In our reckless attempt to make Christianity popular by making it “practical,” we invariably vandalize it by stripping it of its inherent beauty and mystery… We make it practical by adapting it to the assumed values of the wider culture. We figure out what people want, and then offer them a Christianized version of it. We do it in the name of church growth, but it is really the betrayal of a sacred trust. It would be like turning Saint Paul’s Cathedral into a shopping mall to increase traffic…
Christianity is a vast and enormous cathedral built around the astonishing and seminal confession that Jesus is Lord. But most of us worship in particular chapels – whether Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as we don’t confuse the chapel for the cathedral.
Beauty Will Save the World (2012), Zondervan, 71, 167,175.
Christianity is a story. It is a meta-narrative. It is a grand over-arching story that enables us to make sense of human history. It is the story of how God is setting right a world gone wrong and doing it through Jesus Christ. It is the story that starts with Creation in Genesis and takes us all the way through to new creation in Revelation. It is a story with Jesus Christ at the center of it…
The end of the Christian story is beautiful. It is the beautiful “they lived happily ever after” culmination we long for. It’s the true hope that myths and fairy tales allude to. It is restoration, new creation, the New Jerusalem, and all things made new. This is what we mean when we say Christianity is eschatological. The end is important, because it determines how we should act within the present as we head toward an appointed future. So we must be absolutely clear about this – the eschatological hope of Christianity is restoration and new creation. But the end of the story the Bible tells is an end that has been inaugurated.
Beauty Will Save the World (2012), Zondervan, 133-4.
Abraham was not looking for a city in heaven; he was looking for a city from heaven. Abraham was looking on earth for something that would come from heaven…
The better city Abraham was looking for, Jesus would build!… If in the ancient world all roads lead to Rome, in the Bible all faith journeys lead to Jesus. For those who long for a better way to be human and look for a better way to structure human society, Jesus is the searcher’s end.
Beauty Will Save the World (2012), Zondervan, 71, 108,111.
The larger society should be able to look at the church and get an idea of where this thing is headed. The world should be able to look at the church and see a preview of what is to come…
We need to seriously discuss among ourselves what the world will look like when the end of the age arrives and Jesus “hands over the kingdom to God the father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.”…
What we are to do is anticipate the future by living that way now! To do this we need to ask ourselves things like: What will be abolished? What will be maintained? What will be restored?
Beauty Will Save the World (2012), Zondervan, 71, 140-1.
The true task of the rulers and authorities is to deliver peace, to produce a just, peaceable, and livable society. This is the kind of peace that the prophets called justice in Jesus called abundant life… The achievement of a community of peace is how the church demonstrates the wisdom of God to the principalities and powers… The creation of a peaceable people is proof of God’s wisdom!… Caesar cannot produce real peace, but Christ can!…
How did the Roman world give peace? Through violence. The Pax Romana was achieved by identifying others as enemies and fighting against them until they could no longer fight back. And how did Christ give the world peace? By forgiveness. The Pax Christus achieves peace by forgiving enemies and embracing them as friends.
Beauty Will Save the World, Zondervan, 2012, 89, 90, 217.
Today we tend to think of preaching the gospel is something like this: Jesus died for your sins to save you from hell. Make Jesus your Lord and savior so you won’t go to hell when you die…
There are about ten sermons in the Book of Acts (depending on what you count as a sermon), and none of them make an appeal to an afterlife or center salvation on escaping hell. None of them! Rather their gospel took on the form of an imperial proclamation (which is what euaggelion actually is).
Their gospel proclamation was basically this: The world now has a new Lord. It is Jesus the Christ. The proof of this is that God raised him to life again after the principalities and powers of this age put him to death on the cross. All who believe this proclamation and confess Jesus as Lord are forgiven of their sins. Now, rethink your life and act accordingly. It wasn’t a matter of “making Jesus Lord” – God had already made Jesus Lord! It was a matter of acknowledging this proclamation and acting accordingly (which is what repentance is all about).
Beauty Will Save the World, Zondervan, 2012, 138.
We reject greed, immorality, and domination, not so much because they are “against the rules,” but because the future belongs to love…
We reject the pretentious claims of the principalities and powers that the way the world is presently arranged is the way it has to be. The principalities and powers committed to the status quo say that poverty is inevitable, that war is unavoidable, and the exploitation of the week by the strong is inescapable. But we refuse to acquiesce to all of that. Why? Because we have heard the song of the prophets. We have seen the vision that John saw. We have believed the gospel the apostles proclaimed. We have confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. We have an imagination inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we believe in the world to come.
Beauty Will Save the World, Zondervan, 2012, 153-4.
In making the ultimate claim—the claim to be truth itself, Jesus was announcing that he was about to re-center the world. The world would no longer be centered around the truth of violence; it would now be centered around the truth of forgiving love… The world desperately needed to be re-centered. It was off its axis. It was tearing itself apart. Humanity had lost its way—humanity had lost sight of God. Confusion reigned. The engines of war propelled human history, and history was being propelled into the outer darkness…
Jesus was remaking the world based on a beautiful new idea… Christ is drawing humanity into a new orbit, an orbit around himself and his redeeming love. All of this is beautiful. It is this beauty that saves the world.
Beauty Will Save the World, Zondervan, 2012, 71, 78-9.
Beauty has a way of sneaking past defenses and speaking in unique ways… Everything about Jesus Christ is beautiful!…
A Christianity that is deeply enchanted by Christ’s beauty and thus formed and fashioned by this beauty has the opportunity to present to a skeptical and jaded world an aspect of the gospel that has been too rare for far too long.
With an emphasis on truth, we have tried to make Christianity persuasive (as we should). But we also need a corresponding emphasis on beauty to make Christianity attractive. Christianity should not only persuade with truth, but it should also attract with a beauty…
Getting Jesus right is absolutely essential if we are to recover the beauty of Christianity, because Jesus is the beauty of Christianity!
Beauty Will Save the World, Zondervan, 2012, xv, 60, 208