I appreciate authors who bring wisdom and delight. Psalm 1 extols the person who delights in God’s word –not merely the well-versed person. Good writers do more than inform or command. They help us imagine God in captivating ways. They help us imagine ourselves as we could be. They help us imagine the world as it will be when God’s kingdom fully appears. Our modern emphasis on mastering abstract concepts fails to foster an appreciation for a visual language that ignites our imagination.
- While I enjoy reading about spirituality in general, my main interest is in authors who appreciate the healing power of beauty in a broken world. The resources here are about the beauty of God in Christ, the beauty of creation, the beauty of art, and the beauty of peacemaking love. The following is a list of a few of them.
The Mars Hill Audio Journal, hosted by Ken Myers, promotes attentiveness to the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, and how it promotes human flourishing. Four times a year, Myers prepares a feast for the ears, bringing together stimulating interviews for pleasure and provocation.
Dana Gioia speaks and writes with great clarity and eloquence about beauty. He is the former Poet Laureate of California and former chairman of the NEA.
- Read Gioia’s essay Poetry as Enchantment.
- Watch Gioia’s video Why Beauty Matters
- Watch Gioia’s Trinity Forum conversation on Poetry & Beauty in Solitude Transcript is available, too.
James K.A. Smith has helped me see that human beings are not, in his words, “brains on a stick.” While cognition is important, at a deeper level we move toward what we love with our whole being.
Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings. His “teaching” doesn’t just touch the calm, cool, collected space of reflection and contemplation; he is a teacher who invades the heated, passionate regions of the heart... And yet we often approach discipleship as primarily a didactic endeavor— as if becoming a disciple of Jesus is largely an intellectual project, a matter of acquiring knowledge. Why is that? (You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit)
C.S. Lewis has been a major influence, especially in his fiction. It was Alan Jacobs who identified for me what it was: Lewis’ ability to give himself over to delight and resist cynicism.
Lewis’s mind was above all characterized by a willingness to be enchanted and that it was this openness to enchantment that held together the various strands of his life—his delight in laughter, his willingness to accept a world made by a good and loving God, and (in some ways above all) his willingness to submit to the charms of a wonderful story... [There is] an openness to delight, to the sense that there’s more to the world than meets the jaundiced eye... (Alan Jacobs,The Narnian, xxi)
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment... The Scotch catechism says that man's chief end is 'to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” (Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
Eugene Peterson has helped me contemplate the beauty of God’s loyal and patient character. I sense so much joy in Peterson’s heart. His memoir, The Pastor, embodies a life that brings glory to God.
Inappropriate, anxiety-driven, fear-driven work would only interfere with and distract from what God was already doing. My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones. (The Pastor, 45).
Bruce Waltke has helped me love the Bible more, and especially the beauty of the Old Testament. His lifetime of scholarship conveys not just academic depth, but a passion to respond whole-heartedly to God’s richly diverse revelation–the variety of literary genres and the warmth of the language. I highly recommend his Old Testament Theology. His work on Ecclesiastes from that volume has had a profound effect on me, encouraging me not to be threatened by perplexing circumstances or the seeming absence of God. God’s glory is there, too.
God is the Father of glory–the revealer. As the Creator, he is an artist and master writer. He wrote to us through diverse people in a wide range of literary genres. Jesus spoke in parables and used vivid imagery. John Piper notes:
The Bible is filled with every manner of literary device to add natural impact: acrostics, alliteration, analogies, anthropomorphism, assonance, cadence, chiasmus, consonance, dialogue, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, meter, onomatopoeia, paradox, parallelism, repetition, rhyme, satire, simile— they’re all there, and more. (Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, 31)
John Calvin has much to offer on beauty. His work opens up the glory of God revealed in creation as well as the comfort of God’s providential care.
"In grasses, trees, and fruits, apart from their utility, there is beauty of appearance and pleasantness of odor. For if this were not true, the prophet would not have reckoned them among the benefits of God, “that wine gladdens the heart of man, that oil makes his face shine” (Ps. 104). Has the Lord clothed the flowers with great beauty that greets our eyes, the sweetness of smell that is wafted upon our nostrils, and yet will it be unlawful for our eyes to be affected by that beauty, or our sense of smell by the sweetness of that odor? Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use? Away, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, while conceding only a necessary use of creatures, not only malignantly deprives us of the lawful fruit of God’s beneficence but cannot be practiced unless it robs man of all his senses and degrades him to a block. (Institutes 3.10,2-3)