In the book, Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art, Richard Viladesau brings up three problem to be contemplated. The first problem is whether God can be imagined. Can we fully imagine God in His fullness? Do we have the appropriate words, thoughts, and ideas to talk and think about God? It is hard to imagine God as He truly is. Nor would we have the words to describe Him. Often times, we imagine God in relation to things that we know in the physical world. Thomas Aquinas explains it perfectly when he wrote that we are able to grasp “not what God is, but what He is not, and the relations of other things to Him”. (1)
The second problem brought about the question of the type of relationship that we have with God. Are we capable of resolving our needs with the fullness of God, or His wholeness? We use imagery to try to portray God as he truly is or, at least, how we try to imagine Him. We tend to depict God as a fatherly figure, but those images do not represent God’s transcendence. When we use imagery to help us imagine God, do we begin to worship the image instead of God? Are we in danger of falling into idolatry? True worship keeps its focus on God with imagery only being used to assist our imagination.
The final issue is how we relate God with art and beauty. Does our imagery of God show the beauty of God and His greatness? Are we successful in showing God and God’s revelation in our imagery? Artists are capable of portraying only what we can imagine or are familiar with. Despite our best efforts, I believe we fail in truly portraying God’s transcendence and God’s Revelation.
These questions relate to theological aesthetics, particularly the questions regarding the first two issues or problems. They relate to how we see God and Faith through our senses and feelings. It looks at how we can use our imaginations as part of our worship of God and all that God has revealed to us. The final issue looks more at the aesthetics itself. Whether artists can portray imagery of Faith in such a way that is truly beautiful. All of the questions from these issues are things that we should take into consideration as we reflect on sacred images and art.
- Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles, 74