To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.
~William Henry Channing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Abandon the Life Boats

A few years ago when we began our classical education journey I began to hear words and phrases that were completely foreign to me.
What was meant exactly by truth, beauty and goodness?
What in the world was aesthetics?
On the surface of things I knew what the words were...but there was something else being communicated that was just beyond the knowledge I had.
Three years later I can point out various instances where my life has been utterly changed because my understanding of those terms and words and concepts has grown. But I'd still have a difficult time offering a solid biblically based definition for them. What I can say is that beauty, contrary to popular thought and modern teaching, is not found in the eye of the beholder nor is it subjective. Art and the understanding of truth, beauty, goodness and overall aesthetics is a theological question.
It is intrinsically, inexplicably connected to our understanding of the character of God.
Beauty is a combination of qualities that bring delight and pleasure and God himself is the benchmark for these qualities that bring true delight and pleasure. He is the beginning and end of all things beautiful.
While we were in Atlanta I had the opportunity to go to the mall.
The way people dress and conduct themselves...the goods that are being sold...the life style that is being sold...It's pretty clear that where most of us get our idea of what is beautiful and attractive is not the same place that God finds it.
Think about the current popular music of practically any genre. The themes of God that are beautiful are far from present.
In both cases the reason they are so far off the mark of true beauty is because they begin and end on man...humanity is the center of attention and in it's fallen state it's not pretty.
And the saddest part of the whole thing is how pervasive it is in the Church. There isn't a whole lot of difference between the two worlds. A lot could be said here about a great many threads that tie into this but I want to share a thought that came out of one of the workshops I attended at the conference.
Most of us function with a 'Man, the life boats!' mentality. The world is going to hell in a hand basket on a slippery downhill slope  and our job as Christians, as the Church, is to rescue as many as we can from the wreckage. Things are only going to get worse from here on out and if we can just convince a few more to not dress this way or listen to that kind of music or behave in this or that manner than we can call ourselves successful evangelicals of God's word. If we're not completely different at least we're not as bad as those out there.
The problem here is that it places our hope in the future of some coming event and until them we just hold on and do the best we can. It doesn't take into account the One who has already come. It doesn't acknowledge His words that His kingdom has come, is coming and will come. In the same way His saving work has saved, is saving and will save us...the whole world has been redeemed, is being redeemed and will be redeemed.
Francis Schaeffer said it this way, "We have misunderstood the concept of the Lordship of Christ over the whole of man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture."
Instead of a life boat we should be an ark. We have been given a ministry of reconciliation and we are to join Him in the restoration of all things true, beautiful and good in every realm of the cosmos.
Everyday we reflect a picture of creation of beauty in the way that we order, arrange and manipulate the world and the components of our lives. Everyday we tell a story of our God and what we believe He says about truth, beauty and goodness.
We either do this well or pretty poorly but nonetheless we are doing.


Anonymous said...

Definitely food for thought, Marty. I think sometimes "churchiness" complicates things. I often think about how Jesus lived simply, walking among the people and caring about them in their everyday lives. I don't see much of that today. I see Pharisees congregating together as a body and having a wonderful time, but there are very few who step outside of that and actually meet real people who don't know Him out in the REAL world. I know many non-Christians who are far more "Christian" than the Christians I have known.

Beauty can be found in nearly everything. Jesus used mud to heal a blind man. (loosely speaking). He didn't put flowers on his eyes, you know what I mean? I think it has so much to do with perspective. With the ability to see with more than our eyes.

Ah well. You always make me think.