Review: Created Beauty

For close to 2,000 years, Christians have believed that the God of the universe is a Triune God. God is not a lonely person, dwelling eternally alone and needing to create heavenly hosts, humans, and animals in order to satisfy his desire for love. Rather, God is one in essence, three in persons and lives eternally in perfect unity. These three persons of the God-head enjoy and love eachother wholly. Thus, the Triune God is to be the measuring rod, the rule by which we understand love, goodness, and beauty. Even more, apart from this Triune God there would be no beauty. It is for this reason, and for the six details layed out by Jeremy Begbie in “Created Beauty,” that one must accept his notion that a Christian’s understanding of beauty must find its foundation in the Triune God of Scripture.

In his essay, Begbie describes in lovely detail, six accounts of the beauty that God has himself created. To start with, the essay argues that all God has made showcases the very beauty of God, even in its being distinct from God.[1] Creation, being distinct from its Creator, has been charged by the Triune God to reveal His beauty in its distinctiveness. This revelation of beauty in the very matter of creation receives its culmination in the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity; the God-man, Jesus Christ. This is precisely Begbie’s second argument. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s charge of reflecting his beauty in creation.[2] In him, death and hades have been conquered, and by his death and resurrection he is reconciling all of creation to himself.

Continuing, Begbie moves to the Holy Spirit who, as the third person of the Trinity, works to reveal to the world the work of the Son and helps believers to look towards the future perfection of beauty. [3] The Spirit works in the hearts of men to cause them to remember and trust in Jesus’ work in the past and to hope for a promised future glory. As Begbie so rightly mentions, “Beauty we apprehend now is a Spirit-given foretaste of the beauty still be given.”[4] He then demonstrates that an understanding of beauty founded on the truth of the Trinity will find joy, not distaste, in diversity.[5] The Triune God consists of three disntinct persons with particular purposes in the economy of salvation dwelling together in beautiful unity. Likewise, God has made creation diverse and has invited men to delight in those diversities and to reflect his unity in their particulars.

Fifth, it must be understood that beauty cannot be limited. The love and beauty in the Triune God is so full, so overwhelming, that it actually flows out into His creation. Creation then, should not try to contain this excess of beauty but should share in its Creator’s lavish and surplus of generosity.[6] Finally, and perhaps most fascinating, Begbie points out the truth that beauty beheld will create in its viewers a desire for more; a longing to continue to behold and adore what they have already graciously partaken of.[7] And is this not the beauty of the Gospel? Is this not the essense of the Spirit’s drawing us to God, regeneratiung us, and preserving us in grace? Begbie could not have said it better: “To experience the allure of God is nothing other than to experience the Spirit reconciling us to the Father through the Son and thus reording our desires.”[8]

This last account of created beauty is where I found myself most challenged and coincidentally enough, most encouraged. Desire is a tricky topic. We live in an American Christian culture that either forsakes rightly aimed desire at the expense of our joy, or ignores unholy desires at the expense of our sanctification. And this is where Begbie’s essay and the ministries of Jonathan Edwards and John Piper become so helpful. The Triune God of Scripture dwells in perfect love and beauty, and His love and beauty is lavish. Not only does he then become the measuring rod for beauty, but in the Gospel he reconciles us to himself and creates in us a desire to behold his beauty; for our good, and to the praise of his glorious grace.

[1] Jeremy S. Begbie, “Created Beauty: The Witness of J.S. Bach,” The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 25.

[2] Ibid, 27.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 28.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 29.

[7] Ibid, 30.

[8] Ibid, 31.

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