Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Resolution

Most of it goes over my head, but when I read a paragraph or two of David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite that I understand, the book becomes not only a book about the beauty of this Infinite God but a book which witnesses to that very beauty by its form and style and flourish. If I have learned one thing during 2012 it is this: don't take Monopoly Deal too seriously. But if I have learned something else, it's this: the superficial, the surface, is the real. Truth is not something you get to by stripping away the outer layers and finding that pristine, untainted kernel buried within. In other words, truth is not private; it is not invisible; it is not "nowhere". It is public, visible, revealed on the tips of tongues and in bodily gestures, in habits and practices. It is, one might say, skin deep, but in a different way to the usual meaning of that phrase. When Jesus says that "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks", I take it that this is precisely what he's getting at.*

My New Year's resolution, therefore, is to become more superficial. I want, in the words of Terrence Malick, to "notice the glory." To say that true beauty comes from within can easily mean sacrificing the physical for the spiritual. To paraphrase Fletcher Reede, that's just something gnostic people say. What Christianity offers is an order of vision that sees, most definitively in the form of a bloodied and humiliated Jew, the glory of the Creator reflected in his transfigured creation, "Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his/ To the Father through the features of men's faces."

I began writing this post not to declare any resolutions, however, but to jot down a quote from another book on theological aesthetics: Towards a Theology of Beauty by Fr. John Navone. In it he writes this:

We live in need of a completion that we can only receive, and it is through the endless forms of God's self-giving love that we receive it.

To repeat my quote from Brueggemann in an earlier post, the basic posture of the human before God is, "You give, we receive." That is the thrust of the Lord's prayer. The phrase "endless forms of God's self-giving love" is a reminder that God has not stopped (and will not stop) giving.

* "Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart" appears to pose something of a problem here, but I'm going to conveniently skip over that verse for now.


  1. I do not know your stand on G.W.Hegel's philosophy but not that it matters here. He is attributed to have said,'a great person command others to tell of himself' and I must say evertime I read your Spiritual reflections am left encouraged! If no one will have anything to do with your theology I can take you home and show you a bunch that might benefit from it! Kudos Dec!

  2. In the spirit of my theological education, I read a book about Hegel, but I've yet to read anything by Hegel himself!

    Anyway, thank you for the invitation to Kenya. I am honoured to be given the opportunity to finally set Africa straight!

  3. Hahaha that is a typical Westerner assertion!!Sort them out!! On a serious note am not a keen follower of many theologians as you already know for one single reason, Africanness is never acknowledged on many philosophical discourses and whenever it rears it head on the radar screens you know what usually happens don't you? My advice please don't take some of them too serious for they lack Catholicism!!