Beauty is in the eye of the Creator

Church Bulletin:

The old saying goes “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Usually, it’s a comment made when someone’s choice of partner doesn’t meet the aesthetic approval of another. On that level there is truth to the saying because it is purely subjective. On another level there is no truth to it at all. Ultimately, beauty does not rest with an individual’s subjective tastes. It is God who determines what is beautiful and what it is not. We can go further – it is God Himself who beautifies something because it reflects what He is like. The physical attractiveness of a person may be obvious, but true beauty is shown in a godly spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4). Physically attractive people can also be very ugly. And people not as pleasing to the eye can be eminently beautiful.

Graham Usher, ecologist and bishop of Norwich posits the question – ‘what is beauty?’ His response – ‘beauty is an expression of, and comes from, God’s very beautiful self. It is not something that is in the eye or mind of the beholder, rather it is a sacred manifestation of God’s immanent power in nature. [Beauty’s] appreciation is, therefore, a gift that enables us to see more into the mystery of God, taking one outside of self. Where this can become skewed is the worship of beauty for itself; rather than being a gateway to the transcendent, it becomes idolatrous.’

Why is something beautiful – a sunset, a piece of music, a person’s character – because we decide that it is? No. Something is beautiful because it has stamped within it God’s standards for beauty. It is ordered, proportioned, measured, coloured, textured, shaped in a way that is pleasing to God and by extension pleasing to us. God declared creation to be good (naturally beautiful) and therefore it is. We acknowledge beauty, we don’t determine what it is. We are receptive to beauty because God reveals it to us. And He reveals Himself through it (Rom 1:20). This means that only believers truly appreciate beauty. I am not suggesting that unbelievers don’t appreciate beautiful things, but they appreciate them at a superficial level. Their appreciation doesn’t take them to the source. Their appreciation doesn’t lead them to God. Usher is correct, ‘beauty’s appreciation is a gift that enables us to see more into the mystery of God……a gateway into the transcendent.’

Take God out of the picture and not only is there superficial appreciation, the result is idolatry. Beauty is subverted into something ugly. The thing itself becomes an object of worship. Naturalism, lust, gluttony, substance abuse, hedonism, etc. are all aspects of inordinate worship. We see it around us every day – a beautiful world turned ugly by sin. Idolatry in the eye of the beholder.

Christians can and should be people who thoroughly appreciate beauty. Beauty reflects who God is. Humans leave fingerprints on everything; God has left His fingerprints everywhere in the beautification of the world. Beauty ought to move us to worship, devotion, and thankfulness. When you walk through the bush, swim in the sea, listen to music, look at art, encounter godly people, eat tasty food, hold your spouse – go back to the source. Think upon the unsurpassable beauty of God. When you appreciate any of these things and you are not moved to worship, you have missed the point of them.