Common Grace: The Preserver of Beauty

“From this it becomes evident that common grace has performed a twofold service with respect to beauty. First, common grace has spared much paradise beauty and preserved it from loss, and continues to supply us along our life’s way with such a rich treasure of beautiful things in nature. Common grace has tempered the curse and in this

way left us with genuine poetry within nature. One and the same stem holds both the unfurled rosebud and the wounding thorn. Second, within the sinful human being common grace has preserved from complete loss the sense of this beauty in nature.” -Abraham Kuyper

The Beautiful, The Ordinary, and The Ugly in a Fallen World

“Nevertheless, beauty no longer adorns the whole earth. On the contrary, we discover alongside each other the beautiful, the ordinary, and the ugly. A lion is beautiful; a calf is ordinary; a rat is ugly. The same holds for the plant kingdom. The cedar enthralls us with beauty, the willow strikes us as ordinary, and the thistle turns us off… You find this same threefold categorization not only among plants and animals, but even among nonorganic nature. Some mountain ranges inspire worship. Then there are very ordinary humpbacked mountains that you scarcely notice as you walk past them. There are wild rock crevasses so barren and awful that they arouse an involuntary shudder; these are real specimens of the “formless and void” that once existed. Similarly you find next to the lushness of nature in one region the bare flatness of another region, and next to that terrain you find the barrenness of heath and desert. This is true of the atmosphere as well. Some days you enjoy the kind of sky and weather that make you smile and lift your spirit to the heights, followed by other days that are rather ordinary, when it does not rain and the sun and moon make their appearance. Then you face the days when the stormy winds splash the rain against you and the walkway underfoot becomes impassable. In those three phases the activity of common grace swings restlessly back and forth in terms of the beauty of nature.
Repeatedly God shows you and gives you a sense of what your lot on earth would be, and how ugly the world would be, if the curse had been carried out to its ultimate conclusion. And then God lets you behold an exhilarating natural phenomenon that makes you homesick for paradise. Then you sink again back into the ordinary where nothing excites you or repulses you, but instead where everything around you lacks any vitality and chills your enthusiasm.” -Abraham Kuyper
BTW NOTE: As an “ordinary means of grace” Presbyterian minister, I know I’m ‘in the tank’ on this, but I would not make the absolute contrast between “the beautiful” and “the ordinary” that Kuyper does here. But I think I can still see what he is getting at.

Through the Resurrection of Christ, We Are Diamonds in the Rough

“By means of his resurrection, Jesus arose in the same body that had hung on the cross, and he appeared in glory to John on Patmos with this continually identical body. This makes us think of an uncut diamond that is soon to be cut. Remaining the very same stone, the finely cut diamond radiates an entirely different glory. People realize in advance that a diamond is nothing but a piece of coal, which is transformed into carbon through intense heat and exposure to oxygen in the air. If a piece of coal can become a diamond simply through the application of elemental natural forces, and by some polishing that diamond can obtain a most elegant luster, what would prevent God from transforming what is now on earth into the exalted luster of his glory? When Scripture tells us that the precious jewels that are now so rare on earth will be the ordinary building material in the New Jerusalem, we receive the very same mental picture that the minerals will remain the same, and that through a new chemical process, from what now exists the exalted heavenly divine glory will sparkle.” -Abraham Kuyper

When You See Something Beautiful You [Inadvertently?] Confess Your Desire for the Return of Christ

“Glory [Heaven] is, in fact, nothing other than a higher degree of beauty. It is beauty in its consummation, but still in a way whereby present beauty and coming glory are connected to one another, such that both are revelations of one and the same principle.” -Abraham Kuyper
BTW NOTE: What Kuyper is saying is that present expressions of beauty reveal in lesser degrees the beauty that will be revealed at the end of the age. In principle, ‘beauty now’ and ‘beauty then’ are the same thing. So, those who admire beauty (in creation, in art, in a person, in music, etc) cannot help but indirectly express longing for the world that Christ will usher in at his return–even if everything else about them is marked by unbelief. This is another example of the inconsistency of unbelief.

Beauty and Glory Go Together

“Scripture even uses a special word for that more exalted beauty of the coming world, and repeatedly describes what will come at that time as the kingdom of glory. No matter how beautiful in many respects this earth may already be, it is not yet glorious. That more exalted beauty, called “glory,” comes only in the hereafter. To such an extent even that those who belong to Christ will arise at that time and will dwell in a regenerated body that will be conformed to the glorified body of Christ. In the Revelation of John we receive a picture of that glorified body of Christ, one that is so astounding and overwhelming in its appearance that when John beheld it, he fell to the ground as though dead.” -Abraham Kuyper

The New Heaven and New Earth Will Be Beautiful

“What image is used to portray for us that new earth? Surely not one that is simply spiritual. No, rather an earth that thoroughly resembles a visible, external, observable creation. Who can fathom the portrait given us in John’s Apocalypse of the New Jerusalem with its foundations of emerald and sapphire and its pearly gates, without being immediately overwhelmed with the impression of a glorious beauty that will far surpass the most beautiful thing our eyes have ever seen?” -Abraham Kuyper

Beauty Comes from God

“Let us note in the first place, then, that Scripture ascribes to the Devil no creative capacity. The world of beauty that does in fact exist can have originated nowhere else than in the creation of God. The world of beauty was thus conceived by God, determined by his decree, called into being by him, and is maintained by him. Beauty definitely does not exist only in what human inspiration or human ability produces, but also exists in the natural world that is a direct creation of God himself. The splendor of the firmament and the sparkling world of the starry sky are his. Jesus himself drew our attention to the beauty radiating in the plant world, when he spoke of the lilies of the field that neither toil nor spin, that nevertheless surpass the beauty of Solomon’s splendorous array. The beauty of nature is occasionally so overwhelming that the thirsty spirit cannot escape the sense of amazement. The heavens declare God’s glory, and the firmament his handiwork.1 Not only the general appearance of nature, whether in its summer garb or its winter apparel, can be so delightfully beautiful, but the individual parts of the organisms that God created are so exquisite in their beauty as well.” -Abraham Kuyper