I saw a blurb in Christianity Today about a new book titled Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity.
To a generation suspicious of truth claims and unconvinced by moral assertions, beauty has a surprising allure. I appreciate the evangelistic impulse behind this idea, and I found that this book offered some good suggestions that point us in the right direction. Zahnd rightly insists that beauty has been manifested most powerfully in the cross of Christ:
Every cross adorning a church is in itself a sermon—a sermon proclaiming that if Christ can transform the Roman instrument of execution into a thing of beauty, there is hope that in Christ all things can be made beautiful!
He is onto something when advocating Christian aesthetics: 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 beauty. Along with Christian apologetics, we need Christian aesthetics. Christianity needs not only to be defended as true—it also needs to be presented as beautiful. Often where truth cannot convince, beauty can entice.
Zahnd sees beauty as inherently “cruciform.” Reorienting ourselves around the self-giving love at the center of our faith exposes the dangers that lurk behind Christian partnerships with the powerful and the implementation of worldly strategies to effect change: The church always faces the temptation to turn its gaze from the beauty of the cruciform and look instead to “the kingdoms of the world and their splendour.”
He also recognizes the distinction between moral conformity and gospel proclamation. He writes: Our task is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ. We do this best, not by protest or political action, but by enacting a beautiful presence within the world.