Our latest podcast episode features guest Ned Bustard, a graphic designer, illustrator, artist, author, and dear friend of Veritas Academy. Click here to listen to the episode now or read on for more conversation about the importance of beauty in education and in your life.
Classical Christian education (and, therefore, Veritas Academy) is all about truth, beauty, and goodness. You may recall that we pried open those three transcendental concepts in our previous podcast episode.
As Christians, few of us would argue against the importance - necessity even - of truth and goodness. We see these as objective, unchanging foundations for our faith and for our lives.
But beauty? Many may wonder what its place is among those other two pillars. Isn't it superfluous and subjective? How could beauty be indispensable to life - or to a child's education?
Scripture, experience, and history, however, prove that beauty is of great importance to humans and to God.
"The scriptures, even just their form - the different genres, the variety and unity found in them - give us a love for beauty," Ned says in the podcast. "Scripture gives us breadcrumbs that lead us back to God. It often tells us that beauty matters. When Moses was given instructions for the Tabernacle, the instructions included things God wanted them to make 'for glory and for beauty.' "
Ned muses that, in today's typical Protestant circles, when church congregations are making plans for building projects, often they are mainly (and perhaps overly) focused on the pragmatic. To consider using too many resources on items just for glory and beauty may seem frivolous or wasteful, compared to a nursery, coffee station, and comfortable seating.
"The idea that we would have something just for glory and for beauty, it's not part of our psyche now. It's not part of who we are culturally, but here in the Bible, it says this is actually a priority."
"Scripture gives us breadcrumbs that lead us back to God. It often tells us that beauty matters." - Ned Bustard
A glance at the detailed instructions for the Tabernacle makes that clear. Precious metals and jewels, ornate tapestries, and more specifications show us that God cared to have his dwelling place reflect beauty.
Then, when one considers the sheer excess of beauty God imbued into creation - and the innate and powerful desire he has placed in our own hearts for that which is beautiful - we begin to see that our Lord highly esteems beauty. He IS beauty. And without beauty, the other two transcendentals lose much of their luster and power. A two-legged stool doesn't stand all that well.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” - Psalm 27:4
Sixteenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal observes this acutely in his essay The Art of Persuasion. While he fully acknowledges the fickle nature of our affections, he writes that though it is natural and expected that man should believe only demonstrated truths, the fact is that desire is a more common motivator to belief, "for all men are almost led to believe not of proof, but by attraction...we believe scarcely any thing except that which pleases us."
In fact, Pascal would even go on to submit that this order - that we must love something before we can believe it - is God-ordained. He says, "God only pours out his light into the mind after having subdued the rebellion of the will by an altogether heavenly gentleness which charms and wins it."
A Beautiful Education
What is life without beauty? What is eternity without beauty? And what is education without beauty? They are empty, void of joy, dry, and even miserable.
And THAT is why classical Christian education is, as Ty Fischer puts it, "addicted to beauty."
While many schools across the country are cutting arts programs in favor of utilitarian programs that bolster test scores and churn out career-minded students, classical Christian schools place great value on providing a joyful education that is full of beauty and wonder. That is how we cultivate students who love learning and love God, and who carry that love with them for life.
It's why we include lots of Great Books in our curriculum, so students can develop a taste and appreciation for the beauty of the written word. Why we strive for excellence in our orchestras and choirs, and incorporate ample music throughout our school days from kindergarten through high school. Why we adorn our halls and classrooms with professional artwork. And beyond the arts, why we fill our faculty with people who are passionate about the beauty found in the subjects they're teaching, and who love to point kids to God's heart through that magnificent beauty every day.
"We're trying to help students build a life that, in the end, they sit back as an 80-year old and say 'That was a life well-lived. That was beautiful.'"
Ready to hear the whole inspiring conversation between Ty and Ned? Listen and subscribe to our Cultivate podcast with the links below!
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