Beauty as an Agent of Salvation
Readers may recall Chris Johnson’s recent comments on the impoverished aesthetic sensibilities of certain Christians. Along the same lines, an SF readers emailed me a link to this old blog post which references another article titled “On Beauty: A Message to Its Religious Despisers.” In the first blog post, found over at The Foundation For Sacred Arts, the author states this as a summary:
In his April 26th article entitled On Beauty: A Message to Its Religious Despisers, Deal W. Hudson responds to those who claim that beauty is the “road to ruin,” that it is illusory, materialistic or even unnecessary. Instead, he gives credence to the idea that “beauty can be an agent of salvation” with a cogent argument punctuated with compelling words from Hans urs von Balthasar and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
“On Beauty” makes a provocative claim, but one that I think has been long-practiced [if not precisely articulated] by those of a classical Anglican ethos.
Along the same lines, one of my long-standing evangelistic beliefs has been that modernism pursues, creates, and revels in ugliness—and that ugliness is a powerful detractor, just as beauty is a powerful attractor; Christians should be the most adept at creating and enjoying beauty of all the faith groups, and that practice is, in itself, an evangelistic tool for the hungry and impoverished soul.
He contrasts bare concepts to works of art that, “steeped in truth and presenting it [the truth] to us vividly alive will take hold of us, will attract us to themselves with great power — and no one, ever, even in a later age, will presume to negate them.”
The force behind the power of art, Solzhenitsyn claims, is “that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty.” Indeed, it is precisely the unity of these transcendental properties of being — truth, beauty, and goodness — that makes possible the notion that beauty can be an agent of salvation.
The ancient and medieval philosophers considered this oneness a demonstrable fact of metaphysics, unaided by faith. Theology, however, provided the ultimate cause for the unity: the doctrine of creation. When God creates, He shares His being, His existence — an existence that is perfectly true, good, and beautiful. It’s their status as properties across all beings that make them “controvertible,” meaning wherever you meet one you encounter the other.
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