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Tasting the love



I mentioned in an earlier post how knowing the reason behind something's existence can influence our experience of it. I use the example of my wife cooking a meal. I said that the knowledge that she has gone out of her way to cook me a meal I am particularly fond of, enhances the aesthetic experience of eating said meal. I called this tasting the love. There are two elements of beauty at work. The aesthetic beauty of the food which interacts with the taste buds on my tongue that my brain interprets as pleasurable sensation in my mouth is one element. The knowledge that the food exists because another person has counted me as valuable enough to warrant such an undertaking as cooking it, is the morally beautiful experience. And one certainly informs the other. A good meal will always taste good, and knowing my wife loves and values me will always feel great, but the opportunity to experience the meal because of the love is an experience beyond either individually. And the two types of beauty experience are designed to be mutually inclusive of each other. It's all well and good my wife loving me, but if she has no opportunity for expressing it, and I have no opportunity for experiencing it, then is less effective and less valuable. Beauty seeks the promotion of itself, and naturally, depends upon being able to be expressed and experienced.

John 1 says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

The reason for something's existence - the motives and intention behind something's existence can influence our experience of it. And so when we take the knowledge that God created all things, and the knowledge that God is good, that God is kind, and loving and seeks the good of mankind in the creation of all things - our experience of the created order is influenced. And we can now look around the world and appreciate it in a whole new way. For instance, we can examine a tree. We can examine the physical structure of the tree, we can enjoy the colour of its leaves, the texture of its bark, the fruit of its branches, the scent of its flower when in bloom and various other things. These are its aesthetic beauty. Then we can examine further, we can learn that it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, and release oxygen into the air, making it suitable for humans to breathe. We can eat of the tree's fruit and be satisfied from our hunger, also enjoying the taste of it. Depending on the tree we could also process it into any number of useful things. We can burn its food for fuel and warmth. We could use the wood to make useful things; a home perhaps, a boat maybe, or any number of decorative items. Certain trees are also used in medicine as they have healing properties within them. These characteristics of the tree reveal to us something of the purpose of its existence - the moral beauty -and the nature of the person who created it. As there are so many benefits of the tree for mankind, we know that it was purposed for the good of mankind in its design and creation. We find out about the character of God as we examine it, and we learn that He seeks the welfare of mankind.

And it works like this: the tree has positive aesthetic attributes the draw us to it. We see its leaves that are intensely green. The layers of branches in its canopy capture the light of the sun shining through and captivates our eyes. The rustling of the leaves in a gentle breeze catches the attention of our ears and the smell of its bark freshly soaked from a light summer rain draws us in via our noses. It's a multi-sensory experience and we are in the midst of the tree. This tree is a good tree, it has much value to us as humans compared to other things and so it's aesthetic beauty has been designed to reflect the quality of its moral beauty that we might be drawn to it over other things. As we are drawn to it via the aesthetic route, we begin to examine it more closely and start to discover its moral beauty. For instance, we eat of its fruit and learn that not only does it taste good, but that it is filled with vital nutrients, essential for the preservation of our health. And thus the aesthetic experience is enhanced. Furthermore, as we apply our knowledge of John 1, in our approach to this tree, we know that God has created this tree. He has created it for this purpose because it reflects something about who He is. It reflects some of His own beauty. And thus our experience is enhanced further. Our aesthetic experience of the tree is enhanced as we understand it's divine purpose for it to bring us pleasure and prosperity. We value the tree even more because it has a purpose - this divine purpose, and we seek to not waste the experience of the tree. It's a valuable God given gift, and because God has given it, it is valuable to us even more. And our moral experience is enhanced also. Through the aesthetic experience of this tree, we learn more about the God who created it. And thus we have a tangible, experiential reference point for understanding Him and His evident consideration of and care for us. This tree has become a symbol of His love for us. It's a comprehensible expression of How much He cares for us, and so we are able to enjoy Him more because of our understanding of His intentions for the tree, and we also value the tree more because the experience of its beauty has been enhanced.

