“Beauty is that which allows desire to turn into knowledge. All human beings are desiring something. Which means, of course, that love is very much bound up with the act of knowing. That goes against what we’re typically conditioned to think: if I’m supposed to know something, I can’t love it; I have to bracket out all of my desire for it. . . . But in the tradition of the theology of beauty you can’t ever eliminate love and desire from the act of knowing, because we always have an invested interest in objects we want to know. We’re always drawn to them for some reason. And the principle that draws us to them, that attracts us to objects we want to know, is beauty.”
Interview with Brendan Sammon,
conducted by Wipf & Stock,
Brendan Sammon is a professor of systematic and historical theology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he’s been teaching since 2013. He’s also the author of two very good theological aesthetics books. It’s a mark of how well he’s internalized his subject that he’s able to cover so much territory in this 40-minute interview about the theology of beauty. If you want to introduce the subject of the theology of beauty to a group of people for whom it’s a new topic, you could do worse than play this interview, pausing after each question to talk about Sammon’s answer. It would be especially helpful in a class where you’re using one of his books as a text.
Sammon’s two books on the theology of beauty are The God Who is Beauty: Beauty as a Divine Name in Thomas Aquinas and Dionysius the Areopagite (Pickwick, 2013) and Called to Attraction: An Introduction to the Theology of Beauty (Cascade, 2017). Look for resource posts on each of these soon.