We affirm that truth, goodness, and beauty are transcendent realities rooted in the nature of God and ultimately inseparable from each other (Phil. 4:8). Beliefs are true when they correspond to God’s understanding; acts are good when they correspond to God’s understanding of virtue; objects are beautiful when they are fulfilling their God-intended purpose in a God pleasing way in accordance with their God-given nature. Nevertheless, right beliefs, morals, and affections are not always transparent, such that their relative truth, goodness, and beauty require careful judgment to discern.
We deny that right belief is sufficient to please the Lord. We also deny that truth, morality, or beauty become different things relative to different perceiving subjects (though we grant that humans never perceive in a detached and absolute way). We further deny that right beliefs, morals, and affections are always easy to discern.
Belief in transcendent truth, goodness, and beauty is rooted in a recognition that God is the source, sustainer, and end of all things. Romans 11:36 declares that “from him and through him and to him are all things.” The Bible clearly proclaims that God is self-existent and self-sustaining, that all things come from him. All truth is grounded in the reality that God is True. All virtue is grounded in the reality that God is Good. All beauty is grounded in the reality that God is Beautiful. Brute facts apart from God do not and never can exist; such facts are what they are because God ordains them to be so. No genuinely moral standards can merely be conceived by convention apart from God. Rather, actions are moral or immoral because of their conformity (or lack thereof) to God’s character. Beauty does not merely exist in the eye of the beholder, though certainly the beholder can perceive what is beautiful. Rather, things are beautiful when they are doing what God meant them to do as God meant them to do it.
With these considerations in mind, Christians as image-bearers of God must commit themselves to thinking God’s thoughts after him, to behaving in ways that conform to God’s moral perfection, and to loving those things that God calls lovely.
The recognition of truth, goodness, and beauty is implicit in Philippians 4:8, which articulates tests by which Christians may judge the real value of all things.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if therebe any virtue, and if therebe any praise, think on these things.
Since God is the source, sustainer, and end of all things, a conservative Christian believes in real and transcendent standards of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is on faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He has written two books, dozens of articles, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and two children.