We know that God Himself is the ultimate source and absolute standard of beauty.
One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:Why doesn't God always seem most beautiful to us? Why does evil sometimes seem very appealing to us? How do idols become more delightful in our eyes than God? (Whether the idols are outright "bad" things like statues or good things like sex, money, comfort, food, work, or family.) Why isn't our subjective perception of beauty always accurate?
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple. (Psalm 27:4, NASB)
Romans 1 gives us a clue about how this happens.
"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." (vv.21-23, NASB)Notice the progression:
- They knew God (verses 19 and 20 show that everyone receives a general revelation of God's character through observing His creation)
- They did not honor Him as God or give thanks
- They became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened
- Professing to be wise, they became fools
- They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible creatures
If you study world cultures from an anthropological perspective, you will discover that the further a culture drifts from honoring and thanking the God of the Bible, the more ugly and debased their definition of beauty becomes. This is expressed through all their forms of aesthetics, whether it is paintings, clothing, dancing, sculptures, drama, or music. To say this a different way, there is a reason that Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus all have different styles of music associated with their religions. These styles are not random choices, but the result of centuries of theology filtering down into aesthetics.
But one could argue, if it's true that theology shapes aesthetics, why have some very evil regimes used the same aesthetic styles as we do? To go back to my Nazi song illustration: if I am correct in saying that a culture's theology will come out in its art forms, why did the Nazis not wear war paint and G-strings and beat tom-toms? Why would their extreme depravity use art forms very similar to the rest of "Christian" Europe? Or, to pick a different dictator, why does North Korea worship Kim Jung Il using militaristic tunes very similar to the rest of the world? A man as evil as he should prefer to be worshiped to the "tune" of nails on chalkboard, right? On the other hand, why do Christians, even theologically conservative ones, sometimes worship God with music more fitting to cultures of rebellion, confusion, and lust? Doesn't this prove that aesthetics are amoral and completely disconnected from theology? We will answer this argument in my next article about music.
Meanwhile, tell me what you think about what I've said so far!