Christians and Beauty
Beauty is a problematic concept for Christians and non-Christians alike. Just look at the digital piles of stock photos on the internet and you’ll find that the popular definition of beauty is just sensuality one or more parts diluted. On the other hand, in the world of poetry, for example, language strains so much toward “fresh” and “meaningful” expression (I’ve read hundreds of submission guidelines to poetry journals, so those words trigger an automatic gag reflex) that beautiful poems seem almost profane or, at the very least, unworthy of attention.
The Christian view of beauty (I say Christian, not Biblical) is no better. We reject sensuality for good reasons, but we also reject out of hand as so much snobbery the centuries of high art (even including the last one) that have delved into the many aspects of beauty. We need to put God first, we tell ourselves, and not waste our time on human expressions of beauty, certainly not to the extent that we make decisions based on beauty. That’s just sinful.
What we’re left with, if we have any art at all, is art (be it written or visual) that is so unoffensive it compels almost no reaction at all. It provokes no thought, no awe, no tingling sense that there’s something we’ve been missing.
Then along comes Hebrews 11.23. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful.” Wait, what? Are we to understand that Moses’ parents were compelled by beauty toward faith? Yes.
In the oppression of slavery and under the edict to kill their male babies, the beautiful form and the miraculous complexity of naked human life gave Moses’ parents hope in dire circumstances. The Beauty of God’s creation motivated them to trust God, put his commands above all else.
Christians often portray beauty as deceptive. And while there is truth to that, it is also true that beauty can instruct and encourage. Christians, of all people, should not only be preserving the beauty of God’s creation, but creating beautiful things ourselves. We should be making the art that causes a person to ask, What am I missing?