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Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder, Part 4: The Redemption of Beauty

The following is take from Sound Worship: a Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Source of Beauty
Part 3: The Marring of Beauty

The Redemption of Beauty

Since sin marred beauty in creation, the atoning work of Christ on the cross and subsequent regeneration of individuals by the Holy Spirit is the way in which man’s ca- pacity to correctly take pleasure in God and other things worthy of such delight is redeemed. Because of sin, every man is born without the capacity to delight in God (Ro- mans 3:10—12), yet because men are God’s creation, they are born with an innate need to delight in something. This causes them to spend their lives finding ultimate satisfac- tion in things that are not God and things that are inherently ugly.

The gospel of Jesus Christ provides the supernatural means by which people are enabled to see the beauty of God in the person of Christ. We find this explained in 2 Corinthians 4:3—6:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Veiled Beauty

Unbelievers cannot apprehend the beauty of the gos- pel and of Christ. This is what the text means in verse 4 when it says that they do not see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” They do not perceive its wonders and its value and its beauty, and therefore they do not submit to the gospel since they do not recognize its value.

We submit to things only when we appreciate their value, not when we simply know about them or believe in them with our minds. We follow after what we delight in, not just what we know.

Here’s an example. My wife once spent a considerable amount of time searching for a rug for our living room. She enjoyed doing it. She knew in her mind that our living room needed a rug, but that was not what compelled her to search intently to find just the right rug. I knew in my mind that our living room needed a rug, but that knowledge certainly did not compel me to spend hours looking for one. In essence, Becky finds pleasure in the beauty of rugs; I see only their practical worth. Since Becky recog- nized the beauty and value of a rug, she was willing to spend time committed to finding one.

Someone may understand the facts of the gospel, but unless he recognizes the beauty and value of the gospel, he will not submit to it.

Revealed Beauty

Yet there is hope. Just like God created beauty at the beginning, so he has the power to illumine hearts so that they apprehend the beauty of the gospel. And when he does this, when God illuminates the heart, then the beauty of the gospel of the glory of Christ is revealed!

It’s as if men are groping around in a pitch black cave desperately searching for the treasure that they know to be there but cannot find. And then suddenly a spotlight is shown directly in front of them to reveal a magnificent diamond that was there the whole time.

All men are born in blackness. They are blinded as to the beauty of the gospel of Christ. They are empty, they are searching. In their heart of hearts they know that there must be something that will satisfy their longings, something that will fill the void in their souls. But they are unwilling and unable to accept that it is God himself who will satisfy that longing, God himself who will fill that void. All they must do is submit to God as King and they will find that treasure. But they hate God, and they reject their knowledge of him. They are unwilling to submit to the gospel because they do not recognize the beauty of the glory of Jesus Christ.

But then, just as God created light at the beginning of time, with just his voice he says, “Let there be light,” and light shines on a dark heart. And when that happens, that perishing person looks up and sees the truths of the gospel literally in a new light. No more does he see mere facts about a man who once lived and died. No longer does he see God as ugly. No longer does he see the demands of the gospel as unreasonable. That light that has been shined upon his heart reveals the magnificent beauty of the gos- pel of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of the beauty of God because he is the very image of God. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory [or beauty], glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ is “the radiance of the glory [or beauty] of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Regeneration restores in an individual the ability to recognize what is truly beautiful, first in the person of Jesus Christ, and then in other things. This does not mean that unbelievers cannot recognize beauty or even create beauty. God’s common grace enables even the unregenerate to do so.

But what this means is that a believer has no excuse when it comes to making value judgments about beauty.

Next: The Judgment of Beauty

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.