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THE GLORY OF DIVINE BEAUTY,
THE WONDER OF CREATED BEAUTY
AND THE RUIN AND REDEMPTION AVAILABLE
There they were, scores of magnolias set on a hill, large ones, smaller, ones spreading like butterfly wings, ones cryptic with deep purple outward cover, and alluring yet pure scent within, those with masses of blooms, like ribbons trailing from ships that used to be attached from passengers to those on the land, as they moved off on their journeys, flourishing ebullitions of floral wonder, garlands of praise, exhibits of power, products of precision, things of beauty.
What marvels lie in those myriads, what a glory of construction engineered, scents composed, combinations of scent and shape, colour and composition, what effusions of excellence, brilliant blessings to the eyes, variations within a common theme, appeals to the heart! Where sourced is this beauty ? What is beauty on this earth ?
It is the correlative construction of what diligently speaks to the heart of a domain of unsoiled wonder, of unspoiled summits of appeal, where neither fragility nor ephemerality condition response. It is a wonder of principle, one that talks with form or function, feature or composure, of things select for the senses, the heart, the spirit and the wonder of man.
In essence, it is not in the least subjective. You may have aesthetic reactions, just as you may have olfactory ones; but beauty is beyond these things. They may contribute to its perception, but not to its essence. Part of its reality AS beauty IS that essence.
It proceeds as man does, from an ebullience of grace, of givenness, of presentation, where special harmonies and penetrations of possibilities show themselves as a bounty, the making concrete and discernible of things of spirit comes like a wind or even a torrent of triumphant generosity, a sea of grace and goodness, of abundance and liberality, that speaks not of stringency but generosity of spirit, not of sadness, but of uplift to a horizon of beneficent opportunities; and even where there is some association with grief, there is in some sense a tenderness which penetrates beyond decay or disaster, to the release of some dower, some shower of wonder, some aspect of awe, something unrehearsed and uncrimped, that shows that to which man may be led, with which he may be found when he yields to it, or finds its heart, its basis and its source.
Even where circumstances wince yet in beauty, a kindly graciousness exhibits itself without vaunting, taunting or muddle, free to air, unharassed in its spirit, in its demure delights or striking grandeurs, in microcosm or macrocosm, that yet uplift because of purity.
WHY is it not ultimately subjective ? If it were, there would be no beauty, but mere pleasure in apprehension. It is the same with goodness. It is because it is there that one values it, speaks of it, yearns for it, considers imposture with care!
Man is not stupid, some of the least intellectual knowing all too well the little kinks and quirks of the race. GOODNESS is heralded, sought, pretended, assumed, brashly announced and so forth, in the muddled structure of society, precisely because this adds something. As to goodness, varyingly, the hope, fear of illusion, hope of fulfilment, the ideal, the satiation of the quest, that somewhere there is someone who actually meets, matches, relates closely to, such a principle, a spirit, a motion of heart, that in some person may be found what moves truly towards a thing beyond meanness, contemptibility, utility, self-centredness, to what is the REAL point and purpose and grace for man: this never dies.
That is because God always lives and man is a product of His, and He is good. It is very simple really, for this explanation covers readily all cases all the time. Hence, depriving themselves, like those pertinaciously inducing their own poverty, those who leave the quest, finding nothing because they do not knock at this door of hope, may worship in soccer stadiums, their chanting like hymns, seek 'kicks' in sexual follies, making implicit fun of the wonder of human procreation, in drugged abandons, looking for some lurch, some 'rush' to make them feel the enormity of hidden blisses, some approach to darting wonder, doorway to the wonder of might; or become paranoid, centring it in themselves.
Man is not a muddled animal - that seductive term omits man's chief ingredient, his spirit of cognition, overview, insight and rationality, by which he is able to discourse discursively, reason monumentally, love sacrificially for envisaged good, tally with reality operationally through conceptions matching precisely the laws and structures given to the universe and to himself ... or not. He can play the moral chameleon. He may behave even worse than that, indeed as a deadly devil, and know it, and glory in it. He may imitate the angelic, with seraphic smile and noble self-portrait, and this even while finding new pathways for folly; he may even in sincerity seek to be good or do good.
The base thrust of the race, its baseness, is not its basis.
Man can act like clot or despot or angel or devil, or brute, but always with a certain panache under a certain panoply; for it is never as simple as that. He who CAN so act has the POWERS to choose, and in so going to analyse rationally and virtuously or morbidly, often at will, and his stature does not relate simply to his performances, but to his preferences, his POWER to prefer, to his opportunities, importunities, ideals and collusions, collisions wilfully made with reality, in a panoply of aspirations of a rainbow variability.
Thus no one phase is his measure, but rather the nature of a being able to choose phases, analyse them, overview them and adjust them, moved by ideals, delusions, opportunities or disdain for them, as the case may be, by philosophic fidgets or rationally discerned realities, tangentially leaving these with a waft of caprice, or finding some others of this phase, in fantasy or reality. He moves often with a desire for power or peace without responsibility, or pleasure without purpose, but also for reality without fantasy. He strives so to act; or may delight in not doing so, as mode and mood change like the seas, mounting like typhoons, or being stilled into passivity, with black clouds showing themselves more distantly.
Very often, he seeks, but he does not find; he hopes but is yet restless; he slides but looks up for the mouth of the well; he soars but losing height rapidly, he shrinks into mere routine.
When goodness itself is more directly in view, he is in the end, no more likely to be duped, as a race, than where brilliance of engineering or talent in mathematics is displayed. Some may fall for tricks and traps, just as others make them; but man is well able to see, sense, seize the concepts and there is no way he can be duped into believing that there is, after all, some goodness somewhere, somehow, to be sought and appreciated, without there being an inescapable case for its reality.
