by Rick Love
Mark Galli, Editor and Chief of Christianity Today, has done the world a great favor by writing Beautiful Orthodoxy: The Goodness, Truth, and Beauty of Life in Christ. This book is a breath of fresh air in a polluted, polarized world.
Galli writes about the extremes of both ugly orthodoxy (I’ve seen plenty of that!) and beautiful heresy (yes I’ve seen a lot of that too). “These seemingly irreconcilable approaches have this in common: they both truncate the full gospel … they give up either orthodoxy or beauty” (p. 11).
Beautiful orthodoxy is rooted in both creation and the gospel. Galli notes, “Beautiful orthodoxy is grounded in the revelation that we have been created in the image of a good God to live good lives” (p. 24).
Jesus’ famous self-description, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), echoes throughout the book, highlighting the supremacy of Christ. Galli winsomely argues that this verse is much more than just holding to exclusive truth claims, however. It is about relationship and a way of life (p. 11). And that way of life is beautiful.
Galli masterfully uses comparison and contrast to structure his short book (only 79 pages). First, he describes the common understanding of goodness, truth and beauty as understood by philosophers and society in general: common good, common truth and common beauty. He then compares and contrasts these three themes in light of Jesus with chapters on uncommon good, uncommon truth and uncommon beauty.
One example of how Galli describes uncommon goodness: “In the end, the finest biblical picture of the good life is not a person who is morally righteous or religiously faithful, but one who practices mercy. This is precisely the logic Jesus used to explain his mission and why he spent time with ungodly people. To his critics, he quoted the prophet Hosea and said, ‘Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” (Matt. 9:13) (p. 32).
Galli reminds us that we live in a world gone mad. Literally. Recent studies indicate that anger is the most influential emotion on social media (p. 9). Rage, instead of civility, typifies political discourse. “Mainstream media have made a fortune teaching people the wrong ways to talk to each other” (p. 9). Thus, the “information highway becomes the demolition derby” (p. 10).
Facebook, twitter and the blogosphere could use a lot more goodness, truth and beauty.
But the primary purpose of Beautiful Orthodoxy is to call the church to be good news people in a bad news world. As Galli notes, “The church is not so much a lived experience of the good, the true and the beautiful as much as the disappointing manifestation of the sinful, the confused and the unseemly” (P 72).
Thus, the church needs a fresh baptism of goodness, truth and beauty. And reading this book will help.
Two men came to the door to share the gospel with my wife while I was writing this blog. They gave her a tract titled, “Is Something Missing in Your Life?” Lots of Scripture about eternal life and salvation through Christ. That part is true. But there is no mention of love. No winsomeness or a sense of goodness. Not a hint of beauty.
The Good, True and Beautiful One was not well-represented.
Thank you Mark Galli for inviting followers of Jesus to understand, embrace and live out beautiful orthodoxy!