Relativism & Beauty

I think it's safe to say that most Christians have completely adopted the aesthetic relativism of the Enlightenment. This is evidenced by the fact that the adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is accepted without a second thought. This humanistic relativism is supposed to end all disagreements and quarrels over matters of beauty and forms, but Christians in recent decades have fought over matters of form and beauty more than ever before. The reason for this seems simple enough: when we get rid of an objective standard of beauty, we're only left with the tastes and preferences of every single individual. So most of our controversies about musical style, carpet color, architectural design, clothing choices, hair do's, tattoos and jewelry, etc. really boil down to a battle over our individual tastes and preferences. Scripture might be mentioned when it's rhetorically convenient, but these discussions are not primarily over what God's word has to say on the matter. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the word of God has nothing to say about evaluating beauty objectively, then we're left to settle those disputes based on utilitarian considerations of whatever will work the best to help us achieve our goals or based on the sheer power of which side has the ability to enforce their tastes on others.

The rapid descent of our society into the most hideous forms of absurdity provides us with an opportunity to recover a Christian aesthetic in which God is the source and standard of beauty. In that sense, Dostoevsky might be right: "Beauty will save the world."

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The Poison of Relativism
Hearts of Fathers and Children