Building on the insights of the ressourcement theology of grace, this sophisticated theological aesthetics offers a fresh vision of the doctrine of creation through a consideration of the beauty of time.
Conventional eschatological accounts of life after death tend to emphasize the discontinuity between earthly life and the hereafter: whereas this life is subject to the contingencies of time, life after death is characterized by a stolid eternity. In contrast to this standard view, John E. Thiel’s Now and Forever articulates a Catholic eschatology in which earthly life and heavenly life are seen as gracefully continuous.
This account offers a reconceptualization of time, which, Thiel argues, is best understood as the sacramental medium of God’s grace to creation. Thiel’s project thus attempts to rescue time from its Platonically negative resonance in the doctrine of creation. Rather than viewing time as the ambiance of sinful dissolution, Thiel argues for a Christian vision of time’s beauty, and so explicitly develops an aesthetics that views time as a creaturely reflection of God’s own Trinitarian life. This thesis proceeds from the assumption that all time is eschatological time and is thus guided by attention to the temporality implicit in the virtue of hope, with its orientation toward a fulfilled future that culminates in resurrected life. This interpretation of the beauty of eschatological time in its widest expanse presses further the insight of ressourcement theology that grace is everywhere, while appreciating how time’s graceful beauty manifests itself in the diversity of temporal moments, human communities, and most fully in the heavenly communion of the saints.
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