A Christian idea of beauty

This post is in response to an article by Rev. Peter Mullen titled “The Christian Idea of the Beautiful.”

I have a couple of observations. Mullen complains about Marcel Duchamps urinal as art. There are many good reasons for art and visual communication, including the elicitation of a visceral response and driving viewers to new thoughts, which displaying a urinal as a sculpture will certainly do. Although the Reverend is correct in saying that modern art students are naive to think the same kind of shock tactics work in today’s society, works such as Duchamp’s Fountain have their place. For a shocked response you must work in a culturally relevant manner, and not much is shocking in today’s world.

Secondly, art and beauty are not synonymous. On this Mullen and I agree, although he had me wondering through the first few paragraphs of his article. He says that

    Beauty reaches far beyond art, music and literature, for it is characteristic of the natural world — or as Christians would say creation. For beauty, like truth and like goodness, has its origin in God. But we mustn’t think of beauty as belonging to objects in the world, as if beauty were a quality like size or yellowness: beauty is in the relationship between the object and the person who comes into contact with it.

He goes on to suggest that the sublime sums up beauty; beauty is the “haunting presence of God.” (More on the sublime here.) “To see the face of God is to behold beauty, which is the source of all lesser beauty,” says Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven.

Mullen’s comments alluding to the sublime equaling beauty seem a bit simplistic to me. I’m pretty certain that I don’t think all things which are beautiful are also sublime, although I haven’t catalogued this to make certain. Regardless, Rev. Mullen’s writing poses some worthwhile thoughts that I hope to come back to in the future.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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