The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture
Friday, August 30, 2002
Am I a Post-Millenialist?
Seems that inquiring minds want to know! Please indulge me and let me have a little fun with this. Before I tell you all my eschatological position (and I promise I will tell you on Tuesday), why don't those of you who have read my book and/or the posts on The Native Tourist weigh in on what you suspect that I am. Am I amil or post-mil or something completely different? Lets see what good readers you are.
Thomas the Hammer
I just discovered this quote from T.S.Eliot from this site. Pound it Prof. Prufrock!
"[A person] may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche…If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made…You must pass through many centuries of barbarism."
Is Mr. Eliot's analysis too bleak or height of profundity?
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Putting Our Hands to the Plow
One of the more ingriguing ideas I have come across in the past six months is Agrarianism. This is a key movement in the history of America, especially in the South and I think it is fair to say that the movement has Christian roots. Wendell Berry is influenced by this movement. Many Reformed folk are adopting this philosophy and integrating it more deeply with scripture. One such essay is The Prima Facie Credibility of Covenantal Agrarianism by David Rocket. It is interesting how this article interfaces with many of the themes in Plowing in Hope. I wonder, though, if this movement is sufficiently balanced. The Bible celebrates the virtues of agriculture and cities. This is why I develop the idea of the garden-city in my book.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Wars and Rumors of Wars
The lastest Breakpoint email was on Peter Kreeft's new book How to Win the Culture War. This is an especially interesting title given that it is from a Roman Catholic author. (An RC post-millenialist?) Yet another addition to the phalanx of books on the topic, which include John Davison Hunter's Culture Wars: the Struggle to Define America, Michael Horton's Beyond Culture Wars, William Romanowski's Pop Culture Wars, Tom Sine's Cease Fire: Searching for Sanity in America's Culture Wars, etc. Takes me back to memories of Sunday school marching around the tables singing "Onward Christian Soldiers"...
Monday, August 26, 2002
Quote from Sinclair Ferguson
This morning I came across this apropos quote from Know Your Christian Life, p 131:
"The world moulds us, as well as chokes us, says Paul [in 1 Cor 7:29ff]. We have to make every effort to avoid the danger of its grip pressuring us into conformity with its way of thinking. Worldiness, in this sense, is not to be reduced to fast cars and bright lights. It is a much deeper and more sinister thing altogether -- the invation of our whole perception of reality by a set of standards which are sub-biblical and sub-Christian. A man can be outwardly conformed to the Christian way of life while he is inwardly conformed to the spirit of this world. That is the great fault of some of the Pharisees. They were 'other-worldly' in the most 'this-worldly' way imaginable. This is an exceedingly subtle danger, an almost invincible taskmaster, and a highly elusive characteristic when we try to detect it in ourselves. But it is one of the curses which besets evangelical Christianity. It is seen every time we observe the traditions of the fathers but do so in a lifeless spirit which has been created by love of the present age."
Friday, August 23, 2002
A Key Distinction: Politics & Culture
I alluded to this in my Two Kingdom Critique of August 20, but think it needs to stated clearly: Politics is not Culture. Politics may have cultural aspects and culture definitely has a political/ideological slant, but we should not confuse the two. The Civil magistrate exists to promote social order. As such it is part of the infrastructure (as is the family) that makes culture possible. Many conservative Christians, especially reformed reconstructionists, have gotten this all wrong. They think that political involvement (which is a worthwhile activity) equals cultural involvement. Having put all their eggs in the political basket, they have left the covenant community bereft of a vibrant Christian cultural milieu. The laws in some cases might be improved, but the church's cultural life is stale. Things are starting to look up in a number Christian communities. But we are on a long road to recovery.
Another pro-Two Kingdom Article
This one comes from Angus J. L. Menuge who teaches at Concordia U in Wisconsin.
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Are We a Claynation?
