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 Vol. 7, No. 3 

March 2005

~ Page 15 ~

Beauty: Natural and Spiritual

By Hugo McCord

Image Natural Beauty

Human beings are fascinated, not only by the existence and revolutions of the moon, but also by its beauty. The moon serves a utilitarian purpose in regulating the months and the tides, and it also serves an aesthetic purpose to earth dwellers. Up close, it is neither utilitarian nor beautiful, but from a quarter of a million miles, its yellow crescent or its white full-orbed splendor does something to everyone, especially to lovers. Did the moon's Maker have something in mind for earth dwellers both practically and aesthetically?

When one turns his eyes from the moon back to the earth, and examines a rose, several questions arise. How did it arrive? Why is it so symmetrically shaped, beautifully colored, and delicately perfumed? If there is no practical value, did the rose's Maker have an appreciation for things of beauty? Did he put in humans a corresponding sense of appreciation of symmetry, of colors and of fragrance?

If one tries to make a list of beautiful things, he becomes exhausted. Long before the apples of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia become utilitarian nourishment, that valley in blossom season is more than any artist can imagine. Also, springtime in the Rocky Mountains has something more than mining and ranching.

Furthermore, sunrise at sea is more than another earth revolution. The scientific explanation of a sunrise at sea leaves something to be desired: "the earth revolves until its tangent plane coincides once more with the solar azimuth."

The songs of the nightingale, the fragrance of a violet, the smile of a friend, the sparkle in an eye, all have an attractiveness difficult to define, but lovely and real.

Both Plato (427-347 B.C.) and Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) engaged themselves in the discussion of beauty. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804 A.D.) was gripped in deep admiration reflecting on the beauty of "the starry heavens."

Life is real and beauty is real, and it appears that the Creator of both must be alive and aesthetic. Apparently, only humans have a contemplative faculty able to appreciate beauty. "Man is the only animal that decorates" (William H. Davis, professor of philosophy, Auburn University).

A theist has no trouble explaining either the existence of beauty or its appreciation. But an evolutionist, yoked with a survival of the fittest doctrine, finds himself with nothing to say. Evolutionist Thomas Huxley was very honest about his difficulty:

One thing which weighs with me against pessimism and tells for a benevolent author of the universe, is my enjoyment of scenery and music. I do not see how they can have helped in the struggle for existence. They are gratuitous gifts (Darwinism, p. 478, further documentation not available).

The scholarly and eloquent philosopher F.R.Tennant, saying that "Some men enter His Temple by the Gate Beautiful," was not hesitant to list beauty as one of the solid pillars of theism, and that "if the theism contained in this statement is rejected, explanation does not seem to be forthcoming" (Philosophical Theology, Cambridge: University Press, I, 1928; II, 1930; reprint, 1956, II, 91f).

Dennis "the Menace," as he looked up at some beautiful clouds, said to his little friend, "If heaven is that beautiful on the bottom, how beautiful it must be on top."

Mrs. A.S. Bridgewater wrote "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be":

We read of a place that's called heaven, It's made for the pure and free; These truths in God's word He has given, How beautiful heaven must be. In heaven, no drooping, nor pining, No wishing for else where to be, God's light is forever there shining, How beautiful heaven must be. Pure waters of life there are flowing And all who will drink may be free; Rare jewels of splendor are glowing, How beautiful heaven must be. How beautiful heaven must be, Sweet home of the happy and free; Fair haven of rest for the weary, How beautiful heaven must be.

Spiritual Beauty

Israelites were commanded (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9 KJV) to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" and "in the beauties of holiness" (Psalm 110:3 KJV).

Holiness (qodesh, 2 Chronicles 31:18; hagiosune, 2 Corinthians 7:1) is (1) being separated from fleshly defilements and "abominable customs" (Leviticus 18-30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:1-16) and (2) being attached to the Lord in love with all of one's heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-38). Beautiful holiness is internal and invisible, a "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). Without holiness, "no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

Beauty (hadrath, Proverbs 20:29; horaios, Romans 10:15), the opposite of ugliness, is attractiveness, splendor and loveliness. Ugly Old Testament worship was offering animal sacrifices (zebahim) by unholy Jews (Isaiah 1:2-17). Ugly New Testament worship by unholy Christians is threskeia (the "ceremonies" of worship without care for "orphans and widows," Thayer, p. 292; James 1:26-27).

Thus, the only worship that the Lord has ever considered beautiful is that which is done by holy, self-denying people (Matthew 16:24; 1 Peter 1:16).

It is sad that the beautiful words spoken to Jews (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9) and in advance to Christians (Psalm 110:3; Matthew 22:41-46) have been mistranslated by scholars thinking that God was demanding "apparel worn at solemn festivals" (Gesenius, p. 218). It is true that Jewish priests were required to wear "holy garments. . . for glory and for beauty" (Exodus 28:2, 40), but the non-priests had no such requirement.

The citations specifying acceptable worship (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9) for non-priests and for Christians (Psalm 110:3) called for nothing external, but only inward devotion, heart-felt consecration, total commitment to the Lord. But the ASV scholars erred in inserting the word "array" in the commandment "worship Jehovah in holy array" both for the Jews (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9) and for Christians (Psalm 110:3). The NASB also uses "holy array" in one place for the Jews (1 Chronicles 16:29) and in the one place for Christians (Psalm 110:3). For some reason, in two other citations for the Jews, the NASB uses "holy attire" (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 96:9).

If physical garments, uniforms for worship, were required for acceptable worship by both the Jews and Christians, then the "sons of God" (Job 1:6; Psalm 29:1-2), believed to be angels, will have to put on vestments, for they are given the same command given to Jews and Christians: "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:1-2, KJV), or as in the ASV: "Worship Jehovah in holy array."

Not only did the ASV and the NASB err in adding the word for a physical vestment, but the NIV has added another word not in the Hebrew text: "his," referring to God. Three times (1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9) the Jews are told, and one time (Psalm 29:1-2) the "sons of God" are told, to "worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness," but the "his" is omitted in the remarks about Psalm 110:3. It is true that God is "holy" (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 60:6; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), but textually in 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalm 96:9 the holiness of the Jews is spoken of, not "his" (God's), and in Psalm 29:1-2 the holiness of the "sons of God" is spoken of, not "his" (God's).Image

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