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The Beauty of the Church

If we say that what we perceive as beauty is: the relationship between the moral and aesthetic dimension of a thing, beauty becomes eminently important and useful in that everything that is, is moral and aesthetic. This is why we can say that everything is beautiful. Thus, our understanding of how beauty exists serves as a framework of understanding of everything.

The relationship between the moral dimension and the aesthetic dimension is vitally important. In fact, the aesthetic dimension depends upon there being a moral dimension and cannot exist without it. A moral dimension can exist without an aesthetic and actually, necessarily precedes and aesthetic. Yet the moral desires an aesthetic. And its value (beauty) depends upon, in large part, achieving an aesthetic expression (though not always, and not entirely). For instance, what good is the desire to be kind to someone (moral dimension) if the opportunity is never taken and the desire never acted upon (aesthetic dimension)? Or, where is the value in a painting that was imagined yet never created? Or, where is the beauty of a song never written? I might imagine a pleasing melody in my mind, but if I don’t even attempt to play it on an instrument, how can it possibly be appreciated? That melody is in a sense, effectively worthless, on account of the aesthetic component being absent.

I believe this about beauty because of what I believe about why God created the universe. God created the world for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). As a manifestation of his glory. As something to bear his image (Gen 1:26) which is indeed glorious. Now, to be sure, it would be wrong of me to suggest that God was in ANY way deficient before creation, or that creation somehow made God more complete. Creation does not add to his glory. Yet God did create the universe. He did produce an aesthetic dimension, therefore an aesthetic must exist. It’s also prudent at this point to clarify that God himself is not the moral dimension that creation is the aesthetic expression of. I do not want to suggest pantheism here. No! the moral and the aesthetic ontologically reside within the divine nature of God, even before he has revealed himself to us. Nevertheless, what God thinks, and feels and imagines and knows and desires (moral) led to creation (aesthetic) happening. That’s why God says in Gen 1:26 that mankind is made in his image. And, although not as explicitly stated (I suppose, in order to emphasise mankind’s superiority in this regard), the rest of creation is, in fact, a reflection of the image of God, nonetheless. Jonathan Edwards I believe is helpful here. He says “it is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow”. What he means is; God does not reveal a deficiency in himself by creating. He was not lacking that he is then filled up by creation. Creation, to be sure, does not complete or add to God in any way or sense. Yet, God, like the fountain in Edwards’ analogy, did happen to overflow. And, as is the inference, out of his fullness and abundance, did he overflow. A full stream, by virtue of being full, bursts its banks; a symbol of thriving and being so complete that it needs to be made even more of. Think about it. The more perfect a thing is, the more beauty we perceive it to have. Thus we seek to share and promote it above other (lesser) beauties. A brilliant song or painting or anything else ends up being made more of because we celebrate its perfection exponentially compared to other things that might benefit more from our promotional efforts due to its inferior beauty, even though the superior beauty might require our appreciation less and the lesser benefit more. The greater the beauty, the greater the overflow. God overflowed. Thus we have a moral and an aesthetic - (inter-trinitarian) love (or desire or joy) and creation. And, again, whilst it would be remiss of me to suggest that God lacked before creation, or that creation completes or even adds to God in any sense, he did create. And being an all-knowing God, he according to his perfect wisdom, decided to act by creating. He deemed it necessary to overflow. Creation was always going to happen. If it would have been better not to create, God would not have created. And of course, he could have chosen not to, and still been perfect. But he did. So we see some sort of fittingness, some sort of certainty and intention about it. God, being who he is, was always going to overflow - to create. Thus a moral dimension, as if by instinct, tends toward aesthetic expression. The difference between God and beauty is that where we could not say that God would be lacking if he never did create, more generally speaking, the moral does lack without aesthetic expression in the sense that moral tends toward the aesthetic. Latent within the moral dimension is an instinctive bent toward the production of a complementary aesthetic. Complementary isn’t quite the right word here. What I’m thinking of is more in line with procreation or image-bearing. The aesthetic is to the moral what the child is to the parent. Because in the way that man is made in God’s image, and to a lesser extent, the whole created order, so is the aesthetic the image of the moral. And as by looking to God for the meaning of what it is to bear his image, so we must look to the moral in order to judge the aesthetic. And in a general sense (although this rule gets tricky), what we know of the moral should help us to predict what the aesthetic might be like. Likewise, our observations of the aesthetic should be able to give us some information as to the nature of the moral.

