Experiences of Beauty

I finished my 25 page paper, that turned out to be about 30 pages.

The title was Experiences of Beauty: Theological Aesthetics in Jurgen Moltmann.

It’s a little long to post here, and I might someday want to do something more substantial with it. But, I think I can post a bit. Here’s the conclusion (and I’d be happy to send you the whole thing if you’re curious):

“We are here to be transformed,” Arthur Danto writes. Later on in his book he adds, “Beauty is a necessary condition for life as we would want to live it.” We are left with the questions of what it means to be transformed and what kind of life we want to live, indeed what kind of life we are called to live. This call is not a moral demand that represses our creative instinct and separates us from this present world in exchange for some heavenly, bodiless, absorption into a nameless “Other”. Rather, this call is given by the Triune God—Father and Son and Holy Spirit—who exist in eternal community, united and yet diverse. This call, this work of restoration encounters us in time and encounters us in particular moments. The nature of this work is among the most important questions in theology. So, it seems particularly helpful to see how Jürgen Moltmann, a major contributor to systematic theology, has worked out this question, and more specifically to see how this work can help us better understand the nature and experience of beauty in our lives.

God is the maker of heaven and earth, indeed the remaker of heaven and earth. We are called not as slaves, but as heirs, to be conformed to his likeness, and join with him in an eternal dance of shared mutuality. Because of this we take particular note of the characteristics of the God who calls all of humanity back into an enlivening relationship. Among these manifold attributes is that of beauty. God is beautiful and God creates beauty. Our participation with this God of Beauty is one of passionate love, eros, in which we are caught up with each other in both constant desire and constant freedom. This Eros with us is God’s own Spirit, who with the Son and the Father, have worked and continue to work for the fullness of life and beauty in the cosmos. Our experience of beauty is that moment in which the Spirit who is raising us up recognizes with us, and within us, the glory of God’s work, wherein we experience a moment of shared life, and hope, and liberation that not only excites us with the fullness but pulls us into its creativity and enlivens our lives with a profound peace and delight.

This experience of beauty is an experience we share with God, an experience that endears us to him even in moments of struggle or darkness or frustration. We are given insight into his being, even as it is not always directly him we are seeing. He created what is good and continues to create, inspiring us in creativity, to take joy in what is beautiful in him, in this world, in music, in art, in relationships, and in all kinds of expressions. It is this intersection of Spirit and eschatology that I experienced on the lawn in front of Blanchard Hall, and have experienced in so many different, not always as profound, ways before and since then. It was an experience of God, a sharing with God of a moment that reflects the eternal moment of his perichoretic invitation. He calls us to share with him beauty of all kinds in our present experiences and in our future participation. Beauty is a gift from God, shared with God. And it is very good.

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