Strachan: True Excellence


To function as human beings, we don’t have to enjoy what might be called high culture. Listening to classical music is not a necessary duty. But if we pay attention to our society, we can observe a steady downward pull toward the low and the base. Gravity seems to exert pressure not only on our vertical leap, but also on our souls. We choose what is easily consumed rather than that which requires thought, attention, and concentration.

The Fall not only left us as sinners, but has lowered our gaze and affected our appetites. We do not run toward the excellent, the complex, and the beautiful; rather, as Jonathan Edwards observes, “We are the highest affected with the lowest excellencies.” In Adam, our affections have grown dull. We stare listlessly at screens, when a realm of real beauty lies just inches away; we send our video-game characters on grand adventures while our own lives languish; we consume silly, pointless media instead of pursuing things of “the highest excellence.”

Conversion saves our souls. It also saves our senses. It reenchants the world. We come out of the waters of judgment, washed by the blood of Christ, to find the “greatest excellencies” all around us. The natural order teems with the beauty of God; the Word unfolds to us the mind, will, and heart of the Lord. Salvation does not remove us from this realm; it plunges us more deeply into this place and urges us to plunder our surroundings for God’s honor. Our hearts will not find contentment in lesser pursuits; God’s work in us means that we have a ferocious hunger for him—and for all true excellency, all true beauty, and all virtuous pleasure.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 299.

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