Beauty has eluded the reception of a firm definition throughout history, even though we all know what it is…or do we? For instance, we all know that…
There is one beauty of a waterfall, yet another beauty of a desert.
There is one beauty of a child, yet another beauty of a elderly person.
There is one beauty of a woman, yet another beauty of a man.
There is one beauty of the written word, yet another beauty of the painted picture.
There is one beauty of appearance, yet another beauty of spirit.
There is one beauty of sound, yet another beauty of sight.
There is one beauty of architecture, yet another beauty of nature.
And this list could go on and on…
What then is “beauty”? Is there but one standard of beauty? Why do different people call different things beautiful?
Here are a few of the elements that constitute “beauty”…
Unity and diversity: true beauty is the harmony of variety.
Excellence: true beauty involves skillful craft, purposeful design and order, and adherance to consistent standards.
Edification: true beauty builds up, motivates, challenges, enlightens, and pleases the heart of men and women.
Cross-cultural: true beauty is not relative to specific cultures because desiring and taking delight in beauty is part of the image of God in man.
These are some of the qualities that are essential to or accompany something that can be truly called beautiful. The Scriptures are not silent on the topic of beauty–indeed, the concept occurs rather frequently. (For some examples, see Exodus 28:2, Philippians 4:8, Proverbs 31:22, 25, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Song of Solomon 4:7, Isaiah 52:1, Ezekiel 16:10-14, Mark 14:6, et al.)
The Word of God portrays beauty as something desirable, something to take delight in, something to cultivate, something to glorify God, something to add dignity to humanity. Because beauty is a good gift of God, it, like every other good gift of God given to us in the natural and cultural realm, can be abused by either corruption of it or worship of it. If a thing is no longer excellent in virtue, in quality, in harmony out of diversity–it is no longer edifying and thus can no longer truly be called beautiful, but would better be described as an abuse of beauty.
Something that is truly beautiful can bring the strong joy of truth to the heart of the godly person, even if the craftsman who formed it is not himself godly. It is true that the godly person sometimes rejoices in things that are not edifying–but when this happens, he reveals where his standards are false.
Also, of course, not everyone recognizes the same things as beautiful–but this division is usually based on false standards of beauty, as much, or more so, than on personal preferences.
Why? Because one’s preferences are based on one’s standards. Everything comes back here, doesn’t it?
So, what are your standards of beauty?