The ‘Spiritual Music’ of a Beautiful World

A famous theologian muses on why we find God’s creation so pleasing. /

Jonathan Edwards is considered by many to be America’s greatest theologian. Unfortunately, he is mostly known for his infamous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Most people don’t know the Edwards who wrote lyrically about beauty.

Gerald McDermott is professor of religion at Roanoke College and coauthor of The Theology of Jonathan Edwards(Oxford) At the request of The Behemoth editors, he has graciously agreed to paraphrase one striking Edwards passage on beauty. Nothing can replace the freshness and nuance of the original text. But sometimes when the original comes across as strange to the modern ear a paraphrase in the hands of an expert can help the rest of us appreciate the original. —The Editors

The beauty of the world can be found in its sweet mutual agreements, both between things in the world, and between the world and the Supreme Being. The sweetest and most stunning beauty in the world of nature is its resemblance to spiritual beauties—since material things are only images and shadows of spiritual beings, and spiritual beauties are infinitely greater than material beauties. So the more that something in nature is an image of spiritual beauty, the more charming it appears to us. This spiritual beauty that nature suggests is greater than anything human beings can produce.

Think of the planets moving around the sun. Their orbits suggest their trust, dependence on, and acknowledgment of the sun, by whose power they are made happy, bright, and beautiful. The sun gives the planets authority, as it were, to control their own moons revolving around themselves. The sun is therefore an image of majesty, power, glory, and goodness in the midst of the solar system—as ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 3 / August 21, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. The True Man

    A fictional account of what’s really real. /

  3. Why the Moon?

    It appears that beautiful orb in the night sky was not an irrelevant accident. /

  4. The Great ‘I AM’ or ‘I WAS’?

    The reality of God’s power today. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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