Divine play : the art of being God
This thesis equates pure act, Thomas Aquinas’ definition of God, with self-representation, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s definition of play. It argues that God, as conceived in traditional, Western, Christian doctrine, can be thought of as playing. Play, if defined as self-representation, can be seen to be what artists do when they create a work of art. It is also what viewers do when they look at a picture. It is also what players do in a game match, and consequently, what the spectators of that match do as they watch the game. Representation, and thus self-representation, is thought of in primarily, thought not exclusively, visual terms. Works of visual art, therefore, can be used as examples of play, and therefore of self-representation. The same principles that are seen to make play effective in pictures can also, with qualifications, be applied to the invisible being of God, to demonstrate that God plays, or represents the divine self, both within the divine self but also with, and in, and to creation. Showing the relationship between theology and art, or between God and play, is an attempt to see an old doctrine, which has become outdated and unappealing in the minds of many, in a new light. It is also an attempt to show how the strengths of some of the art of the past anticipate characteristics that may be needed and effective if they were applied in contemporary art. Finally, it is an attempt to build analogies, much like those Aquinas articulated for the doctrine of God generally and the interdisciplinary analogies Augustine constructed for the Trinity. Such analogies show that God’s way of being is simply ‘to be’, but also ‘to be at play’.