Jonathan Edwards described God’s transfer of happiness to man and man’s satisfaction found in the enjoyment of God. Edwards brings together in a most concise manner, the topics of God’s aseity, happiness, goodness, and justice in Inference two of his message:
How good is God, that he has created man for this very end, to make him happy in the enjoyment of himself, the Almighty, who was happy from the days of eternity in himself, in the beholding of his own infinite beauty: the Father in the beholding and love of his Son, his perfect and most excellent image, the brightness of his own glory; and the Son in the love and enjoyment of the Father. And God needed no more, could accede no more. But yet God, who was thus happy in himself, has a natural propensity and inclination to communicate happiness to some other beings. This inclination in the nature of God is what we call goodness. And ’twas because of this inclination that he created the world, and especially that he created men and angels in it. ’Twas not that he might be made more happy himself, but that [he] might make something else happy; that3 he might make them blessed in the beholding of his excellency, and might this way glorify himself. And even the damnation of the wicked is for the manifestation of God’s justice, that he might show more of his excellency to the blessed, to their greater delight in their Godhead. Good, therefore, is God, who does such wondrous things merely from an inclination to goodness.
3 MS: “in the.”
Jonathan Edwards, “Nothing upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729 (ed. Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema; vol. 14; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997), 14153.
In clarifying the notion of doing theology (particularly in relation to aesthetics) Hans Urs von Balthasar suggests,
…no theological perception is possible outside the lux tuae claritatis and outside the grace that allows us to see, a grace which already belongs objectively to rapture and which subjectively may be said at least to initiate man’s transport to God. In theology, there are no ‘bare facts’ which, in the name of an alleged objectivity of detachment, disinterestedness and impartiality, one could establish like any other worldly facts, without oneself being (both objectively and subjectively) gripped so as to participate in the divine nature (participatio divinae naturae). For the object with which we are concerned is man’s participation in God which, from God’s perspective, is actualized as ‘revelation’ (culminating in Christ’s God manhood) and which, from man’s perspective, is actualized as ‘faith’ (culminating in participation in Christ’s God manhood). This double and reciprocal ekstasis—God’s ‘venturing forth’ to man and man’s to God—constitutes the very content of dogmatics, which may thus rightly be presented as a theory of rapture: the admirabile commercium et conubium between God and man in Christ as Head and Body.
If this is true, Balthasar asserts that there is a remaining intrinsic connection between fundamental theology and dogmatic theology. Fundamental theology is not left behind, but
the facts of revelation are perceived initially in the light of grace, and faith grows in such a way that it allows the self-evidence of these factsto continue to unfold according to its own laws and principles. In this manner, through the growth of the mysteries of faith, for which I can provide no evidence of my own, the image in which God initially appeared and illumined me deepens and acquires traits that reveal new and even deeper aspects of its rightness.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics I: Seeing the Form (trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 122.
Zordan and Knauss provide an intriguing solution to what they describe as an impasse between theology and aesthetics because, “On the one hand, it is all too tempting to use art as a simple appendix to, or illustration of, theological concepts, or to limit aesthetic-theological reflections to an enumeration of religious motifs in artworks. On the other hand, aesthetics and art theory appear hesitant to appreciate a religious dimension of arts, insisting on the separation of cultural and religious spheres.”
What would be needed to move out of this impasse and define better the relationship between aesthetics and theology? On the part of theology, it would be helpful to appropriate a concept of truth that is neither purely objective nor subjective: An idea of truth as practice that emerges from the human experience of faith. On the part of aesthetics, an equal atten- tion for the experiential aspect would be required that contributes to the development of a theory of feeling. It is fundamental therefore to shift from an idea of art as an object, a “work” that can be taken and studied or theorized objectively and independently of context, perspective or situation, and instead to focus on the relationship between artist, work, and recipient as an ongoing process of creation and co-creation in reception, in interaction with their respective contexts and situations. Thus, in order to respond appropriately to the challenge of art understood as such an experiential, situated process, theology has to become a foundational theology that is not looking for “proofs” of God’s existence in art or culture, but rather that is open to discover the “traces” of a God who has always already passed, traces that can be found in all spheres of human existence and experience.
