When in the sixth century Dionysius the Areopagite declared beauty to be a name for God, he gave birth to something that had long been gestating in the womb of philosophical and theological thought. In doing so, Dionysius makes one of his most pivotal contributions to Christian theological discourse. It is a contribution that is enthusiastically received by the schoolmen of the Middle Ages, and it comes to permeate the thought of scholasticism in a multitude of ways. But perhaps nowhere is the Dionysian influence more pronounced than in the thought of Thomas Aquinas.
This book examines both the historical development of beauty's appropriation as a name for God in Dionysius and Thomas, and the various contours of what it means. The argument that emerges from this study is that given the impact that the divine name theological tradition has within the development of Christian theological discourse, beauty as a divine name indicates the way in which beauty is most fundamentally conceived in the Christian theological tradition as a theological theme. As a phenomenon of inquiry, beauty proves itself to be enigmatic and elusive to even the sharpest intellects in the Greek philosophical tradition. When it is absorbed within the Christian theological synthesis, however, its enigmatic content proves to be a powerful resource for theological reasoning.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"I warmly recommend Brendon Sammon's impressive contribution to theological aesthetics. The work is engaging, lucid, insightful, and well laid out in fitting structure. It importantly responds to the surprising lack of full treatment of beauty as a divine name. Informed about Greek philosophical sources, it offers a rich narration of beauty as a divine name in the work of Dionysius and Aquinas, also impressively bringing to our attention the crucial place of Dionysius in the thought of Aquinas. Sammon recuperates the metaphysical-theological dimensions of beauty, while not being inattentive to more 'aesthetic' treatments in the post-Kantian mode. The ambiguity he detects in Greek treatments as oscillating between the spiritual and material he sees as more fittingly resolved in the Christian thought of Dionysius and Aquinas where justice can be done to the truth of beauty as a middle between the spiritual and the material, a saturated between. An admirable debut by Sammon with a significant contribution to the field of theological aesthetics." --William Desmond, Villanova University
Brendan Thomas Sammon
Brendan Thomas Sammon received his PhD in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America and is currently an assistant professor of systematic theology at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the author of the forthcoming Theology and Beauty: An Introduction to Theological Aesthetic.