Yesterday, I had a Gospel conversation with someone that stirred much within my soul. After realizing he was completely denying Christ’s divinity, but yet claiming him to still be “good”, it clicked. He wasn’t saying “Christ wasn’t God” as much as he was saying that Christ is “more God than God.” His frustration haunted me throughout day. He was distraught,
If you haven’t read Hans Urs Von Balthasar, then your mind hasn’t imploded yet… and you’re able to continue reading here. Still with me? Good. A few days ago I began reading The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics - I: Seeing the Form, Balthasar’s first volume from his The Glory of the Lord seven book series. To say that it’s fascinating would be an understatement.
Exceptionally hooking is his three-fold system of theology. Well… specifically one of the tenets: Beauty. His engrafting of beauty into our theological system is very thought provoking. But maybe that’s because I’m already prone toward this topic - although I doubt it. Really, I believe it’s because of the weight that he puts behind beauty. He writes
Beauty is the last thing which the thinking intellect dares to approach, since only it dances as an uncontained splendour around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another. No longer loved or fostered by religion, beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man. We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters...
Ultimatley, his argument continues by stressing that beauty is the third means of living in, thinking through, and acting out from theology. As the other two are truth (propositonal actuality/reality; thought) and goodness(virtuous living; physical), beauty lends itself to our Christian lives as a means for transcendence. Where truthremains in the thought, and goodness in the physical, beauty calls the person to a place of synthesis. As an object, like nature (Psalms 19), contains this property, it can then call us, as physcial beings, to look beyond the immediacy of the object, and perceive of something mores substantial.
There’s a ton packed into this concept, and I’m far from finishing working through it all - 6.5 books away, in fact - but it begs an interesting question: What if? What if beauty is more than a frivolous conversation piece between the “high-brows”? What if it’s more than some idolized commodity of the bourgeois? What if it’s a means of hope? What if it’s an intentional tether that the Lord has given us to not only see His goodness, but also hope in the truth that the New Eden will be made for us? I have personally fallen into days so uninspiring that propositional, systematic theology falls dormant on my ears. And likewise, have been brought to a place of such inactivity - whether from fear, shame, sadness, anger, etc. - that, for a time, am left stagnant and overly passive.
What if, like Friedrich's Wanderer, we have the opportunity to rise above the temporary fogs of life, and truly "see" once more. What if it’s this appropriation of beauty that breaks through our deafness, and brings life to our passivity, calling us out and awakening us back to experiencing the splendor of God?
For Caspar David Friedrich's The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog image source, click here.