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Book Review—Saving Beauty: A Theological Aesthetics of Nature by Kathryn B. Alexander
by Nathan Michon
A 2013 graduate of the GTU (PhD in systematic theology) and associate rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, Kathryn B. Alexander takes us on a beautiful journey in her recent book, Saving Beauty: A Theological Aesthetics of Nature (Fortress, 2014). The book, based on her dissertation, examines “the experience of natural beauty as a source of religious insight.” Alexander outlines representative figures in the history of Christian thought who discuss the relationship between natural beauty and soteriology. She then explores theological aesthetics, which seek to “affirm the human capacity to know and love God as Beauty through experiences of the beautiful.” She looks particularly at the work of Josiah Royce and further develops his ideas of religious insight stemming from nature. Alexander also surveys the art of Andy Goldsworthy, whose work with found objects in nature explores themes of transience between creation and destruction, as well as the captivating tension between human and divine creation. Finally, Alexander draws out her theological aesthetics of nature, which emphasizes the role of beauty in our own ecological age.
Through the course of this volume, Alexander not only provides an understanding of the bond between nature and salvation, but also attempts to discover what might provoke redemptive responses to ecological devastation. This vital contribution to ecological theology is both academically stimulating and socially inspiring in a way that is sure to stir your mind and soul.