Conclusion: Beauty as Love
In this series, we have considered the meaning of beauty, objections to beauty, and how beauty is to be sought. We’ve answered the objections that beauty is “subjective”, or that it is nothing more than personal preference.
We have also found that parallels exist between finding beauty in general revelation, and finding it in special revelation. Christian spirituality can learn from some of the postures and techniques used by those seeking beauty in art.
Our survey of ideas regarding beauty decided that Jonathan Edwards, channeling Augustine, has the most comprehensive view of beauty. God’s beauty is God’s perfect desire for Himself. The spiritual beauty of Christians is their answering desire for God. God’s love is His beauty, and love for God is the experience and apprehension of this beauty.
This love is developed in four ways: through the implantation of a new nature, the cultivation of a profoundly Christian imagination, the regular practice of direct and indirect communion with God, and the repetitive use of spiritual disciplines that shape and develop the Christian’s sense and experience of the other three.
Perhaps these findings are surprising. Perhaps we were expecting that beauty should be defined as some combination of harmony or clarity or luminance. But in the end, beauty is so much more than visually pleasurable sights or pleasing music. Beauty existed when there was no world, and no humans with five senses to perceive it. Beauty is ultimately personal: the very person of God delighting in Himself. The effulgence of this beauty may lie at the heart of why God created: as gift to Himself.
Believers may sometimes scorn New Age talk of “being in harmony with the universe”. But a grain of truth lies within that deception. Believers are meant to be in harmony with deepest reality, which turns out to be loving God with God’s love. This is subjective and objective beauty in one, and man’s deepest purpose.
About David de Bruyn
David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.