And God is trinity. Three-in-one. Three holy persons of Father, Spirit Son (Luke 3:22). And, whilst God, by virtue of his nature, cannot be the moral component, the moral component certainly originates with him and can be found within the godhead. John 17:24 tells us that the Father loved the Son since before the foundation of the world. Michael Reeves sums this up by saying that what was happening before creation was that the Father was loving the Son in the power of the Spirit. And so, within the godhead, you see a moral dimension exist in the form of love between a community. The love of one for another. And God, throughout the whole Bible, gives us the human words father and son (as those words would be defined by scripture) in order to best help us understand what kind of love that was. This love within the godhead is what led to creation (as touched on earlier), namely of mankind. The love of Father for Son was so great that it could not be contained. It ‘naturally’ (for lack of a better phrase) proceeded toward replication; to be shared and expressed with others. This is so that the overflow could indeed be received and enjoyed, which is the whole point, right?

So, this display of creation, and mankind specifically, is the aesthetic component to this love of God - Father to Son. And this is why God says that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). One man, even one gender, would not be a sufficient aesthetic manifestation of that moral dimension. Because overflow into creation - i.e. children/offspring - is intended outworking of that love, and also why it is said of the Son that he was begotten by the Father. Man and woman together as one flesh is a foundational way for mankind to truly reflect the beauty of God as seen in the love between the trinity, in so much as marriage is the framework provided for continued overflow - procreation. Marriage is the foundational, designated arena for replicating God’s replication.

Now, this changes slightly at the Fall. The image of God and all that reflected glory in creation - that visible expression of the love between the trinity is tarnished and thus diminished. Not just within humanity, but indeed within every aspect of the created order. Nothing is unaffected. One specific way that effect happens is that mankind now seeks relationships of different kinds which are unable to, in aesthetic terms, match the moral dimensions of God’s love. And God is rightly angry. His position is now one of a judge (James 5:9 and many other places). He must make justice happen. Mankind has sinned and is guilty and now subject to wrath and punishment. This is not a contradiction to the God of love who overflowed. God always was, in principle, angry at sin. He could, of course, have considered the hypothetical category of sin and how he would respond to it before he had to. Yet this was not the source of the overflow that Edwards spoke about. The love enjoyed within the trinity was the driver there. But at the Fall, the dynamic has been changed and now mankind must reflect the justice of God, primarily by being objects of wrath.

However, let’s not forget that although mankind has changed position at the Fall from son of God (Adam in Luke 3:38) to children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), yet mankind and all of creation does still exist. Adam ‘died’ at the Fall, but he didn’t drop dead immediately. God is a God who slows his anger and delays his wrath (Romans 9:22). Even when God ended up flooding the whole earth, he saved Noah and his family, plus the earth and plants and animals. These objects of wrath are still the aesthetic manifestation of love, God’s love (and so we get a glimpse into the Gospel - pointers toward what God will actually do - save)! And God does not change. Because he was first and is primarily an active lover, the only solution is to repair! Repair the aesthetic so that it might, once again, accurately represent the moral dimension of God’s love. And I suppose that at this point, we may well substitute the word repair for a more Biblical word - redeem! And thus we have two sub-levels of moral and aesthetic - the Gospel and the Church. As Mark Dever says, the Church is the Gospel made visible, which is a nice way to sum up that relationship. Gospel = moral / Church = aesthetic. The Church is the aesthetic expression of the Gospel by virtue of being made up of saved people who have become so by responding to it.

When God redeems, people move from being in Adam to in Christ (1 Cor 15:22). And those who are in Christ are called the Church (1 Cor 12:27). And so we end up drawing a line from the trinity before time to the Church now (and into eternity). The Church is the conclusion of the image of God, seen in part now and in full later. First seen in man, Adam, and now (though imperfectly) as the eternal-universal communion of the saints, yet in full at the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Church is the aesthetic dimension of the moral Gospel which is the good news of God’s love for us in Christ bringing all people the possibility to be redeemed and have their image bearing-ness restored by becoming part of the Church. So we can describe the beauty of the Church as what sinners who have responded to the Gospel do.

