FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Recognizing Beauty

with Al Mohler | December 22, 2009
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What does beauty reveal about God? Today respected theologian Dr. Al Mohler explains that if beauty is a gift, then there must be a giver, the Lord God Almighty, the source of all beauty. Hear him tell what distinguishes the truly beautiful from those things that are merely pretty.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What does beauty reveal about God? Today respected theologian Dr. Al Mohler explains that if beauty is a gift, then there must be a giver, the Lord God Almighty, the source of all beauty. Hear him tell what distinguishes the truly beautiful from those things that are merely pretty.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What does beauty reveal about God?

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Recognizing Beauty

With Al Mohler
December 22, 2009
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Al:  You could get the most hardened atheist out, and take them to the Rocky Mountains, and point them to the sunset and they’re going to have some kind of thought that is transcendent even when they don’t want to.  It’s because this is crying out some conscious, glorious, infinite mind gave us this.  Beauty is not natural; beauty requires the gift of beauty.  Beauty implies a creator!

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 22nd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine.  I don’t know if you’ve ever connected the reality of beauty, and the existence of God.  We’re going to talk about that today with Dr. Al Mohler.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us.  I have a question that I’d like to ask our guest today, and it really does tie in to what we’re talking about this week which is the book he’s written called:  The Disappearance of God.  Can I just jump in and ask or you should probably introduce him?


Dennis:  Well, Dr. Al Mohler joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Al, welcome back!

Al:  It’s great to be back!


Dennis:  He is President of as Bob said earlier “The” Southern Baptist – now do you really say it that way - The Southern Baptist?

Al:  It really is a part – the definite article is definitely a part of our name.

Dennis:  Is it really? – The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Al:  We have some wonderful sister schools now but we were the first.

Dennis:  You know before Bob asks you this question you rescued this school from the clutches of liberalism – can you share with our listeners just how bad things were when you arrived, and rescued it?

Al:  Well, it really was a picture of liberal Protestantism where there were denials of not only of the Bible’s authority, and its inerrancy but substantial doctrinal error on things like the resurrection of Christ, and whether or not one had to be a Christian to come to faith in Christ in order to be saved—some very basic issues.

Bob:  You had professors who were waffling on this? 

Al:  Yes – published authors.  I’m not just talking behind their backs they were very open about this.

Bob:  You had to come in and say, “You can’t teach that, and teach here”?

Al:  I had to come in and say, “You can’t teach anything outside of our confession of faith, and teach here.”

Dennis:  Wow!

Bob:  That took a while to sink in didn’t it?

Al:  It did, and I have to be careful you know and say, “That not everyone who was on the faculty then held to those positions.”  That would be dishonest and slanderous to them but the fact that there would be one would be too many, and there were far more than one.

Dennis:  There were how many students at the time you took over?

Al:  About 2800 to 3000.

Dennis:  And today there’s how many?

Al:  Four thousand five hundred and we went way down.  Let me tell you what.  You can really reduce a student body when you take an institution through that kind of correction.  We went down to about 1800 students but the Lord has just given us such an incredible opportunity, and it is such a happy place.

Dennis:  There is a hunger in this new generation for the truth.  I think sometimes in this entertainment culture we miss that – that there really is a desire to be taught straight from the scripture, and taught some hard-core convictions.

Bob:  Which gets me to my question – you wrote this book The Disappearance of God and of course when I read the title the first thing I thought of was the famous quote attributed to Frederick Nietzsche – God is dead.  We read that on the cover of magazines back in the 60’s.  In talking to my kids as they’ve grown up I’ve said, “You know Nietzsche’s philosophy which was a philosophy that life was absurd  - that nothing makes sense  - I’ve said if there is no God, Nietzsche’s right.”

Al:  Oh, absolutely, and we have to join with him.  We have no choice.  He was absolutely convinced of that—he was absolutely convinced that he was right.  You know his philosophy is called Nihilism—going back to the Latin word for nothing because in the end that’s what he believed in absolutely nothing.  Now in so far as we’re alive right now that leaves only power as the thing he would worship and of course we know where that led in the Third Reich.

