Thursday, September 04, 2014

“The mandate to create includes a mandate to display the glory of God”

Human beings have an aesthetic need built into their being…
Stephen Wolfe works to define a Groundwork for a Reformed Theology of Public Aesthetics.
How one ought to love one’s neighbor is the subject of much discussion in Christianity.... What is often left out in these discussions is the aesthetic demands of loving one’s neighbor. We always ask, what ought we do? or what ought we think? But why not the question, how ought things look? Following much modernist thought, Reformed Christians have separated the aesthetic from the ethical and, I submit, the Gospel. We have come to believe that only ideas are formative of character, virtue, and holiness in a community. My contention in this post is that human beings—as created beings meant to belong in creation—have an aesthetic need built into their being. I also argue that loving one’s neighbor includes seeking to fulfill this aesthetic need through proper community and town/city development. In addition, I argue that the modern view of nature as something other than and separate from man is problematic and must be rejected.

We should keep in mind that the Son of God did not come to earth simply to show the way of righteousness, or even just to bear the sins of humankind. He came to restore creation and finish the work that God set for Adam. To love God and to love man is not simply to fulfill a set of disconnected ethical demands, but to work toward the original intent of creation, namely, to build beautiful and harmonious communities that express a love for God and each other. The ultimate demand of God for humankind is a unity of the aesthetic and the ethical. We are not simply to love, but to love with beauty….

This is an important concept because, as he says, “Reformed theology rejects the nature/grace dualism of medieval theology. This theology, made explicit by Thomas Aquinas, states that even prior to sin, nature required a superadded feature, namely, grace in order to keep it from falling. In other words, nature did not have an original integrity; it required an addition supernatural category to remain away from corruption.”

On the contrary, Genesis relates in many places that God’s creation was “good”, “good”, and “very good”. As I’ve related earlier:

The typical Reformed understanding is that Adam was created upright, or righteous, and that God justified, or declared righteous, the initial creation as well as man in his declaration that everything was “very good” (Gen 1:31). We see the Westminster Larger Catechism (q. 17) echo this point when it states that God created man in “righteousness, and holiness, having the law of God written in their hearts, and the power to fulfill it” (John Fesko, in “Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine” Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company, pg 372).

Stephen argues that the goodness, righteousness, and holiness extend to all of creation. “Reformed theology rejected this [Medieval/Thomist] dualism by positing that nature has its own integrity, that it does not require a superadded supernatural category to be good.” Read the entire article here.

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