God, being a triune God and thus a community, means that the beauty of the church requires community. It requires togetherness in regular, covenantal assembly where people help each other work out a continued response to the Gospel as the Church, the body of Christ (Heb 10:25). Now, in the pre-creation trinity, there is a father loving a son in the power of the Spirit. It’s a family. Redeemed people are also described as being adopted (Ephesians 1:5). And so, being redeemed means we are brought into God’s family as fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). So, with him (as his body), we are able to begin experiencing that love which the Father had for the Son from before the foundation of the world. And this, of course, is the underlying principle behind the aesthetic church i.e. what the Church, the people of God, should be doing. Namely, by receiving and enjoying and benefitting from the love of the Father like the Son does (now that we are adopted/fellow heirs/body of Christ/bride of Christ - they all amount to the same thing in the sense that they are all ways to describe someone who can receive the love of the Father in the context of a redeemed relationship). We do this by helping each other through word-based ministry, to continue responding to the Gospel and thus receiving this love. I say helping because of passages such as Romans chapter 7 because it shows us that even the redeemed until Christ returns, are battling sin and all its trappings, unable to perfectly enact what they now represent. When Christ does return and Christians are all glorified, we won’t have sin to battle with, we won’t need help to enjoy God and receive his love because it will come naturally.

God loves us through Jesus. Through his life, death and resurrection. As we put our trust in him because of his achievement in those things (faith), we are moved from the status of being dead in our trespasses to alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). Because by faith we become united with Christ. And that is the Gospel - that fact that unity is possible. It is also where the marriage metaphor comes in, according to Paul, who says that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). That’s why marriage is important and an original part of the design for men and women.

Now, there is also the Visible and the Invisible Church ideas to work through. The Invisible Church, or, as it’s also called, the catholic or universal Church, is the entire community of God’s saints, past, present and future. All those who are elected, and predestined for salvation. And, of course, they can’t all be together at the same time in the same place (not yet, at least)! That’s why we form local congregations that commit to meet together regularly - the visible Church. And it’s precisely in this assembly (ecclesia) of God’s people, responding to the Gospel together that the beauty of the church is seen. So, in order to call the Church beautiful, it ideally has to be meeting together and, for convenience, this needs to be happening on a small local scale. This necessity is highlighted in the New Testament with the founding of churches according to location and the implementation of sacraments and leaders. The invisible Church, until Christ returns to unite all saints, is unable to fulfil the aesthetic component of the moral Gospel, and so it relies upon the local, visible Church to be that. Although, when Christ does return, the two will become one - the invisible turn visible.

So, the gathering of local congregations is entirely necessary. And again, the trinity can help us figure out how. Before the foundation of the world, there was a Father loving a Son. How was that love being given and received? How did that love operate? Well, we’re not told explicitly in the Bible, but it’s not like there aren’t any clues for us in scripture. And I think what we can say about that love comes under two main strands: internal and external.

Firstly, it was an internal love, between a father to a son (in the power of the Spirit - he’s necessarily included). So we have to think, what does the Bible teach us about father/son relationships? Well, fathers provide for their children, fathers give their children good gifts and they enjoy doing that (Matthew 7:11). Fathers lead (Deut 1:31), educate, discipline (Prov 13:24), train, and show compassion and should seek to do these things pointing back to God (Psalm 78), our heavenly Father; earthly fatherly love as a demonstration of Heavenly Fatherly love. Fathers are to help their children to know about God, to trust him and to feel loved by and secure enough in him above all else - wholeheartedly - being willing to joyfully obey God in all things. (Basically, to be a good image-bearer). If the greatest command is to love God with heart, soul and strength (Matt 22:37), then everything about fatherly love should be geared toward helping children do this, by being a demonstration of that and a vessel for that love even to flow through. Now, it’s not a perfect analogy, because Jesus never had to be disciplined. He never sinned and was perfect. So his experience doesn’t match ours in that regard (although he was surely one who could sympathise with our experience as Hebrews 4:15). But I do think that however it happened, before the foundation, the Father was loving the Son in a way which sought to help his Son to trust his Father's goodness and desires enough to do anything he asked of him (which of course he could and would because he is not merely an image bearer, even a perfect one, no, he is the exact imprint of God’s nature Heb 1:3, and the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15). Even if that meant leaving heaven, taking on humanity by becoming a man, living a life of poverty and opposition and ultimately dying on a cross for the sake of others who were guilty and deserved that punishment themselves. So I think that the Father must have been loving the Son by communicating to him all his character, attributes and nature in a way that the son loved him back with complete joy, satisfaction, contentment, agreement, and trust that his Father is perfect and good in all things, worthy of obedience, even to the cross. I would suggest that in God’s foreknowledge, before the foundation, knowing that the love within the trinity would overflow as creation, being able to obey the Father in this way was the aim of the trinity for the Church. And so helping each other enjoy God in this way, I think should be the general aim of the Church when it assembles in local congregations. It’s to first imitate this internal love which seeks to breed trust and joy in the Father so as to agree with his will and joyfully obey. Jesus did this by looking at his Father, and we do this by looking to Christ. But essentially, church activity is to corporately help the other believers we meet with to continue to believe the Gospel; that God loves them in Christ, to that that might be as committed to the Father as Christ is and thus complete the race we are on (Heb 12:1).

