Blog Archives

What is “beautiful” to you?

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?

by Baaker2009 (via Flickr)

.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.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/31)

HT Kevin DeYoung

Like major league baseball, a successful academic career is a very good gig. Do we really owe every 22-year-old who is admitted to a Ph.D. program the right to that career solely on the basis of getting into a Ph.D. program? Or is it enough to give them a chance to succeed, knowing full well that not all of them will? Personally, I’d rather give more people a chance, in large part because I don’t think we know which 22-year-olds are going to make the best academics.

  • A WSJ article with the provocative title “Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter” discusses a recent study looking into the impact of socio-economic status on a child’s mental development.

These results capture the stunning developmental inequalities that set in almost immediately, so that even the mental ability of 2-year-olds can be profoundly affected by the socio-economic status of their parents. As a result, their genetic potential is held back.

Merton (1915-1968) is one of the most significant religious writers of the twentieth century and a lasting influence on untold numbers of Christians (and non-Christians) from every tradition and culture. For those of us in the Bluegrass state, he also holds the distinction of being perhaps the most significant religious figure to reside in Kentucky, being a monk at Our Lady of Gesthemeni monastery near Bardstown for twenty-seven years. He is buried there today.

When it comes to a crucifixion no one would argue for beauty in an aesthetic sense. The form of a broken, bled-out human being certainly isn’t pleasing to the eye. And this lack of beauty is most true particularly in a crucifixion where the death sentence is piggy-backed onto a miscarriage of justice. But here, in the gospel account, is kingdom subversion. In one of the most brutal acts of physical horror and treachery on a cosmic scale, God weaves together the elements of beauty.

The movement got started with basic, biblical teaching about the gospel and holistic mission. It picked up speed with a network of projects and organizations committed to orphan care. And to this theological observer, it looks like it may have the momentum to reinvigorate evangelical systematic theology.

The latest issue of ATI looks outstanding – check it out

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

Flotsam and jetsam (1/12)

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?

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.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/9)

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.

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.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/11)