Wednesday 24 May 2006

The aesthetic imperative

“It is a feeble view of art that isolates it as a sphere of its own for those who find it amusing. The word and command of God demand art, since it is art that sets us under the word of the new heaven and the new earth. Those who, in principle or out of indolence, want to evade the anticipatory creativity of aesthetics are certainly not good. Finally, in the proper sense, to be unaesthetic is to be immoral and disobedient.”

—Karl Barth, Ethics [lectures from 1928-29], ed. Dietrich Braun (New York: Seabury Press, 1981), p. 510.


Anonymous said...

Now that is an awesome quote. Thanks for sharing it. Just got to find a way to work that into my chapter on the arts.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks for this, Ben.

Eberhard Busch actually concludes The Great Passion: An Introduction to Karl Barth's Theolgy (2004) with this quote, only adding that "It is characteristic of this aesthetic (exemplarily in art and humor) that in 'alien character as play . . . in the midst of the seriousness of the present,' it rehearses the opening scenes of what is to come, and in doing so 'laughs through tears.'"

David W. Congdon said...

I agree, a fantastic quote. Barth's lectures on Ethics are greatly unappreciated.

Chris TerryNelson said...

Yeah Ben, splendid stuff. Garrett Green's presentation at the Barth Society Number 26 led me to believe that Barth had a reticent view on beauty. However, this quote (as well as some others found in Busch's book) have made me rethink this. I'll have to turn to the sections in CD, and find this "unappreciated" volume somewhere. While I don't have Busch's book in front of me, I remember loving something along these lines by Barth: "A person without an imagination is more of an invalid than a person without a leg."

I have a friend who's a Christian doing graduate work in fine arts at the University of Massachusetts here in Amherst. Do you or anyone else have suggestions for books to read that would engage his thinking in theological aesthetics?

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