Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Beauty

God is glorious.  That is to say, He is (among many other things) beautiful.  We give due praise and gratitude when we laud and thank Him for the beauty He is and the beauty He has put around us.  Understanding God through an applied study of Him in His word and works (theology properly-so-called) is an exploration of beauty.  This, I think, is what the Eastern church took and ran (too far) with, towards apotheosis and the beatific vision.  But they had a point - to know God is to delight in Him, in a way of which is difficult to express the requisite depth, breadth, and timelessness.

That is more-or-less why I write.  The bulk of my correspondence to you, the internet, is centered on either the beauty of God found in His Word or in His world.  In a few instances I have posted theological arguments.  These are a necessary part of being a thoughtful and careful Christian, and they are (I hope) derived from God's revelation of Himself in his Word and world, but the attitude in which I have such arguments is perhaps best encapsulated in dialogue:

Friend: X is the only possibly valid position on this issue!
Me: That's not how I read it, look at these texts here, here, and here.  I think I hold to a consistent and valid position, even if it differs from yours.
Friend: But you are wrong!  Can't you see how you are wrong?  I can see how you are wrong.
Me: I think you're missing the point.  Shouldn't a right understanding of this issue (whether yours or mine) lead us to thank God and delight in Him, resting in Christ?
Friend: But you are wrong!  I can't be happy when you are wrong!

The point at which I aim is that theology is a love affair.  We delight in God, we read His letters carefully, poring over them, seeking to learn more about Him, what He has done, what He will do, how He loves us, and how He has always loved us.  We long to know Him better, and He promises us we will. 

It is not about winning arguments.  It is about rightly loving God.  This love to God must manifest in love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in love to our neighbor (e.g.- everybody).  1 John leaves us no choice. 

Lest I be accused of liberalism or whatnot, make no mistake that the beauty of God manifests in His holiness as well as His love.  I like woodworking, but am no expert.  My father was a fine craftsman, and could make (mostly within his field of carpentry) beautiful things of wood.  If you have ever experienced the agony of knowing how a thing should be but lacking the ability to make it so, you may have some idea of how perfect holy beauty contains the law. 

We are not beautiful by nature - we have within us, as men, a corrupted image of beauty.  Imagine if the Sistene Chapel ceiling were blotched and mottled by pervasive mildew.  You can tell that it was once beautiful, it was meant to be beautiful, but now it is ruined.  Not obliterated, mind you, but ruined.  Joseph's  coat was not beautiful after it was bloodied and torn, but it was recognizable as his.  Only the God who fashioned in us His image can restore it to beauty through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are redeemed to be beautiful, as mirrors of Christ, in whom the fulness of Godhead was pleased to dwell.  We are redeemed to tell of this beauty, though it is terrifying to the sinner who is convicted of his own ugliness.  We are put in the church to adorn Christ, as a bride adorns herself that she may adorn her husband. 

Thus, no matter the arguments or discussions we have in our exploration of revelation, we must never ignore our highest calling - to be God's own people, for glory and for beauty. 

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