Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Term Paper

Hello all faithful readers...
As promised a month or more ago, here is the term paper to go along with the two descriptions I posted on here in December.   

Physical Beauty: Dangerous Passion or Divine Pursuit?

Today, physical beauty is an all-consuming passion.  For some, the drive to appear beautiful becomes an obsession leading to sin.  Observing this alarming trend, the Church has downplayed physical beauty, labeling it a worldly pursuit.  In movies, books, and fashion, Christians have come to equate beautiful with worldly.  Although contemporary Christian culture rejects beauty as a superficial distraction from spiritual matters, the Church should regard beauty as an essential element of Christian virtue because beauty reflects the glory of the Creator, inspires men to worship the Lord, and guides them in a right understanding of the nature of God.  

Modern churches are designed to be practical as opposed to beautiful.  Many congregations have moved away from the ornate tradition of more orthodox churches, constructing their sanctuaries without regard to style or appearance.  John Wesley’s philosophy of a Christian’s use of money agrees with that of modern churches.  He exhorts Christians not to “waste any part of so precious a talent, merely in gratifying the desire of the eye by superfluous or expensive apparel, or by needless ornaments” (Wesley, “The Use of Money” 245).  By purchasing only what is necessary rather than ornamental, one saves money for what is important and has the ability to further God’s work through financial gifts.  Contemporary churches, built with the intent of providing a meeting place for the congregation without concern for embellishments and empty adornment, appear to fully meet Wesley’s standards of the proper use of money.

Not only is physical beauty an impractical use of resources, it is also considered a distraction from spiritual matters.  Within church buildings as well as Christian media, beauty is looked down upon as a worldly pursuit that will deter Christians from following the Lord wholeheartedly.  When considering the typical Christian movie, the basic plot-line follows someone who is homely or plain through various trials until their true inner beauty finally shows through, while the beautiful or attractive characters turn out to be evil and manipulative.  Christians have developed a distrust of beauty and regarded it as a worldly evil.  Once again Wesley reminds men that when they “lay out money to please [their] eye, [they] give so much for an increase of curiosity, for a stronger attachment to these pleasures which perish in the using” (Wesley 246).  Beauty is not only unnecessary in pursuing God, but it can distract from Him by causing men to become too attached to worldly, perishable items.  Superficial beauties are considered to detract from the true worship of God rather than enhance it.  

Contrary to this belief, the Church ought to embrace beauty as a quality of true virtue.  Beauty is not merely a physical attribute, but also a spiritual one.  In The Nature of True Virtue, Jonathan Edwards eloquently argues that true virtue consists in beauty.  Virtue is “the beauty of those qualities and acts of the mind that are of a moral nature” (Edwards, “The Nature of True Virtue” 244).   These spiritual attributes or virtues are considered praiseworthy on account of their beauty.  Beauty is not only an outward quality, but one which characterizes the inner qualities which the Church so prizes.  

Furthermore, beauty stems from one of the greatest virtues, love.  The essence of love “is the thing wherein true moral or spiritual beauty primarily consists” (Edwards 250).  True spiritual beauty is that which stems from a virtuous love of benevolence.  Far from rejecting beauty as superficial, Edwards considers it not only an exalted virtue, but the root from which all virtues stem.  As beauty is the root of virtue, it ought to be an essential part of Christianity.

Because beauty reflects the glory of God, it is a crucial means of proclaiming Him to the world.  The Psalms are filled with vivid descriptions of nature displaying God’s glory.  The psalmist proclaims that “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the works of His hands” (NASB, Psalm 19:1).  From the beauty seen in nature, man can learn of God’s glory.  The glory seen in majestic mountains, in roaring ocean waves, in the overarching dome of deep blue skies studded with diamond stars, is a mirror projecting an image of the even greater glory of the Creator.  Hence beauty can be instrumental in revealing God to others.  Since the beginning, His creation “has been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [men] are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).  Beauty reveals God’s glory to men, so that they have no excuse for not trusting in Him. By implementing beauty into their buildings, the Church would be able to point even more clearly to the Creator.

Furthermore, beauty is a powerful tool to inspire awe and reverence towards God.  The beauty in magnificent churches-high arched domes frescoed with Biblical scenes, towering pillars overlaid with gold, stunning stained glass windows-inspires awe in men which leads them to worship God, the Lord of beauty.  

