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The Father of Lights

A Theology of Beauty

series: Theology for the Life of the World

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"Every good giving and every perfect gift is from on high, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). This verse conveys a powerful image of God as the source and referent of all beauty. This book demonstrates how the experience of beauty is related to our inherent longing for the God who is reflected in such moments. Richly informed by Junius Johnson's expertise on Bonaventure and von Balthasar, the book offers a robust, full-orbed theology of beauty, showing how it has functioned as a theological concept from biblical times to the present day.


Part 1: The Encounter with Beauty
1. Eternity in Our Hearts: Memory, Beauty, and Divinity
2. The Eyes of Faith: Contuition and Spiritual Vision
3. Beauty and Analogy
Part 2: The Meaning of Beauty
4. Word and Concept: The Nature of Language
5. Concept Squared: The Nature of Metaphor
6. Res and Concept: Things as Signs
7. Res Sacramenti: The Nature of Sacraments
8. Radiant Res: Icons and Ecstasy


"'The beauty of holiness' has long been a familiar phrase with a somewhat elusive meaning. With a combination of scholarly precision and infectious relish for the theological task, Junius Johnson gives a new clarity to this phrase. Beauty is interpreted as the manifestation of a sanctity whose fullness we both remember and anticipate as we encounter a world of creatures densely, dazzlingly, and divinely interconnected."

Ben Quash, professor of Christianity and the arts and director of the Centre for Arts and the Sacred, King's College London

"In theological aesthetics the lineaments of Thomistic thought have long been most formative, but now, in this rich, closely argued, and admirably synthetic work of theological aesthetics, Junius Johnson has contributed a powerful adequation of St. Bonaventure's conception of beauty--both as gift from the Father of Lights and as illumination leading back to him. Beauty rightly perceived--that is, in a necessarily subjective appropriation of objective reality--enables a fuller understanding of God, in Bonaventure's term a 'contuition.' We are simultaneously dazzled by beauty in the world and by beauty's Giver. Johnson's thoughtful book, conversing as it does with the likes of von Balthasar, Baudrillard, Barthes, and Ouspensky, is brimming with insight, a remarkably fruitful excursus in philosophical theology in which many will find worthy treasures."

David Lyle Jeffrey, FRSC, distinguished senior fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion; emeritus distinguished professor of literature and the humanities, Baylor University

"Johnson's work is an illuminating meditation on the experience of beauty and that experience's implications for the world of theology."

Anne M. Carpenter, associate professor of theology, St. Mary's College of California

"Junius Johnson is easily one of the smartest, most creative, most learned theologians of his generation. Johnson controls all the relevant literature, both theological and theoretical. As an artist in his own right, he has an insider's feel for the topic. And he brings a rare combination of intelligence, insight, and perceptiveness to this material. Most of my students will be interested in this book and so will many people I go to church with. I strongly and enthusiastically recommend it."

Kevin W. Hector, associate professor of theology and of the philosophy of religions, University of Chicago Divinity School

"It is rare to find such a lucid, and indeed beautiful, account of the theology of beauty. The terms are well defined, the argument precisely advanced and defended, and the range of reference capacious. It's as though, amid a modern debate that has generated more heat than light, one of the classic theologians of the Scholastic period has stepped into the room and brought us at last some clarity, definition, and order."

Malcolm Guite, author of Faith, Hope and Poetry; life fellow of Girton College, Cambridge

The Author

  1. Junius Johnson

    Junius Johnson

    Junius Johnson (PhD, Yale University) is a scholar and writer whose work focuses on historical and philosophical theology. He offers direct teaching over Zoom to adults and younger students through Junius Johnson Academics and is the author of several books,...

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