When it comes to the general revelation of God, the human person adds a whole new level. What do I mean? Check it out.
We live in a time where we enjoy tremendous and unprecedented advances in knowledge. Not only do we have a great deal of knowledge about the world, but we apply this knowledge in ways that give us greater comfort, health, and security, than most people in the history of the world have experienced. But for all of our titanic knowledge, ours is an age deeply lacking in wisdom.
Wisdom is the transcendental virtue, the ability to discern what is true and good and beautiful. Knowledge tells us what can be done, but wisdom tells us what should be done. And great knowledge without great wisdom can be a very dangerous thing.
For the opposite of wisdom is folly, and the way of folly is the way of death. Folly cries out to those who pass by, tempting them with her offer; “But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead (Prov. 9:18, NIV). Increasing knowledge, without increasing wisdom, creates increasing opportunities for harm. The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of life. “The one who gets wisdom loves life” (Prov. 19:8).
But where can wisdom be found? We must start with God. God is the font of all wisdom. As the prophet Daniel declared, “wisdom and power are his…he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (Dan. 2:20, 22). We must have regard for God if we wish to be wise; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov. 9:10). So it is impossible to acquire wisdom without repentance. Idolatry is folly, and we cannot find wisdom without turning away from idols and towards the all-wise God.
With reverence and confidence, the wise man looks to God for wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (Jas. 1:5). In prayer, we ask God to graciously give us wisdom from above. In devotion, we look to the Holy Bible, God’s written Word, and take His wisdom to heart.
Ultimately, the pursuit of wisdom centers on Christ. We are to know Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Jesus Christ is the key to finding wisdom in this world of chaos and folly, light in the darkness, life eternal in the face of death. Christ “has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Coming to Christ, giving ourselves to Him in faith, we return to a right relationship with God. In this relationship with our Creator, we gain understanding of our purpose and how to thrive in the cosmos He has made. Getting right with Him, we get to know what is right—what is true, beautiful, and good.
Out on the field of tawny yellow
winter’s drear, and among the bare
skeletal branches of forlorn trees
plays a breeze slyly slight;
the sere sky glows with veiled light,
a beauty strange and unlooked for,
and out on the field of barren blond
snow-flurries dance, they wheel and rush
a strange romance of winter demure, a-blush
with half-concealed glory.
Snow-dancers amid the stark and cold,
you coyly call, softly unfold the mystery
of beauty bursting through the bleak,
of love in clouded seasons,
and glory waiting to be.
Almighty God, you fill the Earth with your glory as you fill the horizon with morning light. The clouds proclaim your beauty in their colorful parade, and even bare tree boughs reddened with sunrise and the dull grass of winter calmly reflect your majesty. Fill this day, fill my heart, with awe before your greatness. Be glorified, Glorious One, in your world, and in your church, and in your servant today—Amen.
I know, I know, but I just couldn’t help myself.
You have perhaps already read that a banana duct-taped to the wall has been declared a sculpture and sold (in three versions) for $120,000 or more each. This is only the latest demonstration of the farcical level to which the art world has sunk in the (post)modern era.
There is an absurd pretentiousness about it all. Consider the words of the gallery’s founder, Emmanuel Perrotin:
Prior to the reported sale, Perrotin told CNN the bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor,” adding that the artist turns mundane objects into “vehicles of both delight and critique.”
Such is the vacuous defense of the debasement of art in a culture that has lost sight of truth and goodness. Those are the three characteristics classically referred to as the “transcendentals”: the true, the beautiful, and the good. It makes sense that our cultural elites, who have so constantly twisted the truth and perverted goodness would develop a debased sense of beauty.
The ready reply is that, by seeing foolishness here instead of brilliant artistic satire, I only show myself to be a Philistine who doesn’t understand art. Ignorance is why someone like me rejects modern art. This is the paradox of our educational system; somehow, adequate education and enlightenment is supposed to produce people who think a duct-taped banana is art, and that eating that banana is “performance art.”
Yet there is a comfort in the observation of common grace. I think that this story is so widely publicized because most people see this situation for what it is. Only those initiated into the nonsense of (post)modern art are deceived by this; only the elitists are buying it–figuratively and literally.
on blustery wings,
in breeze that sings
through thinning boughs
upon the year
in breezes clear
as trumpet blasts,
its colored cape;
wond’ring we gape
So small the glitterings that satisfy
our little minds, the fading glamor
which captivates our child-eyes,
the sparks we take for stars eternal,
entrancing flickers in the night.
We are too satisfied,
too soon bewitched
by shadows vague and fading fast.
How brighter, fuller, shines celestial
the fiery pillar everlasting;
how brighter burns that majestic
Light of all light,
which alone can satisfy.
Thank you, Lord, for this world
that you have made;
for the glory of its spreading skies
and every leaf and tree
and bit of painted paradise,
green fields of morning mist-veiled
proud trees boastful with verdant plumage,
and every leaf and flower,
harbinger of that new age
and worlds renewed.
The gift of beauty prophesies
in fields and trees and spreading skies.
I was just observing my cup of tea–which is a wonderful thing in any case–more wonderful by the lighting that enables me to see the steam swirling about, wispy as a ghost. Isn’t steam a lovely thing, playmate of the air? And it makes me reflect on God the artist, who fills this world with ordinary things strangely beautiful.
An atheist could appreciate the beauty, but only so deep, for the beauty of coiling steam above his cup would only be an accidental side-effect of the laws of nature. And surely it is a side-effect of those laws.
But I can’t help thinking that God might have designed a more pragmatic universe, a world where function did not bring about such superfluously lovely forms, or a world without beings who had a sense of aesthetics, beings who saw strange beauty in ordinary things.
Here, then, a mug of tea testifies to an extravagantly generous and artistic God.
But it is my seminary mug.