Review: John Navone’s “Toward a Theology of Beauty”


In my attempt at writing shorter and more frequent posts (rather than feeling the burden to produce daily meaty posts), I thought I’d put up this little review of a little book (91 pages) I just finished called Toward a Theology of Beauty by John Navone (1996, The Liturgical Press).  I had originally started reading it for the Beauty message I gave, but I never finished it.  As time went by, though, the things I had read in this book began creeping back into my thoughts, so I decided to finish it, and let me tell you, that was a good call.

This is an incredible book. I’m still in awe of it. It seizes your soul and takes it to the highest realms of the mind and heart of the Beautiful Triune God. I have almost an entire journal filled with notes I have taken form this book.  I will look over these notes often for years to come, to let myself get swept away by the ideas present here.  Navone doesn’t have progressive outline, so it’s difficult to lay out exactly everything he talks about.  The best thing one could do is shoot over to the Amazon.com page for the book and “Look inside” to peer at the Table of Contents for his topics.  Suffice it to say, the book is theologically comprehensive.  It doesn’t answer many of the more practical questions we may have about art, human beauty, and such, but it does help in a much greater understanding of the more ethereal and abstract realities of Beauty, especially as it originates in and delights God Himself.

I guess my only critique is a common one I had with most things I read during my preparation.  It assumes the validity, and authority of ancient Greek philosophy, especially the distinction between the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  He uses this Hellenistic concept throughout.  Many things I read used this “trinitarian” framework to shape and organize their thoughts.  I don’t know how valid this is and I would argue this limits us in many ways.  but this is minor, and doesn’t really take away from the wonder and awe of this book.

Navone is a Catholic theologian, and if I learned one thing from reading this book, it’s that Catholics understand Beauty in a way that only 2,000 years of thought and reflection can provide. We Protestants can learn a lot from our Catholic brothers and sisters. Heck, after reading this, I’m practically Catholic now myself.

Navone’s writing is beautiful, his thoughts profound, and theology rich. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to increase their worship of a Beautiful Transcendent God.