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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

14 - Beauty

from IV - Participation and the Shape of Human Life


This chapter, on beauty, explores the desirability and splendor of creatures as a participation in divine beauty and goodness. It is, at heart, an exploration of what to love, and how to love it. In the words of an ancient prayer, the message is one of loving God 'above all things, and in all things'. As a contrasting position, we consider the vision of the Swedish Lutheran theologian Anders Nygren. Unlike his appeal for us to sever love for God from love for creatures, the vision in this chapter is integrative. The tendency is considered, all the same, for human waywardness in how we love, and the order of our loving. While the reality of sin and the need for restraint are recognised, the characteristics of a 'participatory spirituality' are seen not to be founded on denial or rejection: what Martin Buber calls one of 'subtraction ... or reduction'. The focus for the chapter is for the most part what could be called the beauty of goodness. It concludes with a discussion of the participatory character of aesthetic beauty.