Is beauty just in the eye of the beholder? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Last night, I found myself in a discussion on a Facebook page after an atheist put up a picture of some beautiful clouds outside an airplane window and spoke about not needing God to appreciate this beauty. I found this an interesting statement so I started with one question. Is beauty objective? My response was along the lines of “Of course not.”
This I took to be quite odd. Here you write about an experience of something that is beautiful and then say there is no such thing as beauty. You might as well say that there are no moral truths and then that slavery in the Bible is wrong. (Oh wait. I do know people who say both of those.) It just reminds of the inconsistencies.
But wait, aren’t there disagreements on what is and isn’t beautiful? Yes. There are. There are disagreements in science and math and medicine and law and any other field as well. Are we going to make the foolish statement that any area that has disagreement means that there is no objective truth in that area?
We have industries that are built on beauty being something real. The cosmetic industry serves its clients, mostly women, by telling them what they sell will make them more beautiful. Hollywood appeals to us with men and women meant to be seen as desirable by us. Even the pornography industry can thrive because men and women are supposed to believe that those pages of people on the pages or nowadays on the websites are people they should desire.
Beauty is either something in the world that we discover or else an idea in our minds that we throw onto the world. If just in our minds alone, why should we think we can convince anyone else of it? Why should I believe the clouds are beautiful if it cannot be true that they are?
This would also meant that a stick man that I draw is just as beautiful as the Mona Lisa is. A little tune that I could put together though I have no musical ability is just as beautiful as a piece by Bach is. The reason these things get recognized is because we all know that there is something beautiful about them.
My favorite tactic is to bring up a person’s spouse in this. After all, if beauty is subjective and not real, then there is no reason to think your spouse is truly beautiful. As a man who is married and has been for nine years, I will gladly attest that yes indeed, women are beautiful, and my wife is the most beautiful of all.
We Christians also are missing out when we talk about beauty being subjective. No Christian should ever say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is just as real as truth and goodness are. If we have a harder time with beauty, it is because we have failed to take such ideas seriously.
Do you need to know that God exists to enjoy beauty? Not at all. Do you need Him to ground the beauty? Yes. Remember also that with all that you see, all that beauty is a reflection of the creator who is the most beautiful of all.