It is because of this reality that he may be duped, for he simply looks in the wrong direction, like ore companies knowing well enough there is gold, and trusting and paying much in search for it. They are normally able to be misled not by there being none, as if they were simpletons, seduced maniacs, but because there IS some of great value. Therefore comes a susceptibility to duping, simply there is something of great value in this domain, which may lead to great results; but with this draw at work, man may commit where it is merely hope and not wait till he finds it before too great committal to the task, commitment to the search. Job 28*1 speaks of wisdom in the same way, of a profound searching, for what may delusively be sought amiss; but which sits ready and pure, available in its ultimate place and position, in God. It is good to read it now, and the note provides for this, covering most of the Chapter.
Goodness itself is sought as an appearance or ascription just because it is there. It is often dismissed by the cynic just because he has burnt his fingers in seeking, been revolted by hypocrites or hurt by dissemblers. His intense desire becomes all but a measure of the depth of the resultant cynicism. Indeed, most often, it appears that cynicism is daunted idealism, and disingenuous departure in the hunt, the resort of the inwardly disabled.
Goodness is found in self-sacrificial service, at its own level, in dreams for what makes man more than diseased angel, or self-uplifting devil, and finds for him what is his place, despite his mischief, follies and disasters, often self-wrought, his punishments, his follies in words, self-taught. It is paramount only in one place: where the design for man is met by the options of man. Wisdom searches it out; God provides both the lust for its presence and the way to finding it.
Just as his DNA is objective in its commands, so are the morals that relate, like a Automobile Handbook, to his case. There are things fitting and unfitting for man, as for a fountain pen, or a spade. Beyond this, the roving power of creative rationality in man, relating both to reality and to desire or vision, is not the result of slave-driven matter, nor is his mind the product of the chatter of matter, giving undue birth to knowledge, to conceptual match in knowledge, to the interstices which govern creation! That match is made, and both the liveliness of the search, and the finding that laws are alive, these come from the founder, the logos both of the one and of the other: the one mere designation, the other, the passion of intelligence. It is not frustrated when it starts with the Lord; it is satiated when it finds Him*2.
Understanding is not action, but its interpretation, Interpretation is possible in reality, only when this is available. It is available only when its imparting agency is found. Products delimited with laws they cannot create is no source. Its source is in the prevailing formulator and conceiver, creator and construction power whose personal provision answers to man like the sea to the winds. Where is the law's source to be found ? and who is the genesis of these rulings, that man can formulate anew and conceive afresh, to match the realities ?
The Lawgiver is. From His power and perception flows the construction, the wisdom for it and the beauty which it portends. With beauty, as with goodness, the case is simply finding what He is and wants, relating it to man as he is and with heart, might be. There is the point of the provision, and it is there that it may be found with understanding, where the input became output that it might be observed by man, so that, adopting the git and with commitment and fervour, pursuing all that is involved, he might at the summit, delight in the Source, the Creator the chief. Thus does man's creativity surge, but its quest is its source, and in its source is wisdom. It is not silent, for creation itself was action indeed; and to man it speaks.
THE ETERNAL ORIGINALITY
OF BEAUTY, JUSTICE, GOODNESS AND MERCY
IN THE GLORY OF GOD
It speaks in things profound in the output, that is in nature, and to man personally in the composition, the Bible, for his welfare, indeed for his persistence when the temporary structure of this earth, after much ado, having fulfilled all his purposes, and given all His intimations, and contained all His workings and warnings for man, is removed. It is like a ship. It moves for long over the oceans; but when its time comes, it is well to have booked your air-fare. Those on the Titanic could tell you that. Man creates; man strives; but God provides for this creative particle, called man, and in Him lies more than the prototype or principle of wisdom and beauty and goodness, indeed of justice likewise: for there is the profundity of His own person, in whom principles have their sky of security, the meaning of their glory and the wonder of His majesty, because of whom they are, and have any being.
That is why beauty is in the end objective. Subjectivity merely distorts or mars or sees or understands what it is, for man is most pathologically variable, being a race that has wandered without God who made it, as its new condition, and required to find Him, as its current necessity, so that meaning might be found, design understood.
It seems to some jejune to move from the subjective depths to the realistic heights, as if there was only to be found less oxygen for thought, at stratospheric heights. Yet it is only in overview with understanding susceptible to verification*2, that there is substance for any thought. Nothing stands or means on its own: it must be seen in its grounds, cause, effects, relationships, as well as in its natural being and modes of working. Further it is to be related to the purpose of what gave it its existence, since causeless existence amid the delimited is mere mirage. It omits the rationality it uses when making such views.
What is the purpose of goodness ? It is to nurture, nourish, achieve the utmost of potential for what is planned in love. Without love, goodness has no being. There is only desire. To seek what is 'good' for something without love, is to seek the sharper dagger for the murderer, a mere matter of means. When love however is present, which seeks for the good of its object, its fulfilment according to the utmost of its design, without needless detriment to other good and goods, but as sourced in the One from whom all goodness takes both course and meaning, without compromise or obfuscation of false motive, then there is meaning to the objective. Yet this too needs additive to co-function. There must be wisdom in order that the desire of love in the aspect of goodness may be effectual. Indeed, there must be truth, also, so that the desire of love for goodness is not merely pure but discernible, that it may be carried out on the part of all who so love.
So does man seek for justice, and mourn or grieve when it is deemed absent, as one who loses an only son, for beauty, and complain at its demise as one whose territories are plundered, for goodness, and be scornful or scathing when it is not found, for wisdom, and so does he wonder at the follies of those where it is deemed an absentee; but yet, for all that, he tends to ignore his own plight, disdain, scorn or depart from his own remedy, and leave fallow the fields of flight to the Almighty. Thus we find in Hebrews 2:3 and 12:25, these words:
To beauty we may now return, to see it once more separately, rather than as for the moment, like a flocculent precipitate of which it is but part.
