A journey into beauty
Occasionally I will use this blog to share with you a great book that I have read recently. So I am going to begin with a book called "Formed for the Glory of God" (Kyle Strobel, Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2013)).
There are some books that challenged me intellectually and some that have warmed me spiritually. This one does both.
The book is in two parts. The first sets out the vision of the goal of the Christian life that animated the 18th century theologian, Jonathan Edwards and the second outlines his use of the spiritual disciplines.
Edwards' view of the goal of the Christian life as a journey to beauty is breathtaking and magnificent. God is beauty. We do not seek to understand God by our concept of beauty, rather we look to God, who is beauty, to help us to see what is beautiful. The full and final beauty for us is the vision of God that we will have when we enter into glory (that which theologians have called the "beatific vision"). For Edwards, conversion is more than the assent to certain truths, it is "a clear sight of the excellency of Christ and the beauty of God." (p34). It is a glimpse, a foretaste of that beauty. It is what John Wesley would have called "heart religion."
Edwards speaks of the beatific vision as the peak of human happiness. And he sees this as continuning to grow throughout eternity. We will always be being drawn into ever closer union with God, a union that is ours from conversion, without ever becoming God. It is a vision for ever iincreasing joy and blessedness that contrasts starkly with too many people's view of heaven.
And for Edwards, the disciplines of the Christian life were means of grace. They do not earn anything from God. But they are, none the less, the ordinary means by which God has chosen to channel his grace to us. The use of meditation, contemplation, prayer and so on are all there to enable us to richly enjoy God.
I highly recommend this great book.