Do you enjoy beauty? Perhaps a dramatic sunset, or a remarkable piece of artistry?
The scene at the top of my Spreading Goodness site is a sunrise on Whidbey Island, Washington, near my parent’s former home. The brilliant colors and the slow motion of a fog bank rolling in from the right captured me on my morning walk. Beauty invites gaze and wonder.
Yet the most satisfying beauty is found in the bonds of love. Picture the caring gaze of a wrinkled grandmother into the eyes of her infant grandchild. Or the smiles of former classmates reunited at a twenty-year school reunion. Even on the morning I snapped the sunrise photo the greatest beauty of the day came in the smiles and greetings of my parents over breakfast.
And all this is a gift from God. God’s eternal bond of love sets up the context for beauty—so that what we enjoy today is an overflow of God’s unending creativity that was first displayed in creation. As we synthesize a picture of God’s original creation from Scriptures we find an intriguing relational cue in a repeated phrase: “it was good.”
Let’s recall that “good” is a value-based word, as is “beauty”. We say, for instance, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Think, for instance of the loving gaze shared by a husband and a wife as they celebrate sixty years of a strong marriage. Each looks back through the memories of shared life and love and sees beauty. Wrinkled skin and frail muscles can’t erase the images of their shared delight years earlier when they were both strong and attractive. Nor dim the joys of receiving children and grandchildren since those beginnings. Beauty is a living, relational word.
And so is goodness. The mistake of a wealthy moralist who approached Jesus hoping to have the Lord validate his own goodness was mistaken in thinking that goodness is inherent in activities—specifically in his law keeping. Jesus startled him with his counter-premise: “No one is good except God alone.” Goodness is a living reality named God.
Let me offer a corollary: beauty emerges in God’s goodness. In other words the whole realm of axiology—meaning and value—is found in God’s creative sharing. His intimate work of shaping complex and interdependent systems in nature is astonishing; and his reach in spreading dramatic galaxies of stars and nebulae throughout the universe overwhelms us as viewers.
So when we think of the creation in Genesis 1 with the repetition “it was good” we should ask if, in this case, goodness was something inherent to the creation—with stars, for instance, treated as essentially good—or is the goodness still something that belongs only to God?
If we explore the creation biblically we find clues about the distinctions of the Trinity, with the unique roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit brought forward at points. The Spirit, for instance, is said to have hovered over the earth during the creation in Genesis 1—suggesting a shaping role—while the Son is treated as the immediate source of the creation in Colossians 1:16, “all things were created through him and for him.”
Can it be, then, that the refrain in Genesis 1, “it was good”, actually reveals the Father’s response as he delights in what the Son and the Spirit are bringing before him? In other words, is it likely that the esthetics of creation are birthed by the love the Son has for the Father, so that he, with the Spirit as his active helper, is pleasing the Father with his incredible creativity? And that the Father embraces all the Son and Spirit offer him by receiving the gift and declaring the works of the Son to be “good”?
We know already, from Ephesians 1:4, that “before the foundation of the world” the Father and the Son were at work in anticipating our union with Christ—as those who would be drawn out of a fallen creation—a proleptic story of creation, fall, and redemption.
In other words we discover how God was active within himself as the triune Father-Son-and-Spirit God working out a future for the realm that was yet to be born. And that realm and his plan were good, with every feature working together for good among his people who would love him in response to his own effusive, creative love.
This is all a bit speculative, I know, but aren’t we invited to taste and see that the Lord is good? Maybe we will enjoy him even more if we start thinking a bit more boldly about the beauty of that goodness. And the love it expresses.
Thanks, Ron, for this beautiful post. What a way to start the morning—with a reflection on God’s love, beauty, and goodness. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how God’s Father-Son-Spirit relationship within the Trinity is such a beautiful picture of unity in diversity. I think about marriage, in which two become one, or the Church in which many members make up one body,or a family, in which there are unique individuals in the bond of family, or creation, in which so many individual elements demonstrate such beauty as a whole. These and other examples we can think of give us such rich, wonderful insights into who God is as Triune. And, as you point out, we enjoy Him even more as we ponder His beauty, goodness, and love reflected in all He’s created. Your post was a blessing to my heart this morning. Thanks!
Thanks for the response, Gretchen.
Thank you for this blog about our good and beautiful God.
Last year I took photos at a missionary friend’s wedding, held in a village in Africa. One of these photos makes me say, “wow, that is beautiful.” The bride goes to an open window. With great kindness and care, she reaches her hand through to the village children looking in.
Why does this moment stand out? Because,I see the love of Christ in the face of my friend as she touches the children. I think about Jesus who gathers children young and old. Mt.19:13,14. I am touched by Christ’s love that reaches to the soul. And as I see our God (Father, Son, and Spirit), I have to say, “Look at him. Isn’t he beautiful.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV
“And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4 ESV