Website of Dr. John K. LaShell
John K. LaShell
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Vocal “ex-Christians” insist that the God of the Bible is ugly. If He did exist, He would merit our hatred rather than our worship. The Bible presents God as the most beautiful Being and the source of all created beauty. God’s glory is what makes Him impressive. His beauty is what makes Him attractive. This book encourages believers and non-believers to see God’s beauty and goodness apart from any benefits that they might personally receive.
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The Big Ideas on Which the Book Is Based
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was America’s first great philosopher and theologian. His vision of God provides the foundation for the basic ideas on which the book is based.
Virtuous love is the highest kind of beauty.
Because God is love, God is the most beautiful being.
God is beautiful because the three Persons of the Trinity exist in a perfect harmony of love.
This divine harmony is the fountain from which all created harmonies—all created beauties—flow.
In addition to these fundamental concepts, most of the chapters are heavily dependent on lessons learned from Edwards.
My friend calls himself an ex-Christian. Many ex-Christians claim that God is ugly. This chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book by describing several moral objections to the God of the Bible. Critics claim that the Old Testament picture of God is particularly offensive, but Old Testament saints saw God as beautiful. They enjoyed Him, and they eagerly sought His presence.
If God knew that the world would turn out to be such a mess, why did He create in the first place? To answer this question, we must look back before the beginning of time and space. The Father’s decision to create flowed from His love for His eternal Son. This love included the Father’s delight in His Son and His desire to give to His Son.
Scripture teaches us that beauty is not simply in the eye of the beholder. The intricacy of creation testifies to the wisdom, goodness and beauty of God. This chapter responds to several challenges to God’s wise and beautiful design of creation:
· That similar biological structures indicate blind evolution rather than design
· That nature is too inefficient to be designed
· That the cruelty of nature cannot have been designed by God
The denial of beauty in the world poses a number of problems for atheism.
Chapter 4: What was Jesus’ Appeal to His Contemporaries?
Why were people so attracted to Jesus during His earthly ministry? Why have so many found Him attractive in the two millennia since that time? As Edwards noted, the beauty of Christ is not a simple thing. It is a combination of very diverse qualities.
Chapter 5: Is Christianity a Unique Religion?
Our God is beautiful in comparison with all other gods. No other god, ancient or modern is a saving God. Augustine pointed this out in The City of God, and it is still true. A few of the ancient gods suffered as a result of their kindness toward mankind, but these benefactors did not deliberately die for sinners, as Christ did. The Quran says that Allah is merciful, but when Allah forgives, it costs him nothing.
Chapter 6: What Did Jesus’ Dying on the Cross Achieve?
Some charge that the substitutionary atonement and salvation by faith alone offer a redemption that is immoral, individualistic, irresponsible and inadequate. The answer to these charges is found in our union with Christ. Edwards and John Owen provide insights for this chapter. The union of believers with Christ is natural, representative, spiritual and voluntary.
Chapter 7: How Can Predestination Be Fair?
Many complain that predestination is arbitrary and intrinsically unfair. Even those who profess to believe in God’s sovereignty are often embarrassed by the idea that the non-elect have “no chance to be saved.” Like Edwards the author initially objected to the doctrine, but biblical predestination is praiseworthy and therefore beautiful.
Section 3: The Beauty of God, the Judge
Chapter 8: Why Would a Good God Allow Suffering?
How can a God of love permit such terrible suffering on earth and send multitudes of people to an eternal hell? This chapter does not use a free-will defense of evil and its consequent punishment. Since God is love, the decision to permit, and then to punish, sin must flow from His love. Hell is an expression of God’s necessary love for His own character and for His eternal Son.
Chapter 9: How Could a Good God Command Ethnic Cleansing?
Why did God command the ethnic cleansing of Canaan, including the slaughter of children? How can this be morally beautiful? When God visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation, He is not unjust. The Bible testifies to the somewhat mysterious solidarity of the human race. This chapter points out that union with Adam is the merciful foundation for union with Christ. It also responds to the charge the conquest of Canaan does not differ from a Muslim jihad.
Section 4: The Beauty of the Triune God
Chapter 10: Is the Trinity Nonsense?
Preceding chapters have made frequent reference to the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. This chapter begins with a concise summary of the doctrine of the Trinity. The second part of the chapter introduces Jonathan Edwards’ vision of the Trinity. All beauty involves a harmonious unity between things that differ. The unity of three Persons in one God is the source of all created beauty. Edwards suggests that the Holy Spirit is the Love, Holiness, and Beauty of God.
Chapter 11: Does the Trinity Make a Difference in Our Lives?
Many Christians talk about a conflict between their “old nature” and their “new nature.” These terms, which do not occur in the Bible, often reflect a misunderstanding of the biblical terms “old man” and “new man.” The “old man” is our identity in the first Adam; the “new man” is our identity in the last Adam, Christ. Adam lost the Holy Spirit for himself and his posterity. Christ regained the gift of the Spirit for all who come to the Father through Him. The relationship of Christ, the God-Man, to the Holy Spirit provides a beautiful pattern for our walk with God.
Section 5: Seeing the Beauty of God (Meditations on 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:6)
Chapter 12: Why are Some Views of God’s Glory Spiritually Inadequate?
What does Scripture mean when it speaks of beholding the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4) or when it exhorts us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)? Though God may use nature or music to heighten the believer’s appreciation for His beauty, a true sense of God’s beauty is something entirely different from anything the unsaved person is able to experience, including images of God or heaven in the mind.
Chapter 13: How Can We Recognize the True Glory of God?
The redeemed see the beauty of Christ in the gospel, not in any private revelation of new truth. This comes through the illumination of God’s Spirit. This new sight of Christ leads them to trust in Christ. Sometimes, however, even genuine Christians find that Christ and the gospel no longer fascinate them as formerly. The chapter discusses various reasons for this. Still the Holy Spirit is at work in all God’s children. He transforms them by showing them more of Christ.
Conclusion: Beauty for Brokenness
We live in a world that is hostile to God and the gospel. God’s provision for His suffering children is to show them more of the beauty and glory of Christ. A fresh glimpse of the beauty of God will carry believers through the difficult times. Those who are outside of Christ cannot come to Him in faith until God’s Spirit shows them something of the beauty of the Lord. Pain may awaken a soul to its need, but only beauty will draw it to the Savior.
Forward to the book by Dr. Samuel T. Logan, Jr.