Last night we set up our everyotherayear garage sale. This is tiring work (think: Ecclesiastes). It seems that every sale we have my hopes go up for the collection of goods we hope to sell and, then, when it is actually set up, it looks like the junk I see at every other garage sale. Bricabrac is surely the dark side of culture. Here is staggering thought to ponder as you drift off to sleep tonight: There are more mugs than people!
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Two-Kingdom Critique - I
I believe very strongly in the existence and idea of Christian culture, as my post on Aug. 13, indicates. The leading view within evangelical, protestant circles which casts doubt on the possibility of Christian culture is the so called "Two-Kingdom" view (TKV)of church and culture. The TKV posits that there are two distinct kingdoms under God on the earth at present: the church which is religious and is governed by special revelation (the Bible) and culture which is secular and is under general revelation (natural law). This view was originally set forth by Martin Luther and has historically been the position of Lutherans and a minority of Reformed Christians (including Calvin, if Michael Horton is correct in his analysis). The TKV is been recently popularized by Modern Reformation magazine and White Horse Inn radio program.
It should be noted that the TKV as orginally formulated by Luther and his followers was not a view of Christianity and culture, but of the interrelationship of the instututional church with the civil magistrate. Luther did not have much to say about culture as such. But he did argue forcefully that civil magistrate could and should operate separate from ecclesiastical authorities and that the civil magistrate was bound by a different ethical standard than the church. During the era preceding the Reformation, the church and the civil magistrate where horribly mixed up together into the amalgam often referred to as "Christendom." I (and I suspect most other non-TKV Reformed) would agree that the church authorities and the civil authories should operate independantly from one another. But I would hold that, though separate, the chruch and civil government should both be (ideally) self-consciously Christian and governed by Word of God. Note that none of this has much to do with culture-making which operates more or less independantly of the institutional church and civil magistrate (although it at times interacts with both).
For a good overview of the TKV, see Gene Veith's article from Modern Reformation and this debate between Michael Horton and Doug Wilson which appeared in Credenda Agenda.
Monday, August 19, 2002
Now with comments!
I was away most of last week at the NW OPC family camp in beautiful Wamic, Oregon. (The speaker was Jim Dennison, who gave us his redemptive-historical insights into the gospel of John.) While I was away I received a few nice comments on this fledgling blog, several of which begged me to add commenting functionality. Now this is installed. So comment away!
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
A Basic Argument for Christian Culture
It frankly baffles me how many reformed (and evangelical) thinkers completely disavow the possibility of a Christian culture. This a complicated issue and cannot be addressed in one blog entry. But let me lay out a fairly simple argument for the existence of Christian culture -- at least in some form:
1. All people are (to varying degrees) inescapably culture-makers
2. Culture-making is a human activity flowing out of human thinking
3. All people's thoughts and actions are governed by their world-and-life view
4. All people's world-and-life views are founded and informed by their religious belief systems
5. Christianity is a religious belief system (which claims to comprehensively shape one's thoughts and actions)
6. All (true, consistent) Christians will have their culture-making affected by their faith (religious belief system)
7. All Christians are called to live in community
8. As Christians live in community the collective/shared cultural output of the community will be, in effect a "Christian culture" (at least on a small scale)
I suspect that the crux of the issue is whether or not #2-3 are true; specifically whether or not culture-making is a a religiously neutral activity. Do Christians and Buddhists write novels differently from one another? How does their worldview affect their writing? In Style? Subject matter only? These are questions for another day.
Monday, August 12, 2002
Thinking about Calling
Calling or "vocation" is closely related to a biblical understanding of culture-making. I was blessed by a lecture I heard 17 years ago by Os Guinness where he made the important differentiation between one's "vocation" and one's "avocation". Very often we have a job (the latter) which puts food on the table, but our real passion -- our calling -- is something different. (Think of the actor who works as a taxi driver or waiter.) One is truly blessed when one's avocation and vocation are the same. Recently I read a provocative piece by David Bahnsen suggested that the ineffectiveness of the church in cultural matters is largely due to too many men not working at what they are passionate about. Maybe its time for Christian writers and artists to move to dirt cheap rustbelt cities where we can afford work at our callings and raise families. I'd move to North Dakota, but my watercolors would freeze in the winter!
