Faith and Beauty: A Theological Aesthetic, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Faith and Beauty

A Theological Aesthetic, 1st Edition

By Edward Farley


132 pages

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'Aesthetics' and 'theological aesthetics' usually imply a focus on questions about the arts and how faith or religion relates to the arts; only the final pages of this work take up that problem. The central theme of this book is that of beauty. Farley employs a new typology of western texts on beauty and a theological analysis of the image of God and redemption to counter the centuries-long tendency to ignore or marginalize beauty and the aesthetic as part of the life of faith. Studying the interpretation of beauty in ancient Greece, eighteenth-century England, the work of Jonathan Edwards, and nineteenth and twentieth-century philosophies of human self-transcendence, the author explores whether Christian existence, the life of faith, and the ethical exclude or require an aesthetic dimension in the sense of beauty. The work will be of particular interest to those interested in Christian theology, ethics, and religion and the arts.


’The most important book I have read for years. Farley strikes the right chord in the way he goes behind the current discussion and lays a solid foundation for the kind of theological depth that has to be brought to the question of beauty. He makes the issue alive to the most recent scholarship’ John Cook, President of the Henry Luce Foundation, USA 'In this eloquently written book, Edward Farley brings a gentle, carefully crafted clarity to these matters…With much dexterity, he exposes and challenges some of the dichotomies that have marred a proper appreciation of beauty, not least in the Church…The discussion is rich and full of wisdom, and a model of how to say a great deal with few words.' Theology ' …Farley's focus on the transformative aspects of beauty allows him to innovatively harmonize a variety of divergent theoretical strands into a complex and satisfying theological asesthetic that is itself beautiful, in the Whiteheadian sense of being a real creative accomplishment of synthesis.' Journal of Religion 'Farley follows a course from ancient Greece, through the Middle Ages and the eighteenth century to the modern day. His aim is to establish a link between faith, understood as the experience of a redeemed life, and aesthetic experience… Farley's route…is to seek for beauty in the process of redemptive remaking, through the restoration of the divine image in human being marred by sin… it does…point to the potential fruitfulness of a renewed debate between Christian thinkers and contemporary artists.' Art and Christianity Enquiry Bulletin 'In grappling with Christian theology and with aesthetics, Farley has illuminated a valuable area of discussion.' Church Times 'In this magisterial study Farley attempts to situate the transcendental of beauty within the Christian experience of faith. Studying the conflictual relationship between Christianity and esthetic concerns, Farley develops a useful typology of the various identit

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Beauty as the Beast: traditional and postmodern expressions: Beauty and the postmodern; Beauty as the beast in Christian traditions; Hebrew and Christian iconoclasms. Beauty as Being: The Irrepressible Character of Beauty: The 'great theory of beauty'; The Olympian cosmogonies; The Platonic tradition; The 'great theory' in the Middle Ages; The process transmutation of the great theory of beauty; beauty as being. Beauty as Sensibility: Precursors of the 18th-century turn; The new problematic of beauty in the 18th century; The psychological relocation of beauty; The problem of taste; The sublime; Legacies and ambiguities. Beauty as Benevolence: Primary and secondary beauty; Beauty as community; Beauty and God; The problem of objectivity; Beauty and self-transcendence. Beauty in Human Self-Transcendence: Human self-transcendence without beauty; Self-transcendence as passionate subjectivity; Self-transcendence as intentional meaning; Self-transcendence as radical responsibility; The aesthetic aspect of self-transcendence; Beauty as a transcendental condition of experience; Beyond self-preoccupation through beauty; The beauty of the graceful body; Summary. Paths to Beauty in 20th-Century Theology: Anti-aesthetic Protestant approaches to beauty; 20th-century Catholic theologies of beauty. The Beauty of Human Redemption: The image of God as self-transcendence; Formal and ethical self-transcendence; The image of God as potentiality and actuality; The imago dei as beautiful; The despoiled image; The beauty of redemptive remaking; Redemptive self-transcendence; Surmounting the dichotomy of the ethical and the aesthetic; Faith's aesthetic sensibilities. Beauty, Pathos and Joy: Beauty and pathos; Joy: beyond the dichotomy of rigorism and satisfaction; Faith without beauty; The arts in the life of faith. Synopsis: Aesthetics; Beauty; The western story of beauty; Theological aesthetics and redemptive transformation; Index.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Theology, Imagination and the Arts

What have imagination and the arts to do with theology? For much of the modern era, the answer has been 'not much'. It is precisely this deficit that this series seeks to redress. For, whatever role they have or have not been granted in the theological disciplines, imagination and the arts are undeniably bound up with how we as human beings think, learn and communicate, engage with and respond to our physical and social environments and, in particular, our awareness and experience of that which transcends our own creatureliness. The arts are playing an increasingly significant role in the way people come to terms with the world; at the same time, artists of many disciplines are showing a willingness to engage with religious or theological themes. A spate of publications and courses in many educational institutions has already established this field as one of fast-growing concern. This series taps into a burgeoning intellectual concern on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. The peculiar inter-disciplinarity of theology, and the growing interest in imagination and the arts in many different fields of human concern, afford the opportunity for a series that has its roots sunk in varied and diverse intellectual soils, while focused around a coherent theological question: How are imagination and the arts involved in the shaping and reshaping of our humanity as part of the creative and redemptive purposes of God, and what roles do they perform in the theological enterprise? Many projects within the series have particular links to the work of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts in the University of St Andrews, and to the Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts at Duke University.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General