Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jonathan Edwards for Beauty

"Should Protestants think about this matter deeply, they may be swept into the Balthasarian project, well aware of its Roman end point. [...] Unless of course, Protestants rediscover their barn's blazing, but neglected, fireplace. Beauty is the guiding motif to Jonathan Edwards’ thought, and plays a greater role in his work than even in Balthasar’s or Augustine’s. (Amazingly, Edwards, the great theologian of beauty, makes not a single appearance in Balthasar’s encyclopedic theological aesthetics.)"
"The Neglected Fireplace: Protestantism and the Arts" by Matthew Milliner
This is a good question: why doesn't Balthasar ever write about Jonathan Edwards? I don't think he ever heard much about him. Balthasar was ordained in 1936, and I doubt that much was known about Edwards in Europe. In Gerald McDermott's collection of essays, Understanding Jonathan Edwards, Wolter H. Rose recounts: 
"I do not remember finding out about Jonathan Edwards when I studied theology in the Netherlands some twenty years ago [2009-20=1989]. Maybe he was there, somewhere in a footnote, and I missed him. Then, some ten years later, I saw his name coming up in a number of contexts. Some scholars gave him staggering accolades. 'Typically American,' as continental Europeans would say. The idea that an American minister of the eighteenth century would do theology, let alone creative theology that still deserved our attention more than two hundred years later, seemed preposterous" (87).
And Rose is a Reformed theologian – not a priest formed by the Jesuits like Balthasar. Balthasar discussed theology with Karl Barth, and apparently Barth didn't introduce Balthasar to Edwards either.

It's great that Matthew Milliner is all for Edwards, after all Edwards is an American genius. But I also would like to hear a bit more from Protestant scholars about Hamman, the one Protestant theologian whom Balthasar discusses in his Theological Aesthetics.

[I meant to post this here, but put it up over at Deep Furrows first]
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