Introducing a Symposium on Beauty

beautyThe 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? [1] 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 AprilTranspositions‘ 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.

[1] Eric Gill, Beauty Looks After Herself: Essays by Eric Gill (London: Sheed & Ward, 1933).

The photo, “beauty”, is copyright (c) 2008 sanberdoo and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.


  • Sara Schumacher is the editor and a regular contributor to Transpositions. Prior to life in academia, Sara worked as a graphic designer in Oxford where her experience as an artist and a Christian raised many questions, ultimately leading her to pursue further study in theology and the arts at St Andrews. Sara holds a B.S. in Graphic Design and an A.A. in Cross-Cultural Services from John Brown University and has recently completed an M.Litt in Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Andrews. She is currently working on a PhD at St Andrews, focusing on church patronage of the arts.

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Join the Conversation


  1. says: Michael Carter

    Sigmund Freud said, “…beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.”
    I look forward to reading the essays this week.

  2. says: Mark Porter

    I often get frustrated when discussions of aesthetics within Christianity are often assumed to be discussions of beauty. Aesthetics seems to be a much broader category than that and I think it needs problematising as the equation of beauty with aesthetics often leads to a neglect of other aesthetic categories.

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