| Arthur Holmes made popular the saying, "All
truth is God's truth" because God is the source of all truth, even when it does not
automatically acknowledge its divine source. In the same way, all beauty is God's beauty
because God is the ultimate source of it all. Indeed, God's good creation expresses beauty
because it is the overflow of the Trinity's beauty which is his very being. How can
we best understand and describe this divine beauty of God's?
The nuance of the Greek word doxa
includes English words like "radiance," "glory," and
"honor." Some have suggested that the English word "glory," reflecting
doxa, is a more complete concept of aesthetics than the traditional word
"beauty." Often when we use the word "beauty" we tend to restrict our
meaning to things that are lovely, sentimental, or perhaps only cute. If we limit the word
to those kinds of ideas, we end up relying on other words like "sublime" or
"powerful" to describe more intense and disturbing experiences with art or
nature. When we think about God's doxa, we reflect not only on his beauty and
splendor, but also the honor, reverence, and fear that are due him. Thus, we not only have
a sense of the variety that potentially exists in glory, we also have a deep understanding
of the continuum of our responses--from amusement to peace to joy to awe to fear to
Since God is the ultimate source of
all aesthetic experience, we better understand that which is beautiful, glorious, sublime,
powerful, and awe-inspiring when we better understand the nature of God. This is the case
for literature as well. The beauty, the glory or doxa, that we experience in a
story or a poem reflects the doxa of God. These experiences deepen our worship
because we recognize in their beauty, beauty's source and fountain. I know God better
because of the pleasing light of a sunset, the rich color of a Chagall painting, and the
beautiful rhythms of a poem like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As the theologian
Jonathan Edwards spoke of the Holy Spirit:
It was made especially the Holy Spirit's
work to bring the world to its beauty and perfection out of chaos: for the beauty of the
world is a communication of God's beauty. The Holy Spirit is the harmony and excellence
and beauty of the deity. Therefore, it was his work to communicate beauty and harmony to
the world, and so we read that it was He that moved upon the face of the waters.
All beauty radiates from God who is its
source. When we encounter beauty, our response is one of enjoyment, pleasure, even love.
This is not to deny that beauty is often corrupted in this world and that one must discern
true beauty from seductive, distorted beauty. Nonetheless, true beauty does create a
longing in us for more: it draws us on. For the Christian, this longing finds its source
in God, and as we draw near to God, we discover again that he is a creative God, one who
pours out his infinite goodness in numerous gifts of beauty, both natural and human. As
the Germans say, Leben ist Loben, to live is to praise.
Central Insight: Doxa,
or glory, provides a wider definition of the aesthetic experience and grounds it in God's
nature, for all beauty finds its origins in God.
Suggestions for Application:
Highlight certain aspects of the text that you find beautiful, intense, or powerful in
order to illustrate the definition of doxa. If you find that it helps
increase your worship, explain why.