Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully

Thomas Kidd | July 25, 2014


John Piper. Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 160 pp. $19.99.

The concept of beauty has fallen on hard times among evangelical Christians. In a way, this makes evangelicals no different from Americans and Westerners at large, who seem ever more consumed with the crass and the cheap. But there are particular reasons why evangelicals don’t have much time for beauty, or for crafting beautiful things. One factor is the Reformation’s “solas,” especially sola scriptura, which made Reformed Christians understandably wary of overemphasis on sources of religious authority or inspiration outside of the Bible. Yet something was also lost in the great Reformed campaigns against Catholic art and iconography.

This sense that all we need is the Bible—uniquely inspired and preeminently lovely—has made Reformed and evangelical Christians skeptical about beautiful extrabiblical productions. What we need is biblically accurate preaching, teaching, and writing, evangelicals say. But what of beautiful art, poetry, or fiction? What about preaching filled with striking images and arresting explications?

Especially as Americans entered the early 1800s and the age of the Second Great Awakening, evangelical Christians…


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