Beauty Revisited -- By: John Mason Hodges
RAR 4:4 (Fall 1995) p. 65
Relativism is the general malaise of our time. It has influenced the world to the extent that an increasing percentage of our best-educated populace is willing to hold that there are no absolutes. The evangelical church has been influenced by the relativism of our age as well. While the church has fought against relativism in the area of morals, we have neglected the same fight in the area of aesthetics: we have come to accept the modernist position that beauty is purely a matter of personal preference. The result is a failure to fully understand what it means to be human, and a poverty in our souls. Without recourse to past thinkers and old books, we might forget that there ever was a time that Christians held to objective standards of beauty.
This lack of understanding inhibits our witness of the richness of God, leaving Christians open to charges that we are iconoclasts, philistines, lacking in refinement. Some Christians proudly wear these names as badges of honor, but while we rightly should not care what the world thinks of us, there is a grain of truth to be discerned from this critique. The unbeliever instinctively knows that the present Christian picture of man is too shallow. Men know that beauty is a force to be reckoned with, and Christians should know that to make our perspective compelling to a dying world, our theology must account for the full body of good experiences God has ordained. The Reformed tradition, of course, has the necessary foundations, but could it be that we have lost sight of how to properly apply them? Could it be that we are so swayed by the prevailing winds of popular culture that we are not doing our own thinking?
Leaving beauty out of our worldview equation also limits our souls. I am not arguing here that we should give up evangelism and missions in order to become opera lovers, but I am arguing that the unbelieving opera lover may unconsciously know something of the profundity of God that the Christian has yet to understand: namely, that beauty is a
RAR 4:4 (Fall 1995) p. 66
significant element of God’s creation, and that without a proper understanding of it man may indeed be less than man.
I would like to lay out an argument for the reacceptance of the idea that beauty is a reflection of the character and ways of God, and as such can be evaluated objectively as well as subjectively; and we believers should rethink our perspectives on beauty through the consideration of the place beauty has held in pre-modern thought.
Beauty and the Nature of God
Jonathan Edwards argues that the source of beauty is God Himself, and that this beauty can be understood in two areas: first, the beauty...
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