Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in Christianity

In philosophy, there are three qualities that are often referred to as “the trandscendentals.” These three qualities are truth, goodness, and beauty, and “transcendental” is a proper designation for them. “Transcendental” is a fancy word that describes an aspect of reality that is not dependent on our personal feelings or opinions.

All three of these – truth, goodness, and beauty – are not dependent on our personal opinions. They are realities that are discovered, rather than invented or randomly chosen.

Consider truth. You and I do not get to make up our own truth, we can only discover what the truth is and choose whether or not we will accept it. Feeling like 2 + 2 = 5 does not make it so. It is a transcendent reality because it does not depend upon our personal feelings for its validity.

In the Biblical worldview, moral goodness is the same way. We do not get to pick and choose which attitudes or actions we consider morally good or bad based on our own personal feelings. Just because I “feel” like murder or stealing is okay does not make it so. Even if the majority felt this way, they would still be wrong.

Even beauty has a certain transcendent quality. Rather than choosing arbitrarily what music or art we find beautiful, we observe and recognize beauty in music or art and identify it as such. Saying “this object is beautiful” does not actually make it so. The object in question is either beautiful or not, regardless of what we say about it.

But as you may have noticed, not everyone in our society respects the transcendence of truth, goodness, and beauty. These days many academics assert that “truth is relative” and individuals may respond to your beliefs by saying “that is true for you, but it is not true for me.” In terms of moral goodness, the ultimate standard in our culture is no longer an objective standard, but rather a question of how we “feel” about it. Much of modern art and music reflects the fact that we have given up on objective standards of beauty and are resorting instead to shock value, vulgarity, and “art for art’s sake” with no message to convey.

The general movement of society away from objective standards of truth, goodness, and beauty probably reflects our disdain for constraints on our freedom more than anything else. As long as truth is comprised of objective facts, it can get in my way and prevent me from believing whatever I want. As long as moral goodness is an unchanging standard that I must submit to, it can prevent me from living out my dreams. Even beauty, to the extent that it supersedes personal feelings, reminds me that the reality of life is not always mine to control.

But there is a special beauty and power in the recognition of transcendent realities. When the psalmist said “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path,” he was recognizing that the truth of the Bible could lead him farther than he could get by his own understanding alone. When Jesus said “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth,” the truth that He referred to was a truth that can transform us precisely because it does not come from within us, but rather from the God who created us.

The Philippians were told “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” This is a description of a life in which we discover and enjoy that which is true, that which is good, and that which is beautiful in the realest of senses.

Will you “dwell on these things” and commit your life to acquiring them?

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Scriptures and Thoughts on “Kindness”

What is kindness and what does it look like?
Old Testament
Hesed – occurs 250 times – mercy, kindness, loving-kindness. 42 times it is stated that God’s hesed endures forever. God desires a people to be the object of His hesed.

New Testament
Agathos – goodness, that which is good
Epikei – mildness, gentleness, and fairness
Pilanthropia – benevolence towards others
Chrestos – graciousness, goodness – this is the word most often translated as kindness. It is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.

Some occurrences of Chrestos:

(Romans 11:22) “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.”
(Titus 3:4-5) “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

Kindness is often translated from words associated with goodness, so I get the sense that kindness is not only a description of what is merciful or gentle, but also that which is fitting and right.

(Ruth 2:20) – what Boaz did was merciful, but also fitting and right. This would also be true in our example of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

In English, it comes from the same word as kin, or kind as in “what kind of person are you?”

What are some easy ways to be kind to others?
(Galatians 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Seizing opportunities: (Galatians 6:10) “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” What opportunities arise from day to day?

Sharing resources: (1 John 3:17) “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

(Acts 20:35) “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Kind words: (Ephesians 4:29) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Acts of service: (Matthew 25) “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Should I be kind even when I do not feel like it?
Yes, it is the right thing to do.

(Proverbs 3:3-4) “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.”

(Colossians 3:12) “put on a heart of…kindness” and (Ephesians 4:32) “Be kind to one another” both command kindness from us.

(Micah 6:8) The LORD requires of us that we love kindness.
(Luke 6:35) God Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil.
(1 Peter3:9) “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

How can I be kind when I do not feel like it?
(Proverbs 11:7) “A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Realize that it is in your own best interest to be kind.

(Proverbs 3:3-4) also indicate that this will result in favor from God and man. See (1 Peter 3:9) as well.

(Ephesians 4:15) Speak the truth in love. Examine your motivation, and if it is love, act from that source.
(Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

(Luke 6:35) Recount how God has been kind to you.

 What is an act of kindness that was done to you that you remember?

What is an act of kindness that you have been privileged to do for another?

 What is the proper motivation for kindness?
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind”
1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Getting the Fruit of the Spirit

In Acts 2:38, Peter preached the gospel to thousands of people at one time. When many of them wanted to respond, he instructed them all, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19:2-5, Paul became deeply troubled when he met some men who said that they had been baptized, but that they did not have the Holy Spirit:

“He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

In John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Notice something about all three of these passages: they emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in baptism and spiritual rebirth.

Galatians 5:22-23 gives a beautiful list of positive character traits, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” All of these traits, we are told, are the fruit of the Spirit.

It is no wonder that the Spirit is so important, if these things are the fruit that follows from Him. If these things are the fruit of the Spirit, how can we expect to have them without first having the Spirit? That would be like trying to create an apple without first having an apple tree, or painting a tennis ball orange and claiming it is an orange, or planting soybeans and hoping they sprout into corn. As with any other fruit, if you want the fruit of the Spirit, get the Spirit, and then you can enjoy His fruit. It’s the only way.

This is why producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is not simply about “trying harder” or just “being a good person.” Until we are washed in Christ’s blood and filled with His Spirit, we can never hope to be righteous in His sight. As Isaiah 64:6 says, all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

 May we spread the good news about Jesus’ blood and God’s Spirit, and the wonderful things they can do, and rather than grieving that Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), may we all make that Spirit welcome in our hearts and lives, that we may enjoy His fruit.