For as God is infinitely the greatest being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fullness of brightness and glory. (Edwards 252)  

God’s beauty is so far superior to any man-made beauty, that all other beauties merely reflect back to God His own majesty.  Thus beauty found in churches, by reflecting God’s own beauty, will lead men to contemplate the most beautiful one of all. 

Finally, beauty is crucial in aiding men to further understand the nature of God.  Through observing natural beauties, one can better understand God’s spiritual beauties.  As God is supreme ruler over all, and mankind is dependent upon Him, “there is the resemblance of a decent trust, dependence, and acknowledgement in the planets continually moving round the sun, receiving his influences... an image of majesty, power, glory and beneficence in the sun in the midst of all” (Edwards, “Beauty of the World” 14).  The sun’s glory and brilliance mirror the majesty of its Creator.  Also, the softer beauties of flower and tree reflect “every grace and beautiful disposition of mind, of an inferior towards a superior cause, preserver, benevolent benefactor, and a fountain of happiness” (Edwards 14-15).  Beauty can reveal some character of God, pointing men towards a deeper understanding of His nature.                  

As beauty reflects God’s glory, stirs men to worship Him, and reveals His nature, beauty should be an essential part of Christian virtue and worship, regardless of the fact that modern Christians have abandoned beauty to the world.  First, beauty is crucial because it reflects God’s glory.  Furthermore, beautiful objects inspire worship of God in men’s hearts.  Finally, through contemplating the beautiful, one can come to understand God’s character more clearly.  Beauty is not merely a physical attribute, but also a spiritual quality which is essential to true virtue; therefore the Church should be willing to reclaim beautiful things for Christianity and re-incorporate beauty into worship.  Though modern churches sacrifice beauty for the sake of utility, the Church ought to strive to beautify their buildings, not for their glory, but to further God’s glory.

Enjoy!  And please, leave comments with any critiques or further questions you may have :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Fairy Tale-Part 4

Now all the world was sunny to the princess, for she was in love with her knight, and he with her.  In her mind, all was well for she had found her one and only at last, and never would they be parted again.  All that remained to do was to be married and live happily ever after.  Or so she thought.  But a cloud was moving that would soon block her sun and potentially mar her happily ever after.
One night as the princess was talking with her lover, she noticed that he appeared particularly distant, almost cold, to her.  Inquiring whether all was well with him, the only answer she received was a sigh.  At last her knight spoke.  He told her that all though he loved her very dearly, he was as good as engaged to a maiden in his hometown, and that he still loved her too.  For so many years he had believed that his heart lay with this maiden, and now, his whole world was being rocked.  He still desired to remain with his lady, but at the same time, he could not bear to leave his princess.
The princess listened to the knight's words with an ever-sinking hear.  She tried to tell herself that it was truly she whom the knight loved, but deep down inside, a voice whispered "You knew this was too good to be true.  You knew you weren't really going to get a happily ever after, after all."  Between the knight's sad countenance and the nay-saying voice within, the princess began to despair.  Tears welled up in her big brown eyes and she turned away from the window with a sigh of regret.  Vainly did the knight implore her not to weep.  Vainly did she attempt to be strong and not show how much she was suffering.  But the tears continued to roll down her cheeks, tears of sorrow for losing the one she loved, tears of regret for giving her heart away to him, tears of anger at the knight for loving her and yet leaving her, as each of the other men had done.  
The knight, after attempting to soothe the princess with no success, began talking, almost to himself and not to her.  He reminded her of times they had shared together as friends, and how they would always have those memories.  When there was still no response from the broken-hearted princess, he sighed.  "Farewell, princess.  Remember, that I will always love you."
Without another word, the knight climbed on his horse and rode away, back to his hometown and his ladylove, while the princess sobbed her heart out under the moonlit sky.
To Be Continued...