To make this happen, the authors suggest that, “aesthetics will have to redefine its own specificities: for one, as a theory of aisthesis, of sensory perception, so as not to fall back into a mere philosophy of art; also as a reflection of the dimension of practice, in the sense of production and reception; and finally, as a new evaluation of the pure materiality of the work.”
Zordan, Davide, and Stefanie Knauss. “Following the Traces of God in Art: Aesthetic Theology as Foundational Theology Following the Traces of God in Art: Aesthetic Theology as Foundational Theology : An Introduction.” Cross Currents: The Journal of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life 63, no. 1 (2013): 4-8.
The multiplication of conceptual distinctions has led to the emergence of the different theological sciences from the total life of the divine in mankind and these sciences have grown strong.… They have lost sight of the universal and have been cut off from the living root.… How many manuals of dogmatic and moral theology could we pick up without finding in them any inkling of religion? How far histories of the Church are from the heavenly flame that should penetrate everything with its light! In our many theologies, we find everything except what their name calls for. They resemble the dead heaps of stones that were left over after the destruction of the holy Temple. The soul which God fills has shut itself off, and those who have the key of knowledge, instead of going into the soul, clutter the entrance to it with all kinds of vain trifles’
René de Chateaubriand. His Génie du Christianisme (1802) I:322–323.
Even at the advent of the enlightenment, scholars and philosophers alike had noticed the widening gap between theology and philosophy as distinct sciences. It was like Chateaubriand knew the inevitable was coming…
I thought Augustine’s meditation on God from Soliloquies was an appropriate meditation for me this Sunday:
O God, who from nothing hast created this world which every eye sees to be most beautiful. …O God, the Father of Truth, the Father of Wisdom, Father of True and Supreme Life, Father of Happiness, Father of the Good and the Beautiful, Father of Intelligible Light, Father of our watching and our enlightenment, Father of the covenant by which we are admonished to return to Thee. I call upon Thee, O God the Truth, in whom and by whom and through whom all those things are true. O God, Wisdom, in whom and by whom and through whom all those are wise who are wise. O God, True and Supreme Life, in whom and by whom and through whom all those things live which truly and perfectly live. O God, Happiness, in whom and by whom and through whom all those things are happy which are happy. O God, the Good and the and beautiful which are good and beautiful. O God, Intelligible Light, in whom and by whom and through whom all those things which have intelligible light have their intelligible light.
 Source: The Fathers of the Church, Saint Augustine, The Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil, trans. Robert P. Russell, OSA, and Soliloquies, trans. Thomas F. Gilligan, OSA, New York, CIMA Publishing Co. Inc., 1948, para. 2 and 3, pp. 344-5.
Wolterstorff provides a good concise summary of his view on the justice of God. He masterfully unites the concept of justice with the character of God and notion of human value.
Wolterstorff’s summary of Justice in his chapter “Justice of God” in For faith and clarity (2006), 197:
Justice is constituted of normative social relationships. Primary justice reigns when the rights of persons to the actions and restraints from action of others are honored. A person is just insofar as he or she honors the rights of others to actions and restraints from action on his or her part. A person enjoys justice insofar as others honor his or her rights to actions and restraints from action on their part. The charge that rights are individualistic makes no sense; rights are inherently social. Likewise the charge that rights are egoistic makes no sense; the very existence of the other places claims upon me. Equally senseless is the insistence one sometimes hears that we should think in terms of obligations rather than rights. If rights go, most obligations go.
To praise God for his justice is to praise God for honoring the rights of his creatures. God does not violate us. God does not treat us with disrespect for our worth. It would be perplexing indeed if God did. For we have the intrinsic worth we do have on account of being created thus by God. [emphasis mine]
One the other hand, God has the right to be honored. We do not honor God as we should. God has the right to be obeyed. We do not obey God as we should. We wrong God, deprive God of what he has a right to. God is victim of our injustice.
If God is wronged, then God is not impassible. That will lead some to conclude that God cannot be wronged. But I take divine forgiveness to be at the heart of the Christian gospel. And if God forgives, then God is not only capable of being wronged but has in fact been wronged. To say it one more time: one can forgive someone only if that person has wronged one and only for the wrong he has done one.