This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
Continuing his discussion of art, we get a long summary of what Kuyper has said to this point including things like his point that “We are using the term beauty for what Scripture calls the ‘divinity’ that shines through in the creation in terms of God’s eternal power, involving not merely its wise plan but also its outward appearance.” (592)
But what is beauty? We’ve said enough about that, it’s complex and “is born of harmony, symmetry, and proper proportion.” (593) But this isn’t enough. Like love, beauty is something we can experience but not really analyze. It resides in the imagination, which has been overlooked by people through history.
But is beauty a spiritual concept? Yes, but we must be cautious here. Certainly beauty comes from God, but so does everything. As with the physical world, the spiritual world can be beautiful or ugly as well. When speaking of God or the soul, we have to use figurative language for that which we have not seen.
So the world teaches that there is beauty, but doesn’t show us beauty because it is an abstract concept. That, in turn, points us towards a higher realm where our appetite for beauty will be satisfied. This longing for beauty is the source of art.
For the Christian, art anticipates heaven. So art does more than imitate nature. That route leads to the grotesque when artists rebel against it and draw on their own natural imaginations. Art should begin with nature and then raise us to a higher level. Would we have needed art in Eden? Yes, and it would have been better because the longing for heaven would have been pure. But it isn’t, and common grace is all the preserves beauty and our sense of it.
Art is part of the image of God in man. Specifically, we image Him in creation. Not in the same way, obviously, We create representations while He creates reality. So we are imitating, but imitating an attribute of God. God inspires artists in this way.