I’ve been talking to a friend of mine lately who has had his faith shipwrecked and I decided to bring up the point of beauty after he commented on the human brain. His comment was that our brains are wonderful. My question was “are they?” I was told he knew someone who disagreed, to which I asked if they were really wonderful. Then that got to asking if anything is truly wonderful or beautiful in itself. If we are not here, is there anything that is beautiful?
We live in an age where people say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This has become a popular maxim today, but it’s one I think entirely wrong. If you hold to this position, then I see no other conclusion other than that beauty does not exist in itself, but that you are calling some things beautiful. The problem is though that they are not beautiful. They are only beautiful to you.
Of course, we must say what beauty is. I find it a difficult term to define. I will use a simple idea that the beautiful is that which is good and true. When I use those, I mean that it fits the moral category in reflecting God’s nature as nothing can be beautiful unless it participates in the beauty of God. I say it is true because some aspect of it resonates with us.
The problem with those who deny beauty being objective is that we can easily say the same applies to anything else be it morals, meaning, or any other quality. We do not discover reality in that case, but we decide what reality is. If we think something is beautiful, then it is.
However, if nothing really is beautiful, then we are simply saying what is false and if we are Christians especially, we dare not say something false. If something is not beautiful, why say that it is? For the naturalist though, it seems that all beauty would be an illusion. We think something is beautiful, but that’s just our minds deluding us. What are we to say happens then when we realize that this is an illusion? Why should I consider anything beautiful when I know nothing is? Then the same goes to morality and meaning.
Ultimately, aesthetic qualities attributed to things will be meaningless. If we say “The Mona Lisa is beautiful” we cannot possibly be making an absolute statement and if it is a true statement, it must be absolute. Now if I said “I think the Mona Lisa is beautiful” that would be an absolute statement in one way. It would be absolutely true for all people in all times and all places that I, at this moment, think the Mona Lisa is beautiful. Now I could be wrong in my statement, but I could not be wrong in that I hold that idea.
However, if those statements don’t really speak of anything, then they are nonsensical. Why say anything is beautiful? We are not describing it. We are describing our reactions to it. It reminds me of the argument Hume used in that when we see a murder take place, we say that it is evil, but what we are doing is simply feeling evil and projecting it on the murder out there.
However, we are not using words to describe a feeling within ourselves. We are using words to describe an action in the real world. We are not saying I find evil in me and therefore that action is evil. We are saying that we find evil in the action itself. One can see though how the two can be closely aligned.
Now some of you might be saying “But before we came along, was there anyone to say X is beautiful?” The answer is yes. God was there. God is the one who knows what truly is beautiful and what truly isn’t. Let us remember also that God is seen in Scripture and by the saints as beautiful. If God does not possess beauty, how can anything else?
Friends. I am concerned by a secularist mindset that tells me that the things I value most in this life, including beauty are illusions. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It lies in the nature of God and is reflected in his creation.