Skip to content

Arts and Spirituality

The Holy Spirit, Ethics, and Aesthetics: Beauty and the Beautifier in Moral Theology, Art, and Rhetoric

When: June 8, 2023, 3:30 pm - Thursday

Where: Baylor Seminar Room

Session 5

Session Abstract

What is Beauty?  Where does it come from?  Is it related to or in competition with God? How ought we to think about it, pursue it, and draw on it in our moral lives and our ministry?  The “Holy Spirit, Ethics, and Beauty” session explores theology, philosophy, literature, and the visual arts within a pneumatological frame.  This session features shorter paper presentations followed by discussion between contributors and a Q&A period to follow.  Presentations focus on the role of the Spirit in philosophy, poetry, painting, virtue ethics, and creative constructive theology.

Paper Abstracts

Mac Sandlin, Harding University, “Riddling Towards the Spirit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness”

Emily Dickinson advises her readers to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”  This paper takes seriously her instruction and explores the ways that riddles and other forms of “sideways speech” function.  Drawing on Scripture, theology, linguistic philosophy, and literature, I recommend a riddling approach which helpfully shapes Pneumatology, ethics, and aesthetics and which might help us develop eyes to see and ears to hear “the Truth’s superb surprise.”  Some of the major figures with whom I interact include Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Cora Diamond, and Stanley Hauerwas.


Leonard Allen, Lipscomb University, “Where the Beauty Came From”

Roger Scruton called beauty an “ultimate value”—something we pursue for its own sake. Alongside truth and goodness, beauty is one of this trio of ultimate values. I grew up in a church tradition that valued truth and goodness but in which beauty had no intentional place. The pursuit of beauty was associated with refinement, excess, and wealth. A vital part of my Christian journey has been a theology of beauty. This brief presentation will narrate my discovery and summarize this theology—a theology rooted in the Trinity, with Christ as the exemplar and the Holy Spirit as the beautifier.


Matthew Love, Baylor University, “Preaching with Beautiful Words: George Herbert and the Beautiful Sermon”

Christian preaching has a troubled history with rhetoric. This is hardly surprising since Christians—generally speaking—have often struggled with the role of human-created beauty for the church. Although many have felt uneasy about the intentional reliance on eloquence in preaching, the fact of the matter is preaching needs beautiful words in order to preach a beautiful gospel. Preaching is hospitable—not inimical—to beautiful speech. An exemplar of beautiful Christian speech is poet-preacher George Herbert. This paper discusses the role of beauty in preaching, and turns to Herbert, most of all, for a window into using words well.


Tessa Davidson, Harding University, Convener

  • Mac Sandlin, Harding University, “Riddling Towards the Spirit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness”
  • C. Leonard Allen, Lipscomb University, “Where the Beauty Came From”
  • Matthew Love, Baylor University, “Preaching with Beautiful Words: George Herbert and the Beautiful Sermon”

Join us in 2024!

1 / 5

James Cone with conferee at the CSC in 2017

2 / 5

Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson delivering the CSC plenary address

3 / 5

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), delivering the CSC plenary address.

4 / 5

US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivering the CSC plenary address

5 / 5

David Brooks engaging conferees during breakfast at the CSC

Mark Your Calendar

September 5, 2023

Mark your calendar for the 2024 Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars Conference June 5-7, 2024 Hosted by the Lanier Theological Library and...

N.T. Wright to return as featured speaker in 2024

November 13, 2023

Dr. N.T. Wright, fellow at the University of Oxford and one of the most important New Testament scholars of our day, will join us again for ...

McCaulley to deliver Gray Plenary

November 13, 2023

Dr. Esau McCaulley, author and associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, will deliver the eighth annual Fred D. Gray Plenary ...

New York Times columnist, legal scholar David French to deliver 2024 Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference Frank and Della Pack Plenary Lecture

November 13, 2023

Dr. David French, New York Times columnist and distinguished visiting professor of public policy at Lipscomb University, will deliver the&nb...

Site Designed and Developed by 5by5 - A Change Agency