A Theology of Beauty

"Beauty is a summons. It begins with the most vulnerable part of ourselves, bypassing our sophistication, training, and habituation to reach that inmost point from which we know ourselves to be creatures and to be under authority. But it touches that place graciously, not in judgment; and so, rather than finding ourselves terrified before a truth we have hidden from for so long, we find ourselves romanced by a desire we can never seem to shake."

from The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty, p. 194

"Beauty is an idea whose attractiveness is as immediately apparent as the attractiveness of those things that are called beautiful. The sense of beauty--that is to say, the feeling that some things are beautiful--seems to be universal, and the commitment of each person to the value of beautiful things precedes any argumentation or justification. More than the good or the true or the just or the useful, we exhibit an allegiance to the beautiful that declares that we think its value self-evident."

With these words I began my book The Father of Lights: A Theology of Beauty. Those words were the beginning of deep and personally satisfying reflection on beauty from a theological standpoint. But they were also the culmination of years of ruminating on this topic and my own experience.

I desired to say true and illuminating things about the experiences that have so shaped my life, that so shaped the life of someone like C.S. Lewis, with whom I so deeply resonate, that must, I believe, deeply shape the lives of every man and woman coming into the world.

In this course, you will have the opportunity to join me as I re-walk that path. We will read the book together, and I will point to important sign-posts along the way. You will have a chance to ask your questions directly of the author, and to enjoy conversation with like-minded individuals around a topic of deep interest not just to artists and philosophers, but to every lover of beauty of whatever sort.

January 10 - March 14, 2022
Mondays, 7:30 - 9:30 pm Central time

registration deadline January 7, 2022

$500 / student

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Here is a taste of some of the discussions we will have:

Week One: Introduction: Understanding the question of Beauty
Week Two: Eternity in Our Hearts: Memory, Beauty, and Divinity
Week Three: The Eyes of Faith: Contuition and Spiritual Vision
Week Four: Word and Concept: The Nature of Language
Week Five: Concept Squared: The Nature of Metaphor
Week Six: Res and Concept: Things as Signs
Week Seven: Res Sacramenti: The Nature of Sacraments
Week Eight: Radiant Res: Icons and Ecstasy
Week Nine: Postscript
Week Ten: Wrap-up Discussion

  • It is rare to find such a lucid, and indeed beautiful, account of the theology of beauty. The terms are well defined, the argument precisely advanced and defended, and the range of reference capacious. It's as though, amid a modern debate that has generated more heat than light, one of the classic theologians of the Scholastic period has stepped into the room and brought us at last some clarity, definition, and order.

  • "The beauty of holiness" has long been a familiar phrase with a somewhat elusive meaning. With a combination of scholarly precision and infectious relish for the theological task, Junius Johnson gives a new clarity to this phrase. Beauty is interpreted as the manifestation of a sanctity whose fullness we both remember and anticipate as we encounter a world of creatures densely, dazzlingly, and divinely interconnected.

  • Junius Johnson has contributed a powerful adequation of St. Bonaventure's conception of beauty--both as gift from the Father of Lights and as illumination leading back to him. [...] Johnson's thoughtful book [...] is brimming with insight, a remarkably fruitful excursus in philosophical theology in which many will find worthy treasures.

  • Johnson's work is an illuminating meditation on the experience of beauty and that experience's implications for the world of theology.

  • Junius Johnson is easily one of the smartest, most creative, most learned theologians of his generation. Johnson controls all the relevant literature, both theological and theoretical. As an artist in his own right, he has an insider's feel for the topic. And he brings a rare combination of intelligence, insight, and perceptiveness to this material. Most of my students will be interested in this book and so will many people I go to church with. I strongly and enthusiastically recommend it.