Humans are obsessed with beauty. We try to make ourselves more beautiful with clothing and cosmetics. We seek to create beauty in music and art, and we continually long for something even more beautiful. But, what is the purpose of beauty, and how can we explain excessive beauty in nature? That is what we have called “the problem of beauty,” which we have discussed all this week.
Beauty is not to provide protection or to solve problems. The purpose of beauty is to bring joy, peace, and meaning to life. However, as we seek beauty, we long for something even more beautiful. We strive to create it, and we desire to find it in people and in nature.
The prophet Isaiah in a vision, saw God’s throne room where one seraph cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). God’s glory is displayed in the beauty we see on this planet. The curse of sin has marred that beauty, but it still peaks through. It reminds us of the Creator of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). Theologian N.T. Wright asked the question that we all face at some time, “If the earth is full of God’s glory, why is it also so full of pain and anguish and screaming and despair?” That is what we call “the problem of pain.” I think we can see a glimpse of the answer in the purpose of beauty.
I suggest that humans appreciate and desire beauty because God created us in His image.
God creates beauty in the world around us to give us a sample of what is possible. When we see beauty, we long for more because we always find imperfections in the beauty we see here. Beautiful peacocks die. Colorful fall leaves turn brown and fall to the ground. The beauty of a sunset is fleeting. We long for more. We want to know what more God has in store for us.
The apostle John saw a vision of what God has waiting for those who accept His gift of eternal life. In Revelation chapters 21 and 22, he struggled to describe it in terms of the familiar, such as gold, pearls, and jewels, but he knew those words were inadequate. Perhaps the purpose of beauty in the world around us is to show us a glimpse of the glory of God’s beauty. We long for the revelation of the pure beauty of God’s kingdom. As we struggle to answer the problem of pain, perhaps the answer is before our eyes. The problem of beauty is only a hint, a clue, a sample of the ultimate beauty. I can’t wait to see the real thing.
— Roland Earnst © 2022