The nature of trinitarian love also (over)flowed outward and became external (not in a detached sense, but beyond the trinity). And is not this the mind-blowing reality that causes us to love God so much? And it’s at this point that we imitate Christ. Having helped each other love the Father by enjoying and trusting him to the point of obedience, we seek to be the demonstrations of that love to the wider world, by doing what Christ did. God overflowed as creation as we discussed earlier. Because of sin, Christ came down to us as a man to redeem us. His death served to authenticate that trinitarian love. It was the expression of it and the essence of it. Because Jesus was willing to go through with that plan, we can trust that God does love us (if Jesus doesn’t love us, then God doesn’t love us). Thus we are secure enough in the hope we have in Christ that we can then go out into the world and promote that love, self sacrificially, like Christ, even to death.

I suppose you could sum up these points as discipleship and making disciples. So what the Church is doing is imaging the internal and external love of the Father, Son and Spirit.

This then is the beauty of the Church - people responding to the Gospel by forming local congregations which make visible the invisible, and proving that the Gospel does transform. We show that Gospel transformation has taken place by helping each other continue to respond to the Gospel, in the power of the Spirit, and in joy, sharing the Gospel with those who do not know or believe it.

Now, all this writing so far has been prompted by Lockdown. At the time of writing, it’s June 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic is still disrupting church life. Churches cannot yet gather together as local congregations. This inability to gather has severely diminished the beauty of the Church because the aesthetic component is not being expressed. The visible has somewhat disappeared and we are left with the invisible. The aesthetic is not being expressed. I would again liken this to the concepts of the visible and invisible church. The invisible church being the Church (big ‘C’), the elect people whom God has saved by grace through faith - the real-life members of the Church. The invisible church being the institutions of local congregations we form in order to demonstrate the reality of the invisible. In these visible institutions of local congregations that covenant to meet together according to the command of scripture (Hebrews 10:25) we seek to demonstrate the reality of the invisible by gathering, by preaching the word and by administering the sacraments together. Not only is this a preeminent way for Christians to experience what it is to be in relationship with God, the gathering together of God’s people at the same place at the same time around the same covenant with the same belief for the same reason, serves to showcase the glorious reality that there is a Church, that there is an elect. And so, whether we think we benefit from the Sunday service is, in a sense, secondary to the point of showcasing the reality that God has saved a people (from every tribe and tongue and nation). There must be true believers in the midst here for this to really work, and there will be. But, there will often be unbelievers in that regular group of people who meet, some claiming allegiance to Christ, some not (yet hopefully). There will also be times when believers are indifferent in feeling to the meeting. We all have bad days, tired days, feeling far from God days, sad days or lazy days. It’s now November 2020 as I complete this article, and many people have found desire for meeting together low because of the social distancing, the facemasks, the lack of singing, the brevity and the lack of face-to-face fellowship. And many ask the question, what’s the point? What do I gain from this? But what you gain is not the preeminent point. Church is not first about what you get from it. It’s firstly about what you can do to help to display by being there and adding to the number of saved people in public view. By being there, you declare that Christ has saved you and you are his; that the groom does, in fact, have a bride. You declare that Jesus did not die in vain. By being there you declare that Jesus saved YOU. This isn’t to say, by the way, that those Christians who, for various reasons can't meet together aren't Christians. Or course they are! And it does not mean that when our gatherings close, we cease to be part of the Church Our Christian experience continues beyond Sunday between 10:30 am and 12:00 pm. To be the only believer in your workplace and to publicly declare that would be tantamount to the same thing as going to church in the sense that it makes a display of a greater reality. However, if you never get to meet with another believer to practice the corporate aspects of our faith, you lack. That’s a simple fact. That’s why in countries where the Church is persecuted, they take risks such as meeting ‘underground’ in order to have some sort of fellowship.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of an aesthetic could effectively null and void a moral and prevent beauty from occurring. An attempt at an example might be a thought I have to be kind to someone. An example might be an act of kindness. I could generate the thought to be kind to my wife. That’s noble enough and would fall into the moral dimension category. But if I put no effort into actually being kind and expressing that in some tangible way, have I not rendered that thought effectively worthless? I might as well have not even thought of it. It’s like a seed that instead of being planted is just tossed away, unable ever to obtain the conditions necessary for germination. The question arises: has the moral dimension even existed? Did I really want to be kind to my wife? Well, if the thought did occur, the moral dimension does exist, but its beauty is but a tiny spark at best, right? And we question it.