Beauty is what is fashioned in love, centred in wisdom, dowered in grace, wrought in understanding, imbued with a holy harmony, that is, with the fashions not of doom but of diligent goodness, achieved with patience (whether fast or slow in the outcome), redolent with reality (and this ONLY because God is good, and loving, so that the reality is impressive, impactive, mandatory and available), eloquent with sensibility, touched with wonder, that is the fingerprint of the Almighty. Partial beauties exist, and there touch from such sources may be minimal or in spirit or in form; but as with goodness, so with beauty, there is the longing for it which is based on the fact that we are made by One who has beauty of holiness, an ineffable sublimity of nature which is often termed lovingkindness, which is heralded by truth, may be fostered in peace, festers in hatred, is soiled by hastiness, and lingers where the heart lies open to its ministration.
That God is willing to be loving is attested by the fact that He is able to speak, and testably does speak truth (cf. TMR and SMR, with Repent or Perish, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7). Beauty is found when the testimony of His wise, understanding, deep, uncompromising and uncompromised love is unaborted, His presence not dimmed by sin and self-serving littleness, and His presence comes into one's being like the swelling tides that arise and rise, lapping and moving inward, without obstruction; and for man, this means acknowledgement of the ugliness of sin and the judiciousness of the Cross which translated this into the disfigurement of the loving Creator Himself, outlining its nature and taking its penalty jointly, at the same time. Here is beauty (of spirit) in ugliness (of distressed format), just as sin in mankind is ugliness (of spirit) that may be in enhanced format, being deceptive.
For my part, beauty of form is never in principle at least, allowed to seem beautiful when its essence is compromised. A generous gift is not beautiful if its motive is specious. A large lake is not beautiful if it is substantially polluted. A personality is never beautiful if its motif is selfish. Charm is utterly ugly if its delusiveness if directed. What a thing is always takes precedence (again, in principle at least) over what it appears. WHEN however what it is has no detraction, then what it appears can exhibit beauty with a purity and and a quintessence which does not stop at awe, but proceeds to uninhibited delight and a sense almost of ravishment, that such glories of production exhibit such a generosity of conception, a grace of thought and an ebullience of blessing.
Once the objective reality of beauty is sensed, realised, discerned, then the subjective enters. Then one can be more or less sensitive to what one senses, or obtuse to what one does not discern, for then one is as it were, in the gallery of beauty, where the nature of the thing being clear, the degree of it is indeed a matter of perception, the power to perceive, the heart for it and the spirit instructible in it, whether by pervasion of spirit or ascertainment of mind.
BIBLICAL VERSES TO WEIGH, AND AT WHICH TO WONDER
|And the glorious beauty, which is at the head of the verdant valley, is a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he who looks at it, sees; he eats it up while it is still in his hand.|
|In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, to the residue of his people,|
|Your eyes wall see the king in His beauty: they will behold the land that is very far off.|
|For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.|
|To appoint to those who mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.|
|And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.|
|How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not His footstool in the day of his anger!|
|All that pass by clap their hands at you; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?|
|As for the beauty of his ornament, He set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things in it: therefore have I set it far from them.|
|And your renown went forth among the heathen for your beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee, says the Lord GOD.|
|But you trusted in your own beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown, and poured out your fornications on every one who passed by; His it was.|
|And say unto Tyre, O you who art situated at the entry of the sea, who are a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus says the Lord GOD; O Tyre, you have said, I am of perfect beauty.|
|Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, your builders have perfected thy beauty.|
|Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon you, the terrible of the nations: and they will draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, and they will defile your brightness.|
In these verses one sees account of physical, spiritual and splendid beauty, that of God and that of man, of form and of function, of appearance and of reality. Seen too is the divine detestation of merely factitious beauty, where wickedness of purpose or heart is associated, and that spiritual beauty in its domain, like physical beauty in its own, depends not only on the susceptibility and potential for beauty on the part of the one in view as possible proponent of beauty, but on the actuality of its use. One of the most striking of all scriptures on this them is found in Ezekiel 28:17:where we read:
"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty,
you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness:
I will cast you to the ground,
I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold you..."
Here a special unction with function, relish with reality, power with purpose, reminding of the sleek, functional beauty of a tiger or leopard in its symmetry, furriness and agility, its colours and its thrift in thrust, is to be seen. The heart is lifted up because of it. One does no more think of it as a gift, but as a mode of me. Hence wisdom is corrupted. Reality is invaded. It repels the invasion. The very brightness of the light that shines on such an apparition becomes a ground of its corruption (as if to burn itself into skin cancer!). Brightness, a gift, becomes a source of corruption, and wisdom is the kill. Foolishness is the result. Hence the source of beauty to which it is accountable, and from whom it comes, whether directly or in potential and scope for action, casts in this case, that beauty to the ground. Then its intrinsic actuality can be contemplated, without panache, pride or the alchemies of glamour: alas!
ORIENTATION FROM THE BIBLICAL BASIS
Let us use the numbering for speed of fit, in the above list.
In Number 1, you see natural beauty, in Number 4, supernatural. In Number 4, further, we find the presence of spiritual beauty in a deliberately unglamorous exterior, pointing the difference between spiritual and physical beauty. Often one finds that comparative ordinariness can shine with personality, and great grace of form can mask appalling emptiness. So the diversities are placed in significance side by side. In the case of Numbers 1 and 4, the exterior is so fashioned as not to be confusable with the interior. This simplified the task, and increased its efficacy.
In Number 9, you see have divinely fashioned beauty can be given a setting, just like a jewel, in which its intrinsic character can feature and move; but in Number 10, you find that arrogation of the duo, of the composition and its placement, can become the REASON for its demise. Beauty DOES have a certain sense of delicious fragility very often, as if to declare its inner strength through its outer weakness.
Number 10 has the fascinating phase of beauty, that it was perfect through God's own comeliness. That is, the divine Spirit, fashioner, composer, Creator, in making something of beauty may in it place something of His own personal grace of nature; and this, if it be presumed on, can lead to such a distortion as becomes truly horrible, like a forged cheque; and it is checked accordingly!
