On Beauty and Aesthetics (pt. 1)

“Beauty is an event: it happens when the Whole, the All, offers itself to us in the Fragment, when the Infinite makes itself little.” – Bruno Forte


“What is the role of aesthetics?” I was asked as we were preparing for the evening meal where I was retreating in south-central Missouri this past weekend. They were interested in the independent study class that I am pursuing this Fall semester. Theological Aesthetics, or Christian Aesthetics, or the Theology of Beauty and Art, I usually say. As I was de-coring the apples to prepare for British baked apples, Tabby was preparing chicken breasts and Allison was making pumpkin soup and fresh bread. These are the kind of conversations and the context in which I look forward to frequently. They had showed interest in the content of my independent study earlier in the day when I had told them about my courses this Fall. Now that we had the proximity, focus, and time to dive deeper in the details of the work, they apparently led the way by taking the initiative to strike up conversation about aesthetics. This is L’Abri. And this makes me smile.

As I was beginning to briefly summarize the first two books I had recently finished reading, plus a few articles that have peppered my experience thus far, Allison asked it. “So, what do they say is the role of aesthetics?” My natural response to the word role is not always positive. I tend to associate the word role with words and ideas like purpose, point, and provision. What does this or that provide for us, for this event, for this group, for this experience? Continue reading