Contrast that with the idea I have to show a specific kindness to my wife. Only this time, I put some effort in. I go to the shop, I buy the flowers, I buy the wine and I buy the ice cream. I come home, I take charge of dinner and efficiently put the children to be and settle us down for a pleasant evening together. Not only has the seed been planted, it has germinated and sprouted (a little bit of sunshine and rain work wonders). The moral tends toward an aesthetic. Even if, for instance, the shop was closed, roadworks made me late home from work and the kids took longer than usual to get to sleep, thus denying me the opportunity to show that particular kindness I had earlier thought to express (yes, I could have other thoughts and express other kindnesses - and do), the idea itself demonstrated moral value. There was active intent which proves moral beauty even when the aesthetic is denied. This is the seed sown in the ground, but the sun doesn’t come out, nor does it rain sufficiently to stimulate germination.

The subtle but important difference here is the energy put into trying to express that desire to show kindness. It validates the moral dimension because an aesthetic expression was at least pursued. Now, during the course of a marriage relationship, you’d hope that I have enough means and opportunity to show kindness to my wife in little ways that require almost no thought (instinct) and in greater ways that take a lot of thought. If that wasn’t a general pattern, then whatever energy I did put into a specific action is somewhat undermined. But, if that is a general pattern, if aesthetic expression has taken place consistently, even if in little ways, then you have moral validation. So even if the opportunity for the moral to be expressed aesthetically disappears for a time, you have strength enough in the moral to call it moral beauty, because of it having been expressed previously. This gives us hope and in the lack of an opportunity to meet as local congregations of believers. The authority responsible for closing down our gatherings is not closing it on the grounds of opposition to our belief or existence. Therefore we can bank the history of our corporate gatherings and look to them for assurance, that, as a pattern (and thus my moral desire) we have sought to do what we ought - which is to display the Church. That by no means we stop church altogether. Not in the slightest. It just means we (according to judgement and leadership from local elders) interact as much as we can, through whatever means we can (according to law and government guidelines) to replicate the normal gathered experience as best as possible. For some local congregations, this will be grand. For others, basic. For others, impossible.

That’s why it’s important to understand also that a moral always precedes and aesthetic. Therefore the moral can exist (though usually only briefly) without an aesthetic because it has to come first. And the Church, being now united with Christ himself is specially protected in this regard - God, being completely sovereign over all things at all times, has set his will to sustain the Church and to preserve it for Christ so that there will be a marriage supper of the Lamb. That will happen, there is no doubt about that. Therefore the Church has enormous security that preserves a moral/aesthetic reality. And whilst there is significant diminution when the Church can’t meet at local churches (because it looks like there is nobody for Christ the head, no bride for Christ the bridegroom) the moral is so sustained by God’s sovereign will and power to follow through with it and complete his plan, guaranteed by the events at the cross, that we need not fret or fear whilst we can’t meet. Because the reality that Christ as head has a body, and Christ as a groom has a bride, is unchangeably secure. If there was a possibility that Christ could lose any (and if any then why not all?), then not to meet locally would be devastating. But there isn’t, so we aren’t devastated. The church (small ‘c’) is subordinate to the Church (big ‘C’) in the sense that the Church is the Church and churches are expressions of the Church, not the Church itself, but are made up of the Church. However, the Church should do all it can to effect the aesthetic dimension of the moral Gospel. Which is not ALL in the gathering (though significantly), or surely we’d all cease to be part of the Church as soon as we left the place we all assemble at?

