The following is taken from my own study and from my notes on Sean M. McDonough’s book, Creation and New Creation – Understanding God’s Creation Project.
If we look at beauty through man’s eyes only, we’re left with an incomplete picture. It requires God’s ability to transcend conventional paradigms of the beautiful. All that humanity perceives as ugly or beautiful must stand silent at the paradox of the cross. The author of the Fourth Gospel sees in the crucifixion of Christ the moment of his supreme glorification, and thus his supreme beautification: I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself (Fourth Gospel(1) 12:32). Divine beauty thus paradoxically reveals itself in this situation of death and injustice. Man’s standards of beauty become relativized(2).
This seems to parallel God’s willingness to suffer long with the prodigal nature given to humanity, knowing the certainty of his faithfulness to bring about many sons and daughters to glory. In doing so, his wisdom and power become evident in all aspects of human experience by turning darkness into light, and using that which seems intent on our destruction to actually work not only for our good, but for our glory.
St. Augustine notes that “if He had not wished to be deformed, you would not have received back the form that you lost. Therefore, He hung deformed upon the cross, but His deformity was our beauty.”(3)
Augustine’s eloquent summation is nearly complete. I would suggest, rather than receiving that which you lost, we view it from the perspective of the new creation in Christ – you would not have received that which the Creator intended for you in Christ before the foundations of the world. (Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:20-21)
This apparently ugly act is as significant to the act of new creation as was the formation of the soul of man from the dust and the spirit, and placing him in the garden. Both acts are equally necessary, equally significant, and thoroughly interdependent. Only together do they reflect the glorious wisdom, righteousness, and faithfulness of the Father.
McDonough seems to conclude similarly: Is it not the case that injustice and death have themselves become intrinsically beautified; but they have become the vessel for God’s beauty to shine forth in the suffering of Christ. Even the sin that led to the crucifixion becomes the occasion for the display of divine purpose; in a strange manner they feed and enhance the beauty of the cross.(2)
I too have seen a glimpse of this divine beauty, this divine paradox as defined in the pages of scripture. In those pages is revealed a thoroughly pro-active and purposeful creative process which walks humanity through the vagaries of their physical and natural realm, with all the beauty and ugliness it possesses, in order to bring them to a greater glory fit for eternity. This is what we see exemplified in Yeshua, our Lord and Savior. This is what we see in the wholeness poured out on us by his Holy Spirit. This is the basis for the seventh day (Sabbath) of Genesis 2 since its beginning; a day which God blessed and declared holy (Genesis 2:1-3), a day which has yet to conclude.(4)
This is what it means to live in the Lord’s rest; to dwell in the Sabbath of his rest even in the midst of the darkness and destruction ever-present in this physical realm. And when we share in the inheritance of our Lord, we too will come to see the beauty of all that has transpired; the beauty, the blessedness, and the holiness of it all.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49,53-57
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Due to the dispute over the authorship of the fourth gospel, typically attributed to John the brother of James and author of the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ, I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved. I will therefore refer to the book as the Fourth Gospel.
- Creation and New Creation – Understanding God’s Creation Project, Sean M. McDonough, Hendrickson Publishers (2017), pp-213
- Augustine, Sermons, 27.6 in C. Harrison, Beauty, pg 234
- The seventh-day Sabbath is a celebration of God’s First Creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Yeshua, the Christ, fulfills both the First Creation and the Sabbath. The Sabbath was not appointed an end like the previous six days; there was evening and there was morning, the Nth day. The Seventh day doesn’t appear to end until the Kingdom of the Son is handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:22-28). In all his work for the Father, Christ affirms the created order in the New Creation (New Heavens, New Earth, & glorified children of God).
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