The concept of beauty in relation to theology and the arts is a slippery one. While sometimes a definition eludes, at other times it can be disregarded or over-stated. And yet, I remember sitting in a performance of Handel’s Messiah last Christmas when the beauty of the words, music, and space converged to the point where my breath was taken away. Is beauty something we aspire to or, as Eric Gill suggests, do we pursue truth and goodness and trust beauty to look after herself?  There is something about beauty that brings us back to it, compelling us to try and understand what it is, how it can be discerned, and its relationship to the divine.
Next week, Transpositions is hosting a symposium on beauty. Together with a great line-up of contributors, we’ll collectively wrestle with beauty’s theological place in various spheres of human life and activity: Christian theology, contemporary culture, art-making, and the Church. Posts range from the provocative to the reflective, and we hope that all will stimulate discussion and lead to furthered collective understanding.
The line-up for the week includes:
Monday, 22 April – Prof Jeremy Begbie, current director of Duke’s Initiatives in Theology and the Arts, kicks off the week with a helpful sketch of the rise of beauty’s popularity in the theology and the arts discussion. He then questions the relationship between art and beauty and suggests beauty’s place in Christian theology.
Tuesday, 23 April – Transpositions‘ own Somer Salomon continues the discussion by considering the role of beauty in engaging with the contemporary, post-modern world.
Wednesday, 24 April – Reflecting on his own art-making and interacting with his own work, visual artist TJ Walsh suggests how beauty is found in the process of creation.
Thursday, 25 April – Poet, academic, and Christian apologist Dr Holly Ordway compels us to think about how beauty informs and shapes our worship of God and communion with the Church.
Friday, 26 April – The week concludes with Christopher R. Brewer’s review of three books about beauty, providing a stepping-stone for further research and discovery.
We hope that something in the week will pique your interest in this wide and varied field. Please join the conversation in the comments section – we look forward your contribution!
Sara Schumacher is Editor-in-Chief of Transpositions and PhD candidate within ITIA, researching contemporary church patronage of the arts. She admits to being both baffled and intrigued by beauty in all its various forms and definitions.
— Eric Gill, Beauty Looks After Herself: Essays by Eric Gill (London: Sheed & Ward, 1933).