Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
This is a guest blog post from Jesse Califf who, with a few friends, blogs at Stuff is about Jesus, where they "spread Jonathan Edwards' vision of reality." For what that vision is, read on...
Jonathan Edwards believed that beauty involves uniformity and harmony, or “mutual agreement.”  Beauty has to do with one thing’s right relationship to another thing, or multiple things rightly relating with each other. This is true of squares on a chess board, interior design of a room, the colors and shapes in a painting, the structure of a building – in all of these the beauty of the whole involves the relationship of the parts.
This observation that beauty has much to do with proportion and harmony is a powerful clue that Yahweh – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in relationship to one another – created the universe so that it reveals “his eternal power and divine nature” (Rom 1:20 ESV). George Marsden describes Edwards’ conviction that “all created reality is like a quintessential explosion of light from the sun of God’s intertrinitarian love.”  The world was created by a God who was love and relationship “before the world existed” (John 24:5, c.f. 24).
There is a profound reason why human beings find many things in this world beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, and satisfying. We find music pleasant when a band is able to play well together. We find a family attractive when they get along, when they understand each other and appreciate each other. The reason we find these things pleasant and attractive is because they are glimpses of that Great Love which we all seek. They are images of Jesus, who is rightly related to his Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is in himself harmony, love, relationship, and therefore beauty. Each person in the Godhead rightly relates to the other. Love did not come into existence when God created human beings and related to them. Rather, God is love, and relationships exist because he created the universe to display his beauty.
This world exists so that we could know God. We must see beyond the temporal beauties of this world to Jesus Christ, for he is the Word through whom the world was created. Edwards called these temporal beauties (e.g. music, family, paintings, etc.) “secondary beauties.” They are images which point to the “primary or highest beauty,” the Triune God. We ruin ourselves if we obsess over secondary beauties. Go to the source. Go to the fountain of beauty.
This does not mean we become ascetics. It means that I can be passionate about listening to and playing music because I know the God of harmony. And I can enjoy friends and family because I know the God of relationship and love. It means that we experience the beauty of this world in a relationship of thanksgiving to and worship of God alone. “He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21 ESV).