Timothy WillardComment

Timothy WillardComment

An apologetics of beauty, on the other hand, appeals to the human person’s innate sense of the universal, the mysterious, the numinous – a sense that is pre-rational or, perhaps, super-rational, and which can be reached, I believe, more directly – bypassing the skeptical intellect.

Especially in contexts where relativism may rule the day and where people may not be responsive to appeals to truth or moral goodness, I am convinced they can nevertheless be engaged by the power of beauty. And it is in this light that I see my work as a composer: I practice an apologetics of beauty.

A consensus on what defines beauty can be hard to come by – and perhaps especially in a discussion among artists. The concept of beauty that I propose here is very much like what C.S. Lewis described in his essay, “The Weight of Glory”. He asserts that the primary feeling aroused by beauty is not pleasure, but longing: “the books or the music in which we thought beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them. It was not in them, it only came through them; and what came through them was longing.”

Therefore when I speak of beauty, it is in these two senses:

1. That which arouses in the beholder a longing for the transcendent; that which serves as a bridge from the material to the spiritual world to unite us to the transcendent.

2. That work of art which possesses attributes of harmony, integrity, proportion and clarity appropriate to its subject.

A sensitivity to these attributes in relation to the subject of the artwork directly influences – more than anything else – whether a particular work will successfully serve as that bridge from the material world to the spiritual world that Lewis describes. In the case at hand, by “subject”, I mean the text to be set to music and all that this text entails.

The Apologetics of Beauty | Music and the Sacred

Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.