What Scripture Says About Beauty
It seems that the vast majority of Christians skip over the first two chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-2, the story of creation) and begin with Genesis 3 (the story of the fall). In the same way, most Christians stop reading the Bible at Revelation 20 (the fiery pit of hell) and leave out Revelation 21-22 (the new heavens and the new earth). That is because the shaming story starts with our sin and ends with our final judgement. But the first two and the last two chapters of the Bible are essential. God created the hevens and the earth out of joy and for our benefit. And despite our rebellious and destructive ways, God is on a mission to rescue us and to create a new heaven and a new earth in his final act. But that is getting ahead of the story.
The magnificent, true story begins this way: “In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Bible does not tell us how or why or when the world was created. It only tells us who created it: God. We then learn what God thinks of the world God has created: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Something is good because it benefits, enhances, heals, and enlivens. The natural world is full of goodness. God looked at creation and noted that it was good.
The Bible does not use the word beauty very often, except to talk about human beauty (and how it fades). Instead, the preferred word is glory. Glory is beauty, goodness, and truth combined with power. The psalmist declares, “The heavesn are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). So when we gaze on a shining, silver moon, we are witnessing the glory of God. God made the moon and the sun, which provides the light the moon reflects, and each night they are telling the magnificent story.
The created world demonstrates the glory (power and beauty) of God. The apostle Paul stated it clearly: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Romans 1:20). The created world is not lifeless, meaningless matter. In the rocks and the trees, the skies and the seas, the invisible power of God becomes visible. The glory of God shines through the beauty of creation.
Human beings are not necessary to the world; their invitation to thrive is an act of grace. The sun, the sky, the land and oceans, the fish and birds and cattle are utterly gratuitous - freely given acts of grace from a God whose first act in the story makes this clear statement: we are loved. The created world is good, and it is also true - that is, real. Mountains are very real. There is no deception in them. And the laws of the natural world are true. Gravity is not subjective. Reality is what you can count on, and the created world is complete reliable - at times dangerous, but always true.
We are story-making people. We love reading stories―and we love hearing the personal stories of others. We need stories, or narratives, to make sense of our world. And those stories shape our lives. What is the story you have been told about the gospel? About God? About the Christian life? About Jesus? About the cross? About yourself? About heaven? Your answers to these questions will form a story that will determine how your life will go. The answers reveal your ability to trust, to love, to hope―and even your capacity for joy. Any story worth giving the power to shape our lives must pass a simple test: is it beautiful, good, and true? If it is, then it is a Magnificent Story―and that is where transformation takes place.
From James Bryan Smith, author of the bestselling book Good and Beautiful God, comes this spiritual formation resource meant to help both individuals and groups understand the Magnificent Story of Christ in their lives.