All Things Bright and Beautiful
Romans 1:19–20 says certain attributes of God are clearly visible in creation: “What can be known about God is plain … clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
One striking characteristic of God vividly on display throughout creation is His love of beauty. Even our sin-cursed world is full of remarkable beauty. Wherever and however you look—whether through a telescope, a wide-angle lens, a magnifying glass, a microscope, or just with the naked eye—every element of creation is a magnificent spectacle.
I was gripped by this reality years ago while traveling in the south of New Zealand. The scenery there is particularly stunning, with nonstop wonders of every scale, on every side, extending mile after mile. It occurred to me that for every marvel I saw, there must be numberless displays of unspeakable beauty that no human eye will ever behold, from one end of the universe to the other.
They were made by God for His own pleasure. In fact, this is the design of providence: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). Even the “ugly” things in a fallen world have a beauty all their own. Monstrous-looking insects, hideous sea creatures, and microscopic bugs all show the exquisite wisdom and intricacy of God’s handiwork. Deadly storms, massive ocean waves, and volcanic eruptions all manifest awesome beauty in their various ways. Some immense, divinely ordered catastrophe cuts a massive gash in the landscape, and the result is the Grand Canyon, a scene of such splendid beauty that it moves men to tears. Everything in creation is ultimately used by God to display beauty in one way or another. That beauty, in turn, is a reflection of God’s own glory.
Jonathan Edwards was fascinated with beauty and its relationship to the mind and character of God. The deists of his time thought of God as aloof and uninvolved with his creatures. Edwards answered by pointing to the ubiquity of beauty in nature. From the nearly invisible elegance of a spiderweb to the vastness of the visible heavens, nature’s beauty gives irrefutable proof of God’s involvement with—and delight in—His creation. In short, beauty proves God’s existence, and the abundance of beauty shows His goodness and grace.
Edwards marveled that beauty can be displayed even in inanimate things. He wrote that the beauty of creation “consists in a mutual consent and agreement of different things.” Beauty, he said, is seen in “regularity, order, uniformity, symmetry, proportion, harmony, etc.” To Edwards, the source, epitome, and pinnacle of all true and eternal beauty is the harmony and union within the Godhead.
Here’s the practical lesson: if God so loves and embodies beauty, those pursuing godliness must cultivate that same love (Phil. 4:8).