God’s Glory, Artistic Beauty, and Joyful Longings

Herman Bavinck

Herman Bavinck is one theologian who seems to have mastered the holistic Christian worldview as well as anyone, and it makes for glorious reading. I’m struck by how he weds the beauty of man-made art and the beauty of creation to show them both to be expressions of God’s glory, and then ties all that beauty to our joy, and then follows through to show how the piercing human longing for the re-creation of all things is there in the enjoyment of the created beauty.

One example comes from his excellent collection, Essays on Religion, Science, and Society (page 259):

We cannot express in words what a valuable gift the Creator of all things has granted to his children. He is the Lord of glory and spreads his beauty lavishly before our eyes in all his works. His name is precious in the whole earth, and while he did not leave us without a witness, he also fills our hearts with happiness when we observe that glory. . . .

Truly, awareness of beauty cannot be fully explained as “empathy”; when observing and enjoying true beauty, it is not man who bestows his affections and moods on the observed object, but it is God’s glory that meets and enlightens us in our perceptive spirits through the works of nature and art.

Humanity and the world are related because they are both related to God. The same reason, the same spirit, the same order lives in both. Beauty is the harmony that still shines through the chaos in the world; by God’s grace, beauty is observed, felt, translated by artists; it is prophecy and guarantee that this world is not destined for ruin but for glory — a glory for which there is a longing deep in every human heart.

Bavinck was beautifully wide-hearted, glory-thrilled, eschatologically-pointed.

(Note: You can find a complete list of Bavinck’s writings at hermanbavinck.org.)

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