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Jonathan Edwards and the Trinitarian Shape of Beauty

Cunningham, John
Format
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Author
Cunningham, John
Advisor
Mathewes, Charles
Jones, Paul
Hart, Kevin
Abstract
This dissertation is a theological analysis of the trinitarian shape of Jonathan Edwards’ aesthetics of beauty. The contributions of this dissertation lie chiefly in three areas. The primary aim of this study is to advance the burgeoning field of the study of Jonathan Edwards by elucidating his views of beauty. In so doing, I present him as a rich source for the theological engagement of beauty, which could serve not only the field of Edwards studies, but also that of theological aesthetics more broadly. Second, this project presents a typology of conceptions of beauty. While Edwards scholarship often notes the importance of beauty in Edwards’ thought, it commonly treats his reflections on beauty topically, e.g., the beauty of the Trinity, the beauty of Christ, the beauty of the church, etc. This work, however, situates Edwards within a tri-dimensional typology of theories of beauty, observing that the majority of the manifold theories of beauty in Western thought fall into one of three morphological classes: 1) ontological, 2) formal, and 3) affective conceptions of the beautiful. Third, this work suggests that Edwards’ aesthetics bear a trinitarian shape and structure offering the latent rudiments of a trinitarian grammar of beauty that, while Edwards does not himself develop, might nonetheless be explored in generative and important ways. Edwards’ theological categories of beauty correspond to the persons of the Trinity: Ontological theories of beauty analogically correspond to the Father, who is traditionally understood as the source of being. There is a homologous relation between the form of beauty and the Son who, as incarnate, took visible and palpable concreteness. Affective conceptions of beauty can be attributed to the Holy Spirit, who has been understood to effect change in human affections. This work consists of five chapters: an introduction, a conclusion, and a chapter analyzing and applying each of the three types of theories of beauty in Jonathan Edwards’ theological aesthetics. The chapters are as follows: Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION; Chapter 2: EDWARDS’ ONTOLOGICAL CONCEPTIONS OF BEAUTY: Beauty and the Self-Communicating God; Chapter 3: EDWARDS’ FORMAL CONCEPTIONS OF BEAUTY: Beauty and the Redemption of Ugliness; Chapter 4: EDWARDS’ AFFECTIVE CONCEPTIONS OF BEAUTY: Beauty, Eros, and Disinterestedness in Aesthetic Conversion; and the concluding Chapter 5: EDWARDS’ TRINITARIAN SHAPE OF BEAUTY: Suggestions for an Edwardsian Trinitarian Aesthetics. The aim of this work, then, is to advance not only the field of Edwards studies, but also that of theological aesthetics more generally by 1) presenting Edwards’ thought as exemplum and endowment for theological aesthetics; 2) providing a typology of three aesthetic horizons, which yields a clarifying schema by which distinct conceptions of beauty may be profitably discussed and analyzed; and 3) by suggesting a trinitarian conception of beauty.
Published
University of Virginia, Department of Religious Studies, PHD, 2015
Published Date
2015-03-23
Degree
PHD
Notes
This dissertation is a theological analysis of the trinitarian shape of Jonathan Edwards’ aesthetics of beauty. The contributions of this dissertation lie chiefly in three areas. The primary aim of this study is to advance the burgeoning field of the study of Jonathan Edwards by elucidating his views of beauty. In so doing, I present him as a rich source for the theological engagement of beauty, which could serve not only the field of Edwards studies, but also that of theological aesthetics more broadly.
Collection
Libra ETD Repository
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