Theology and Beauty

Course InstructorMark McInroy is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Thomas.  He received his doctorate in theology from Harvard Divinity School, and he is the author of Balthasar on the Spiritual Senses:  Perceiving Splendour (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

Course Information:  Thursdays, February 6-March 13, 1:00-3:00 p.m., Church of St. Patrick, 6820 St. Patrick's Lane, Edina

Course Description:  Is it possible that Beauty is a name for God, or a means by which God reveals God's self in the created order?  This course examines ancient, medieval, and modern theological approaches to these questions.  It also explores the implications of varying answers to these questions for the arts, and for lives of faith.

Registration fee for the series:  $80.00 per person

To register on-line with a credit card, click on this link:

To register by check or cash through the mail or in-person, click on this link for the registration form to download, print and mail in with your payment: Spring 2014 Registration Form

Link to location directions:  Church of St. Patrick Directions

Detailed Course Syllabus (subject to change):

February 6

At the Heart of Creation and its Source:  Beauty as a "Transcendental" Property of Being and a Name for God

A number of ancient and medieval figures view beauty as an aspect of reality that permeates everything that exists.  This session examines the thought of Plato, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventure, for whom beauty saturates all of being.  Many of these figures further maintain that the beauty of creation reflects the absolute beauty of its source, and that beauty should therefore be considered an attribute of God.

February 13

Smashing Images:  Byzantine and Reformation Iconoclasm

Should God be depicted in visual art?  In the eighth and sixteenth centuries, significant segments of the church claimed that any portrayal of God was idolatrous.  These two movements, known respectively as Byzantine and Reformation "Iconoclasm" (breaking of images), resulted in the widespread destruction of Christian art.  This session investigates the motivations and theological arguments of iconoclasts and their opponents, with special attention given to John of Damascus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

February 20

The Decline of Beauty in the Modern Period

In the modern period, beauty is relegated to a marginal position as that which is inoffensively pleasant.  This session examines the philosophical arguments that lead to such a trivialization, focusing especially on the views of Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard.  Also explored will be the far-reaching legacy of these ideas in the contemporary setting.

February 27

The Re-emergence of Beauty in the Twentieth Century

Although beauty is exiled from theological discourse for much of modernity, in the twentieth century a handful of theologians rehabilitate the ancient and medieval idea that beauty is an attribute of God.  Foremost among these figures is the Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, whose "theological aesthetics" re-enlivens modern theology and resolves a number of long-standing problems in modern Catholic thought.  This session conveys the key features of Balthasar's aesthetics and explores its significance for contemporary theology and faith today.

March 6

Theology and Modern Art

In the modern period, the leading artists of the world largely cease creating art that is explicitly religious.  Conversely, modern art that is overtly Christian tends to be regarded as second-rate, even kitsch.  What place, then, does modern art have in theology?  This session investigates the reflections of Karl Rahner, Paul Tillich, and others on the theological significance of modern art.

March 13

Contemporary Theological Aesthetics

Harns Urs von Balthasar's theological aesthetics struck a chord with contemporary theologians, and in recent years many of them have expanded upon his projet by writing theological aesthetics of their own.  This session addresses the contemporary state of this burgeoning field by looking at the work of David Bentley Hart, Aidan Nichols, Richard Viladesau, Frank Burch Brown, and others.