Richard Viladesau – A definition of Theological Aesthetics

The below definition of Theological Aesthetics can be found at:

From Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art: “Theological aesthetics,” then, as I conceive it, includes both narrative/metaphorical and metaphysical approaches. It comprises both an “aesthetic theology” that interprets the objects of theology — God, faith, and theology itself — through the methods of aesthetic studies, and a more narrowly defined “theological aesthetics” that interprets the objects of aesthetics — sensation, the beautiful, and art — from the properly theological starting point of religious conversion and in the light of theological methods. Hence “theological aesthetics” in the second, narrower sense, will include the following elements:

1) A theological account of human knowledge on the level of feeling and imagination (“aesthetics” in the sense of Schiller and Kant). The treatment of God and imagination involves the question of metaphor and analogy mentioned briefly above: how can the transcendent God be thought by a human mind that is tied to sensation? A related area is the theology of revelation and its relation to symbolic consciousness. Finally, there is a reflection on theological method: the development of a theological theory of interpretation (both of the Scriptures and of religious experience) that appeals to imagination and art, and the relationship of this hermeneutical task to systematic thought. This “epistemological” form of theological aesthetics explores the relations of symbolic and theoretical consciousness, of hermeneutics to metaphysics, of religious experience to secular reason, of feeling to logical discourse, of beauty to truth.

2) A theology of beauty. This will reflect on the nature of the beautiful in relationship to God and to the “transcendental;” the way in which beauty is a quality of revelation; and the place of “beauty” as a criterion of theological judgment.

3) A theological reflection on art and on the individual arts. This reflection will attempt to understand how the arts can communicate concern-ing the divine; how they can mediate revelation and conversion; and what formal similarities they show to the practice of theology.”

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