Aesthetics. It’s a strange word, and not one you’d expect to hear often in relation to the church. If you think at all like I do, your mind probably conjures up images of city planning boards or interior designers. But, as was pointed out at a recent Mid-America Reformed Seminary conference, this formidable term actually has a very simple definition. Aesthetics is the study of beauty.
In a Christian Renewal article, Glenda Mathes summarized this conference, which was held last spring at the Seminary:
Each spring the students of Mid-America Reformed Seminary plan and organize a conference based on a topic of their choice. A committee, comprised of Steve Williamson, Nathan Tomlinson, and James Oord, planned the March 29, 011, conference with Dr. Paul Munson speaking on “Aesthetics, the Study of Beauty.”
Dr. Munson, a ruling elder of Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrisville, PA, teaches courses on various aspects of music as well as art appreciation at Grove City College. His critical edition of Franz Liszt’s Oratorio St. Stansislaus, recorded by the Cincinnati May Festival, makes this composer’s last major work available for the first time.
“We chose Dr. Munson because we knew that he would be engaging, provocative, and would engender a lot of discussion,” explains James Oord. “His passion for God’s glory and love of God’s Word really show forth in all of his writings and teaching. We knew that he is a speaker who would challenge and inspire his hearers.”
During the conference, Dr. Munson spoke on “Doctrines of Beauty,” “Let Heaven and Nature Sing,” and “Why We Fight Over Church Music.” His lectures were biblically grounded, properly informed, and effectively delivered, pointing the way for Christians to properly appreciate God’s glory as revealed in creation. As music is a particularly beautiful part of the world around us, Dr. Munson offered very relevant and extremely helpful comments on this topic throughout the sessions.
I bring this to your attention because Mid-America is offering CD recordings of the conference—a great resource to add to your personal libraries, for musicians and non-musicians alike! I’ve listened to the recordings myself, and I learned a lot from them. The only drawbacks, as I can recall, are that the audio quality is rather poor (so you might miss a word here and there), and Dr. Munson’s live comparison of a Franz Schubert piece with a Switchfoot song (a particularly interesting part of the conference) got chopped off at the end of the second lecture. Nevertheless, you’ll still be able to enjoy the core of Dr. Munson’s talks. The CD recordings are available for a (very) small price from the Seminary bookstore (219-864-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Have a listen to this conference on aesthetics someday. I guarantee you’ll see God’s creation in a new light—more clearly and even more beautifully.