What comes to your mind first when you hear the word “beautiful”? When you want to describe the beauty that’s in the world, what’s your go to analogy? For me, it’s easy:
- a waterfall
- a single blade of grass
- a child’s smile
What about you?
.We’re coming to the end of Jonathan Edwards week. And one of the primary distinguishing characteristics of Edwards’ theology was his appreciation of beauty. For Edwards, you really don’t know anyone or anything until you have come to appreciate his/her/its particular beauty – i.e. its particular “fit” in the universe as a whole.
And, you can’t really appreciate how something fits into the whole universe until you know how it relates to God. So, for Edwards, the experiencing the beauty of creation is ultimately about experiencing God’s own beauty.
Indeed, Edwards thought so much of the world’s beauty that he could say:
the reason why almost all men, and those that seem to be very miserable, love life: because they cannot bear to lose the sight of such a beautiful and lovely world. (Beauty of the World)
So, again I ask, what is “beautiful” to you? In what do you most often experience the beauty of the world and, consequently, God’s own beauty? If you want to leave a comment and tell us about it, great. If not, at least give yourself a chance to see beauty today. Go find it somewhere. It shouldn’t take long if your eyes are open.
If you’re not following the American Theology Inquiry journal (ATI), you really should. It’s a free online journal that just seems to be getting better with each issue. The latest issue of the journal just came out and it looks great. I’ll definitely be digging into some of these as soon as I get the chance.
Here are the articles in this issue:
- “Reassessing the Relation of Reformation and Orthodoxy: A Methodological Rejoinder”, Richard A. Mueller
- Discovering the Sacred in Secular Art: An Aesthetic Modality that ‘Speaks of God'”, Christopher Evan Longhurst
- A Match Made in Munich: The Origin of Grenz’s Trinitarian Theology,” Jason S. Sexton
- “The Best Man Is Only a Man: Reflections on Some Enchantments and Disenchantments of the Grail,” Charles M. Natoli
- “There Is No Sex in the Church,” Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov
- “The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree,” J. Lyle Story
- Thomas Kid discusses How Evangelicals Lost Their Way on Alcohol.
The temperance movement reacted to a real social and medical problem. We should not dismiss it as a product of Victorian prudishness. But then a focus on reducing alcohol abuse morphed into the conviction that it was a sin for any person to take a drink, period. This was a simpler approach, but it is not biblical.
Can a well-placed expletive positively stir the soul? If something is deemed inappropriate for children, should it not be sold through “Christian” distribution channels? Can Christian art impact us positively through things that offend us? Is the act of “offending” a counter-Gospel act?
- C. Michael Patton calls on people to stop saying that “the Holy Spirit changed my lesson at the last minute.“
My basic thesis is this: The assumptions required for such homiletic detours are irresponsible both to yourself and to your audience, and they misunderstand the way in which God works in the life of the church.
- Robert Miller sparked a lively discussion with his argument that human dignity should not be the ground of Christian ethics (see also here and here). I found the discussion particularly interesting for Miller’s argument that main competing ethical systems (utilitarian, deontological, virtue) are incommensurable and that theologians cannot pick-and-choose aspects of each without lapsing into incoherence.
- Michael Hyatt offers Six e-Book Trends to Watch in 2011.
- Thanks to Jonathan for pointing out that Queensland Theological College has a nice collection of lectures and sermons from people like Bruce Winter, Ben Witherington, and Mark Dever.
- And, here’s a list of 10 Book to Kick of the New Year.
In his famous essay “A Plea for Excuses,” the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin complained that philosophers of art typically spent too much time focusing on beauty, when most people’s aesthetic interests are less grand. Austin expressed the hope that “we could forget for a while about the beautiful and get down instead to the dainty and the dumpy”! Maybe some creative theologian looking for a new topic could take a hint here and get down to talking about cuteness. Babies and kittens are cute, and they get a lot of attention from many people—the evidence is there at YouTube.
- K.C. Hulsman presents a pagan perspective on why Christmas is not the reason for the season. I happen to think that his presentation is wrong, but it’s a well-written explanation of the argument that Christmas is essentially a pagan holiday.
Most of the Christmas traditions that exist — gift-giving, the hanging of the evergreens, Christmas trees, feasting, Santa, caroling — all originated from Pagan practices. While I can understand that to some Christians this is a holy time of reflection as they celebrate their God, Christ, let us remember we were here first. And Christ is not the reason for the season. He’s just a latecomer to the party.
- John Shore explains how the Christian calendar demonstrates the sacredness of time.
Since ancient times, Christians have used the Christian calendar (also called the liturgical year) to orient themselves to the two most significant seasons in the yearly Christian cycle of time: Christmas and Easter. Within such a calendar, every day has a vital and traditionally sacred place relative to the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ.
- Salon.com has a very helpful explanation of the new Google e-bookstore and how it compares to Amazon’s Kindle store. HT
- And, National Geographic has released its list of the 10 weirdest new animals of 2010.
- Joel Hunter offers some thoughts about the challenges of preaching on controversial issues.
- The heaviest and most expensive gold coin ever found has been uncovered at a dig in Israel. HT
- Inside Higher Ed has an article on the new company, Ultrinsic, that allows students to place bets on their grades.
- Richard Beck has some interesting comments on evangelical art, contending that our propensity for putting words on everything and having overly simplistic lyrics in our songs reflects an emphasis on evangelism and catechesis in our art and undermines the subtlety and ambiguity so important for good art.
- Rodney Stark recently argued that the mainline denominations declined because they replaced the Gospel and vital spirituality with social activism, and that evangelicalism might face a similar decline if it’s not careful. Greg Garrett responds by arguing that all is not lost for the mainline denominations, but agrees that evangelicalism is in danger as a result of its shallow spirituality. Both agree that evangelicals need to pay more attention to history if we want to avoid a precipitous decline.
- Slate.com comments on the origins of the letter grading scale and why ‘E’ is not a grade.
- Apparently tomorrow night is supposed to be the best night for watching the Perseid meteor shower. Unless, of course, you live in the NW, which has apparently forgotten that it’s still supposed to be summer.
- And here’s a list of 12 theories about Lost that were better than the actual show. HT