Bob:  So, if there is no God, there is no meaning for anything!

Al:  Absolutely – everything is absurd.  Morality is absurd, social conventions are absurd, marriage is absurd, and parenting is absurd.

Bob:  Now, the inverse of that is also true.  If there is a God then there is meaning for everything.

Al:  If there is a God, and if this God is a speaking God.  If He speaks to us, and reveals to us who He is, and what He would have us to know then the entire world is different, and that’s why we’re having this conversation. 

Dennis:  That’s right, and it reminds me of a little cartoon I saw that had Nietzsche’s statement God is dead, and it was scratched off with a big X.  Underneath it was the statement Nietzsche is dead – God!  He corrected it.

Al:  That’s the last word!

Dennis:  Yes, He really had the last word on the deal.  If you say, “Everything’s up for grabs” – one of the areas that I think there’s a fresh need of thinking in is the area of beauty.  Barbara recently read a book written by a Catholic theologian who studied beauty, and its nuances throughout history, and how it reflected the grandeur, and the glory of God.

Now, if we pull back and analyze it, certainly going to the Rocky Mountains, and going on Trail Ridge Road, and seeing the snow peaks, and the wildflowers certainly beauty at that point speaks of the grandeur and the greatness of God.  But, beauty as a theological concept is far more than that isn’t it?

Al:  You know one of the most important things the Bible says about God is that God is beautiful.  We are told that Jesus is fair.  When you think of that old song Fairest Lord Jesus it’s rooting beauty in Christ, and that’s where we have to start.  One of the things we always have to say is that we’re having a conversation in a Genesis 3 world—in a fallen world.

Thus this is a world that has experienced corruption at every level.  Even when it comes to beauty, and that‘s why for Christian’s it’s not only a matter of not knowing what we ought to know.  It’s a matter if we are not knowledgeable about a Christian understanding of beauty we’ll be bought off because our lives will lie to us.  

Bob:  Well, so when you say we live in a post Genesis 3 world where beauty is corrupted—we still see beauty in the world around us don’t we?

Al:  Oh, we see testimonies, and of course this is written throughout the Psalms.  We look to the creation, and we see that the heavens are telling the glory of God.  You could get the most hardened atheist out, and take him to the Rocky Mountains and point them to the sunset, and they’re going to have some kind of thought that is transcendent even when they don’t want to.

It’s because this is crying out some conscious, glorious, infinite mind gave us this.  Beauty requires gift—that’s the most amazing thing because beauty is not natural.  Beauty requires the gift of beauty, and than that’s where again beauty implies a creator. 

Bob:  Now wait see unpack that for me because when you say beauty implies gift I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

Al:  Well, beauty is something that is given to us; it’s something that is presented to us.  It requires a creator and so this goes back to the fact that when we see a sunset that’s a gift.  It’s not just a naturalistic phenomenon we’re looking at there.  Some mind and of course we believe the Creator’s mind gave us that as a gift. 

When you look at a face of a child you think that is just unspeakably beautiful.  That’s a gift.  The thing itself is a gift.  The child is a gift.  The person is a gift.  The sunset is a gift, but the knowledge of it and the ability to see it is also a gift.  Beauty humbles us if we really understand it.

Bob:  You’re saying beauty could not exist if there wasn’t someone making something beautiful.

Al:  Let’s put it this way – the law implies a lawgiver – beauty implies a source of that beauty.

Dennis:  We teach at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences that our spouse is a gift from God.

Al:  Our spouse is by definition beautiful!

Dennis:  Yes.  That’s an interesting concept that God in giving the gift wants the gift ultimately to honor Him.

Al:  Absolutely because He is the only beautiful one.  He’s the only wise one.  He’s the only good, the only just, and so beauty is a testimony to Him.  Again, that’s why beauty should humble us. 

There’s something about standing in front of a magnificent painting one that’s just truly a stunning work of art.  If you go to the Louvre, or you go to one of the great museums and you look at some of these masterpieces – you look at Rembrandt’s ability to replicate a lace collar on a medieval piece of clothing.   You look at that and say, “Somebody had to gift that.”  Even atheists call it an artistic gift – well again gift implies a giver!

