Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Compelling Stuff

Theologian Robert Jenson taught an intro to Christianity course at Princeton University (not Seminary) last semester. A friend of mine was the preceptor. When he reported to Jenson that one of the students had become a Christian, Jenson's response was a non-chalant, shoulder-shrugging, "It's compelling stuff."

Speaking of which, in his Systematic Theology, Jenson explains that for Thomas Aquinas, God is "not a something, however rarefied or immaterial, but a going-on, a sequentially palpable event, like a kiss or a train wreck. The being of God, said Thomas, is not something actualized but the event of actualization" (Leithart gives the details).

The lack of attention paid to Thomism of late is the perfect set up for recovery, which sensitive expositions like Jenson's will do much to encourage. Thomas explained to me recently that
beautiful things are those which please when seen. Hence beauty consists in due proportion, for the senses delight in things duly proportioned, as in what is after their own kind - because even sense is a sort of reason, just as is every knowing power. (Summa I. 5.4.).
Aesthetic sense as a sort of reason? It seems Aquinas anticipated the "aesthetic truth" of Hans Georg Gadamer (whom Jenson seminarred with at Heidelberg) by approximately seven hundred years. Aesthetic cognition is, thankfully, not a new idea. What's new is its isolation from other, currently less fashionable modes of truth, like doctrine.