Anyway, because of all this, I think that during Lockdown, preaching should continue where possible. Recorded or live streamed (though live is by far preferable). Church members should join in with online services either live, or at the designated time where a pre-recorded service is only available. It should be the service of the church you are a member of (unless not possible. If not possible, that’s ok, you’re a member of the Church and very welcome to join with fellow believers. Far be it from any congregation to deny a fellow heir with Christ the opportunity to express that, even if in a diminished state). Meeting at the same time, if not the same place, at least helps to promote an emotional form of unity and commitment together as members. Families should ensure time together and households should enjoy the Lord’s Supper together and leaders should initiate the Lord’s Supper as part of the online services. Online meetings and discipleship should happen however possible, and a general practice of cultivating a lifestyle that seeks to encourage fellow believers in their walk with the Lord and continued response to the Gospel should happen. Emails, social media, phone calls, texting etc are all ways in which to do this. So keep doing it. Evangelism of course can still happen, too. Evangelism is particularly weak when not done in person, but God can use those means mentioned just now to have an effect on people’s hearts. Prayer meetings, of course, are easily able to happen. And we should do all these things for the sake of beauty, unity and commitment. Yet, we should not be content with not being together. In fact, we should be decidedly discontent. I’m not sure we should even expect the same level of spiritual development or growth or benefit that we get when we do meet together physically (that being a means of grace in and of itself). Though, God being a gracious God, I would expect any drop off to be minimal. I certainly wouldn’t rule out any improvements in certain individuals/households, either (but that would be an exception to the rule and would by no means prove that not meeting together is better). There have been many spiritual benefits in my own family, because of the potential dangers we foresaw and took measures to prevent - such as extra prayer, and a resolve to pursue dedicated personal devotional lives, as well as a little extra time on Sundays to help teach and model to the children what Church/church is all about.

But I hope it would go without saying, that church services on YouTube should not be as enjoyable or as satisfying. I also think that we should, in fact, grow weary of ‘meeting’ in this way. This has been my family experience and the experience of others I’ve spoken to. I think we should be developing a deep longing to gather in person - socially distanced or no. And we should value that discontent. We should dwell on it and allow ourselves to experience it. We should learn to cry out with the psalmist “why, O Lord, do you stand far away?” This experience serves to give assurance because it validates true conversion because it’s a demonstration of where our affections lie. The unconverted won’t feel like this. They won’t care either way. Even the Christian with a particularly cold heart or a propensity for laziness will at least have a sense that this isn’t right and will want to want to feel that discontent. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And we would certainly teach that from the psalms - that God sometimes withdraws in order to help us long for him and pursue him (Psalm 13, for instance)! And no doubt this is at least part of God’s plan for Lockdown. But, just because absence does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t mean it’s the optimal way to cultivate a healthy relationship. Before my wife and I got married, we lived 200 miles away from each other. For the last 6 months, it was about 30 miles. During this time we longed for the day we’d finally be married. It was torment because we felt like we just couldn’t wait. Yet we did what we could to keep in touch and cultivate our affection for one another. We called and texted and Skyped daily. And when we were not communicating, we were thinking of one another and doing things that reminded us of each other. Whether it was looking at photos or enjoying a gift we’d received from the other, or making preparations for the wedding, we did what we could to demonstrate the reality of our relationship. If we’d just not spoken to each other for 8 months we’d have not made it obvious to anyone, especially each other, that we had committed to marry. This is an imperfect analogy because of the nature of betrothal in the Bible and the nature of ‘engagement’ now. But it pretty much works. We had our eyes on the future, and what would be. Kind of like the state the Church is in now. Betrothed, but waiting to be married. So I think churches should practice what they can, in order for the moral beauty of the Gospel to shine through - even if only in imperfect, tiny glimmers - and produce an aesthetic reality of sacraments, discipleship and evangelism where possible, in order to demonstrate that Christ has a body and a bride. Even if those ‘artificial’ means are no substitute for being gathered, they will help us to bear witness to that glorious, triune God who will never cease to exist, and who has made his love to overflow into the world, climaxing in the consummation of an eternal unity with his beautiful bride.

The below diagram is just for fun, but it seeks to somewhat (imperfectly) illustrate the above epistemology.

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