Why do Christians need to be “recovering the beauty of the arts,” as R.C. explores in his series by the same name? Because beauty, like truth, belongs to the children of God, and we have lost our grasp of it and our effective use of it in our witness.
I’ve often considered how helpful it would be, as I have stood in some of the great galleries of the world, if I could talk to the artists and ask questions about their work. Why did you paint this tree next to that river? Why did you use this particular brush stroke? What were you thinking when you put this expression on this subject’s face?
In some ways, this is like communing with God. We read and contemplate His Word in which He tells us explicitly who we are and why we respond to life the way we do. The potter has shaped the clay and knows precisely what uses He intends. We need not wonder about our purpose or speculate as to the meaning of our lives. God has demonstrated His power, His love, His faithfulness and His limitless capacity to show forth His mercy, beauty, and perfection in His creation. There is an inherent testimony to God’s authorship and ownership in the design and function of the world itself, which the ancients often called the “book of nature.” When we observe the true, the awe-inspiring, the transcendent, the ideal, we are identifying principles woven into the design of all things.
There is a short poem by Robert Frost called “A Passing Glimpse,” which I think captures something about creation:
I often see flowers from a passing car
That are gone before I can tell what they are.
I want to get out of the train and go back
To see what they were beside the track.
I name all the flowers I am sure they weren’t;
Not fireweed loving where woods have burnt —
Not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth —
Not lupine living on sand and drouth.
Was something brushed across my mind
That no one on earth will ever find?
Heaven gives its glimpses only to those
Not in position to look too close.
(I will stipulate to Mr. Frost on one point, we are in a position to look closely at Christ, and in Him we see the whole universe). God has revealed Himself all around us, but we apprehend Him by faith, not merely by examination. Like the psalmist (Ps. 27:4), may we desire to dwell in the house of the Lord and to behold the beauty of Him, the author of all beauty.