If I wanted you to visit Scotland, I might send you to Scotland’s entry on Wikipedia, where you would find a few thousand words on Scotland’s history, geography, economy, monuments, landmarks, etc.: lots of facts, lots of information, lots of arguments and reasons for why you should cross the pond and visit the old country.
Which do you think would be more successful?
The Wikipedia entry might make you say something like, “Well, that’s very interesting! Sounds like a great place. I think I’d like to go there someday.”
But the Flickr pictures and YouTube videos would evoke, “Wow, that’s beautiful. How do I get there and when can I go?”
Beauty is a more powerful persuader than data.
When the grocery store wants you to buy a new chocolate cake, what do they do? Do they set up a booth with a Powerpoint of the Nutrition Facts? Do they have books explaining the benefits of this low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar, high-protein, high-fiber chocolate cake?
Of course not, they set up tasting booths in aisles where the rich chocolate fragrance draws the nose, the light moist sponge draws the eyes, and the offered sample draws a drooling tongue. You taste and exclaim. “That’s beautiful! Where do I buy?”
Beauty attracts. Beauty draws. Beauty persuades. Beauty compels. Beauty convinces.
Yet, the church, especially the reformed branch of it, is not very good at beauty.
We do logical but not beautiful. We’re good at arguing, but not at attracting. We’re good at systematizing but not at stunning. We’re good at organizing but not at awing. We’re good at clarity but not at beauty.
Now, of course, we need logic, we need argument, we need system, we need organizing, and we need to be clear. But these are only servants to beauty, a means to an end – that of bringing people to the feet of Jesus exclaiming, “Wow! He’s beautiful!”
Facts, argument, logic, persuasion may bring you to nod your head in agreement.
Beauty produces, “Draw me, I will run after you!”
Truthful + Beautiful
When I’ve preached justification or sanctification, doctrine or devotion, Old Testament or New Testament, I ask not only, “Was it truthful?” but also, “Was Jesus beautiful?”
I don’t want my hearers just to say, “Well that was reasonable, logical, tightly argued, clear, etc.” I want them to say, “Jesus is so, so beautiful.”
Same goes for parenting. Amidst the noise, smoke, and dust of raising children, am I communicating the breathtaking, inimitable, irresistible, beauty of Christ?
Also for witnessing. I can proof text, win arguments, and beat down atheists, Arminians, Muslims and Mormons all day. But did I once try to show them the beauty of Jesus?
This post was partly inspired by Brian Zahnd’s Beauty will save the world: Rediscovering the allure and mystery of Christianity. Like Trevin Wax, I have some reservations about this book, especially the lack of clarity in a couple of places about the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. But the fundamental core message of the book is one that many of us in Calvinist churches (old and new) need to hear.
For too long we’ve limited the demand of faithfulness to “telling the truth.” To this we must also add “showing His beauty.”
Truthful + beautiful = faithful.