As with philosophers, the very "beauty of your wisdom" which may be substantial, though fretted by erratic concepts and mis-focussed through blind aspects, while dimmed by darkness where there should be light, becomes vulnerable and cannot stand, and the unfounded brightness, being isolated from its source, becomes a basis for blight. How often!
Im Numbers 11 and 12, we find the pathology of actually TRUSTING in one's own 'beauty'. That is the very strength, wit, power, perception of a culture or a person may become such that it seems sufficient for life, for living; as if one were 'perfect in beauty', were a puppet of perfection, a place of abundance intrinsically.
The ignoring of the source makes of the result of its action, a foul play, a false pretension, a meretricious self-absorption, and what had been high is exhibited as low, because not lowly. God thus so acts (14), because what had been beautified in this case, was so in covenant, by association, by a gracious enterprise in which both participated, God as giver, Israel as gainer. In such cases, redoubled is the horror of presumption, and flirting with favours from others, on an assumed or permitted basis of each being his own, each ready for praise, the thign becomes equivalent to fornication, to unfaithfulness, even (as in Ezekiel 20,23) adultery.
What had been beauty for position, becomes an ache, ague, anguish for undiscipline, false devotion and spurious spirituality.
Always, the spiritual is the criterion; the form is not denied; but it has a position poised on truth before it may even declare itself. Part of the hidden wonder in beauty, is this: that it is not soiled by flaunting self-exposure, and admits chastely its source, more like dew on the grass, than a vindictive mob or a fatuous sovereign.
But what of 5, Isaiah 61:3 ? Here there is beauty for ashes, oil of gladness for mourning. Why ? It is because the chief thing to disturb, displace, disgrace or delete beauty is lack of truth, deception as to its nature and origin and meaning, for the Lord IS the truth, and His works depend on that.
Through the Gospel promoted in Isaiah 61 as in 55, with the basis of 52-53, the ashes that came from the crushing of a beauty which became modish and immodest, no more hidden but rashly betrayed with the mere offshoots of the same in others, were replaced. Now there is a trade-in. The old - ashes - the new in exchange, once more beauty. This time it is a self-declaring beauty, and this is not done by the recipient, but by the Giver. This is beauty by grace, and its innermost quality is insusceptible to any more bloated pride, untrue self-deployment or fractious fiddling.
Joy comes because of the transition, and now the 'hidden' aspect is inner and personal, between the soul of the redeemed sinner and the Saviour. Thus there are elements of the songs of praise which are more personal (as in Revelation 2:17 and 14:3).
Always there is this contrast: the incalculable wonder of the gift of beauty, and the inglorious horror of its denudation through lack of understanding, will or truth. The corrupting of your wisdom by reason of your brightness is like a knell, in Ezekiel 28:17. Satan is focussed in this movement in spirit behind the king of Tyre, just as Christ spoke to SATAN when it was PETER who made the mistake, as seen in Matthew 16. There are aspects, elements, situations so memorable, so pointed, so deep, that the enemy of souls himself comes into view quite directly. Alas, not only has Satan so fallen, corrupting his wisdom by reason of his brightness, but he was lifted up because of his beauty, splendour, appeal and height of grace.
How many has he subverted since, like a rouť with a taste for the removal of virgins! How devious his devilries and how undiscerning those betrayed by him. Beauty does well to resist him as I Peter 5 advises; for uncouth as is his fallen beauty now, yet the dapper glamour of his disgrace and his desire not to be outfaced is such that many fall, inflamed with his flames, fatuous with his fall, companions of the Order of the Gutter.
Thus do we find the contrast, the clash, like the clangour of sabres, the striking of swords, the interplay of rockets, to smite and to prevent smiting, offensive and defensive. The stark intelligence of creation is not lost, the brilliant miniaturisation is not to be ignored, as if a guilty conscience would sacrifice fact.
Indeed, the lustres of perfection (cf. Denton's last Chapter in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis), not only in the realms of engineering but in those of the moral and spiritual, of the floral and arboreal, amid landscapes, seascapes and skyscapes innumerable: these are not empty but comprehensible clusters of wonder. Nor is the beauty of holiness in vain.
On the other side, the marrow of wickedness has long been rotten, and the matrix of many hearts is impudently violent, evil in obstructive disdain and vicious in ludicrous wallowing without pity, wisdom or realism. There is goodness that flows, and there is wantonry that grows. There is composition in might and deposition in blight. There is creation and there is curse, there is precision and there is pollution; and man in his liberties which he loves to deny, in no small numbers undeniably loves to lampoon wisdom and liberty while using the one and estranged from the other, with all the liberty of a hoon drunkard, rejoicing in a wantonry of spirit as if it were his mother and bride alike.
As these two edges impact, like two vast ice-bergs, there is a grinding, and there is on the Cross of Christ, the solution of the Creator, in salvation, as much a free work of His own creative Spirit as was creation (John 3, Ephesians 3, Romans 3 and 5); and it is, as was creation, effectual, where applied. His application is where love finds its place, and where truth delivers its wares, untainted and triumphant, by the grace of God; and there is absolutely NONE who will perish because the love of God in all its purity was too narrow, but only because the will of man, even in the sight of God and discerned in its ultimate by Him alone, is doubly derelict and remains its own (John 8:24, Colossians 1:19ff., John 3:16-19).
The trouble for man, therefore, lies not with God who is no minimalist, though He be absolutely pure and will compromise the wonder of holiness for none (if He did, hell would be the torment for all), nor is He any 'scapegrace in love (I Timothy 2, I John 4:7ff., John 3:16-17), but with his own refusal, known to God and made clear in His own foreknowledge before it is applied on earth, is the reprobate known to God (John 3:19, Romans 8:30ff.), in heart and essence, not in his works (Romans 9:11), but in God's own.