Thursday, August 08, 2002
Boffo Interview with Phillip Johnson
I know its a bit off topic, but I came across this excellent interview on the Touchstone magazine site from the author of "Darwin on Trial." Johnson discusses how he became a Christian, his apologetic strategy and has some very insighful comments on theistic evolutionists. Check out Peter Leithart's essay while you're there.
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
Learning from the Amish
So what can a nice reformed boy like me learn from a bunch of (gasp!) anabaptists? Well plenty, actually. This article from Wired magazine (of all places) made me appreciate how thoughtful the Amish actually are about cultural matters. While I don't exactly agree with my Amish brothers about what constitutes "worldly" stuff, they are wise enough to recognize that the technology with which we regularly interact has an impact that we often don't see. The rest of us are all too quick to swallow whole whatever "cool" and/or "useful" thing that comes along, without giving it much thought. What an amazing and liberating idea: we can actually choose not go along with prevailing drift of culture!
Sites I Like and Visit Regularly
Since everyone else provides a list of "necessary" reading, I feel compelled to provide my own list. Oddly enough, this list focuses on cultural stuff:
Razor Mouth | Credenda Agenda | New Christendom
The Highlands Study Center | The Center for Cultural Leadership
Re:Generation Quarterly | First Things
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Some sites related to my book Plowing in Hope
First of all there are book reviews by Byron Snapp posted on the PCANews site,
Business Reform magazine by Mindy Withrow (on page 48) (this issue of BR also includes an article by yours truly) and a brief review of my book by the staff of Amazon. Plowing was also a selected as a "Faculty's Choice" by Warren Roby at John Brown University. You might also want to check out a discussion I had with poet Aaron Belz on culture
Hey, if you know of any other sites reviewing or interacting with by book, please let me know!
Monday, August 05, 2002
What is in a name?
Okay, so why the name "The Native Tourist"? What is a "native tourist"? The title of my blog marries together two distinct ideas:
tourist = a traveller, a sojourner, one who is "just looking"
native = a local, a citizen, one who "feels at home"
I coined this term to get at a key paradox of Christian Existence: how we are on the one hand described as "aliens and sojourners" in this present world (1 Peter 1:2, 2:11; Hebrews 11:13), yet at the same time were called to be culturally involved with God's good ( Genesis 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:4) creation (Genesis 2:15 -- a seminal command which was never rescinded). For many serious Christians, being aliens in this world (and citizens in heaven -- Philippians 3:20) means that we should invest very little (if anything at all) in cultural, earth transformative works. We shouldn't get too attached to the things of this world. Were "just a passin' through." All that we see is going to pass away (burn actually). And after all, "You don't shine brass on a sinking ship." Augustine coined the term "resident aliens" to describe this idea. (See Andrew Sandlin's critique of this approach that has entered reformed circles of late.)
This view has it all backwards. We are aliens to be sure: not because we don't belong here; on the contrary the earth has been and always will be our home (Revelation 21-22). We are aliens because of sin. Our new natures in Christ (Romans 6) clash with the reality and effects of evil, and we long for the redemption of all creation (Romans 8:17ff) so that we might delight in this world without hesitation or reservation. Peter addresses the recipients of his epistle as aliens (pilgrims) particularly because they faced a culture (Hellenism) which was hostile to the truths and values of God. In a less hostile cultural situation (such as those historical epochs where the transformative power of the gospel has shaped a society -- 17th century Holland comes to mind) the term would have been less appropriate. Thus it is better to say, not that we are resident aliens, but that we are alienated residents!
This is my Father's world, my home now and for all eternity, and -- though it is a struggle -- I plan to work and fight for its positive development, healing and transformation. Do you want to join me in this endeavor?
Friday, August 02, 2002
Welcome world! This is my first official post. A test of sorts.
I wanted to post my first entry on the first of the month, but alas, I tarried. Hopefully Monday I will get on into longer and better things like explaining the name of my Blog.