Because everything within the created order was created either by God's direct or indirect influence, we must, therefore, be able to look at every single thing that ever has been created and find beauty in it - because simply by virtue of having been created by Him, a thing will necessarily reflect something of His character/nature. By way of illustration, I think that the example of the humble paving slab may help. It's aesthetic beauty it not very great. Not, at least, in comparison to our tree. However, by virtue of having (indirectly) been created by God, we must be able to examine it for traces of its maker's signature - the hints of beauty that lie within. At first, the paving slab seems innocuous at best. We walk up on it, taking for granted its inconspicuous grey tones, the chewing gum, and the cracks. And sure, its not up there with the great works of art. But if we stop for just a moment, its beauty can be revealed. Upon closer inspection, it has been laid rather nicely (most of it at least). It's even, firm and secure. We can trust our feet upon it and walk freely and uninhibited. It is flat and smooth and aids us to our destination swiftly and safely. Its inconspicuous design we begin to realise is to keep us from distraction as we walk upon it. If it were brightly coloured or had unusual features we might be distracted by it and hindered in our progress of reaching our destinations. We further examine and remember that actually, a square is quite a nice shape. It is even all around, and pleasing to the eye in and of itself. Being square also aids the tessellation of multiple slabs for the purpose of extending the pavement to a useful length. Being made of stone or concrete, they are hard, well wearing, robust and water proof. All in the name of accommodating the modern day urban infrastructure. Now that we've been drawn in by the aesthetics of the paving slab, we can examine the moral beauty. God did not create paving slabs directly, but He did create the basic components of a paving slab: sandstone or granite; or the ingredients of concrete. Being omniscient, and conscious of what the future would hold, God will have known as He created the world, that something like a paving slab would be required. He knew how people would design their towns and cities, and knew that they would conceive of the humble paving slab. And so, we could say that, for instance, when God created the big beautiful sandstone formation at Dakota (click here), He had in mind, to some extent, paving slabs. He knew that this rock type would be valuable for both primarily beauty and primarily practical purposes. He knew that sandstone would be valuable to mankind in the distant future as man seeks to safely navigate around his urbanised environment. And so we can acknowledge, even if in just a small way, that God's care for His people is bound to the identity of a paving slab. Thus, we can now experience the beauty of a paving slab in a greater way, knowing that it is a symbol of God's love, and we can experience the beauty of God's love for us even more, knowing that His care for us extends to even minute details, like a paving slab.

And if we take an approach like this to viewing the whole world, our experience of beauty is enhanced. We see God's purpose for a thing as we examine it, which will always be good. Even if it's only revealed in a small way. And we will find our aesthetic experiences enhanced, as we remember the purpose of their existence. We will also learn to enjoy God more and love Him more, as we see His goodness revealed in such a broad and comprehensive way. Which is no accident! That's how to taste and see that the Lord is good!

This really is what Psalm 19 talks about when David proclaims "The heavens declare the glory God..." David as he writes that all of creation, every tiny spec of it is ordered to in some measure display the glory of God. And when we have minds that are conditioned for understanding the created order in such a way, we are then able to join in with the psalmist as he continues in the psalm and express the delight that this knowledge brings us. Knowledge of God like this "refreshes the soul", "makes wise the simple", "gives joy to the heart" and "gives light to the eyes". And what happens when we start thinking in this way is that the beautiful truths that God reveals about Himself become "more precious to use that gold", and "sweeter than honey". Thinking like this breeds in us affection for our God, and conditions us to love Him as He commands us to, selflessly and wholeheartedly. And if you notice, the very awesome thing that is revealed is that being drawn to God in such a way - to acknowledge and respond to His glory is actually good for us. The Psalmist tells us this when he says that in keeping God's laws, there is great reward. It's no coincidence that when God commands a thing for us to do, like love him, we actually benefit. It's a fabulous psalm is Psalm 19. It starts off talking about God's glory, the primary purpose of all creation, but by the end of it, we see that God being glorious, works out for our good. That's how God has ordered the universe, and that's why God demands that we love Him and obey Him. We benefit from God being glorious. God's glory is for our good. Well, this last part of the post is a late addition and a slight tangent, but a beautiful reality. So I'll end here and perhaps pick up the psalm 19 point again. But I hope that the simple realisation that all of creation reveals something about God if we just look at it correctly, will be useful for finding out just how much God loves people.

Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash






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