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Fairy Tale-Part 3

For many months, the princess had attempted to keep silent about her true feelings for the knight.  But one night, she decided.  She simply could not keep silent for one night longer.  This particular night, her knight seemed particularly silent.  Several times the princess ventured a topic of conversation, only to be met with brief one word answers or silence born of deep thought.  Sighing, the princess despaired of ever working up the courage to speak of her deep love for this knight who had captured her heart.  She turned away from the window, when a voice stopped her.  
"Princess," her knight halted her.  "Please, if you will, I must share something with you."  Turning back, the princess stopped and stood with an air of expectancy.  
"Princess," the knight began slowly, choosing each word carefully.  "For some time now I have been struggling against these feelings.  But it will not do, I can no longer keep silent.  Your beauty, your wit, your charm and grace, all these have captured my heart.  Now I know that you must hate me for speaking to you like this.  Me, a humble knight, daring to fall in love with the princess of the kingdom and future heir to the throne.  But...I must speak out.  I must be allowed to tell you how deeply and desperately I Love You."  
With tears shining in her eyes, the princess gazed down upon her knight, for he was her knight in truth now.  "As it is the time for confessions, sir, I have one of my own to make.  For some weeks now, I have felt myself falling ever deeper in love with you.  I truly did attempt to stop it, for I knew of your maiden back home, and never dared to think that you could love me too, but tonight I knew I could not keep silent one moment longer.  You have made me so happy, and I Love You."  
Their emotions overflowing too great for words, the princess and her knight did the only thing they could.  Running swiftly down the winding tower stairs, the princess flew into the arms of her one and only.  As they stood together in the moonlight, they could think and speak of nothing but their newfound love, murmuring words of affection to one another.  When they finally bid one another goodnight, the princess happily climbed her tower steps, certain that she could need nothing more to be truly happy.  But in the back of her mind, a nagging thought long would this dream come true last?
To be continued...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soundtrack to My Life- Part 12 we go again...and this is actually on Thursday, hurrah for me!!!
1) So Close-Jon McLaughlin...not only does this song have some meaning for me right now, but it's from one of the sweetest movies ever :)
2) Hosanna-Hillsong-we did this song in worship, but quite a bit heavier than this recording...amazing song, and that e minor chord is absolutely gorgeous :)
3) Hope-We Shot the Moon-love this was started by Jonathan Jones, lead singer of Waking Ashland
4) Under the Sun-The Swift-I'm actually trying to write a Speechless pantomime to this song, about how Christians should be counter-cultural and living oppositely to the world.-this song isn't on the website though so you dont get to hear it unless you look it up :P
5) Fugue 2-JS Bach-amazing fugue although I hate it right now because of CM...*sigh* oh Bach why must you be so difficult and yet so beautiful?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Fairy Tale-Part 2

Some months had passed since the princess first met her second knight.  With every conversation, every argument, every challenging debate, they grew closer and closer together.  As they daily conversed, the princess and the knight discovered the many things they had in common...both liking the same music, reading the same books, thinking about the same ideas.  Slowly the princess began to open up more and more of her heart to this wonderfully charming knight who had captured her fancy and given her more than almost any other friend ever had.  When the days were long and her maids were snippy and her work of being a princess grew intolerably dull, she could run to him for comfort or entertainment.  When she wanted to debate a new idea, she could always find a willing partner in her knight.  When her heart was heavy with sorrow over her lack of a prince, she could come to him and he would comfort her and encourage her with affectionate words and assurances of her true worth.  Though the knight often talked of a fair maiden back in his home town, the princess never felt pushed aside or unwanted in his presence.  To her, they were the closest of friends, and nothing more.  Or at least that was what she told herself every time she gazed into his dazzling chocolate eyes or heard his thrilling laugh.  Every time he told her how beautiful she was, or how much God had blessed her with talent and wisdom, she reminded herself that theirs was merely the deepest and truest of friendships.  
  But one day, all that changed.  One night as the princess and the knight were discussing, the princess heard a voice calling to her from outside her window.  To her dismay, it was the voice of a neighboring nobleman who was seeking for her hand in marriage.  Though the nobleman was eligable and kind, she viewed him merely as a friend and had no further interest in him.  Panicked, the princess looked desperately around for a means of escape, but it was too late.  The nobleman had already seen her at her window.  
As the nobleman came riding up to the fair princess's window, he was surprised to find another knight already beneath her window, serenading her with a lovesong.  The princess gazed down adoringly at the knight, the love for him evident in her eyes.  When the song was done, the knight turned around and rather nonchalantly informed him that he was too late.  The princess had already given her heart away to him.  Reluctantly, with many a backward glance, the nobleman rode away.  As soon as he was out of earshot, the princess and the knight burst out laughing, sure that their playacting had rescued the princess once again from an unwanted suitor.  
Though few men now sought the princesses's hand, tired of the constant rejection, the princess and the knight still kept up the act of being in love.  But as they continued to pretend that they were deeply in love, it gradually ceased to be a game for the princess.  Try as she would, her heart kept slipping further and further out of her grasp and into the hands of her knight.  Yes, she had now come to regard him truly as her own.  But did he love her?  Afraid of another rejection, the princess kept her true feelings for her knight hidden.  But soon the day would come when she could no longer keep silent.  
To be continued...

