Sunday, July 1, 2007

What is Beauty? Part 2

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

The meaning of the last two lines of John Keats’ famous poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is much disputed among literary scholars and students, including my literary theory class in college. While much of the discussion centers on who Keats is really addressing when he speaks about beauty, the essence of this statement speaks to a very real aspect of the nature of true beauty—beauty is truth, beauty points to truth.

Psalm 24:1 says:

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell there in.”

God has created every inch of the universe, every cloud in the sky, and every hair on your head. Our understanding of beauty must first be rooted in a proper theology of God. If God created all things, then the created things should reflect the Creator—God, Himself. And if beauty is truth, then all things, to be truly beautiful, must point to the ultimate truth—God, Himself.

Beauty is not defined by the latest fashion magazine; it is defined by the One who created beauty. Do you purchase new shoes, or get your haircut, or buy new makeup to put Christ on display, or for man’s empty praise?

There is a common misconception among evangelicals that beauty is something to be avoided, but if God created the earth and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31), we must believe that He didn’t create it ugly and call it good. Why are we drawn to things that are attractive, if God does not want things to be beautiful? It is our fallen nature that distorts true beauty. God created us with a desire for things beautiful because He wants us to worship Him. When we divorce beauty from God we wind up with a host of problems.

So how does this affect us in our daily date with the mirror and closet? If your shirt is drawing more attention to body parts then your person, it is not declaring the beauty and truth of Christ. If your outfit is drawing more attention to your impeccable style then your heart for Jesus, it is not declaring true beauty. We should want to be beautiful, but not so we can win pageant awards and a host of boyfriends. We should want to be beautiful because we want people to see our Christ.

Peter addressed this in 1 Peter 3:3:

“Do not let your adornment be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing.”

Now surely Peter is not telling us to forego clothing. He isn’t. Rather, he is saying that our outward appearance should not define us, and most certainly should not be a distraction in worship and daily living. There is much freedom in the Gospel regarding make-up use, hair styles, and clothing. But, all of these things should seek a common purpose—the truth of the Gospel. Christians, of all people, should be the most beauty seeking ones in society because we know the real source and definition of beauty.

No matter how many times a college student, or academic, can try and deconstruct the language of truth, the heavens are not silent—they are declaring the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Is your appearance declaring the same thing? Do you seek to point people to Jesus, or to your new American Eagle shirt? May our lives and appearance be declaring the same thing—Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

To be continued (imperishable beauty and the beauty of fearing the Lord)…


stephanie said...


i really enjoy reading your blog! it is so great! yeah, it is hard sometimes to remember what true beauty is when our culture is always bombarding us with the latest fashion. thanks for being so encouraging with your words and for speaking truth! may we dress for Jesus!

cdt said...

Thanks, Steph.

Sonja said...

Courtney, These same truths apply to the downplaying of beauty....more to ponder. :)

cdt said...

Thanks, Sonja. Our life must truly be consistently conformed to Christ to live in such a way that our external appearance exists to point to our Creator.

What a joy to know that we have an advocate, Jesus Christ!

Thank you for your comments. Hope you are having a blessed day.