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Evangelistic Beauty



Have you ever wondered why God created the world? Have you ever wondered why God created mankind, why He created you?
God exists before time, perfectly perfect in His existence. Neither corrupt or deficient in any conceivable way. Yet, God decides to create; to make. And not just to create any old type of creation, no. He created very specifically, a creature, man, who could respond to Him, to know Him and to imitate Him in many ways. As Genesis 1:26 would say, to bear His image.
Now, why did God do that?
Well, I think that it was because God knew and understood so deeply all the magnificent qualities (divine attributes) He possessed, that He felt compelled to share them. Having no one else other than Himself to share them with, He created man, a being which was capable of experiencing those divine qualities in a way that brought man joy and satisfaction as he experienced them. 
Elaine Scarry in the opening chapter of her book On Beauty And Being Just, says this: “Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people”.
And she’s right! How often do you come across a new idea, or object, or artwork, or song, or person and are so struck by the qualities in that thing which you experience as beautiful, that you become instantly compelled to share the thing with another? For instance, how many friends have you known to have posted a picture of a sunset they have taken with their phone on social media? It’s a universal phenomenon, isn’t it, that humans are enamoured with the beauty of a sunset. Even though we know that quality of the camera on our phones does not really do justice to the sunset itself, we cannot bear the experience to go unshared. Praise must be given where praise is due, and sometimes, something is so beautiful, we begin to feel morally bound to alert others to its beauty that they too might enjoy the experience and engage with the praise also. We begin to believe that it would be unjust for such a beauty to exist without praise, that we go about helping others to experience the beauty, in order that the amount of praise bestowed upon it might become equal to the beauty the thing possesses. When we copy or share beauty, we do a service both to the thing that is beautiful, and the people we share the beauty with. The beautiful thing receives the appreciation of its qualities that are due to it, and the people who appreciate the thing’s beautiful qualities are satisfied in their enjoyment of them. By this logic, we can describe God in a holistic way as beautiful, as he sought to perpetuate Himself by creating humans that were able to respond to Him with enjoyment and satisfaction.
I believe this is what was happening in the creation process. God was so satisfied with the beauty within Himself (or, the beauty that He Himself is), that He felt compelled to share it with others lest they miss out on the experience. And so, He created mankind, that He might have someone to enjoy Him. (We could also say that God created mankind in a way that he might best enjoy God, but more on that specifically, another time).
In the Bible, the closest parallel I can think of to this idea is evangelism. We all know what an evangelist is these days, you get them for all sorts of different products or organisations. “Chief Evangelist” is even a job title at Apple. An evangelist is someone who extolls the virtues of something in order for others to learn the same appreciation for the thing that you have. Evangelism is a way to “copy”, as Elaine Scarry might put it, beauty. Christians evangelise. They speak of God because they believe Him to be worth sharing. They believe that others will benefit from a knowledge and experience of God because they themselves have been satisfied by Him. Just as God intended when He made them. This means that creation was, in a sense, the first act of evangelism.
The challenge in this is that if we are Christians and we are not evangelising, it’s possible that we need to examine the effect our knowledge of God is having on our own lives. We may need to figure out if we have experienced God as beautiful? As I mentioned earlier, there is also a moral aspect to the “copying” of beauty. Elaine Scarry mentions the relationship between beauty and justice. Each has fairness as a synonym, and each has injury as an opposite. Therefore it is unjust for beauty not to be copied, as it means the qualities of beauty possessed by a thing are not being appreciated, and also, other people miss out on the positive experience of the beauty. God shared His beauty with mankind by creating a world that was tailor made to satisfy him and enable him to flourish in his existence. Therefore, to deprive anyone of that experience now, would be unjust on our part. As Christians, it is our duty to evangelise the world, and to perpetuate the beauty of God in the world. If the duty does not delight us, we will not do it. The duty will not delight us unless the beauty of God has had an effect on us to the extent that we seek the duty with delight.

Photo by Nicolas Brigante on Unsplash

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