Bob:  Okay but hang on.  Proverbs 31 says, “Beauty is vain.”  It really talks about the fact that in the Proverbs 31 woman we shouldn’t be focused on her physical appearance as the mark of her beauty should we?

Al:  That’s the problem.  Here’s a distinction that we have to learn to make.  There’s a difference between the beautiful and the pretty.  We’re too often bought off by pretty.  Our eyes are attracted to pretty.  We’re told in the Bible that our eyes lie to us.  There’s the deceitfulness of the eyes, there’s the seduction of the eyes.  This is the problem with pornography.  It may be something that is a delight to the eyes:  In fact a seductive, addictive delight to corrupted eyes it can’t be beautiful. 

In the same sense here’s the thing that I often describe.  I say, “Christian’s and Christian’s alone are the people who know not because they’re smarter than everyone else but because of God’s revelation of scripture – we’re the people who know that a child with the face of down syndrome is beautiful, and the air-brushed cosmetically enhanced windblown face of the fashion model staring out from the magazine is merely pretty.”

Dennis:  Yes and every person who’s listening to us right now knows exactly what you’re talking about in those two images as we’re raising our families.  However in this culture where beauty has been distorted how are we to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate beauty and not distort it in the culture especially with young ladies? 

I used to go shopping for a prom dress for my teenage daughters, and I wanted them to be attractive, to be pretty in I think the best sense of that word but where’s the balance here Al for the follower of Christ in terms of translating this into core values and convictions for our kids?

Al:  Here’s one of the happiest things I can convey.  The Christian worldview of beauty understands first of all that beauty is rooted in the reality of God—in the character and in the being of God, and so also is goodness, and so also is truth.  The Christian worldview understands that the good, the beautiful, and the true – those are the three great transcendental’s of the human imagination.  The good, the beautiful, and the true are the same thing. 

The world in its falleness wants to strip them apart.  It wants to say that the true thing is ugly.  It wants to say that a beautiful thing is not good.  It wants to say that something that is evil is beautiful.  It wants to say that a lie is good.  That’s what we have to resist.  We have to go back and say you want to know what true beauty is?  True beauty is God’s gift, and where you find beauty you find goodness, and you find truth.

Bob:  So, when we think back to Proverbs 31, and here’s this verse that ends the chapter “charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”    What you’re really saying is, “We have to retrain ourselves to a new standard of what we’re looking at and calling beautiful right”?

Al:  Well, and Proverbs 31 is describing a beautiful woman.  She’s beautiful in every way.  The physical is just irrelevant to that.  Not only that – here’s Solomon saying, “Look prettiness can delude.”  You know you can look at something that’s attractive, and it’s not there.  You know one of the things we have to say to young men – to boys is you are going to find yourself attracted to female prettiness, and there’s not a male alive who hasn’t had that experience of just having that – wow look at that, look who just crossed the room, look at that beautiful face, look at those beautiful eyes, the hair – you know and beyond that.

You simply look and you say, “That is beautiful”!  But, it isn’t necessarily beautiful because she could be as the Bible says – a temptress.  You know she could be someone of no moral character – she could be someone that we wouldn’t want as wife, and the mother of our children.  So, there can be prettiness but we better learn to discern the difference between prettiness and beauty.

Bob:  As you’re introducing the subject and as we’re talking about beauty I’m trying to think what passages do I think of in the scripture that talk about beauty?  It’s interesting the first one that came to mind is that passage in Isaiah that says, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news.”  It’s really defining beauty around mission.

Al:  And it’s brought back in Roman’s 10 because what it says, “Beauty is gospel.”  See that’s where it gives the good, the beautiful, and the true are there - what is more good, and beautiful, and true than the gospel of Christ?  It is the thing that is most beautiful!  Christ Himself is the most beautiful thing human eyes have ever seen which is one of the problems with having a painting of Him.  You can’t even come close to the reality. 