Thus is man to be sifted and lost, or found and reversed in repentance, restored to the grace of God BY the grace of God in love that is wise, with goodness that is evocative. It is done with sacrifice that was sudden, though foreseen before time (Revelation 13:8), that sunders all confusion and achieves all that is needed for man (Matthew 20:28, Titus 3:3-7), omitting none in its purvey when the Son was sent to be the Saviour of the world (I John 4:14), not to judge (John 3:17).
If sin gashes man's capacity to choose God, unless He Himself first acts (John 6:65), so love gushes past the mere universal resistance factor in man (Ephesians 4:17ff.), to embrace those where love may come, in the celestial comprehension which pre-dates action, where sovereignty in God is not that to which He bows, but being Himself love (I John 4:7ff.), what expresses this.
Some love to mourn for justice, being unjust, for goodness, being themselves equivocal, for love, being unlovely; but there is a plenteous abundance in the same source as gave to man his life; and with it is beauty.
Truth does not vary. Mercy does not flicker, though its conditions are immutable, goodness is not short-circuited, even if its evacuees may scoff. But there is more! There it is, beauty itself... Beauty, humble splendour, majestic meekness, vulnerable wonder, declared goodness fashioned direct, the chute to divine charity, the effulgence of divine blessedness, the purified presentation of the noble, the artistic, the grand in its mellowness, arresting in its hallowed state, hidden in internality, an exposť of excellence, a glimpse of glory, a fashioning where ruin and renegacy for the time is missing, and the kiss of eternity, this gloriously lingers: this remains. Like goodness, it is under seige, yet it stays. Like truth, it is assaulted, yet it does not move. It is often dismissed, yet it acts. Some, hurt, refuse to see it; others, blighted and now blighting, do not desire it. But it is there.
It is the beauty of holiness from which it comes, and into which what remains of it, returns, where its place is always in grace, and its pattern in divine perfection. Its lustre is not lost, and the Lord in His own trial on earth, but the more directly manifested its profundity and its presence, where in Him, it may be found, consummating in Himself as source, the wonders of its realm.
THE METAPHYSICS OF AESTHETICS
Thus aesthetics, briefly, What is beauty ? It is virtually meaningless without the metaphysics of aesthetics: WHY is something beautiful ? The product is without meaning minus the producer. Only in God is beauty intrinsic, and all extrinsic beauty has the option, not always exercised by the item in focus, of being enabled with beauty within (with or without the additional phase of spectacle), or else dispossessed of it, devoid of it, of being delinquent with it, or of participating in a vast panorama of things to which the term 'beautiful' might, in different aspects and respects, be applied. Instead, however, of a ceaseless array of ambiguous items, subjective assessments striking at the very heart of the field, there is in the field of rationality, as depicted in this site, founded on the Bible and on the God who gave both that and beauty, a striking simplicity. It is not that this means no labour, but no confusion.
GOD is the source and author of beauty, and with it comes duty, whether programmatic for that style of thing or personal for persons. Its source must be acknowledged and His ways followed; otherwise the thing, like a picked flower, has a savour or reminder of beauty, as in the unsmitten and original creation of yesteryear, but now is ready to collapse.
Fleeting beauties are not only because of age, accordingly, but because of stage, of rage against the Almighty, of obtuse obfuscation of His presence and power, grace and goodness, so that, the ultimate source compromised, the final outcome is deflowered.
It is well that so much is available in Christ, not only in the more programmatic creation but more especially in that transference of truth dynamic to His children; for without this, beauty would be gone, as if hell surged into the land of liberty, and swallowed it up. This evokes the memory of the words of Isaiah 9, 'gross darkness' and in the preceding Chapter, 'dimness of anguish' : this the tone of the truth when scamped, while trash is scavenged.
What beauty is, is dependent on its source, and for man, as objectively made at the first in the image (inter-communicative correlative capacity) of God, there is access therefore to objective beauty. This Source that is God the Creator, being eternal and standard for all, however He be treated, gives to realities their objectivity potential, access and reality relish.
How that access is treated, both systematically in repelling or receiving the presence of God in one 's life in salvation by Jesus Christ, or not, and even then, with what appetite and desire both in personal life and perception, and beyond even this, with what enablements as God gives His gifts: these are more personalised and particular areas. Often the former is confused with the latter, and a troublesome merger leaves only obscure thinking. The beauty of God and from God, however, this remains, and can be an almost dominant element in the wonder of the knowledge of the Lord (as in Psalm 27:4).
THE METHOD, THE MASTERY AND THE IMPACT OF BEAUTY
In flowers, beauty is set in administrative orders, DNA, where the spirit of the thing, as in any conceptually connotable matter, is committed to the equivalent of writing (Jesus Christ, Defaced, Unfazed ... Ch. 4). As with the artist, the composure of what exhibits beauty, has understanding, intuition, conception, perception and vision as its base, and that is why it is valued, this above all: whether the valuation be benignant as often, or malignant, as sometimes for the twisted. The conveying by these means of what has personality as its basis and high level technical media as the transference mechanism is now well known and constantly practised by digital means, for example. There is no mystery in the principle of the matter: just the basis in personality and conception, and the wit in the mode of implementation, or even standardisation of this, into many copies proceeding from one vision of understanding. In this, it is in brisk comparison, almost like a Lecturer copying handouts of his notes: each comes from vision, is intended to impart it, and the copies so far from dimming or diminishing its originality, conserve, preserve and apply it.
In landscapes and sunsets, skyscapes and seascapes, in fluent combinations of the same, there is the same vision back of it, provision for perception of it in the nature of the viewer - always vital in any communication. There is the scope of the desire of the Maker, and then the modality for the transference to the viewing medium, in this case as broad as the heavens, deep as the sea, and vast as the skies and landforms, in their intricate majesty and unrelenting magnitude, with all the variations as with a a palette, where stars may be used in the grandeur of the artistry of celestial design, as if trees in a simple rustic landscape. That is one of the advantages of Deity, His brush has any level of fineness, His palette has space for destination, His viewers are in His own image, susceptible in measure to His invention.