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a fair princess.  Now this princess, like many other princesses, daily dreamed of a prince who would come to rescue her from her dull and dreary existance in the ivory tower.  Though she diligently went about her duties, outwardly appearing to be as cheerful and warm as the sunshine, inside, her heart was heavy.  Why did her prince not come?  Why was she not chosen, as all the other fair maidens were, to be some handsome prince or chivalrous knight's one and only?  And so as time went on, and her companions began to pair off with the young men of the kingdom, the princess grew more and more discontent with her lot, bemoaning her loneliness and wishing even more for a prince.
But one day, as the princess sat high above the world in her ivory tower, playing a song on her instrument, her one consolation, she heard a music not her own.  A faint echo, far off, of the song she had been playing, wafted up to her window on the breeze.  Eagerly she jumped up and ran to her window.  Far far beneath her stood a handsome young man, strumming his guitar and singing a variation on the song she had just been playing.  Instantly the princess was lost in his deep blue eyes, and she decided right then and there that he must be her one and only.  
Every night he would come and stand underneath her window and serenade her with that same song.  And then, they would talk for hours on end.  At first, it was about music, the songs that they played together.  But as the weeks and months passed by, they grew to be closer and closer friends, and all the while the princess was falling deeper in love, or so she thought.
After some months, the princess was required to make a lengthy trip to a neighboring country.  She and the knight parted with promises to correspond frequently.  But as days turned into weeks without a word from the knight, the princess began to wonder.  "Did he really love me, or did I merely imagine it?  What is real in this relationship, and what have I created to suit my pleasure?  What did I do to cause him to withdraw like this?"  Plagued with doubts, the princess returned home with a heavy heart.   Alas, more trouble with her knight awaited her.  For some days, he did not come to serenade her under her window, and when he did, it was not the same.  He talked a little, but seemed very forced.  A few weeks went by, with him appearing only sporadically.  After some weeks, the princess finally was able to admit to herself..."He never loved me." 
As any good heart-broken princess might, she cried herself to sleep for a week and poured out her broken heart in anguished rhyme.  But all was not lost for the lovelorn maiden, for another knight had entered her life around the time the first one left.  This time, there were no sweet songs sung at midnight, no dreams woven around the noble knight.  This knight was of a different sort, more bold and daring, less tenderly romantic.  He and the princess began their friendship with many battles of words, where the princess came off the field the victor more often than not.  But as they continued to converse, their relationship grew and deepened from one of mere sparring to deep and lasting friendship.  
Often the princess feared that she was falling in love with her knight, that she would give her heart away once again, only to be crushed like the first time.  And so she bided her time, waiting, watching, to see how he felt, what he thought, before committing herself.  Their relationship was a curious one, a tenacious friendship mixed with elements of love, but yet not inloveness.  They could share anything and everything with each other, never fearing what the other might think.  And so the princess sat in her ivory tower...waiting?  Perhaps.  But her story is not over yet...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Soundtrack to My Life-Part 11

So yes this is late again...but yesterday was New Years and I was at my here we go.
1) So She Dances-Josh Groban...beautiful, beautiful song :)
2) Dizzy Miss Lizzy-The Beatles-sent to me by a friend because they said it reminded them of me...or at least the name did ;) 
3) Spring-Vivaldi-my absolute favorite violin work ever...even over Bach's double violin concerto
4) Bad Day-Alvin and the Chipmunks-this song is so so so cute...and highly can't just here it'll stick in your head forever and you'll hate it but you can't help but love it
5) Giving It Away-Mae-yes I know I continue to put Mae up here...but I love them!