What we have in Christ is what Paul says in Colossians, “The one icon – the exact representation of God’s glory.”  You find that also in Hebrews chapter 1.  You start looking at that and you say all right to be a Christian then is to love beauty because we love Christ.

Bob:  When you talk about the beauty of Christ we have to remember that Isaiah defines Him physically, prophetically as having no stately former majesty that we should be drawn to Him.

Al:  Isn’t that the whole point?  What’s beautiful about Him is His obedience.  What’s beautiful about Him is His incarnation.  What’s beautiful about Him is the fact that to see Him was to see the Father as he says in the gospel of John.  What was beautiful about Him was His obedience most clearly.

You know here’s the difference between the artificial and the real:  You know the pretty is often artificial.  You can dress things up you know as my grandfather used to say.  You can put makeup on a pig but it just doesn’t make it anymore beautiful.

Dennis:  Yes, I was thinking of two different passages.  The first was in how beauty destroyed Samson.  It said, “Go get her for she looks good to me.”  His eyes betrayed him at that point.  The second thing I was thinking about, and maybe this is a bit condemning of me was Song of Solomon – how beautiful are your feet in sandals O prince’s daughter – then he kind of works his way on up.

Al:  But you know Dennis that raises a very good issue about beauty and marriage.  If you are married, you are married who to you is the most beautiful woman in the world.  That means we, as husbands have to retrain our eyes so that when we see our wives we see our covenant partner.  We see the one to whom we’ve made an absolute commitment until death do we part, we see the one to whom we are so drawn that we have entered into before God a one flesh relationship.  We see the mother of our children, we see the woman we want to grow old beside.  That means again what does pornography become?  Pornography becomes the destroyer of the good, the beautiful, and the true.

Bob:  The last verse that came to mind for me is from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 after Solomon talks about there’s a time for this, and a time for that he says, “God makes all things beautiful in its time.”  God really is the one who brings beauty – well now there’s another verse even from ashes God can bring beauty right?

Al:  Absolutely, and God is the only source of real beauty.  What this means is that wherever human beings achieve something that approximates beauty and points to beauty, it’s another reminder that we’re made in the image of God.  Let me just give you something to think about – you go to the zoo – we’re looked at by a lot of animals.  Those animals aren’t thinking boy she’s pretty. He’s ugly. 


I think it’s safe to say there’s never been an elephant on the savanna who’s thought – woo look at that sunset.  It’s a part of being made in the image of God that we even have the category of beauty.  You know all a male dog needs is a female dog, and all nature needs is urges and drives.  We are those who are given the gift of being drawn to beauty!  That’s a testimony to the gospel because here’s the other thing every good thing we find on earth ends up being inadequate. 

We eat but we’re hungry again.  We drink but we’re thirsty again.  Jesus says as He speaks to the woman at the well, “That He will offer water which when received means one will never thirst again.”  He says in John chapter 6, “You need to eat the bread of life that once you eat it you will never be hungry again.”  We will only find in the gospel of Christ the kind of beauty that means we will never yearn for that kind of beauty again.  We find it in Christ and you know every earthly experience of beauty ought to say to us that is so magnificent.  There has to be something greater—there has to be perfect!

Dennis:  And, there is, and you’d have to see where Barbara and I live in the woods Al.  Over 25 years ago we moved to the country, and on a ridge overlooking a lake that has a sunset view.  So, every night we get a little different display of the grandeur of God.  I have sat on our deck on more than one occasion and looked out there, and thought if this is this spectacular, if this is this beautiful then what is heaven going to look like?

Al:  I’ll tell you what heaven’s going to look like.  Imagine that when you look out from your porch you are seeing every sunset that God ever made, you are seeing every mountain range, you’re seeing every thunderstorm, you’re seeing inside every cell, and inside every molecule, you’re seeing every human being who ever lived perfectly made in the image of God.

That would itself do you only a hint of what it’s going to be like to see God Himself no longer through a glass darkly but to see Him face to face.  We’re going to be face to face with the true beautiful one.  I’ll tell you what; in heaven no one’s going to say you remember that sunset back on earth?

