The Art of Theology Hans Urs von Balthasar's Theological Aesthetics and the Foundations of Faithby S Van Erp, Stephan Erp, S. Van Erp
Art and theology are two different ways of making meaning. Art is a matter of inspiration and intuition. It needs neither standards, nor guidelines. It does not follow predictable patterns, nor is it determined by any specific goal. Theology is similar in that it generates meaning in order to understand and communicate faith. It explores the continuities and discontinuities between divine and human creations through metaphors, images and the play of ideas. Unlike art however, theology is primarily a matter of reason. It follows patterns of consistency and coherence, and is shaped by the will to clarify and explain. Can art offer a way of understanding the nature of theology despite these differences? The twentieth century Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) wrote a seven volume masterpiece on theological aesthetics. He restructured theology around basic aesthetic concepts like form and beauty. The present study offers a critical analysis of Balthasar's work against the background of contemporary debates on theological foundations. The author approaches this task through a careful rereading of two of Balthasar's key sources: Nicholas of Cusa and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. In this way the author rediscovers hidden undercurrents in modernity from Renaissance aesthetics to German Idealism. The result is a theological aesthetics rooted in tradition and capable of understanding and communicating faith in the face of present day challenges.
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