III. Loving God
So far this series of posts has dealt with matters of intellect, enhancing people’s awareness of the world, and their overall cognitive abilities. To the academic world these are matters of significant consequence (Although I am quite certain that I have not persuaded anyone). But now that we’ve defined our terms and unpacked some sensitive concepts it is time to apply them to things of great consequence to the church and her members.
Getting to know God and becoming more like Him should be a Christian’s chief concern in life. Following His commands is a given, and not sinning would be a very simple task provided we grew to love God with all our hearts. There are two methods that God as given us to grow closer to him: general revelation and special revelation. Special revelation is God’s word given to us through the prophets and any teaching or analysis done that originates from scripture. The church handles the word of God quite effectively for the most part, and I have taken a lot from the teaching I have received. But, unfortunately, simply teaching the word only goes so far and the intense division in the church we have today bears witness to this. The word of God is only part of the picture, and for the church to not teach general revelation as much as it teaches special revelation is to limit the church’s perception of God’s glory and majesty along with the deep knowledge and wisdom that result from studying his creative work both aesthetically and analytically.
To only study the word is like getting to know a person only by talking to them. When I first met Liz (my fiance) we got to know each other initially through conversation, but as our friendship deepened conversations by themselves only went so far. We started to experience life together; listening to a stream together, attending to a specific part of the sky, running, going to the symphony, studying pedagogy, and countless other activities enhancing not our factual knowledge of one another, but in a profound sense our aesthetic understanding of one another. I didn’t ask Liz to marry me because of the factual knowledge about her that I had accumulated; it was because of the things I had learned abut her aesthetic characteristics in between conversations that I fell in love with her.
Do we somehow expect our relationship with God to develop differently? How is it that He can give us such a clear picture of what kind of relationship he wants with us using marriage and we (mostly) ignore it? Just as it is impossible to fall in love with another person by talking it is impossible to fall in love with Christ only by studying the Bible. You have to spend time with him outside factual knowledge and dive into the richness of his creative work. By enjoying other people’s perceptions of that work, creating representations of your own perception, and perceiving his wonders first hand, you will gain an aesthetic understanding of our Savior beyond words. This is when and how you will fall in love with Christ. Feel free to memorize every word of the Bible, but until you learn to actually perceive Him in the world around you, you cannot know Him well enough to love Him.
Now, when it comes to the study of scripture, it’s impossible to even understand the depth and beauty of the Bible until you’ve experience life with God. Much factual knowledge of the Bible is rooted in the aesthetic understanding of the world. I, for example, was bored to tears trying to read the major prophets until I had composed the Dark Process since that was how I learned to understand a large work rooted in emotion rather than story. Several symphonies and concertos by various composers also acted as gateways into the major prophets for me. But this isn’t even the best part; I met with God and glorified his name in the midst of these aesthetic experiences that also enabled me to enjoy His Word. So it hasn’t been the Bible alone that has caused me to love God, it has been the perception of His creation through the lens of Scripture which I gained through an understanding of creative work. That said, I also want to make it clear that the lens of scripture is vital to the accurate perception that draws us to worship.
Aesthetic education teaches the believer to learn about God through general revelation. It is through God’s gift of his creative work perceived through the lens of His word that we will learn about loving God. Therefore, opportunities for aesthetic education in the church are essential to foster a passionate and unifying adoration of our Savior.