Category Archives: Articles on Aesthetics

Beauty Defined (With Some Help From Edwards)

Beauty Defined (With Some Help From Edwards)

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

How do we decide between these competing definitions of beauty? As Christians, we would firstly say that we cannot be satisfied with a definition of beauty abstracted from God. Beauty must be defined in relation to God. For that reason, special revelation (Scripture) must define beauty in general revelation (nature and art), not the other… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Definition

Beauty’s Definition

This entry is part 17 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Defining beauty is no easy task. A definition of beauty or the beautiful has eluded the grasp of those who wish a definition with mathematical precision. This more than two-millennia-old discussion remains open, and no definition has satisfied its perennial participants or become the final word. Among those who venture to define it, we can… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Difficulties: The Problem of Taste

Beauty’s Difficulties: The Problem of Taste

This entry is part 15 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

After more than a century of grappling with Descartes’ division of knowledge into “subjective” and “objective”, eighteenth-century thinkers developed a way to rescue the concept of beauty. The conversation about beauty moved away from a discussion of harmony, proportion, or unity and towards the idea of taste. In fact, at this early stage, the attention… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Difficulties: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Beauty’s Difficulties: A Case of Mistaken Identity

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The topic of beauty suffers not only because its definition is disputed, but because beauty is often a victim of misidentification. These wrong associations lead beauty’s critics to dismiss the topic out of hand. As I’ve said, I believe beauty refers to the deepest reality, and so it is no small matter when beauty is… Continue Reading

The Unexamined Life

The Unexamined Life

“The unexamined life is not worth living”, said Socrates. Socrates was teaching the need to live a life where all things are parsed for their meaning. A life lived on auto-pilot, following the great mass of humanity, takes most of life for granted. It is a life lived without reflection, without much meditation, and consequently,… Continue Reading

Aesthetic Correspondence

Aesthetic Correspondence

For a couple weeks I have been developing the idea that in order to disciple people through corporate worship, our corporate worship must be shaped by the means God has given us for such transformation—Scripture. This means both that our liturgies must be shaped by Scripture and our music must be shaped by Scripture. There has… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Difficulties: A Christian Response to the Subject-Object Dilemma

Beauty’s Difficulties: A Christian Response to the Subject-Object Dilemma

This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

For a while, it seemed chic to be able to say the word postmodern in a sermon. The belief-system behind the word is rather drab. No God exists, no human nature exists, and no essences exists. As such, beauty is a fiction imposed upon reality by humans wanting to order their meaningless existence. Truth is… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Difficulties: Subjective and Objective

Beauty’s Difficulties: Subjective and Objective

This entry is part 12 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Perhaps the most frequent objection levelled at those wishing to see beauty restored to a central place in Christian thinking is that beauty represents “subjective” knowledge: inward experience known only to a perceiving subject. Thinkers in the modernist tradition still hold that some forms of knowledge can be known objectively, while transcendental values such as… Continue Reading

Beauty’s Difficulties: Philosophy versus Biblical Authority

Beauty’s Difficulties: Philosophy versus Biblical Authority

This entry is part 11 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The discussion of beauty among Christians is often stymied before it starts. Some of this is due to a long-standing suspicion towards philosophy felt by many Christians. From Tertullian’s “What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?” to Luther’s denunciation of the Scholastics to evangelicalism’s embrace of Common Sense Realism, there is some considerable water under… Continue Reading

Beauty and Motivation

Beauty and Motivation

This entry is part 10 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

As surprising as it might sound, beauty lies at the heart of motive. Why we do what we do is a question of desire, and desire is rooted in what we think is good and beautiful. Jonathan Edwards tackled the questions of motive, desire, and freedom in his work The Freedom of the Will. There Edwards… Continue Reading

Beauty, Ethics and Worship

Beauty, Ethics and Worship

This entry is part 9 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Sometimes throwaway lines leave a deep impression. One of those were words written on a blog I avidly followed about fifteen years ago. The writer said, “A good man does not love ugly things”. Words like that enabled me to see a profound link and overlap between what is true, good, and beautiful. Real beauty… Continue Reading

Taste and Preference: A Last Word

Taste and Preference: A Last Word

This entry is part 56 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Why are there such different “tastes” among people? Is the debate over music in worship simply a “preference issue”?  Are matters of music, dress, recreation merely matters of “personal style”? We have tried to sort out the meanings of the word “taste”, and have seen two distinct meanings. The first is the act of judging,… Continue Reading

Taste Formed and Deformed by Culture

Taste Formed and Deformed by Culture

This entry is part 55 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Taste is never shaped in isolation. We learn to love what we love from our family, our church, our school, and our society. In other words, taste is largely shaped by culture. Culture can be defined as T. S. Eliot suggested, “the incarnation of a religion”. At the heart of any culture is Richard Weaver’s… Continue Reading

Taste Spoiled By Sweetness

Taste Spoiled By Sweetness

This entry is part 54 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

A discussion of taste is one of the most difficult (and unrewarding) ones to have, for most people are unreflective about their likes. “I know what I like!” is supposed to end the discussion, followed up with “different strokes for different folks”. Aesthetic immaturity is one of the reasons for a discrepancy in taste among… Continue Reading

Good Taste and Christian Taste

Good Taste and Christian Taste

This entry is part 53 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Even atheists used to believe in good taste. The infamous David Hume wrote in his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals “In many orders of beauty, particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning in order to feel the proper sentiment; and a false relish may frequently be corrected by… Continue Reading

Christian at the Movies (2)

Christian at the Movies (2)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Christian at the Movies You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The laziest form of “discernment” about movies or television looks for the easy targets of occultism, sex, nudity, bad language and gratuitous violence. Certainly, Christians are right to avoid these things. But as we have seen in our last post, discernment is not as simple as using VidAngel or Clearplay to eliminate the objectionable. Nor… Continue Reading

Christian at the Movies (1)

Christian at the Movies (1)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Christian at the Movies You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

I was about ten when the first Rock ‘n Roll evangelists came to town. They weren’t proselytizing on behalf of Iron Maiden. They were there to tell us about the rampant satanism and occultism in contemporary rock and pop. To rapt audiences, they played snippets of songs backwards: “[ssshkp]…[ssshkp]…[ssshkp]…meeshnar eep… [ssshkp]… eeg zatan… [ssshkp]…’There! Hear… Continue Reading

Ten Mangled Words:”Taste”

Ten Mangled Words:”Taste”

This entry is part 49 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

De gustibus non est disputandum, said the ancient Romans. There is no disputing over taste, meaning that in matters of personal taste and preference, there can be no profitable dispute, and therefore there ought to be none. There’s much truth to that. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries, and have no time for fantasy,… Continue Reading

Affect or Effect

Affect or Effect

This entry is part 47 of 63 in the series Ten Mangled Words You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

The difference between affections and emotions is seen in what art is used in worship. Since worship uses art, worship leaders can use it in precisely one of these two ways: to affect us, or to create effect. They can work with poetry, music and the spoken word to work with the imagination. There the… Continue Reading

Beauty and Knowledge

Beauty and Knowledge

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Doxology: A Theology of God's Beauty You can read more posts from the series by using the Contents in the right sidebar.

Beauty does not only encourage a pursuit of reality, but beauty encourages a Christian epistemology. It teaches how we know what we know. The Enlightenment project involved pursuing certainty without relying on revelation or authority. If a thinking, knowing subject could be “neutral”, pure reason would lead to truth. This resulted in a general suspicion… Continue Reading