Dennis:  Yes, and it’s not going to be boring.  You know as a kid I used to think heaven was going to be floating around clouds, strumming a harp – it was like boring!  But that kind of beauty will be mesmerizing.  It will be full of the glory and grandeur of God.  We’ll give thanks to Him, and it will be great to be there. 

Al, I just want to thank you for being a great spokesman for Christ.  It’s also a privilege for FamilyLife to be in partnership with The Southern Baptist Seminary of Louisville, and to partner with you in equipping the next generation of churchmen – leaders going out to help equip families, and marriages and families.  We’re excited about our partnership with you, and count it a privilege to have you on the broadcast, and hope you’ll come back and join us again someday.

Al:  Dennis it would be a privilege.  I want to tell you we think so much of this ministry – of what you and others have built here.  You’re reaching lives.  I have to tell you – let me bring you the testimony.  When I go around the country I meet people whose lives have been so enriched, whose marriages have been strengthened, whose families have been encouraged by what you do.  So, you keep talking into that microphone and doing what you do.

Dennis:   Well, this morning when you spoke to our staff you said there was someone who told you that they were doing a good job.  She’s never said that about any other place you’ve gone to speak? 

Al:   She’s never said it in that response so quickly.  My own mother knowing I was coming here said, “You tell those people they do a good job.”  So, I’m telling you on my mother’s authority.

Dennis:  You tell your mom she did a good job in having you, and we appreciate her compliment.

Al:  Well, thank you!

Bob:  Well, and let me just say too on behalf of a lot of folks who listen to you on your daily radio program or who tune into your blog or who are being ministered today by someone who’s a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  We very much appreciate the work that you and your staff are doing at Southern and the way you are standing for the faith in the culture.

I know every time I see you’re going to be on with Larry King or on Fox News or something like that I don’t have to worry because you’re going to be clear and articulate in your defense of the faith, and you’re going to do it with grace and with wisdom.  I know I speak for a lot of our listeners in saying, Thanks for your ministry, and thanks for writing the book that you’ve written here called:  The Disappearance of God which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.

Let me encourage listeners  - go on-line or call us and get a copy of what I think is a very helpful book especially in the church today where sometimes it seems like truth has been obscured or where biblical Christianity is under attack both from the outside, and from within the walls of the church in some cases.  Thanks for your clear response to that in this book. 

Again if our listeners are interested – go online – you can get a copy of the book from us.  Again it’s or call 1-800-FLTODAY 1-800-358-6329 – that’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY and someone on our team can let you know how you can get a copy of Dr. Mohler’s book The Disappearance of God.

Before we’re done today I need to update our listeners on something that has been happening around here that has taken us a little bit by surprise!  We have mentioned this month that we had some friends of the ministry who stepped forward to offer what turned out to be the largest matching gift opportunity we have ever received as a ministry.  Many of our listeners have already called or written in response to that and said, “We want to make a donation” knowing that their donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar.  We appreciate those of you who have already done that.

Well, in recent days we’ve had some friends who have come along and said, “You know we want to see if we can make this even more exciting for FamilyLife Today listeners.”  They have added to the matching gift funds so what was a $1,250,000 match has in recent days become a $1,525,000 matching gift.  Of course we’re thrilled by that but what that means is we need as many of our FamilyLife Today listeners to make as generous a gift as you possibly can between now and the end of the year.

We’re hoping you’ll be able to do that.  We’re hoping you’ll go on-line at or call 1-800-FLTODAY and say, “I want to make sure FamilyLife Today stays on my local station, I want to make sure you guys can continue all that you’re doing, and I want you to be able to take full advantage of this matching gift.”  So, you make a $25, or a $50 or a $100 or a $200 or $1,000 donation – keep in mind that your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $1,525,000.  We appreciate your financial support, and we’ll try to let you know how we do at meeting this match once the year is over. 

Now tomorrow I want to encourage you to be back with us when we’re going to talk about how we understand the reality of God in the midst of suffering.  Jerry Sittser is going to join us tomorrow to unpack that and I hope you can be back with us for that as well.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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