms of the truth about God's nature or the implications of God's power -- rather than concerning itself with speaking well of God. Whether it be fundamentalist Biblical literacy or Catholic dogmatism, Latin American liberationism or postmodern skepticism, contemporary theology has failed to heed God's whirlwind's revelation to Job. The result is that genuine talk about Job's God remains immensely difficult. Authentic talk of God in a suffering world, I contend, is to be found more in how well we speak of God rather than in how truthful or morally correct our talk of God happens to be.

But what is the starting point of a theology that speaks well of God? Where does one begin speaking well of God? Let me suggest that it is neither in the sense of the True nor in the sense of the Good, but in the sense of Beauty. Pseudo-Dionysius put it clearly. The closer we come to naming the reality that is God, the more the importance of our ordinary language is made evident. As our language approaches the mystery of the divine reality, it begins to break up and enter a new mode. Ordinary speech becomes extraordinary poetry, and extraordinary poetry shifts to exquisite music, and music in turn gives way to breathtaking design until a "silent" word becomes the only adequate name for God. This is the sense of Beauty I would like to describe .....

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Kind of a stretch, but my "real" approach to something bryond the here and now is the arts; especially music.

1:56 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Music works for me too :)

1:59 PM  

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