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Theological Aesthetics and Christian Art

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2008, 28(), pp.307-329
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology

San Choon Kim 1

1서강대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article studies the relation between Han Urs von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics and Christian art by investigating essential themes of his masterpiece in seven volumes, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. It turns out that the key notion of Balthasar’s theological aesthetics is the ‘glory’ and ‘Form(Gestalt).’ In the first volume, Seeing the Form, Balthasar emphasizes the uniqueness of the Form of Christ, and maintains that Christian art, therefore, must depict the paradoxical form of Christ Jesus. The reason why the Form of Christ is paradoxical is that the great glory of God is concealed in the distorted form of Christ, or, rather in the ‘kenosis’, which is an endless self-emptying act of God. How, then, can Christian artists embody this paradoxical form in their works of art? According to Balthasar, a ‘kenosis’ is demanded of the Christian artists themselves who attempt to capture the kenotic Form of Christ. That is to say, they must give up the glory of their own self, and, humbly seeing the glory of the Cross alone, they ought to be drawn into the mystery of the love of God. In this way, Christian art not merely remains as a theory of perception, but also becomes a gate for a theory of rapture (i.e., standing outside of oneself to be exalted into God). If the objective evidence of revelation is the Form of Christ, its subjective evidence lies in ‘spiritual senses.’ Thus, it is by such spiritual senses transfigured in faith that Christians perceive the Form of Christ, which is transmitted through the Scriptures in the Church . In the second and the third volumes, Styles, Balthasar shows twelve diverse ways of approaching the glory of God. They consist not in abstract concepts, but in concrete experiences in history in the Eastern and Western Churches. In the fourth and the fifth volumes, Metaphysics, Balthasar dwells on ‘transcendence and Gestalt’: every beautiful Gestalt is open to history and event; being more than the sum of its components, Gestalt manifests the infinitude of the glory of God, and the beauty is a form of revelation. There is a crisis in the contemporary world with regard to the beauty in that it is no more related to two other transcendentals of being, i.e., the truth and the goodness. The beauty that does not go with both the goodness and the truth is in a sense the showy or false beauty. The crisis concerned is an inevitable outcome of the Western aesthetics that, since the eighteenth century, has understood the beauty from a purely human viewpoint, without taking into account of the divine beauty. But from the viewpoint of Christianity, the beauty that goes with the truth and the goodness is the paradoxical beauty of the divine love, which climaxes in the death of Christ on the Cross. In the sixth and the seventh volumes, Covenants, therefore, Balthasar shows-especially through the John’s Gospel-that the divine glory is paradoxical in that it embraces not only the Incarnation but also the Crucifixion. The Christian faith believes that this paradoxical beauty alone can decisively annihilate the false or showy beauty of the uniform system in the contemporary world.

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