Powlison On the Seduction of Physical Beauty

“One of the most conspicuous obsessions in our culture is the quest for physical beauty. Concern about what we look like pervades our social relationships and seduces us all, men and women both, to some degree or other. The typical impact of culture is like the effects of air pollution: what you inhale tends to slowly and steadily alter you. Our culture besieges us with voices that comment on what we look like, what we ought to look like, and the blessings and curses that presumably attend success or failure. Our mass media culture silently beguiles us with images of the same,” as David Powlison begins his insightful article.

One of the great seductive forces of American culture is that “image is everything.” Regretfully, American Christians are often influenced by the values of the world rather than doctrinal purity and the fruit of the Spirit. Powlison’s article is a must read for all of us who are evenly subtly influenced by our culture’s obsession with physical beauty. Go to “Your Looks: What the Voices Say and the Images Portray.”


  1. carpediem365 says

    Thanks for this. Don Carson noted this at the end of a lecture entitled, “What is the Gospel” and posted on the Gospel Coalition website. He was pointing out the three top pressures experienced by female college students and how the gospel addresses the real needs. I am not sure I can remember all three, but one was the desire to be “hot,” and a second was pressure applied by parents to achieve A’s. I believe the third was cultures pressure to be a better citizen through involvement in some humanitarian cause. So they were pulled in differing directions to find identity/meaning in grades, social activism, and physical attractiveness. Such are the values of a culture, sans the gospel.

  2. says

    I have not listened to Don Carson’s “What is the Gospel,” though I have seen it mentioned on Justin Taylor’s blog. Thanks for passing this along, Jon. I will attempt to listen to Carson’s message tonight. I suspect that this would be a good way to conclude a day.

  3. says

    Yes, I did listen to Carson’s lecture “What Is the Gospel.” The lecture was invigorating and, in your terms “like drinking water from a fire hydrant.” Carson’s opening remarks are humbling. How often have I just taken a marginalized approach to the Gospel and have been excited about peripheral issues. The lecture is convicting and, with his evocative summary, I clearly saw your linkage with Powlison’s article that I had noted in my initial post.

    I should make a confession. I started to drop off about 40 minutes into the lecture. However, Carson’s brief misstatement at this juncture of his lecture definitely woke me up (after all, it is an hour long): “The gospel is universalism,” rather than what he intended to say that there is a sense that “the gospel is universal.” At this point, Carson discovered that his audience was at least orthodox. I agree this is a worthy lecture and a good challenge to make the Gospel message a top priority.

  4. carpediem365 says

    We listened to it in two parts during our second hour at church; the division made the hearing a bit easier. Perhaps a lot of his audience refocused at that little faux pas. The problem with playing a guy like Carson at church is the obvious comparison to what they hear every week from the usual guy…oh well…any week they don’t throw rotten fruit is a success.

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