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Theological Notebook: Von Balthasar on Beauty and Method; John on the Temple; Gibson's "Passion"

The main things I'm getting from reading Hans Urs von Balthasar right now:

1) Beauty Beauty Beauty. The aesthetic approach to theology and its importance: that if we don't do our theology in the mode of all three of the transcendentals (truth, goodness, and beauty: metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics) then our vision will inevitably be distorted.

2) The importance of staying on top of the balance and interaction of the subjective and the objective in theology or in any inquiry into reality. Pursue the subjective without the objective and everything turns relativized, "psychologized" and ultimately meaningless. Pursue the objective without the subjective and everything turns formalized, depersonalized and likewise ultimately meaningless.

3) The combination of these two points: I loved the bit from the last reading where he pointed that out, how "without a knowledge of beauty, our knowledge of truth and goodness remains distorted. Truth becomes pragmatism and formalism; goodness becomes utilitarianism and hedonism." Fascinating vision when you hold that rubric up against our society and its problems.

4) A fascination with the idea that the objective proof for Christianity--where God becomes concrete in history and where God's beauty is made manifest--is in the lives of the saints. Not the plastic, dull saints of schlock art: the real saints of real life--with the light in their eyes and the healing in their hands that makes you gasp when you realize that Someone more than them is looking through those eyes and touching you in those hands. All sorts of ecclesiological possibilities in this.


The main thing I'm getting from studying the Gospel of John right now:

1) An appreciation for how complex the text is, even though it really may be a mess in its own way. There's such brilliance in the parallels (one of my classmates did a bit on Nathaniel in John 2 and Isaac that was brilliant) that he sets up, and such sloppy, sloppy organization at times....

2) I'm focusing on Jesus' relationship to the Temple. I think that for all the stuff that is said about John's "Anti-Judaism"--his having it in for his fellow Jews who are not acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah--Jesus nevertheless seems to have a positive relationship to the Temple. The riot he starts, after all, is in defense of the Temple. And yet Jesus also seems to be straightforward (as in John 4 in talking with the woman at Jacob's Well) that the time of the Temple cult is passing into a new era. A lot more for me to think and write about here.


Huh. A former student is IMing me right now. Works in a movie theatre and he and a few of the other workers stayed after tonight and gave themselves a private showing of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which had just arrived today. He seems absolutely blown away, and is telling me how it's provoking him to re-think so much about his life. In fact, it strikes me that his language is similar to the kind of thinking you see in the mystics who had a vision of the crucifixion, and how that vision was what provoked them into a new level of reflection and of living. If Gibson pulls off something so artistically compelling as to provoke something similar in a mass audience, then that would be one of the great cinematic achievements.
Tags: beauty, biblical studies, gospels, johannine literature, judaism, movies/film/tv, theological methodology, theological notebook, von balthasar
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