It may be impactive in wonder, awe, finesse, the exquisite, the leisurely mastery, the mode of translation over centuries, as in skies, and their mutable glories; it may entrance, intrigue, arrest, charm or stagger. Then again, there is the more direct translation, in which not the eye but the heart of man is in view. In this case, there is the translation of the vision of the beauty to the heart, so that it may become accustomed to its finesse, grandeur, tenderness, triumphs of presentation, as in the magnolia grove on which we have just been dwelling. There is this, ; and contrasting it with the grave, we find an essence of life: that the wonder and the shame, the expansiveness and the compression are not merely mixed aspects, but distinguishable as bounty and blame.
There is no limit to the beauty, and there is a vast pit of ugliness, in soul and heart; and sometimes this is echoed in the groanings of the creation, subjected to vanity (Romans 8:17, Genesis 3), to an emptiness which is in vast contrast with the total brilliance of its contrivance, as in architectural and others orders expressed exceedingly precisely and concisely in the DNA. Just as 'nature' shows the contrast, so does man, able to play the devil with great gusto, and perform the angel with no small aplomb.
Sin is the instrument of separation, which can come like an evil inspiration to the form of the heart of man, compressing, repressing, addressing, distorting, aborting with a staggering shamelessness, till the biographies of the mighty can become like cesspools of horror, not only in the execution of their thoughts, their ideas, but in their nature, solemnly self-centralised, manically murderous, as the case may be.
Into this clashing of content, of evil and blessed vision, of concatenation and decatenation, harmony and horror, grandeur of generosity and meanness of the callow mind, of production and destruction, of sincerity and deception, of hope and sickly cynicism, like a scythed crop learning to rot into this, there comes with intensive beauty, not simply a solution, but something far more, without being the less in its place. It is an explanation and an analysis, a diagnosis and a prognosis, a conviction as for one arraigned, and an attribution of guilt to our race, which scarcely needs it, but yet often resists it for all that.
this likewise applies to the orders for life itself, with their
information about information
so does the elaborate spectacle arrest the imagination and startle the heart, challenge the mind and require the resolution.
Here is the well-prepared ground for the earth's condition: magnificence of creation, grossness of misuse, grave consequence of the same from the hand of the Holy Creator, gracious resolution of the impasse*4 by that same hand, so that now not one, but three elements pulse: the creation as made, the curse as given and the Gospel as provided, the reason why the fallen earth is not simply exterminated, for its failure, furies and frenzies, its madnesses and its distortions of truth, of the very name of God, and its assault on reality. God in mercy is allowing time for the Gospel Age. In this admixture of the threefold aspects, there is a personal provision of time, just as there was a personal prediction of the time when God the Creator, now as Saviour would consummate on the Cross the opportunity for man (Daniel 9:24-27 as in Christ the Citadel Ch. 2).
We may divide the matter of course into more segments; but these are the chief. Let us however look for a moment at these.
Here is artist's licence in the form of creation. There are many types. One is the physical, one the overlay*5, one is the command, one is the correlation of commands, one is the outcome as in a new car construable apart from the parts installed, one is the address to man, one is the rebuke, one is the challenge, one is the insistence, one is the ONE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, like the one language of the written format of the DNA. In the verified and uniquely validated Bible, there is one conceptual language, one of plan, one of heart, one of overview, like a symphony in parts, always proceeding to a coda and climax of imbued loveliness, outworked at last and culminating in a climax of wonder. This, it is the Messiah, the Saviour, His sending, His coming, His going and His schedule of events before His return.
It is not personalised because it already IS personal. In this is beauty and justice and goodness and holiness and that covers like the waters of a cool lake in Summer, as one plunges to swim in it.
In this language of love, there is one insistence, repentance, one requirement with it, faith, and one gift, the collapse of the criminal charges, moral opprobrium, deadly failures of man (remember the ”-rings' , so small, so fatal in the Challenger space vessel ? and remember the causes of the fault!). For this there is one method, the Cross where the Artist, the Creator, the Writer of code, comes to take on the form and format of man, and in this exposed, vulnerable manner, both to show the viciousness of man in so regarding God as an opportunity for crime, even there, and to exhibit with this, the cancellation procedure by bearing this as condemnation on man's behalf.
Consider this well, then, Fancy, imagine, conceive of it: the plan in this art was nothing less than to have the artist daub (He exists as trinity*6) Himself into human form, and then and so to make up the difference between beauty, goodness, on the one hand, and evil in its acrid acrimony, on the other, by dying for its guilt and banishing upon Him its horror, so that its shame should be condensed into His death, now a place of pardon for repentant and believing man!
THE PEACE OF PARDON IN TRUTH
WITH LOVE IN ITS INTEGRITY
What was meant in hate, by man, becomes the mode of pardon by God. What summary eloquence, what a brief of profundity is this!
What was conceived in murder, becomes the method of generosity itself, in making a grant not just of life, but staggering fact, of eternal life! not just pardon, but perpetual blessedness in a profundity of peace (Philippians 4:1-6, Isaiah 26:1-4), to man in His image.
As with the medical art, so here in the celestial, it is not given to those who surreptitiously squib the operation, incandescent with self-centrality, defy it, would delete it, or to those who calamitously contend against it, if possible treading under foot the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:29), disregarding it as if deranged, superficial in relationship or sundered from final restoration by drawing a bead on the God of their salvation; for He IS the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe (I Timothy 4:10), and hell can have no appetite except for those who pass over the very body of Christ which was presented with atoning sufficiency not only for those saved, but for those to be lost ( I John 2:2), though to be sure, the payment goes through for none who do not come (Romans 8:32, Isaiah 53:2-6). Offer is not acceptance, and provision is not participation. Reception is always necessary, or no redemption is to be found!
