Reflections on Transcendent Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

I believe that truth, goodness, and beauty are transcendent realities rooted in the nature and character of God. Belief in these absolute, transcendent standards is rooted in a recognition that God is the source, sustainer, and end of all things (Romans 11:36).

All truth is grounded in the reality that God is True. All virtue is grounded in the reality that God is Good. All beauty is grounded in the reality that God is Beautiful.¹

Therefore, as image-bearers of God, I believe Christians must commit themselves to thinking God’s thoughts after him, to behaving in ways that conform to God’s moral character and will, and to loving those things that God calls lovely.¹

Belief in objective, transcendent standards of truth, goodness, and beauty is a uniquely conservative distinctive. Most Christians readily affirm that the Bible should shape our beliefs and morals. Many, however, have not even given thought to how the Bible ought to shape our affections as well. That is, we must work to align our values and affections with those of God. This is what Paul refers to in Philippians 4:8 when he says to dwell on whatever is “true,” “right,” and “lovely.” The word for lovely is defined as “worthy of taking delight in,” or, “worth the effort to have and embrace.” In other words, there is an objective standard for what is worthy of our delight and affection. It is, therefore, wrong to love what God hates, or take delight in what God is disgusted with, or to call beautiful what God calls ugly.

We must not only learn propositional truth about God and live in accord with His moral imperatives, but we must allow Scripture to shape and cultivate within us rightly-ordered affections as well. Nevertheless, right beliefs, morals, and affections are not always transparent, and thus require careful judgment to discern biblically.¹

Part of the image of God in humanity is the capacity to love, for God loves and He is love. The Scriptures clearly teach that the most important human duty is to love God and love others. Love is a function of the will, and not merely of the understanding. A right relationship to God involves more than an abstract or theoretical understanding of the truth of His Word. Rather, it includes grasping the truths of God’s perfections and mighty deeds and relishing these truths as beautiful and lovely.²

Furthermore, as an intellectually conservative Christian, I seek to not disparage or shun tradition simply because it is tradition, nor praise and value innovation simply because it is new and progressive. On the contrary, conservatism seeks to cherish and nourish tradition as valuable and worth conserving—not simply because it is tradition, not as though tradition is authoritative, and not as though it is necessary to preserve all available elements of church history, nor to remain in a bygone century—but rather out of a genuine respect for the permanent things, that by carefully evaluating the values, forms, and functions of traditions, we may preserve and hand down to future generations that which is true and good and beautiful within the Christian tradition.

Conservative Christians seek to take what is timeless, true, and permanent, and apply it to our changing world. We desire to be faithful Christians in the present, while honouring and building upon what we have been handed.³

Conservative Christianity wishes to conserve and pass on the truth, goodness, and beauty of essential Christianity.³

(Exodus 28:2; Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Psalm 15:4; Matthew 22:37–39; Mark 12:29–30; John 17:17; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 11:2, 16; 14:40; Philippians 3:17; 4:8, 9; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 12:28–29; James 1:17; 1 John 4:16–21)

virtus et honos

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