St. John’s University, Queens Campus, Spring 2019

Section 12713: 10:40am - 1:30pm Wed, Classroom St. John Hall 304B

Dr. Matthew Lewis Sutton

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Office: St. John’s University, Queens Campus, St. John’s Hall B20–27

Student Hours: Wed 10-10:30am, Tue 12:00-2:30pm, or by appointment

718.990.5052 | | | @doctorsutton

Your Course Website:

Undergraduate Bulletin: “Prerequisite: THE 1000C. Does not satisfy St. John’s University Core requirements. An in-depth study of particular theological subjects under the guidance of a member of the Theology faculty. Required for Theology majors, and open to Theology minors. Credit: 3 semester hours.”

The seminar focuses on the relationship between created beauty and divine presence. Together, we will examine the foundational questions of theological aesthetics:

What is beauty? Can a created thing have transcendence inherent within it? What is the proper encounter with created beauty? Is there a holiness of beauty and a beauty of holiness?

As a final project, students will creatively apply these foundational ideas in an interdisciplinary way that will develop insights into the relationships between beauty's immanence and transcendence.

The student will also see that theologies of beauty affect how Christians interpret the world, the human person, and culture. In addition, the student will be challenged to evaluate intellectually the future of the Christianity and culture in the twenty-first century.

By the conclusion of the course, you should be able:

  • to articulate (in writing and speaking) a knowledge of Christian and secular understandings of the nature of beauty
  • to analyze critically scripture and other theological texts pertaining to the theologies of beauty
  • to appreciate intellectually central theological beliefs that are foundational for Christianity’s reflection on beauty
  • to express the issues facing the Church in the postmodern age and appreciate Christianity’s place within developing culture in the twenty-first century

Course Texts: Required:

Acquired by Student

  • Bible, must be an appropriate translation for academic work, such as the RSV, NRSV, NAB, NABre, NIV, ESV, NKJV. (recommended translation The Ignatius Bible (Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition). Second Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780898708349 Paperback or Kindle . If you have questions, see me.
  • Crouch, Andy. Culture Making : Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2008. ISBN: 9780830837557 Paperback or Kindle
  • Fujimura, Makoto. Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2017. ISBN: 9780830845033 Paperback or Kindle
  • Lev, Elizabeth. How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-622826-124 Paperback
  • Lewis, C.S. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. New York: Mariner Books, 1956. ISBN: 978-0156904360 Paperback or Kindle

Provided by Professor

  • Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Back Bay Books, 1969. ISBN: 978-0-316-34151-6 Paperback or Kindle
  • John Paul II. To Artists. April 23, 1999.
  • Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr "Nobel Lecture," 1970.
  • Wolfe, Gregory. Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books Intercollegiate Studies, 2011. ISBN: 978-1610171007 Paperback or Kindle. Selections.

Course Structure:

Three learning units structure the course. The first unit exams the nature of beauty given the upheavals in philosophical world views that have occurred in the reformation, modern, and postmodern ages. We will attempt to trace the way of recovery toward an authentic theology of beauty in this present context. The second unit will exam beauty in the arts by thinking about beauty in ancient and modern literature. The third unit will begin to help the student think through the possibilities of beauty as culture making and the role of Christianity in this cultural production. This final unit will provide you with the opportunity to think about the future of Christianity in its third millennium. These three learning units will have assignments and assessments designed to give you an initial mastery of Christian understandings about the Church.

Learning Assessment:

In this course, you can earn a total of 100 points. You earn these points by successfully completing the following:

  • Class Participation and active engagement = 14 points
  • Encountering Beauty Assignment Sheets = 26 points (2 points each)
  • Occasion of Joy Minor Paper on the Nature of Beauty = 10 points
  • Occasion of Joy Minor Paper on Beauty in the Arts = 15 points
  • Occasion of Happiness Research Paper on Beauty = 25 points
  • Final Project of Cultural Creation = 10 points

Grading Scale:

A = 100 - 93 points (100 - 93%); A- = 92 - 90 points (92 - 90 %); B+ = 89 - 87 points (89 - 87%); B = 86 - 83 points (86 - 83%); B- = 82 - 80 points (82 - 80%); C+ = 79 - 77 points (79 - 77%); C = 76 - 73 points (76 - 73%); C- = 72 - 70 points (72 - 70%); D+ = 69 - 67 points (69 - 67%); D = 66 - 60 points (66 - 60%); F = 59 - 0 points (59 - 0%)

We are at our best when:

  • We act with Academic Integrity, which means no plagiarism, no cheating, no damaging of other people’s work, and no assisting someone else’s dishonesty. Plagiarism is the act of appropriating and using the ideas, writings, or works of another person as your own without giving proper citation to the person who created it. I will follow the university’s procedure for plagiarism and discipline to the highest extent allowable, which can include an “F” for this course and the act of plagiarism noted in your academic file. Any further offenses entail suspension or expulsion.
  • We are Actively Engaged with each other. As a student, you must attend class regularly, attentively, and promptly with readings and assignments completed. As a professor, I must be available to you for encouraging and guiding you to excel in your education. St. John’s College mandates “Regular and prompt attendance is expected of all students and is an individual student’s responsibility. Absence from class does not excuse a student from any work missed. There is no penalty for absence from class considered in itself. Students are, however, responsible for all announced exams and for submitting all assignments given in class at the proper time. Ignorance of such exams and assignments is not an acceptable excuse for failure to complete them.”
  • You are Responsible for Everything said in class. You are responsible for getting class notes from another student. Only after you have received and read those notes can you contact me with further questions about the class.
  • We do not use any Digital Devices inappropriately during class time such as cell phones, text messaging, mp3 players, tablets, or laptops. If you do not follow this policy, you will not be able to earn participation points for the class meeting. If it continues to be a problem, your overall point total will be reduced according to the severity of your lack of engagement.
  • We turn in our Assignments and Papers promptly as directed by the professor. Even if you are absent, you are still responsible for turning in your assignments by the beginning of class or as directed. If your assignment is late, your grade for that assignment will be lowered at least by 10% for each day that it is late. Your grade will continue to be lowered to zero at my discretion until it is submitted.
  • We attend Prepared for all Exams and the Final Cumulative Exam and these should not be missed. If you cannot attend an exam, you must consult me in advance and receive clear approval from me. No make-up exams will be given unless you receive clear approval beforehand or as determined by me. Since the dates of the exams are clearly communicated to you, it is unlikely that you will receive approval.
  • We learn because We Are Human and we desire to know the truth about the divine, the world, and ourselves. We strive for Excellence without Excuses.