Beauty. It’s a word that is loaded with meaning. To many in our culture, influenced by the Greco-Roman idea of beauty, beauty is about a perfectly sculpted body. It’s hiring a whole team of people to make you physically attractive to (now) someone of the same gender or the opposite sex. But biblical beauty is the opposite of this. Biblical beauty is concerned, not only with the outside, but especially with the inside. And this is significant.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I was confronted head-on with the world’s definition of beauty. Seattle is a city awash in New Age thinking and theology. It is a place where anyone can be tolerated, except Christians. There are few places on the planet that are more beautiful than Seattle, but also few places that are as spiritually oppressive as Seattle. I say that not as a casual observer to Seattle. I was born in Seattle. I was raised in Seattle. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Seattle. And Seattle is also one of the top three most liberal cities in the United States, next to San Francisco, at the top of that list, and Boston.
Beauty abounds in Seattle. There are few things more beautiful than a clear sunset at the pier there, which I often enjoyed. There are few things more beautiful than the view where I lived as a teenager, looking out at Lake Sammamish—and in the far distance to Mount Rainer—from my parents’ home in Bellevue, Washington. Even now in Southern California, there are few things as nice as the sunrise, even if you are not near the beach at all. The beauty of it is captivating.
We often think of beauty in our day as the physical body or nature, but it’s not just physical beauty or natural body that God is concerned with. After all, He orders the creation to function as He intends. Without His sovereign hand moving and shaping all of history according to His sovereign will, history would come to a crashing halt. And yet, history continues, moment after moment, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and century after century, because of God. People come and people go; the Lord remains. Great is the Lord and worthy of all praise.
Within the doctrine of Creation, we see that God created men and women in His image and likeness. And there we see that God says that He saw it was good. He didn’t say it may appear good, but that He saw it was good. God created the world, as we know it, in six days, and on the seventh day, He rested. Creation in a biblical worldview is not an accident. It has an intentional design and shape. And on one of those first six days, God created Adam from the dust, breathing life into Adam’s lungs and making him in His image and likeness. And then the Lord saw that it was not right that man be alone and so He took from Adam’s rib and made Eve.
God created man—Adam—first, and then woman—Eve. He established the parameters of the relationship when He commanded Adam to lead in the Garden, naming everything therein. Adam was designed to lead in the home, and Eve was to be his helpmate. Within theology, there is a view called complementarianism, a perspective on gender roles that says men and women are equal in dignity, value, and worth, but distinct in function and role. Men and women were designed to function differently—men as men, and women as women. God saw that was good.
And this brings up an important point, and one that is not often considered within discussions on complementarianism as it pertains to beauty. We often want to focus on defining very clearly—and rightly so—what we mean by a biblical perspective on gender roles. There are reasons, we don’t believe a woman is to be a pastor, and those are Scripturally grounded and use proper, sound hermeneutics. But even more so, we see a difference between the genders in how they are to function. We don’t believe a woman should function as a man, as complementarians, because she was explicitly assigned a specific gender. Neither, do, we believe that women are insignificant or unequal in worth, dignity, and value. We do not think that women should be ignored, looked down upon, made light of, tossed aside, abused, or in any way neglected by their husbands or the local church.
And it’s significant to bring up what I did in the previous paragraph for the following reason: sometimes it’s thought that complementarians are against women, and that is not true. Complementarians uphold what the Bible teaches and want men and women to function according to their God-given design. Complementarians are not for domestic abuse. They are not for a man yelling at his wife or a wife screaming at her husband, or children yelling at their parents (or vice versa). Abuse in any form is wrong and an assault on the glory of God, who created men and women in His image. When we engage in ways that are sinful, we need to repent. When we sin, we distort the beauty of God and revert to behavior in-line with the Fall, instead of the new creations we are now in Christ.
Biblical beauty fights against pornography, against sex trafficking, etc., because God created men and women in His image and likeness. Pornography is an assault on the glory of God. God created men and women to mirror Him, and instead of reflecting Him, we choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We craved, even longed for (and still do), the satisfaction apart from God. And what He offers in His person as God—Creator and Lord—is beauty. He gives us meaning and true satisfaction, not according to the world’s design and methods, but according to the intended design He established in the created order.
The Lord God does not make mistakes. Instead, He is faithful, to the full revelation of His Person. That is, God says He is holy, which theologians call the controlling attribute of God’s character. And God’s holiness means that He cannot lie, for example, for to do so would be according to His divine revelation, a sin. And if God sins that means He could also change His mind, which would undermine His faithfulness. Biblical beauty sees God as God, as He has revealed Himself in His Word. It considers the horror of the cross as beautiful. Now, that will shock many people that the cross is a form of beauty, but it is. The Lord Jesus, fully God and fully man, was slaughtered as the innocent Lamb of God in place of sinners and for their sins. Why? Well, if we go back to the Garden of Eden, we can see the first gospel given in Genesis 3:15. And if we read the Old Testament, we see not much that is beautiful at all, we see a lot of sin in the books of history; but, even so we see beauty.
What am I saying here? Simply put: God is God. God is beautiful. The Lord God is the Creator, and He creates to make things beautiful. All of creation is beautiful in the eyes of God; in particular, men and women who are made in His image and likeness. Sure, we live in a messed up and fallen world. Does God love that the world, He created, has fallen into sin? No. But even so, He still loves the Creation He made. He is the Lord over it. He could wipe it out with a whisper or roar of His mouth, or just a thought and no sound at all. He would then begin again with a word of His command, and yet He doesn’t. God is God, and He is good.
At the heart of the contemporary culture’s fascination with beauty, whether from magazines to movies, is a fundamental problem with their view of God. A high view of God leads to a right or biblical view of His person and the totality of His work. If we have a faulty view of God Himself, we will not be able to understand why Jesus came, why He died, and rose again, and now is our Ascended and soon returning Lord. Neither will we have eyes to see, ears to hear, nor to be able to know and grow in the truth. And that is what makes God, God.
Only God can open the eyes of the blind and give them sight. Only the Lord God can bring the truth of the New Covenant; inaugurated in and brought to its conclusion one day by Christ Himself. In other words, only God saves, because God wins in the end. God created life; He alone brings life to an end. Everywhere in between it is God Himself, who makes all things beautiful, since He makes all things function according to His sovereign purposes, for His glory.
So whether we are considering the topic of the design and intent of biblical gender roles, or any other matter, God is God. He established man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. Complementarianism most faithfully explains these truths, because it grounds its explanation, not in what we think the relevant biblical passages may mean, but instead, in the teaching of Scripture itself. It does this for a reason, so men and women can function according to their God-given, specifically assigned, gender, and be used in ways that corresponded to that gender, for the good of others, and for the benefit of civilization, for His praise and glory.
Biblical beauty matters. God makes all things beautiful in time. After all, He takes what was meant for evil and turns it around and uses it for our good, to grow us in His grace so that we can be a blessing to others. God is not in it to hurt us; although, sometimes, He needs to bring us low to humble us, which is painful. And He does that to show us that we are the creature, and He is the Creator. We will either bow to Him and acknowledge His Lordship, or He will reveal our absolute frailty and need. Either way, God wins, and all will bow to Him alone on that final day. God is God. He alone is Lord in and over all. He is sovereign over everything, and alone is worthy of praise. God is beautiful in all He does, including in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, is the best demonstration of the beauty of God at work in His story. Jesus alone demonstrates the depths God is in it for, not just to win it, but to show His beauty in the world. Jesus uses His people—sinners in need of a Savior, being transformed by His grace—for the praise of His great name, and the joy of all peoples in the earth.