Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Kent Burreson

Scripture References in this Resource

Romans 1:18-32; Acts 17:26–27; Rom. 3:10–18; Genesis 1-2; Genesis 9:6; 1 Cor. 1:18– 20; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:2b–3; Luke 23:46; Psalm 73:17; Luke 23:46


Nearly everyone agrees with this statement: Beauty is powerful. But what exactly is beauty? Is it objective or subjective? Is beauty bound up with reality, or even the being of God? Or is beauty “nothing but” a social construct, rendering all judgments concerning beauty mere opinion, or else the fruit of culturism? This dissertation examines beauty through the lens of the Lutheran distinction of the Two Kinds of Righteousness. It will enable Christians to account for their experience with beauty by attending to the following three questions: (1) What is beauty? (2) How do we perceive beauty? and (3) How do we participate in beauty? Here it is argued that beauty is essentially fittingness, the creature’s conformation to its God-given role, its alignment with God’s will (also known as the Law). Coram Deo, God makes ugly sinners beautiful by giving them the righteousness (beauty) of His Son. Coram mundo, it is through the relationships into which God has placed us (coram hominibus and coram naturae) that God shapes us into the fitting/beautiful creatures He intends. These relationships are, in fact, God's pro nobis words that continue to mold us. Our perception of beauty stirs in us a desire to participate in it, to commune with it, to give ourselves over for its sake. Such perception depends on the imagination, fueled by kenotic love, governed by God’s story, and shaped by cultural particularity, leading both to continuity and discontinuity concerning what is considered “beautiful” across time and space. This particularity grants different perspectives on being, and thus generates different nuances concerning beauty. Far from reducing beauty to amorphous relativism, however, this only further shows the plenitude of God’s beauty refracted through all being’s manifestations. Finally, it is argued that participation in beauty coram Deo is entirely passive, a gift received by faith. Coram Mundo, however, participation is active. It is the human creature striving (through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) to inhabit ever more fully the beautiful place, the groove, carved out for her by God, which is nothing other than conformation to God’s Law.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.