5 Claims of Beauty and Salvation

Sarah Herbers
Apr 5, 2020 · 2 min read
  1. Art is to humanity just as creation is to God. Both are fully rooted in beauty and both are the consequence of God’s love. Since the artist is part of God’s creation, all beauty created by the artist comes from the direct representation of God within the work. As Gerardus van der Leeuw asserts, seeing art solely as a reflection of the observer, or even the superficial aspects of the artist, misses the point, and so overlooks the beauty. Beauty through art is a channel through which mankind can see more of the image of God that is within humanity.
  2. Beauty is not a replacement of truth but rather a method for appreciating and understanding the truth that God intends for us. Balthasar uses the example of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross to argue that the beauty of works of art come from that which they reveal about God’s relationship with man. In some cases, such as Bernini’s sculptural depiction, this truth is difficult or impossible to comprehend because that which is revealed is part of the sublime that humanity cannot comprehend while on earth.
  3. Salvation cannot be proclaimed without beauty because the fervent love, the eros, that God has for mankind manifests itself in the beautiful. Balthasar admits that the technicalities of salvation are communicated without such flourish in the New Testament, but woven into the theological lectures of Christ are references to poetic writings such as Song of Songs and images of nuptial relationships to truly convey the beautiful truth of God’s saving grace.
  4. God’s word is meant to be shared, to be proclaimed. In this proclamation, inherently poetic, the Word becomes undoubtedly present to humanity. When the word is not shared, it loses its meaning as the word of God and becomes the word of whomever hoards it for himself. In that case, according to Karl Rahner, these accumulated words lose their poetic nature and become mere theology because they are no longer God’s absolute truth. The word of God, as Scripture or kerygma or other divine revelation, is the word of God rather than man because the writer, the speaker, the proclaimer, is acting as a messenger for God rather than a philosopher of discerned doctrine.
  5. Salvific art is a reminder that salvation is not individual but a gift for the community of mankind as a whole. Therefore, Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu points out, art aids in our salvation by presenting hope for the future and ideas for what changes can and should be made to protect this future for the community. The beauty of salvific art comes from the sharing of the artist’s experience with overcoming obstacles on the path to salvation with the greater community in hopes that this knowledge will bring mankind closer to God’s saving grace.

Sarah’s Theology Blog

A weekly reflection on Theology, Worship, and the Arts