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A Poetic Theology: What Can Beauty Do for Us?

Dyrness investigates what he calls “the poetic sphere” of human life and its intrinsic value to human flourishing. The response to beauty and the hope of something more to life than merely functioning reflect God’s purposes for us and are meant to drive humans toward the love and worship of the One in whose image we were made. Art, says Dyrness, can be a step in the journey that leads to God.
Augustine drawing
Augustine, the Poet and the Preacher
“So when advocating something to be acted on the Christian orator should not only teach his listeners so as to impart instruction, and delight them so as to hold their attention, but also move them so as to conquer their minds.”

—from De Doctrina Christiana, Augustine of Hippo, 354–430, philosopher and theologian, considered one of the most important figures in Western Christianity.


  1. See Emil Brunner, Man in Revolt: A Christian Anthropology, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1947).
  2. M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas, 1981), 7–11, and pages given in the text.
  3. Augustine, On Christian Teaching, trans. R. P. H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 33.
  4. In this way Nebel’s description of the Protestant tendency to understand aesthetics as an event rather than a substance is misleading, and therefore Balthasar’s dismissal of it premature. See The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1982), 64–70. Aesthetics must be understood as incorporated into a larger process of becoming like Christ.