I’m sometimes baffled by art—a banana taped to a wall and then eaten? A balloon dog? Toilet paper NFTs? Am I supposed to cultivate an eye and love for that?
What a relief and joy, then, to read Steve DeWitt’s excellent little book Enjoying God in Everything: A Guide to Maximizing Life’s Pleasures. Despite changing standards at art institutes, some beauties remain breathtaking across time and cultures: falling snow, bright stars, sandy beaches. And because it’s so universally beautiful and utterly unnecessary, true beauty is always an apologetic for God.
Here are 20 of my favorite quotes from DeWitt’s book.
God has so wired us that beauty generates powerful experiences of wonder. Wonder is one of God’s most precious gifts to us, especially when it leads us to its intended end—worship of our beautiful God. (10)
As the Puritan pastor Charles Simeon said, “There are but two lessons for the Christian to learn: the one is to enjoy God in every thing; the other is to enjoy every thing in God.” (10)
God’s beauty is divine, eternal, and infinite. He is beautiful. He always has been and eternally will be. God’s beauty defies our ability to comprehend. (16)
Diversity of color is a source of great joy. . . . Massive diversity in unity multiplies our pleasure. We celebrate it in everything: music (melody and harmony), architecture (forms and shapes in one “design”), athletic teamwork, and food (do I need to explain this one?). Even the mystery and pleasure of sexual union is a God-designed metaphor of plurality in unity. (21)
True and essential beauty is love’s joyous outflow of perfect, infinite, and eternal divine self-giving within the Trinity. (22–23)
The cross is love’s highest human expression and beauty’s ultimate declaration. Before a sunset, mountain range, painting, or song can be relished as beautiful, our souls must awaken to true beauty. The cross and resurrection of Jesus shine as supreme demonstrations of beauty. Everything else is a reflection. (24)
It is not vanity or narcissism for God to delight in images of Himself. God cannot sin, so He cannot place the highest worth on anything or anyone other than Himself. God is no idolator. Therefore, He must delight in His own glory and all created reflections of that same glory. (33)
The universe is big. Why? To say something to us about the God who made it—He is bigger. (36)
Wonder at His beauty leads to worship of His being. (47)
Loneliness is one of humanity’s most tender emotions. It reminds us that we are not made for ourselves. We were made for our Creator. The barbs of loneliness are God’s way of saying, “Here I am!” (49)
Embedded in our spiritual DNA is an ancient memory of when everything was as it ought to be. We retain this as a kind of spiritually suppressed memory. Beauty is beautiful to us when it includes harmony and balance. (55)
Beauty is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the Source of the beauty with praise and thanksgiving. (55)
Without God, we are left to worship the beauty for its own sake. . . . Our wonder collapses onto itself, leaving us to worship stuff and matter. This is the bane and emptiness of our materialistic secular age. (56–57)
Our eyes must search for what our spiritually alive hearts delight in—anything that reflects God’s beauty. (72)
God gleams from every molecule and atom of this universe. (72)
Christians who properly place God as the source and goal of the things they enjoy will find themselves enjoying those things even more. In this, a Christian’s experience of beauty should be a kind of apologetic for the gospel. (78)
The way Christians relish created beauties ought to outstrip that of unbelievers since we neither find our identity in them nor hold on to them as ultimate. (78)
If the secular world thought their enjoyment of music, drink, sex, friendship, art, and everything else was second-rate, might they look at Christianity and the gospel with keener interest? (78)
What is religious ecstasy to an unbeliever is just the beginning of wonder’s blessing for a Christian. The unbeliever has nowhere to go with his experience and is left to crave it again. Go to another concert. Have another sexual encounter. Watch the same movie over and over. The Christian takes the wonder and uses it to animate praise to God. (87)
All great art will contain an echo of Eden: Eden in its original glory, Eden that is lost to us, and Eden restored. (88)