This post is the third in our three-part series on Truth, Goodness and Beauty – the three words that appear in Latin on Morning Star’s seal.
God is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty.
As image-bearers and creatures of God, it makes sense that truth, goodness, and beauty play a significant part in our flourishing.
Generally speaking, Christians can get behind the idea of truth and goodness pretty easily. Beauty, however, we regard with a bit more suspicion. For some Christians, beauty can seem to be a temptress, enticing our hearts to idolatry. It may seem ostentatious. Or it can be viewed as a luxury, a self-indulgence bearing little “real-world” value. After all, what problems does beauty solve?
If we feel this way, we aren’t alone. The contemporary impulse is to weigh all things by their practical value – by how well they produce or how useful they are. With this lens, beauty seems inefficient and extraneous. No wonder modern education (and shockingly, even the art world) often relegates beauty to an afterthought. This utilitarian thinking often extends to how we measure ourselves and others. Why are we here? To pursue happiness. To excel. To get the better house. To contribute to society and leave a legacy.
Is this really it?
Each of these responses has something in common: they measure the worth of a human life by its output. In this paradigm, your value is tied to the lifestyle you attain, your social contributions, the difference you make.
Christians recognize we have a deeper purpose. Men and women were not created merely to produce and consume, but to glorify and enjoy God forever. Perhaps this is why David, a man who had seen great worldly wealth, describes his ultimate desire as “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord” (Psalm 27:4).
As we gaze upon it, we discover that beauty helps us see better. It teaches us to love lovely things not for what they produce, but simply for what they are.
- Beauty retrains our thinking, teaching us to delight in what is praiseworthy and instilling gratitude in our day-to-day lives.
- Beauty reframes our perspective, helping us recognize that darkness is not final and giving us hope to endure in difficulty.
- Beauty grows our hunger for God. To shun or constrain beauty to its diminished cultural role is to belittle being fully human in relationship to the God of creation. The more deeply we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, the more we’re satisfied only in Him.
We can’t leave beauty out. Compartmentalizing truth, beauty, and goodness robs each. Truth becomes cold facts, goodness rigid morality, and beauty mere sentimentality – or worse. In reality, the three are profoundly united, each leading us to delight in the others. Contemplating beauty plays a substantial part in reminding us who we are, and it draws our gaze to beauty’s true Source.
But wait … How can people who regard a Roman torture implement as a symbol of life really claim to be lovers of beauty? Where is beauty in the marred face and broken body of Jesus?
The Christian perception of beauty goes beyond cathedrals and classical ideals in the arts. With vision illuminated by the Spirit, we see beauty in unlikely places. In the broken body of Jesus, we encounter self-giving love that pours itself out irrespective of the culturally appointed “worth” of those it graces. How beautiful!
As a teacher, I see beauty refracted at Morning Star daily: when students delve into Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin or Aristotle’s Poetics … and also when Rhetoric students rise early for student-initiated Bible study or high-five Grammar students in the halls at day’s end. In science’s order and design, and in the teacher who buys a fish tank to inspire joy in pH levels and piscine anatomy. In an excellent drama production, and when the drama instructor reads to kindergartners over his prep period. In the elements of art and the golden ratio, and supremely in our love.
Ultimately, what makes our homes, churches, and school beautiful is this: the extent to which the staggering, infinite, self-giving love of God takes root.