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Spirit and Beauty: An Introduction to Theological Aesthetics.

Sherry here rethinks the theology of beauty and creativity. The "Spirit" of the title is the Holy Spirit. Rather than theologize in terms of creation and incarnation in Christ, S. looks to the post-Pentecost role of the Holy Spirit as (1) communicating God's beauty to the world through nature and art, (2) offering a sign through natural and artistic beauty of how the Spirit perfects creation, and (3) anticipating through beauty and creativity the eschatological restoration and transfiguration of all creation. Thus, despite its self-effacing subtitle, this is no mere "Introduction," but an original and important reconceptualization of the theology of beauty.

As theologian, S. first investigates Scripture and the Fathers, then consults the theological traditions. His major sources are varied, even surprising: Genesis, the Psalms, the "glory" theme (kabod, shekinah, and doxa), Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Jonathan Edwards, Urs von Balthasar, Simone Weil, and the Eastern theologians Sergius Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, and Paul Evdokimov. To argue the link between the Spirit and beauty, S. investigates the types of beauty, the attribution of "beauty" to God, the Holy Spirit, inspiration and imagination, the reflection of divine beauty, and "the final transfiguration of things."

A careful scholar and exegete, S. is clear and smooth amid major definitional problems. He well distinguishes moral and spiritual beauty from the beauty of nature and art, and correctly focuses on music, painting, and literature. The Holy Spirit, he concludes, is both beautiful and beautifier, the "Perfecter" who through aesthetic beauty renews the face of the earth and completes the redemption of Christ. This insight is indeed a "grand theme," as S. writes, and it tweaks the reader with an alternative to Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, and even James Joyce.
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Author:Feeney, Joseph J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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