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Irresistible Beauty

God's being, as an irresistible beauty, draws all things into itself... God's beauty draws the whole person into divine communion: mind, body, and affections. - Robert Brown

Jonathan Edwards was the greatest theologian that America has yet produced. You might have read one of his sermons as I did in a highschool English class: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." If this is the only way you've heard of Edwards (or if all you've read is the title), you might be tempted to believe that Edwards' approach to Scripture doesn't have much to tell us today.


But, as you've probably guessed, you'd be wrong. Especially in our post-modern culture, our "post-truth" context, we need to hear from Edwards more than ever. I think that he gives an example to follow as we share the gospel among people who are tired of the cultural Truth Wars, who are wearied of the arguments that plague the Christian community from within and without, and also among people such as the Japanese who have little-to-no connection with the Christian message at all.


Edwards found rest and delight basking in God's all-consuming beauty. He believed that "To study God is necessarily to study beauty; to study beauty is necessarily to study God." (Strachan and Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards on Beauty). Often, we neglect the pursuit of beauty as we reach for truth and practicality. Beauty is generous - even, perhaps, gratuitous - and goes beyond the practical.


C. S. Lewis recognized this path, and how the power of beauty acts upon the human soul. He said,

We do not merely want to see beauty... We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

This is what Christianity offers: a way to be united with God's beauty, and to have God's beauty dwell in us. Makoto Fujimura has said "a lack of attention to beauty in presenting a truth hampers its appeal and adoption... a culture that downplays the pursuit of beauty also loses its appetite for truth and goodness." So let us Christians follow Jonathan Edwards, lead in seeking that which is beautiful, and above all become personally enthralled with the Beauty of our good God. Then, let us seek to show and shine that beauty forth, to the glory of God and the delight of the human soul.


Side note: I've not tried to give a definition of beauty here, but I do want to say that it is not superficial or kitschy. There is deep and solemn beauty in things like sacrifice and brokenness. A Christian appreciation of beauty does not mean everything is rainbows and unicorns, but rather it requires an honest understanding of the fallen human condition and how our great King Jesus has won over and undone even evil itself. 

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