(In)Visibility: Reflections upon Visibility and Transcendence in Theology, Philosophy and the Arts

The content of the book reconsiders the relation between visibility and transcendence. The focus is especially on the contribution to this issue from the theological tradition in protestant Europe between the 16th and the 21st Centuries. In the book a thematically broad field is covered embracing more than five centuries and a plurality of methods drawn from theology, philosophy, and the history and theory of art. The book is divided into five sub-themes: In the first and more fundamental part, ‘The phenomenology of in-visibility’, questions underlying the other four themes are sought defined or narrowed down.

Here the modes of appearing/revealing or hiding of phenomena are reflected. In the second section of the book dealing with ‘Language as a mode of revealing and hiding’ the specific role of verbal expressions understood in a very broad sense is at the core: What is the fundamental understanding and use of language, when speaking of the ineffable? The third section about ‘Human existence between visibility and invisibility’ focuses on theological anthropology: its features and norms.

The ambiguity of anthropological categories such as faith, rationality, imagination, memory and emotion play a prominent role in this context. The fourth section concerning ‘The manifestation of a ‘beyond’ in the arts’ investigates transcendence in the arts. What are the theological discourses behind the religious uses of the different artistic media (i.e. images, music, liturgical inventory, architecture)? Finally in the fifth section concerning ‘Visible community and invisible transcendence’ one finds contributions working with the idea of ‘vicarious representation’.

First off, please note that the link above takes you to a ‘sample’ (the Leseprobe tab) which has a ‘flip book’ with the volume’s front matter.  The work is primarily in English, so have no fear of stumbling into too many German and at times bewildering words.

The work is subdivided into Six major divisions (though these are not numbered) and each division offers readers explorations into the volume’s topics from the perspectives indicated by the division in which it sits.

Reading the front matter will give potential readers of this volume ample indication if it is a work which they would find engaging.  Take note, though, that those of a ‘philosophical’ bent (and there are plenty of that sort afoot these days) will find the book more useful than those with more historical interests.

To be fair, though, there are essays herein which will be instructive for historical theology.  For instance, George Pattison’s Language and the Revelation of Silence. Reflections on Mystical Theology is extremely interesting as is Antti Raunio’s Inner and Outer Man in Luther’s Thought.  Also very much worth perusing is Anna Vind’s Hoc est, tua iusticia non est visibilis, non est sensibilis. Glaube und christliches Leben bei Luther – mit einem kurzen Ausblick auf die lutherische Tradition in Dänemark.  I like big titles, and I cannot lie… to paraphrase Sir Mixalot.  And the contents of the essay match the largeness of its titling.

Loving Mozart as I do, I was intrigued what would be found in Nils Holger Petersen’s The Notion of an Imaginary Space in Music: Interpreting Mozart’s Requiem in Liturgical, Denominational, and Secular Contexts.  I was not in any way disappointed.

Also very useful are Harald Hegstad’s Invisible Church? An Ecclesiological Idea Reconsidered and  Karina Juhl Kande’s Die unsichtbare Kirche. Eine Hauptspur in der Ekklesiologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers?

In the last mentioned essay we find this insightful notice:

Der Glaube an das Wort Gottes ist der Schlüssel zur Einheit. Was optisch sichtbar in Erscheinung tritt, ist tatsächlich die wesentliche Kirche, so wie sie sich in der Geschichte verkörpert. Aber um wissen zu können, dass dem so ist, bedarf es des Glaubens. Ohne Glauben ist das, was wir erblicken – Kirchengebäude, Gemeinde, Rituale – nichts anderes als ein Gemenge soziologischer und kultureller Gebilde und Größen; eine religiöse Gemeinschaft, die sich von verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen Disziplinen beschreiben lässt.

On the whole, the volume, save for the first few essays and their completely philosophically oriented speculations, this work provides enough scope and usefulness that historical theologians on the whole and philosophical theologians (bless their hearts) will be able to make good use of it.

It’s well worth a read.