The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics
Bellingham, Washington: Lexham Press, 2018. 424 pages. Softcover. $24.99.
Reviewed by Wade M. Bellesbach, MLitt student, University of St Andrews, Scotland on 10/30/2018
Significant contributions have been made in recent decades to the relationship between theology and the topic of beauty (theological aesthetics). Jonathan King’s The Beauty of the Lord: Theology as Aesthetics continues this rich field of study. However, what is of particular value is the impressive program of research he submits in defense of C. Caverno’s contention that the Bible “is everywhere inspired and writ in an atmosphere of aesthetics” (7).
This defense is timely. Considerable amount of contemporary effort devoted to theological aesthetics engages with what the topic of beauty offers to theological discourse, specifically biblical and systematic theology. Perhaps what has been neglected, however, is what biblical and systematic theology offers to the topic of beauty. King’s work then is certainly welcome.
King’s outline of enquiry is of great value. Sensitive to those who are entering this conversation, he introduces the topic by way of a survey defining what theological aesthetics is and its various avenues of investigation. This is followed by an explanation of what he considers are the “christological contours” of his program of research (22). These contours appear as subsequent chapters giving attention to the dimensions of beauty located in the Trinity and their manifestation in the theatre of man’s existence: creation, incarnation, cross, and re-creation. Of further assistance is an appendix detailing the textual evidence of beauty throughout sacred scripture.
King’s project is to be commended not only for its extensive biblical and systematic scope, but also for the assembly of theologians he dialogues with. However, Lutheran considerations are noticeably absent. This is not necessarily a critique of King; it is instead an encouragement for Lutheran theologians to enter the conversation. King’s work certainly provides an attractive invitation for his Lutheran readers.