What does it mean to be made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)? Over the centuries, Christian theologians have sought to answer that question, pointing to things such as our capacity for reason, for language, and for love as part of what it means to be made in God’s image. In reflecting on this truth, however, we dare not overlook one often neglected aspect of being made in God’s image, namely, our love for beauty. This love for beauty is reflected in many different ways. We craft and purchase beautiful jewelry. We marvel at the works of history’s greatest artists. We seek to adorn the most ordinary places with tokens of beauty—artwork, floral arrangements, finely made furniture, and so forth. No matter what we do, we cannot help but try to make it more beautiful.
But how can we say that our love for beauty is part of our bearing the image of God? Because we know that our Creator loves beauty as well. He Himself is beautiful, and He makes everything beautiful in its time (Eccl. 3:11). When we consider His instructions to ancient Israel regarding worship, we see that some of what God commanded He commanded for the sake of having beauty in worship. The garments for Aaron and the other priests were made “for glory,” yes, but also “for beauty” (Ex. 28:2).
In our day, the church needs to recapture a proper love for beauty. So often, it seems that we go to extremes. Some theological traditions have a great love for visual beauty that comes at the expense of a love for truth and for what is holy. They might build exquisite cathedrals and produce many fine artists but misunderstand the gospel. Other traditions place a premium on the truth, proclaiming the unchanging biblical gospel, and yet their concern for beauty might seem almost nonexistent. But truth and beauty need not be opposed—indeed, they must not. Love for truth and love for beauty perfectly coincide in our Creator, and so must they in us.
No better setting than corporate worship exists for the church to recapture and display a love for beauty. This will entail a richer understanding of vocation, in which we enthusiastically embrace the idea that God calls some people to serve Him in the musical and visual arts. It will also mean making sure that our worship services not only proclaim truth but reflect divine beauty. Our beautiful Lord deserves no less than such attention.