Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”… or is it?

By saying it is, we say beauty is only a subjective quality.

But by saying it isn’t – by saying that something may be beautiful without our being able to appreciate it as beautiful – we divorce ourselves from our experience and our association between words and description…

Is it possible to say

“It’s beautiful, but I don’t like it.”

Which I think I may have said, from time to time. In that I can see elements and aspects which, maybe I know, are considered beautiful, or perhaps I can see an underlying elegance and purpose, but aesthetically I find it displeasing… Some of Rembrant’s paintings would fall in to this category.

The thing is, am I just susceptible to the cultural conditioning of my upbringing in saying something like this? I have preconceived notions of what is beautiful and what isn’t? But then, my aesthetic sense is also formed (to a large degree) by the same…

So there’s a whole philosophic field based around these very questions.

But I guess I’m kind of wondering… how variable language is. How our thoughts are modified by the language and words we use, and yet the language and words we use are modified and morphed by our thoughts.

So often, everything seems so vague, so fuzzy, so indefinable, so inexplicable, so possibly variable, so uncertain and indefinate, and so futile. *sigh*

Jesus’ teaching

Sometimes it seems a bit scattered – all over the place. I’d wondered for a while about the sermon on the mount, as He seems to jump from one topic to another in a somewhat haphazard manner.

Check this out:

ESV Bible – Matthew 7:1-14

Judging Others

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Ask, and It Will Be Given

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

The Golden Rule

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few…

This is how the ESV sets out the passage. As you can see, it’s nicely broken up in to paragraphs, with nice easy to spot headings, different verse numbers, etc. Usual Bible Printing Style(.css). Same as the NIV, KJV, NASB, and most other Bibles you find these days.
The trouble is, I can’t imagine Jesus teaching quite like that. No pauses, just “1,2,3,59,60,61,10008,10009,10010” kind of thing.. No “Oh yes. By the way…” between totally unrelated topics.
Yes, OK. So they’re all related to love, and relationships. Kind of.
Try and find something Jesus said that isn’t, in some manner of speaking.

I was trying to figure this out.
In our study group, we’re using John Stott’s notes, which give a rough interpretation as follows:
1-5, “Don’t judge others”
6, “Don’t waste your time trying to preach to unbelievers who refuse to believe.”
7-11, “Ask God for stuff, and He’ll give it to you.”
12, “The Golden Rule”.
13-14, “You must believe the right doctrine!”
15-…, “False prophets, etc”

Which although it fits nicely with the verse numbers, and the named paragraphs, jumps all over the place in terms of topic.

So Here’s my take.
What if v6 ISN’T anything at all to do with unbelievers?

Check out 18:15-35, (the parable of the unrepentant servant, etc) as well as 6:14, just before this bit of the sermon as well, then Romans 2, 1 John (the whole letter…), and so on.

God seems pretty insistent about us forgiving others, and Him NOT forgiving us if we don’t.

So as Good Evangelical Christians, we say “salvation is by grace, not works,” and include forgiveness as a work – in other words – salvation isn’t dependent on whether we forgive others.


How can God forgive us when we don’t forgive others? What if v.6 is actually about us Christians being the dogs & the swine? When we don’t forgive others…

So then that ties v.6 in to the bigger picture.

7-11 is still a bit of a tangent.

I imagine Jesus trying to get his thought across, but almost stumbling over his sentences. Stopping, starting, trying again, trying to paint enough pictures that they would understand.

(He does rather lose His rag later, 15:16…)

So then. v7-11. (In the style of biblical re-interpretation popularized by the amazing Adrian Plass)

So Jesus pauseth, pushéd back his hair distractedly, and triethed another angle: “Look guys, God giveth to you, SO FREAKING GENEROUSLY, getst ye over yourselves already, and be generous to others… (includeth forgiving them)”(DSV).

Which ties in nicely, actually.

Then the rest of the chapter, taken in the same light, also works.

I’m not too keen on verse numbers and chapters. Certainly in the way that English bibles have of splitting them all up like this – perhaps in ways that aren’t intended by the original author. We have no way of knowing.
If this passage is intended this way, then take the sub-paragraphs. The bit about “Ask, Seek, Knock”, and so on, for instance. It’s often / usually preached as a “Ask God for swag, and He’ll give it to ya!” (and in more Calvinist churches, they add “As long as it is within His Will to do so…”). But if it’s NOT?
Maybe there are lots of little things we take so totally out of context, that we might even think Jesus was OK with going to war over oil. Or revenge. Or giving up on people. Or loaning and expecting interest. Or using God’s money to build a comfortable life for us on earth! Just think – it’s hilarious what we might come up with.
Well. Hilarious in the “horrifying” sense of the word.
I know this is rather rough… but what do you think?


How do you make big announcements?

Do you blow trumpets and dance and stuff?

Or pretend like nothing is up and act all blasé?

Which is less pretentious? Which is less gauche? (I am enjoying using all these fancy words, but I have to use the flippin’ spell checker to make sure I get them right, which rather spoils the whole sophisticated air of the thing. Oh well.)

I kind of feel I should respect my British heritage, and get all worked up about the tiniest things (such as toasters, knots, AV, coffee machines, and so on) and drop big announcements as if they’re specks of dust being flicked from ones mess-jacket (not that I have a mess jacket, but it sounds right, Bertie Woosterish).

Enough of this blithering.

I’m engaged to be married to the most wonderful girl in the world! Life is a happy thing, full of kittens and sunshine and gentle summer breezes, and stuff!

Hopefully that somewhat fell between the lines of fanfare and faux pas, hint and hyperbole, I shall now go and dance for a bit.

“I don’t like being a Post-Modernist”

It sucks.

I’m somewhat tempted to leave the post at that, but feel a little elaboration may be at least polite.

We are finite individuals. We cannot know completely, comprehensively. We can only know in part.

Modernism claims that we can know definately. That our knowing something to be true can be true, and right, and accurate.

I don’t believe that. Our finite, human perspective is so limited, so small, so warped, that how can any one human’s perception be absolutely comprehensively true? It could, in theory, be an absolutely honest viewpoint, but a small, finite, limited and warped honest viewpoint, nevertheless.

So then. Where does that lead us?

Claims of truth being relative.

Counter-claims by modernists that not believing in God as absolute truth absolutely denies you access to Him.

Declarations of nonsensical “Pan-Everythingism” as Francis Shaeffer would call it.

Refutations by absolute logic.

Definitions of logic as equally relative and therefore meaningless.

I dunno.


There is a road, and along the road there are signs pointing along it. Some travellers wear green-tinted glasses and so say “The Signs are Green! Unless You Believe In the True Greenness Of The Signs, You Will Never Reach The Destination!”

Others have red tinted glasses, and so say exactly the same, “The Signs are Red! Unless You Believe In The True Redness Of The Signs, You Will Never Reach The Destination!”

Others wear glasses where the tint is red at the top, green at the bottom, yellow on the left, blue on the right, and purple in the middle. “It depends which way you hold your head!” They say. “Everyone has their own perspective on the signs. There is no absolute colour of the signs.”

I have several sets of glasses, and I can put them both on. Neither of them really fit my nose, but without them my sight is so poor I can barely see anything. Everything looks distorted, confused, and wrong when I wear the glasses, and I don’t want to settle on any one of them.

I want the sign maker to come, take my hand, and lead me to His home: the destination at the end of the road to which the signs point.

I trust Him. I don’t know fully where I’m walking, but maybe that’s enough.