Thursday, July 06, 2006

There is nothing so capacious as a fugue

Robert Jenson has emerged as one of the few American Systematic Theologians of which we all should pay attention. Hopefully I will be posting a little more on The Triune God (I know, it's ridiculous how much this costs. Shop around, you can find better). For now, enjoy an excerpt from the last few pages.

"One transcendental remains: God is beauty; to be God is to be enjoyable. In that the triune conversation is righteousness, it is the perfect harmony of the triune communal life. And the harmony of discourse taken for itself is its beauty; more precisely, its music.

The necessary doctrine here is analogous to that about God’s truth and goodness and need not be developed at length; God’s beauty also is not a dispositional property, waiting for our action, in this instance for our enjoyment. God’s beauty is the actual living exchange between Father, Son, and Spirit, as this exchange is perfect simply as exchange, as it sings. The harmony of the Father, son, and Spirit, the triune perichoiresis, transcends its character as goodness because it has no purpose beyond itself, being itself God. And the harmony of a discourse thus taken for itself and for the sake of itself, is its beauty, its aesthetic entity.

Correspondingly, our enjoyment of God is that we are taken into the triune singing. Perhaps we may say we are allowed to double the parts. And here too we must insist on concreteness. That the proclamation and prayer of the church regularly bursts into beauty, indeed seems to insist on music and choreography and setting, is not an adventitious hankering to decorate. A congregation singing a hymn of praise to the Father is doubling the Son’s praise, and the surge of rhythm and melody is the surge of the Spirit’s glorification of the Father and the Son […]

[…] All such beauty of the creation, now or in the Kingdom, is constituted by ‘sweet mutual consents’ with the persons of the Trinity, the supreme Harmony of all. Thus the holiness of god himself is a ‘sweet conjunction’ of greatness and mercy, with nothing in it but what is ‘ravishingly lovely’ […]

[…] To conclude, we may invoke Thomas’ maxim a last time: the discourse that is God is not other than its sheer occurrence as the divine perichoresis. Therefore the discourse that is God may be thought of not only as singing but even as ‘pure’ music. It is the peculiarity of the aesthetic that in apprehending beauty we abstract from the content of discourse without becoming abstract in our understanding. God, we may thus say, is a melody. And as there are three singers who take each their part, as further specification suggests itself: the melody is fugued.

We must note what has just happened. The apprehension of God as beauty, in its concrete abstraction, has led us to another proposition of the same character as those in the preceding chapter, in which we sad that God is an event, a person, a decision, and a conversation. The phrase ‘the one God’ directs us finally to the sheer perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and that is to their communal music. We close the doctrine of God with this evocation of God’s being, beyond which there is no more to say: God is a great fugue. There is nothing so capacious as a fugue."

Robert W. Jenson

1 comment:

Eric Lee said...

Hey Scott,

If you're interested, I can send you an essay I wrote on the Trinity that was a research paper of sorts on Rahner's Trinity, Robert Jenson's The Triune God, and David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite. I still need to make some corrections to it, so if you're interested and give me a nudge or two, I can send it over your way. e-mail me at ... I'd love to hear your input.