Truth, Goodness and Beauty

How can I live out the implications of the gospel in the whole of my life? This is a question which drives much of my thinking and writing here on Glocal Christianity and which again and again leads me back to considering truth, goodness and beauty.

Truth, goodness and beauty are fundamental categories of human experience. How do we understand the world? What do we value in life? How do we experience the world? In seeking to answer these questions we must face the flip side too. There is so much uncertainty, injustice and ugliness in the world – and our lives – how do we respond to that? How might the life, death and resurrection of Jesus transform our perspective and response to these things?

This is what leads me to focus on issues like doubt, pluralism and alternative worldviews (truth), war, sexuality and the environment (goodness), art, symbol and ritual (beauty). Believe it or not, there is a method to my madness.

Philosophically we could talk about epistemology, aesthetics and ethics but we need to be careful not to get lost in abstraction. I need to be careful. This stuff is as real as it gets. The response of God – the crucifixion – is as real as it gets. While I seek understanding, even more I seek to know, how can I live a life that is more authentic, more just, more attuned to the sublime? How might the gospel inform my journey?

I thought I’d write this just to give you a glimpse at some of the deeper questions that drive me here and how it all fits together.

4 thoughts on “Truth, Goodness and Beauty”

  1. Matt,
    Forgive me, this is a loaded question, but I’m interested in your answer.
    What do you think the most important question on (truth – goodness – beauty)is in the contemperary west (EU – USA – CAN – AUS – NZ). I know loaded, but I’m curious.

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  2. I have always found goodness, beauty and truth to be a useful way to evaluate art. Too much modern art, I think, tends to focus on truth at the expense of goodness and beauty. As a result it does not feed the soul in a balanced way. Perhaps it is a reaction to past artists who were preocuppied with beauty or goodness at the expense of truth.

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  3. Isaiah, I don’t think I could single out any question here as “most important”. The environment is certainly critical when we consider the worst case scenario of ecological collapse could lead to our own extinction, but then, the threat of nuclear proliferation and wars over oil and water resources ain’t trivial either. And when we consider how religion can factor into both those equations can we say pluralism is any less an issue for consideration?
    I will however say that I think the most neglected thing in terms of Protestant theology is the whole subject of beauty, and that in this image consciousness age it is important for us to develop symbolic literacy and tools of critical discernment to see through the style to the real substance of the information wars, spin and marketing based propaganda that hits us through visual media 24/7.

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  4. Mike, I would certainly agree that “goodness” is distinctly lacking in some contemporary art. The recent scandal over Bill Henson’s exhibition of photos of naked underage adolescents comes readily to mind.
    See http://mattstone.blogs.com/glocalchristianity/2008/05/art-or-sophisticated-kiddie-porn.html
    I would not want to be taken as being too simplistic about this though. I think sometimes art may function to reveal the ugliness and evil behind apparent beauty and goodness, and that this is beautiful and good in another, more indirect way.

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