The Unbelieving Poet Catches a Glimpse of Truth
Since all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and the work of God’s law is written on every heart (Romans 2:15), and the heavens are telling the glory of God to everyone who can see (Psalm 19:1), and God has put eternity in man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and by God’s providence every person is set to grope for God (Acts 17:27), and in God we all live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), it is not surprising that even people without eyes to see the glory of Christ nevertheless have glimpses into the way the world really is, and then don’t know what to do with them.
Stephen Dunn is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and not a Christian. “I think of God as a metaphor. God is a metaphor for the origins and mysteries of the world. . . . I think of beliefs as provisional. They’re not things that constitute anything fixed.” In an interview recently for Books and Culture (March/April, 2008, pp. 26-27), Aaron Rench asked him about his book The Insistence of Beauty.
In regards to your book The Insistence of Beauty, what is this notion that beauty has a demanding, compelling quality to it? Why is beauty that way?
I just think beauty is irresistible. It disarms us. Takes away our arguments. And then if you expand the notion of beauty—that there is beauty in the tawdry, beauty in ugliness—things get complicated. But I think that beauty, which is more related in my mind to the sublime, is what we cannot resist.
Yes, and this is how we all were converted to Christ. The eyes of our hearts were enlightened to see the beauty of Christ, and in that moment he became irresistible. This is the way divine, spiritual beauty works. It authenticates itself. It "takes away our arguments.” Or better: It replaces all our false arguments with one grand, true argument that cannot be resisted.
This is the point of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The “glory of Christ” is the beauty of Christ. It is the radiance of the fullness of his person—the impact of all his perfections. The reason people do not believe on Christ is that they do not see what is really there. That is what it means to be “blind.” Beauty is really there to be seen, but we are blind to it.
If we see it, we believe. “Beauty is irresistible.” If you resist, you have not seen Christ as beautiful as he is (1 John 3:6b). So the way we are converted to Christ is by having this blindness taken away. Verse 6 says, “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God replaces blindness with light. The light is specifically “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
That is all it takes. There is no coercion after that revelation. The light compels. We don’t behold it and then ponder whether to believe. If we are still pondering, we have not yet seen.
Poet Stephen Dunn, groping toward God, says that beauty “is related to the sublime.” It is “what we cannot resist.” Yes, the sublime is summed up in Jesus Christ. And it is his glory that is supremely irresistible.
Let this be your life: Ponder him; be pervaded with him; point to him. The more you know of him, and the more you admire the fullness of his beauty, the more you will reflect him. O that there would be thousands of irresistible reflections of the beauty of Jesus. May it be said of such reflections, “It disarms us. It takes away our arguments.”
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