HE! He is the ransom and sin-substitute as sacrifice on offer to all, as was the atonement in Israel, but given to those only who received it in faith (Deuteronomy 29:14ff.)
Alas there is, as Solomon declared, a certain madness to which the heart of man is liable (Ecclesiastes 9:3), and here is travesty which accentuates tragedy. Yet God knows His own (II Timothy 2:19), and loses none of these. Not least of the beauties of this saving art, which is translating into life and through death into eternity for man, are four elements.
First, it is not forced. It is free. Secondly, it is freely given. You don't have to subscribe, but commit.
Thirdly, it is wrought without intermediary (I Timothy 2, Hebrews 2-10). so that the giver is the purveyor, and the instrument is the Principal, for the triune God does not vary in deity, but in the individuality of the reality of His existence: for example in this Gospel, as Sender, Sent One and Applier, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are no intervening charges or commissions, no intermediaries whatsoever, since HIS commission is to give, and HIS deployment is of Himself (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 12:10), and long have people, wolves tried to exploit this simplicity with complicity in crime at the spiritual level, or at best, sightless intrusion.
Fourthly, it is by transformation, since a cold legal deletion of penalty is far less than the loving grandeur of the gift, which being an inter-personal matter has the tenderness of personal triumph, made mutual in this, that the position of children of God is given, and with it a transformation of heart to become sensitive to spiritual things and apt at absorbing spiritual food, and drink, and alive as from the dead*7.
All this is given by using, as from a colossal palette, the hatred of man, welling up like a spout of industrial waste into the stream of life, a sort of evil dynamic, as the breeding site for the gift of God, so that even in the midst of evil technology, there remains the purity of the cross, soaring above the intransigence of evil vision, past the envy and hatred. In this, with all it portends and implies, is found the summit of love, to allow this gaunt focus of horror, to become the building site of the sacrifice which now outside the temple makes all temples of stone irrelevant! In this Temple, the body of Christ, is the priest, who offers Himself, and in this Priest, is the love which is willing to do it, and in this willingness are to be found the sufficiencies in sinlessness and divine and eternal power, which are His, so that He should and did not only endure, but overcome. Thus did He receive the violence in virtue, as the penalty was transferred, using hate as a transfer mechanism, just as love was the ground for suffering it.
Thus did He expose the viciousness as the background on earth to His celestial action, just as the heavens in blackness shed a contrasting ground for the brightness of stars. It was done through the infinite contrast of what was done and its ground, with this evil which sin provided, for its means.
For its pains, for man come the gains. Instead of retribution, there came contribution. Justice in its searing reality is still one step away, for the grace is offered in heart to all, and not sin alone, but refusal of redemption is the ground of eternal exclusion, which follows as the night after the day, the darkness of delusion the preference as God has known before time began, for many as John 3:19 imperviously pronounces. Just as it is not in the stars but in ourselves that folly arises, so it is not in our personal sovereignty (John 1:12), but in God's foreknowledge prior to all sin, of who are His own, and where ultimate preference lies, that the end comes. It outfaces a divine love of intensity and wonder, and rejected, leads to the divine laments (Jeremiah 48 cf. 8-10, Luke 19:42ff., Isaiah 48:16ff.), which so sunder the heavens in their benign depth.
To what then do we come in mankind ? and in what milieu has His plan of salvation operated ? For its hatred, He implants His love. For its mercilessness, He supplies His mercy, and in its very uncontrite commission of lust, He exposes the more aptly His own humble and humbled commission of tender, lovingkindness, crying and crying, Father, forgive them: they do not know what they are doing! (Luke 23:34).
God is loving, and the powerful pathos is merely the beginning of the action. Though central. In power, He resurrects that body, that this world would have loved to parade, being frustrated then as evermore. Risen, in conviction He convinces the disciples, who could scarcely believe the wonder of it all, though young John was on the fast track there (John 20) and Mary Magdalene was as fast on the uptake as she had been vastly in need of pardon earlier in her life.
Gripped as if by an electrical current, the disciples become messengers of joy, insensitive to death, speaking as commanded by their own perceptions (Acts 4:20 cf. John 3:11) in all honesty and spiritual integrity. Death was the victim, eternal life a corporeally demonstrated wonder. As God put it before He came and did it:
"O death, I will be your plagues! O Grace, I will be your destruction!
Pity is hidden from My eyes!"
That, it is self-pity which is hidden, for in impenetrable resolve, the Lord in His goodness carried it out, even amid mockery for not coming down from the cross. Seeing the need, He met it (Luke 9:51, Isaiah 50:5ff..
History unfolded after God did it, death rendered vain, victory rendered visible, faith with access with all boldness even to the very throne of God (Hebrews 4).
What followed ?The Roman Empire persecutes before it capitulates. Empires come and go, the Gospel moves in this way and that, as in the British Empire, where it held some sway in many places, amid other qualities of an entirely different national sort. The world continues to swig from the bottle of sin, and in appalling intoxication, forget the beauty of holiness which so many now for so long have shown in the history of the world, in great scientists aplenty, some of these at the foundational level in phases of their disciplines, as in thinkers, artists, missionaries and pilgrims of many nations, centuries and callings.
Meanwhile, the beauty of holiness from the God of all beauty and realism, who is not duped by sin, but confronts it in ways small and large, immediate and slow, surging and subtle, continues where faith has received the gift of the Gospel of His grace in Christ Jesus. There it lies available, in the risen and Sent One who is Saviour (and there is, says God, NO OTHER SAVIOUR BUT HE, WHO IS GOD HIMSELF - Isaiah 43:10-11). The Spirit of God, sent by the Saviour from the Father, not only regenerates (Titus 3:3-5, John 3), but moulds like a sculptor, an artist as you see in II Corinthians 3:17-18, from which comes the following.
