Okay, I’ve realized that I’m only about half-way done with this series on Beauty, so after this week, I’m going to make this into a once-a-week series for the rest of its duration. After Wednesday, after we talk about art, the theoretical foundation will be laid and the rest of the series is merely application. So every Monday, I’ll post the next part. I want to do this so people don’t get tired of it, so I can talk about the many other things rolling around in my head, and lastly, I want to do this so that people will actually engage the material and have time to digest it.
With that being said, this is the next section in the series on the Beauty of humanity. You will not find the usual bold/regular font distinction I’ve had to make in the other parts of this series because pretty much all of this is new material I didn’t get to cover in the message. I know this is all very inadequate. If I ever turn this message into a book or something, I’ll be fleshing this out a whole lot more. A few nights after I gave the message this whole manuscript was based on, I ended up talking to my roommate for about an hour further unpacking these ideas about physical beauty to him. He pretty much received an hour long lecture full of material that was in neither the message nor the manuscript. All that to say: there’s far more application of our working definition of beauty that could be made concerning human beauty, and far more questions that can be answered. Maybe someday I’ll engage some of those, but for now, I’ll just put this up and answer any specific questions as they come. I hope this is helpful. You can find the whole series here. Once more, links to the full manuscript and audio of the message are below.
Humans are Beautiful.
Humans are the crown of God’s creation. In the opening chapters of Genesis you see that with each day of creation, what God creates grows increasingly complex and nearer to the heart of God, until you reach that final creative act, where God intimately makes humans in his very own image. We can’t lose this. All humans have dignity, worth, and beauty, no matter where they end up eternally. God loves all humanity, and so should we. Being image-bearers gives us all innate worth and innate objective beauty. But, as we are all very aware of, humans also have a very subjective sense of beauty as well. This is where we get to talk about physical beauty briefly. Though I can’t do full justice to this topic here, I’ll try to give you some tools to better think through these things on your own. I know there’s a lot of brokenness over this issue in this room. Lots of pain and baggage that I wish I could deal with more. People who’s beauty has been abused or insulted. People who have used their own beauty to fill that eternity in our hearts, but to know avail.
Though I can’t hit every issue involved in this, I do want to say two main things that I hope are helpful. First, remember our definition of Beauty? Beauty is complexity expressed simply. Everything about us is always expressing the almost infinite complexity that comes from being human. Physical unattractiveness, it seems to me then, is when this human complexity is not physically expressed very simply, orderly, or harmoniously. Does this make sense? Is it not true that the ideas of “ugliness”, “grotesqueness”, and similar descriptors carry with them a sense of “busyness”, “disarray”, and “too much going on”- the opposite of simplicity and order? I say this not only to give an understanding of physical unattractiveness, but to to remind us that our physicality expresses parts of our humanity. In the tapestry of being human, our physicality – how we carry, dress, make-up, and build-up ourselves – emphasizes and expresses different strands within that tapestry. What parts of the beautiful artwork you are are you trying to accentuate and emphasize with your physical beauty? Your own strength? Your ability to draw eyes to yourself? Or do you use your beauty to point others away from yourself to the one of whom your beauty is but a shadow of? There’s a difference between True Beauty and Seductive Beauty. True Beauty is whatever attracts us towards our ultimate fulfillment and happiness. It draws us towards higher, more complex joys, excellencies, and goods. Seductive Beauty on the other had is beauty that tries and draw us away from our highest good and draws us towards lower things- baser pleasures, compromises, and harms that will eventually be our ultimate unhappiness and destruction. If you are not trying to draw people to their greatest good, then you’re drawing them to destruction.
Secondly, remember earlier, where I said that some people, because of culture, experiences, and such value different “strands” of that tapestry of the world differently? This is a complex way of saying that different people find different things beautiful, and that’s okay. That’s good. Humans were made to make value judgments. This is so that we who have been changed by God can look at him and rightfully and freely declare him as all Beauty. We were made this way so that we could assign true value to true things. But this good purpose of assigning value to things has become distorted because of sin and we often give the wrong value to wrong things. We long for Beauty, so we often (especially when we are not joined with God who is Beauty Itself) try to fill things with more meaning, more complexity, more “strands” in order to make them seem more beautiful, but it’s a false beauty that will never really deliver. It’s imposed on things and not recognized from within things. So, I think physical beauty is an outward reminder of the original goodness, order, and “complexity-expressed-simply” that people were made for, just like deformities are outward reminders of the fallenness of this world. We are supposed to be drawn to physical beauty. That’s okay. But sin takes that one strand of the tapestry of what makes someone completely beautiful as simply a human, and makes it more valuable than all the other strands. The problem is not when we recognize and enjoy physical beauty, it’s when we prioritize it above other things. So, feel free to pursue romance with someone you are physically attracted to (amen) and feel free to acknowledge when you see physical beauty. But, the encouragement I’ll give you is this: as you do so, make sure you are spending plenty of time enjoying and rightfully calling “beautiful” the God Who’s Beauty overshadows all others. Practicing right value judgments with the One of highest value helps us see ourselves and the rest of the world more properly.
Humanity is beautiful.
Art by Istvan Sandorfi.
Here are the links to the audio of the message, and the full manuscript.