Monday, November 25, 2019

Faithless Music? The Belief in a Transcendent God Requires Objective Beauty

Part One

A material universe exists.  Modern science shows that it is not eternal.  It had a beginning a finite time ago out of nothing.   It is absurd to to say that the universe just popped into existence out of nothing.  The existence of the universe requires a transcendent cause that must be spiritual, because it can't already be a part of the material universe.  That cause also must be a lot of other qualities that fit a description of God.  Based on the complexity of the universe, the cause must have been the personal choice of an intelligent designer.   Vast evidence shows the existence of the universe requires elaborate initial conditions to sustain intelligent life.  This has been called the fine-tuning of the universe.

In this complex, personal, and intelligent universe, there are also values.  Like the natural laws bind the universe, so do the values, indicating that they too proceed from God.  Everyone for instance knows that certain objective, moral laws exist that are wrong to break.  The same cause of the universe is the cause of the moral values -- God.

The process I'm traversing here fits what Psalm 19 says in the Old Testament and Romans 1 in the New.  Psalm 19:1 says:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Romans 1:19-20 say:
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Nature reveals not only the existence of God but also various attributes of God.  Sir Isaac Newton at the end of his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy wrote:
[T]hough these bodies may, indeed, continue in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular position of the orbits themselves from those laws. . . .  This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.
The founders of science called science "the wisdom of God."  The Royal Society began in 1660 and in 1667 John Ray became a fellow of the society, writing The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of the Creation.  David said "their words," the words of the handiwork of God through His creation, go out "to the end of the world" (Psalm 19:2-3).

The words of creation, providence, and conscience match the Words of God in scripture.  Values are transcendent and the scripture, which reflects natural law, manifests those in categories of truth, goodness, and beauty.  Since God originated everything, so truth, goodness, and beauty spring from and, therefore, mirror Him.  Believing in the existence of God is believing in objective beauty.  Rather than state that argument myself, I use the statement of Augustine in his City of God:
Beauty. . . can be appreciated only by the mind. This would be impossible, if this `idea' of beauty were not found in the mind in a more perfect form. . . But even here, if this `idea' of beauty were not subject to change, one person would not be a better judge of sensible beauty than another. . . nor the experienced and skilled than the novice and the untrained; and the same person could not make progress towards better judgement than before. And it is obvious that anything which admits of increase or decrease is changeable. 
This consideration has readily persuaded men of ability and learning. . . that the original `idea' is not to be found in this sphere, where it is shown to be subject to change. . . And so they saw that there must be some being in which the original form resides, unchangeable, and therefore incomparable. And they rightly believed that it is there that the origin of things is to be found, in the uncreated, which is the source of all creation.
Furthermore, Augustine writes in his Confessions:
[M]y sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.
If something can be beautiful, then something can be ugly.  Scripture backs up the logic, the natural law of which I and many others through history speak.  I provide three verses, two from the Old and one from the New, first 1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 27:4:
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. 
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; 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 enquire in his temple.
From the New Testament, I quote Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Paul commanded, "[T]hink on. . . whatsoever things are lovely."  God defines the lovely.  There is ugly music and it is music that does not reflect the nature of God.  It cannot be lustful, sexy, and many other negative traits that can be communicated by the language of music, including and even without the words.  I'm talking about music.  People listening to this music are not thinking on the lovely and they are moving away from the nature of God.  It's worse than that, but it's at least that bad.  I'm saying that it is faithless, because someone cannot both believe in God and not believe in objective beauty.  The latter follows the former.  It isn't in the eye of the beholder or a person's taste.  That is subjective or relativistic.

The church above all needs to talk and show the lovely, the beauty of God.  "Holiness" is in accordance with the attributes of God, separated unto His characteristics. Someone will not change into His image, be holy as He is holy, when they are channeling or guzzling godless music.  In the spirit of this Thanksgiving season, this isn't thankful.  This is not thanking God.  It is not wanting God.  It is feeding the flesh and wanting what self wants.

I apply this truth about God and beauty to you professing pastor, who has his play list filled with vile music.  I apply this to you professing Christian, listening to your worldly tunes on your road trip or on your way into work in your car or when you work out.  I write this to you, who when you hear the ugly, do not turn it off, when you can.

Believing in God is also believing in objective truth, objective goodness, and objective beauty.  I've focused on the last of these.  One isn't believing in God and turning beauty relative or subjective, shaping it according to his own lust.  Beauty proceeds from God, what characterizes Him.  That's what He wants us to value and we should value highest.  Someone is not seeking the kingdom of God and is not setting his affections on things above, when he subjects his passions to what is incongruent with either.

1 comment:

Kent Brandenburg said...

Like on the last post, I decided to write a little more. One cannot bifurcate God into various components. Truth, goodness, and beauty are transcendent, because God is transcendent. The Oneness of God require a wholeness of these three. Professing believers pick off beauty, because of lust, and eliminate it, by turning it relative or subjective, but they can't but do the same to truth and goodness. That's exactly what happens. No one who turns beauty into the relative or subjective will have truth or goodness either. This is the postmodern, their truth their truth and their goodness their goodness. They invent their own Christianity, and their own God. Does this dip below a saving knowledge of God? I say, in most cases, yes. They use some of the same terms, but they don't mean the same thing.