"But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
There is a beauty of heart which comes in the milieu of God's presence within it; and it is this which in the case of the believer, the one who has been first regenerated (like a surface made ready for painting, well-prepared). The vision is applied to the painting, and it forms beneath His artistic gaze in a marvel of life-painting, inter-communication and exquisite grace, thus setting the imprint on the heart made ready for action. It may involve some fine work on the painting board, some painting where the living board moved; but it proceeds like a waterfall, in abundance, yet like an etching in precision. Long may be some strokes, often some repainting: for this is no daub, but the enduement of destiny for the very children of God.
Faith is the vehicle. If it is arrested, so is growth. If it flourishes in exuberance, so does growth. If it is diseased with vanity, so does paint fail to stick.
Disease however is capable of cure, in the outset and in the onset. There is no disease which carries off the children of God from their eternal destiny, though refinements aplenty (as in II Corinthians 12:7ff., Psalm 51, I Peter 1:6-7, 4:12ff.), may be both necessary and applied! From the last, we find this:
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: but rejoice, in that you are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when His glory is revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.
"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified."
What then ? Beauty is at once the pageant and the thrust of the beauty of holiness, that moves from Creator to creation as a bloom, grace, relish, blessing of vitality that covers its object like blossom, instils into it like a fragrance, anoints it like a father, grows into it like roots into the grounds of goodness, surrounds it like trees, shrouds it like a garment, embraces it like a friend. It moves through a forest of splendour, to the fields of blessed dew, moistening what it loves.
The beauty of holiness is eternal splendour of grace and purity which adorns God like a universe of stars, spiritual ones; and it does not twinkle, though conveys its splendour, the sheer loveliness of His majesty set in righteousness and suffused with His love.
Finally, what is the intensity and the immensity of this beauty, that in His gift by grace (Romans 5:15), God undertakes not to delete the saved sinner but only the specious presence of the insecure hypocrite! for each of His (II Timothy 2:15), to the last one, is kept by the power of God to salvation ready to be revealed, and reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:5-8, Ephesians 1:11). That is the best part of beauty, its eternity when it comes fresh from the giving hand of the gracious God to redeemed sinners, whom John reminds, are possessors of eternal life (I John 5:11-13), and need to know it.
Job 26 has its own message. Below is a translation from various sources.
"Surely there is a tine for the silver, and a place for gold where they refine it.
"Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from ore.
He makes an end to darkness, and he searches every recess:
for ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
"He breaks away a shaft from those who tarry above;
There forgotten by every foot, they hang and swing far from men."
The text proceeds at verse 9:
"He lays his hand on the flint,
He turns up the mountains from the root.
He cuts canals through the rock,
And his eye sees all kinds of precious things.
"That they may not leak, he damns up rivers,
And that which is hidden, he brings to light.
"But wisdom ? Whence is it obtained ?
And where is the place of understanding ?
"Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
"The deep says, 'It is not in me';
And the sea, 'It is not with me.'
It cannot be purchased for gold...
Again, let us resume at verse 20.
"From where then comes wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
Seeing it is hidden from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the birds of the air.
"Destruction and death say, 'With our ears, we have heard report of it.
God understands the way of it,
And He, He knows it place;
For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heaven.
"When He appointed to the wind, its weight,
And weighed the water according to measure,
When He appointed to the rain, its law,
And a path for the thunderbolt:
Then He saw wisdom and declared it,
He prepared it, indeed He searched it out,
And to man He said,
'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil, that is understanding."
See for this:
TMR and SMR, Deity and Design ..., with
LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S CHRIST,
WHO ANSWERS RIDDLES, AND WHERE HE IS, DARKNESS DEPARTS
Christ, the Cumulative and the Culmination Ch. 9,
Cascade of Truth, Torrent of Mercy Ch. 6,
Lively Lessons in Spiritual Service Ch. 5,
Dig Deeper, Higher Soar Ch. 1.
See Repent or Perish Chs. 7, 1, with Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 .
See SMR pp. 209-210.
See, for example:
A Spiritual Potpourri Ch. 12,
SMR Ch.7, Section 4, Biblical Blessings Ch. 13,
Repent or Perish Ch. 7, Let God be God Ch. 5, Extension 3 ,
The Biblical Workman Ch. 7, Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 15;
Sparkling Life ... Ch. † 4; Biblical Blessings Ch. † 2 ,
Grand Biblical Perspectives Appendix;
Serenity Not Serendipity Ch. 12 (trinity, reality, man and liberty);
Sums, Summits and in Sum Chs. 9, 10 (2010); K
Keys to the Comfort of the Kingdom of Christ Ch. 4 ( effort of evil one to copy);
The Lights and Perfections in the Lord Ch. 2, and book;
Possess Your Possessions Volume 6, Chs. 6, 7.
See also Index.
See for example:
Great Execrations ... Greater Grace Ch. † 7;
Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix 3,†
Biblical Blessings Ch. 15, Extended Endnote 2,
Bible Translations 33
Acme... Ch. 11, With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. † 3,† †
Ancient Words (on resurrection and Lazarus, yes and both with Jerusalem);
Let God be God! Ch. 2 (contrasting Greek bodily terms);
Spiritual Refreshings ... Chs. 5, 6,
The Magnificence of the Messiah, Endnote 1,†
Dastardly Dynamics ... and Immovable Faith Ch. 11,
SMR Ch. 6 and† Index,
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, Section 14,
Joyful Jottings 25,
A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 15, 16,
Stepping Out for Christ Ch. 5,
Things Old and New Ch. 2, Excursion 2A;
The Light of Dawn Ch. † 3,
Beyond the Crypt ... Ch. 2;
Dizzy Dreams ... and the Brilliant Harmony of Inevitable Truth Ch. 2;
Bewilderment ... and the Beauty of Christ's Holiness Ch. 1.