You wake up in the morning, and you can smell the coffee brewing. Is it a dream? Or is it just a great way to wake up? Either way, you know that beautiful smell flows from a source. Those glorious smells do not originate from themselves. The smell “reflects” the reality.

Beauty surrounds us. We enjoy beautiful music, beautiful thoughts, and beautiful literature. Some people even find beauty in the mathematical equations! Whether we gaze deep into the Grand Canyon or stare up at the stars in amazement, we find ourselves surrounded with beauty. Best of all we love the beauty of relationships and life itself. The beauty in those things has to come from somewhere. There has to be a reason why we recognize beauty in so many different things and in so many different ways.

The New York Times recently published an article titled “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution” by Ferris Jabr. Jabr reasoned, “The extravagant splendor of the animal kingdom can’t be explained by natural selection alone—so how did it come to be?”[1] Why do we find beauty all around us?[2] The article suggested, “Sometimes beauty is the glorious but meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference. Animals simply find certain features — a blush of red, a feathered flourish — to be appealing.” But this theory still leaves the existence of beauty as something meaningless. Perhaps, beauty is just “in the eye of the beholder” and nothing more.

From an evolutionary perspective, beauty can be viewed as unnecessary and wasteful. However, we should not be surprised to find beauty in creation, if everything comes from the beautiful Creator. Just as Augustine described Jesus as the “beauty of all things beautiful,”[3] God is the ontological source and standard of all things—including beauty. Matthew Barrett confirmed that “The absolute God, then, is the God of absolute power, absolute knowledge, absolute wisdom, absolute divinity, absolute glory, absolute excellence.”[4] God is absolute beauty and the source of all beauty. Just as you can smell coffee brewing and know there must be coffee in the house, beautiful things are beautiful because they reflect their original source.

All beauty is either “source beauty” or “reflected beauty.”[5] God is the only “source beauty.” God’s perfect beauty is an aspect of his perfect essence. God’s beauty is an aspect of his infinite and indivisible perfection. God is the ultimate good (Mark 10:18). God’s goodness is often described as glorious beauty (Ps. 96:6; 104:1-5; Ex. 29:43; 40:34). Everything in creation can only be a reflection of God’s ontological beauty. As Augustine said, “All things that exist, therefore, seeing that the Creator of them all is supremely good, are themselves good.”[6]

Since all physical existence flows from God, then we should expect beauty in all things as a reflection of the divine origin. If there is no God and everything that exists is only the result of random chance, then why would we expect beauty? Should we not instead expect more chaos? Should we not expect randomness rather than order? “Ugliness” is what we should expect if our existence is the result of random chance. But we do not expect randomness and “ugliness.” We do expect beauty. Furthermore, notice that the beauty we see around us reveals that the beauty we see cannot be the result of pure physical evolutionary “chance.” We not only value physical beauty, but we also value moral and spiritual beauty. This is the beauty of self-sacrifice, the beauty of loving relationships, the beauty of moral living, and the beauty of life. Why do we see beauty in a baby’s smile and the beauty of 70-year marriage? These are moral beauties. Moral beauty could not arise from a purely physical world. These moral beauties, which are more prized than physical beauties, point us to the Creator who is morally beautiful.

Furthermore, notice that the beauty we see around us reveals that the beauty we see cannot be the result of pure physical evolutionary “chance.” We not only value physical beauty, but we also value moral and spiritual beauty. This is the beauty of self-sacrifice, the beauty of loving relationships, the beauty of moral living, and the beauty of life. Why do we see beauty in a baby’s smile and the beauty of 70-year marriage? These are moral beauties. Moral beauty could not arise from a purely physical world. These moral beauties, which are more prized than physical beauties, point us to the Creator who is morally beautiful.

These moral beauties contradict evolutionary thought. Evolutionary thought would have us avoid self-sacrifice and treat it as ugly. The strong should not sacrifice for the weak. The 70-year monogamous marriage does not expedite the furtherance of the species. But if moral beauty does exist, then these morally beautiful things are the most prized beauties. Why? Because they best reflect the moral beauty of our Creator. Moral ugliness is the moral distortion in God’s creation. Isn’t that why we recoil and are repulsed at the great sins of our day. Aquinas said, “The stain of sin is nothing else but the loss of the soul’s beauty.”[7]

We can be overwhelmed by God’s beauty as it is reflected in nature. This is why the Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). But be careful to never be amazed at the artistry in the creation and forget the Artist.[8] All beauty flows from and reflects the source of beauty—our creator God.


            [1] Ferris Jabr. “How Beauty is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution” The New York Times. January 9, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/magazine/beauty-evolution-animal.html

            [2] Jabr noted how utilitarian biological evolutionists have “favored the idea that beauty in the animal kingdom is not mere decoration—it’s a code.” This “code” serves as “indicators of a potential mates advantageous qualities: its overall health, intelligence and survival skills, plus the fact that it will pass down these genes underlying these traits to its children.” Ibid.,

            [3] Augustine, Confessions III.10.

            [4] Matthew Barrett. None Greater (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019): 67.

            [5] Paul Tripp. A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble (Wheaton: Crossway 2009): 99.

            [6] Augustine of Hippo, “The Enchiridion,” in St. Augustin: On the Holy Trinity, Doctrinal Treatises, Moral Treatises, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. F. Shaw, vol. 3, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 240.

            [7] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.). STh., I-II q.89 a.1 obj. 1.

            [8] Calvin asked, “For with regard to the most beautiful structure and order of the universe, how many of us are there who, when we lift up our eyes to heaven or cast them about through the various regions of earth, recall our minds to a remembrance of the Creator, and do not rather, disregarding their Author, sit idly in contemplation of his works?” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 63.