Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Fourth Dimension of Christian Aesthetics

Frequently in the Christian academic world, and less frequently in ecclesiastical settings, Christians define aesthetics as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Certainly, this triad of excellencies may be traced to Plato, and is also compatible with biblical theology; however, it falls short by one dimension, one aspect theologically. I am particularly struck by the symbiosis of Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Terror in pinnacle visions of the Wholly Other, vis, the Ark of the Covenant on Yom Kippur, the flaming cherubim bowing before the sapphire throne, John prostrate on Patmos before the sunlit Son, and Isaiah's woeful declaration upon his vision of the Most High. The Tabernacle and Temple were the Truest, Best, and Most Beautiful architectural expressions of Divine revelation in the OT, bedecked with precious jewels, and swathed in hammered silver and beaten gold, and, in the NT, the New Jerusalem in all its blinding resplendence surpasses even them, yet they are all Territories of Terror as well, foreboding and forbidding to those without. These types and shadows point toward that place where Divine judgment begins, "the house of God," the church, which, if it is to properly mirror its prototypes, should not only be a place of Goodness, Beauty, and Truth but also a place of Terror. What churches do we know where these things dwell as One, especially aesthetically in regards to their music, architecture, rhetoric, and theology?