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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Will Beauty Save the World?

One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

The quote "Beauty will save the world," is attributed to Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Is this true? And if so, what does it mean for us as Christians? I’ve really been delving into the concepts of art and beauty lately. They are primary ways I connect to God, one might say to the divine. I believe that this generation is not merely looking for a logical, rational faith with sound systematic theology, but rather for beauty and wonder and relationship with the creator of the universe.

Just look at the popularity of flash mobs lately. Does anyone watch those videos of uplifting spiritual songs and dances and say, “Why are you trying to shove your religion down our throats”? Not that I’ve heard of. Do the performers get accused of being close-minded or judgmental. I think not. Art has a way of transcending our preconceptions and going straight to the heart. It’s the perfect means of introducing the world to the beauty of God.

In my last post I recommended a novel which accomplishes just that called The Oppposite of Art. And I also mentioned two books released last year with the same title as the Dostoevsky quote, Beauty Will Save the World. The version by Professor Gregory Wolfe is a sort of treatise on Christianity and the humanities. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet. But since it recently came out on kindle, I do hope to check it out soon.

The one I have read is Beauty Will Save the World is by Pastor Brian Zhand. He takes more of a theological approach, asserting that Christians have somehow managed to get things all wrong. That Christianity was never meant to be about power and politics but about beauty and love. He begins the book with the story of a Russian prince from a thousand years ago who was looking for a new religion for his people. The prince sent envoys to study other religions of the world. Here is the report he received about Christianity in Constantinople.

Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty.

And so Prince Vladimer adopted Christianity as the new religion of Russia. This is the sort of Christianity that draws people to it like a magnet. Where is that Christianity today? All too often I think it is missing. But thank goodness, it seems to be on the rise.

Zhand challenges the reader to be a prophetic people ushering the kingdom of God here on earth even now. And to do so largely by living according to the Beatitudes, that very inconvenient and impractical sermon of Jesus’ that we would probably rather brush under the table.

So I spent the last few weeks immersed in a novel about art and a theological book about beauty, but that wasn’t all. I also read Heart of an Artist by Worship Leader Rory Noland. This book helped me to better understand myself as an artist. Both my weaknesses and my strengths. Too often artists are looked down upon in Christianity. Like the Beatitudes, we are viewed as impractical and inconvenient. Volatile people. But God made artists with a distinctive sensitivity to bring special messages to His people. To bring the wonders of the spiritual universe just a bit closer to our grasp through song, dance, paintings, poetry, etc… To bring a little piece of heaven here to earth.

Will beauty save the world? Not beauty for beauty’s sake. But beauty that gently woos people to the savior of the world. That sort of beauty most certainly will. Whether you consider yourself an “artist” or not, let’s all challenge ourselves to be conduits of beauty. To be a prophetic people bringing beautiful glimpses of heaven to earth. To do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Not shoving our morals and theologies down people’s throats. Rather introducing to them to the unparalleled wonder of our savior. Let’s do so in our writing, in our art, and in our lives. 

What beautiful things have touched you lately? What draws you closer to God? How can you be a conduit for beauty?


  1. Great post Dina. I am drawn into God's beauty through nature. I love this time of year with the birds returning and singing their lovely songs. Saturday morning I sat with my son watching a male and female cardinal hop from branch to branch, chasing each other. Even more beautiful was my son's awe to it all.

    1. Nice, nature is a huge source of beauty and inspiration for me too.

  2. For me being a conduit of Gods Beauty means getting outside of my box of comfort.I recently started working with intercity children in our Churchs childrens Ministry. It given me such a broader and greater view for and an appreciation for what I have.

  3. Another quote to add: “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

    ― Madeleine L'Engle

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