Sunday, November 20, 2005
Dr. Mohler's "A Christian Vision of Beauty" Part 1
The Theresa Interview as got me thinking about arts and what place it has in the Christian worldview, so I became pretty excited to come across Al Mohler's commentary on " A Christian Vision of Beauty" , a sermon he preached at Capital Hill Baptist.
You can find the sermon here:
And you can find the written sermon here:
If don't have time to read or listen to it all and please read my INADEQUATE summary of Dr. Mohler's sermon. Since the sermon is pretty long I'll divide into 3 parts.
A Christian Vision of Beauty Part 1
Question of Beauty in the Church
But if beauty is in crisis in terms of the culture, both at the popular level and among the elites, it is also in trouble in the church, where the influence of popular culture has led to confusion about what beauty actually is and why we as Christians should seek it.
Christian Beauty is Simunltaneoulsy "The Good, The Truth and The Real"
A Christian understanding of beauty runs directly into the wisdom of the age by suggesting that the beautiful is simultaneously the good and the true and the real. This goes all the way back to the conversation of the ancients--especially to Plato, who understood the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real as being essentially reducible to the same thing. If there is one good, then that good must also be the true, which must also be the real, which must also be the beautiful. So the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real--the four great historical transcendentals--are unified in the One. For Plato, however, the One had no name.
Christian Beauty (The Good, The Truth, and The Real) are Established in the Trinity
Augustine, the great theologian of the patristic era, identified the One as the one true and living God. Taking Plato's metaphysical speculations into the very heart of the Gospel, Augustine suggested that Christians uniquely understand that the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real, are indeed one, because they are established in the reality of the self-revealing God--the triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He alone is beautiful, He alone is good, He alone is true, and He alone is real. That is not to suggest that nothing else reflects beauty or truth or goodness. It is simply to say that He alone, by virtue of the fact that He is infinite in all His perfections, is the source and the judge and the end of all that is good, beautiful, true, and real. For as Paul said, from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever, Amen.
Christian Beauty Has a Moral Context and Truth Context
Now this Christian conversation about the transcendentals opens an entirely new awareness for us. We now begin to understand that there is a moral context, a truth context, to every question about beauty. We can no longer talk about beauty as a mere matter of taste. Instantly, by affirming the unity of the transcendentals, we are required to see beauty fundamentally as a matter of truth to which taste is accountable, rather than a matter of taste to which truth is accountable.
Thus, it violates Scripture and indeed the character of God to call something "beautiful" which is not good, or "true" which is not beautiful, or "real" which is not true. Now, all of these things come together and immediately are subjective analyses of the beautiful. Yet if we are honest, we admit to ourselves that in our common cultural conversation, we routinely sever the good from the true, the true from the beautiful, the beautiful from the real, and the real from the good. As Christians, we alone really understand why this is so, and why it so important.
True Beauty Is Found in God
Al Mohler Quotes St. Augustine and Jonthan Edwards:
Augustine continues: "It was you then, O Lord, who made them. You who are beautiful, for they too are beautiful. You who are good, for they too are good. You who are, for they too are. But they are not beautiful and good as you are beautiful and good. Nor do they have their being as you the Creator have your being. In comparison with you, they have neither beauty nor goodness nor being at all." Augustine realizes that in order to see true beauty, he has to go to his Creator, and then, knowing the Creator, he may observe the creation and see that it does indeed bear the mark of its Maker.
The same theme was picked up by Jonathan Edwards, who said this: "True holiness must mainly consist in love to God, for holiness consists in loving what is most excellent and beautiful. Because God is infinitely the most beautiful and excellent being, He must necessarily be loved supremely by those who are truly holy. It follows from this that God's own holiness must consist primarily in love to Himself. Being most holy, He most loves what is good and beautiful, that is Himself. To love completely what is most completely good is to be most completely perfect. From this, it follows that a truly holy mind, above all other things, seeks the glory of God and makes the glory of God His supreme governing and ultimate end."
True Beauty is in A Crisis due to Sin
When we look at the unity of the transcendentals, and compare Edwards' and Augustine's vision of view to our contemporary poverty concerning things beautiful, we are quickly and painfully aware that something has gone horribly wrong. Why would human beings seek to sunder the unity between the good and the beautiful, between the true and the real, between the beautiful and the true? Why would we want to call something that is ugly true? Why would we want to call something that is unreal beautiful? That is a symptom of a human sickness, and that sickness is sin.
Our understanding of beauty as a category in crisis begins not with contemporary confusion, but in the Garden of Eden, where our first parents were attracted to the forbidden fruit at least in part because it was attractive to the eyes. A false understanding of beauty--the false allure of the evil rather than the good--is a part of the story of the Fall. Thus the confusion over beauty is not merely an item of cultural consternation, nor is it merely a matter of theological debate. It is a matter of redemption. The only way out of our confusion over beauty is to know the Creator, to know Him not merely conceptually but personally, and to have our relationship with Him once again set right, something which only He can do. Then Edwards' vision of the "sweet mutual consents" might be realized--a redeemed people once again entering into the mutual consent of the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real.