Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The World is Beautiful, but not Quite Part 2

The World is Beautiful, but not Quite

Let me follow through with three basic implications of the Christian vision of truth and beauty. First, the Christian vision of beauty explains why the world is beautiful, but not quite. We are often struck by the beauty of the created order, and this feeling is validated for us in Genesis chapter 1, where the Creator's own verdict is that the creation is good. The goodness of creation is therefore nonnegotiable, and again the unity of the transcendentals reminds us that if it is good, then it is also necessarily true, and real, and beautiful. Thus our metaphysic and our aesthetic, our understanding of truth and our evaluation of ethics, all come together in creation. The creation as God made it was good and beautiful and true and real.

Our Sin Has Corrupted Beauty

But of course, we then must proceed to Genesis chapter 3, where we learn that the disruption and confusion over beauty--the corruption of the very concept of beauty--is not derived from a mere fault in human perception; it is rather a matter of human rebellion. Genesis 3 is a picture of the beautiful denied, of the real, the good, and the true rejected in favor of mankind's desire to be as God.

The cosmic effect of Adam's fall extended even to the natural world, so that what once could tell only the truth now lies.

Thus we are warned that that which is a delight to the eyes may very well be unbeautiful. Our human temptation is to substitute the truly beautiful for that which is merely a delight to our senses and a delight to our eyes, and thus we also are drawn to the forbidden fruit of a corrupt and fallen culture.

Fallen Creation Has Also Affected Beauty

All this confusion about the created world is a symptom of our fallenness, but it is not just human beings that are affected by sin, by the severing of the good, the beautiful, the true, and the real. Creation as a whole finds itself groaning because of human sin.

One Day Creation will be Restored, thus so will True Beauty

The work of redemption has cosmic significance. That which has been corrupted by sin is to be restored, but even now in this age, we are to see it and understand it as groaning, anxiously awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.

The beauty of the new Jerusalem is reflected in language about precious and semi-precious stones. The streets are said to be made of gold. All this has been turned into the stuff of gospel music, but the picture is much more of beauty than of opulence. It is meant to cause us to think about what a redeemed city would actually be, how it would appear. This is creation reset, a new heaven and a new earth, and now a new Jerusalem. Thus we have the completion of God's redeeming work, and it comes with the revelation not only of the sons of God, but of the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who after all was the firstborn of all creation, the One through whom all the worlds were made, and the Logos who was the very instrument of the creation itself.


So the Christian worldview explains to us why the world is beautiful--but not quite. As the Psalmist says, the world indeed tells forth the glory of God, but it does so in fallenness. The world contains things of prettiness that are deadly, and the inclination of human beings is to worship the creature and the creation rather than the Creator. The world is now groaning under the effect of sin and the wrath and judgment of God. That explains a great deal to us, including natural evil--hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis, venomous fish and poisonous plants. Yet it was not always so, and it will not always be so. Scripture points us toward the restoration of all things. The Christian understanding of beauty is an eschatological view, one that looks forward to the unveiling of true beauty, which will come on the day of the Lord when the Alpha and the Omega will be seen as the beautiful One.

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