Does Beauty Matter?

12 07 2011

How would you like it if YOUR church popped up whenever anyone googled "ugly church"?

Recently I spent a good chunk of time remodeling the room in New Life Church that was to become the church’s counseling office.  So I spent a lot of time thinking about why I was spending so much time working to make the room beautiful:  Does beauty even matter?  Or is efficiency and practicality all that matters?  Should we, as Christians, be utilitarians, or should we “waste” time and money beautifying our world?

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If you know me at all, you can guess that I’d cast my vote for the latter.  How about you?  And why?

While thinking about these things, I came across this provocative quote from Peter Kreeft, a Catholic theologian and philosopher who I greatly admire:

“Worship efficiency and the god will destroy itself as well as you. … While beauty cannot of itself save us, or substitute for either Goodness or Truth… yet it contributes to the salvation of creation—and of souls!

“If you had the choice of going to a church where true Orthodox doctrine was taught, and true morality was preached, but everything was ugly and unattractive, or going to one where only some true Orthodox doctrine was taught, and only some true morality was preached, but was irresistibly attractive, I think you would choose the second.  And I think you would rightly choose the second.  To fall in love with at least half of God’s package deal, is better than to have it all but not fall in love with it.”

Now THAT'S a beautiful church. Sacre Coeur, Paris. Where Jesus is loved.

What do you think?  If you were choosing between a church with perfect doctrine but no beauty, or a church with some doctrinal flaws but everything was beautiful, which would you choose?

(And to challenge you even further: Can a church that completely ignores the value of beauty be said to have “perfect doctrine” anyway?)

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6 responses

15 07 2011
mikey

I’ve always thought that the most beautiful thing about the Church was the Fellowship of the Broken & Redeemed. The concept that hope-filled beggars from all walks of life, the executive to the homeless, could come together and celebrate their salvation by grace through faith is the most beautiful thing ever to me. I think the reason we say Acts 2:42-47 is beautiful is because of this, even though their worship space was probably a pretty modest home.

19 07 2011
Annie

I would undoubtedly choose the one that lacked error in doctrine but was horribly ugly. Doctrine is something which can be difficult to change or correct, but making a space beautiful is quickly remedied. And once I came along, it would be remedied shortly! But I echo Mikey’s comment–beauty is not only in the seen, but the unseen. Right belief and thinking is something I find completely beautiful.

20 07 2011
Annie

Another point: Isaiah 53 says Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
So I would argue beauty should not be the main thing that draws us to God. CREATION, perhaps, but aesthetically pleasing ‘beauty’? I don’t think so.

30 06 2013
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Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

1 07 2013
Tim Courtois

Thanks for your kind words. I haven’t written in quite a while, but who knows… I may again some day!

7 07 2013
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