September 20, 2013

Learning to See the Beauty Behind All Beauty

by Mike Riccardi

Eyes Wide OpenOne of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time is a book called, Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything, by a gifted writer named Steve DeWitt. The thesis of the book is that all beauty originates in God and is given to us to enjoy for the express purpose of leading us to the ultimate beauty that is God Himself. On page 7, in the introduction, he writes:

Every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him. That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting—so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake. If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.

The book is filled with these kinds of spot-on quotables. It’s an extremely helpful read for the believer whose affections have run dry and who needs to be freshly overwhelmed with the majestic beauty of God. And it’s a must-read for anyone interested in art and aesthetics—what beauty is, what it means, where it comes from, and what it’s intended to do. You can read a short synopsis/review of the book from Tim Challies here, and can listen here as Tony Reinke from Desiring God interviewed Steve DeWitt.

In chapter 4 of the book, DeWitt examines the various ways that the creation reflects and leads us to God’s beauty. Today I’d like to share a few quotes from that chapter that I found to inspire me to greater worship and enjoyment of our God, in the hopes that they will do the same for you.

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“Christianity’s answer to the question of why creation is so beautiful is that it flows from the character of a beautiful creator. Nature is God’s self-portrait. It is not God, since God transcends what He created, but it reveals in physical form what He is like spiritually. God creates beauty so we can know what He is like. Since He is and always has been glorious and beautiful, creation reflects this with seeable, testable, touchable, hearable, and smellable reflections of His glory and Beauty” (62).

John Owen: “All goodness, grace, life, light, mercy, and power, which are the springs and causes of the new creation, are all originally in God, in the divine nature, and that infinitely and essentially. In them is God eternally or essentially glorious, and the whole design of the new creation was to manifest his glory in them by external communications of them, and from them” (63).

“Creation speaks to us—every day, all the time, constantly shouting truths about spiritual reality. Did you hear it this morning as you got up? Did you feel any truth about God this morning as you took a hot shower? Did you taste any truth as you delighted in your morning coffee? Did you hear any divine reality as you heard a bird singing? Did you see any truth as you saw the blue of the sky? What have you actually felt, tasted, touched, seen, and heard today? The whole earth is filled with His glory. Every day creation shouts to us, God is glorious! God is creator! God is provider! God is love! God is there!” (63).

Sunset at Yellowstone

John Calvin: “As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom and power” (64).

“Everywhere I look, everything I feel, hear, smell and taste transmits the beauty of God through the beauty of creation. He is the beauty behind all beauty” (64).

“The total number of stars in the observable universe is a staggering forty to fifty billion trillion. That’s a number I can’t even begin to understand. A helpful illustration is that if each star was a dime, the pile of dimes would be as tall as the Sears Tower and cover the entire North American continent. Wow. The universe is big, really big. Why is it so enormous? In order to say something to us about the God who made it—He is bigger” (66).

Augustine: “So then I asked the earth, ‘What is all this?’ and it replied: ‘It is not me.’ And all the things on the earth gave me the same answer. I quizzed the sea and its depths, the living things that move there, and they replied: ‘We are not your God, seek higher.’ … And then I said to all those things seated before the door of my senses, ‘If it is not you, tell me something about my God, speak to me of him.’ And with a mighty voice all cried: ‘He is our creator.’ I looked at the creatures, and asked; their beauty was their answer’” (69–70).

“All creation is a treasure hunt in which God has left clues—essentially pictures of Himself. Each picture is intentionally pleasurable so as to increase our desire for more. For someone more. The beauties of this world whisper to our souls that there is someone ultimate. But the ultimate is never found in the wonderland of creation. We keep looking and longing for the beauty behind the beauty, the One who will satisfy the cravings of our soul. This explains why the drug addict keeps shooting up and the porn addict keeps looking and the materialist keeps buying and the thrill-seeker keeps jumping. One the other side of one thrill is the constant need for Another” (71).

The heavens are telling of the glory of God.
– Psalm 19:1 –

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.