The Necessity of Beauty

What is beauty? Are you able to define it? It’s hard. It’s something we know when we see it, but it is difficult to put into words. When we see something remarkable, we might say, “You would have to see it to believe it,” or “A picture doesn’t do it justice.” Beauty is something we recognize, but it’s often difficult to explain. Words do not do justice to a mesmerizing sunset or the music of Mozart. Reading about these things is not the same as being there and experiencing them firsthand.

Some say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Is this true? Is beauty different for every individual, or are there aspects of beauty we can all agree upon? I think part of the problem is that we live in a culture that has forgotten what true beauty is. Beauty has been hijacked and turned into something superficial. It has become something that is only skin deep. If you google beauty, you will find tips for hair and makeup. If you click over to images, then you will find a multitude of pictures of thin white women that look almost the same. Is this beauty? Yes, but it is a small sliver of what beauty is. True beauty is so much more. Scripture says that every person created in the image of God is beautiful. All colors are beautiful to God who created them. Our culture says you have to look a certain way and dress a certain way. They say you have to be a certain body type. According to our culture this is beauty, but this is not how beauty is described in Scripture. This is not what mesmerized the followers of God many years ago. Beauty has to be something more.

Hans Urs von Balthasar says, ”Every experience of beauty points to infinity.” Not all beauty is the same, but true beauty points to something beyond itself. We see this in Romans 1:20.

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”

Paul says that the beauty we find in creation points us to the majesty of the Creator. What God has created is beautiful. The psalmist marvels at all he sees. In Psalm 19:1-4 he writes,

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” 

The word beauty is found in the Bible, but more often we encounter another word that is closely related to it. It is the word glory. The psalmist says the the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims his handiwork. When we look up into the sky we see beauty. We see what God has done and we recognize that we are a small part of his creation. The psalmist elaborates on the message of the beauty of the sky. He says that the heavens and sky cannot speak, but their message goes all over the earth and their words to the end of the world. The beauty of what is above is a message that is for everyone. No one can miss it.

Beauty is all around us if we are simply willing to look. It is present in the elegant design of a bird that is studied by engineers in order to better understand aviation. The jets we design need a long runway in order to take off and land, but a bird designed by God can land on a tiny branch.

We see beauty in the navigation abilities of the monarch butterfly to travel thousands of miles and never get lost. Some monarchs travel all the way from Canada to Mexico.

The human body contains trillions of cells and each cell contains DNA. The information contained within DNA determines our characteristics and what we look like. If you were to print out the information within a tiny cell, it would amount to thousands and thousands of pages of data. DNA’s ability to store information is better than any hard drive created by man (See Book Written in DNA Code Scientists are still exploring the wonders of the human body. It is no wonder the psalmist writes,

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul reminds us of where this beauty points to. He says that we are God’s workmanship. God is the artist and we are his work of art. The beauty that is found in each of us does not stop with us. It points to something bigger. It points to a Creator.

We are surrounded by beauty. We find beauty in creation. We find beauty in humanity and the abilities God has blessed us with. We find beauty in a piece of music or a painting. Beauty takes on many forms, but not all beauty is the same. The beauty that we encounter in creation or a symphony is quite different than the glory that belongs to God. These things point to God, but they are not God. Throughout the years people have worshipped these various objects because they contain an element of the infinite. They are wonderful, majestic, and beautiful, but we must remember that there is something more wonderful, more majestic, and more beautiful that all these things point to. The beauty of all the world is nothing compared to the beauty of God. The beauty we experience now is a foretaste of what is to come. The beauty we see all around us should cause us to desire God that much more. We should be like the psalmist in Psalm 27:4 who says,

“One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

What is it that you seek after? What do you desire? God has blessed us with an incredible world filled with things that are pleasing to us, but we should not stop at this. These things of beauty should cause us to desire and seek after the One great beauty. We should long to live in the presence of God and to behold his beauty.

There has been much written about what happens after we die, but one thing we know for certain. We will live in the presence of God and it will be beautiful. It is more than we can imagine. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 the apostle Paul reminds us of these words,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

We have all experienced beauty, but none of us is prepared for what is to come. We have not seen, or heard, or even imagined what God has in store for us. The beauty of God is beyond comparison. It defies categories. If we have trouble putting the beauty of earthly things into words, then how much more the beauty of God.

Beauty is a gift God has given to us, but we must remember that it is a gift that comes with responsibility. It demands that we meditate on who God is and what he has done. It asks us to contemplate the deep things of God, things that are so wonderful that words often fail us. It reminds us that what we have received must be shared with others. Beauty is not ours to keep. It is a gift that we must tell others about, so that they might have the opportunity to experience the wonder and amazement that is only possible because there is a God who loves us very much.

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Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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