The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Close Encounters of the Fowl Kind
Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving (in US), I feel compelled to share some of my personal turkey experiences with you.

Two years ago on my way to work, just a few blocks from home, as the morning glare was oscuring my view ahead of me, I saw some faint, odd-shaped shadows in the middle of the street. As I came to a stop, I noticed that the shadows were moving. They were unmistakably . . . turkeys! I had seen small flocks (or whatever their groups are called) of turkeys many times in the area - but right in the middle of Dallas? Since then they have wandered through our yard a couple of times, interrupting homeschool, and they regularly make appearances in the city park and on our other neighbor's lawns. Many folks leave bread crumbs for them. In case you're wondering, turkeys are not native to Oregon; they were introduced here for hunting. Same is true for possums, who have also graced our yard.

Short Story to Read
You might also want to read Flannery O'Connor's story "The Turkey". It is a poinant tale of the inner workings of reprobation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Thorny Matters
Over at Yahoo they have link to story about scientists trying to make blue roses. Ever stop to think how many different kinds of roses there are? They come in remarkable array of different colors, sizes, shapes, textures, and scents. Then think about all the other kinds of flowers there are (my Dad breeds daylilies). God invested His creation with the potential for variety and gave us the ability and inclination to explore and develop it for His glory. I was expecially excited about articles mention of the development of thornless backberries. Anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest knows what I am talking about. I think about this every time I read Genesis 3. Thorns and thistles indeed. But by grace we are able to accomplish much positive development.

Monday, November 25, 2002
Happy Holidays?
They put up the holiday decorations in our hometown yesterday. Seems like it gets earlier and earlier every year, etc. Christmas has become a bizarre manifestation of what passes for in the minds of many as Christian culture. It misses the mark (like much of CCM, pop Christian novels and the like) because it is horribly sub-biblical, and as such is not Christian at all. The crass materialism of the holiday is utterly opposed to everything Christ lived here on earth. Xmas (leave Jesus' exalted title out of it) reminds me of Bruce Cockburn's line in "Laughter"- "They tried to build a new Jerusalem, and ended up with New York." I don't think anyone is laughing Bruce.

Friday, November 22, 2002
Under the Influence
There have been a number of books over the years which have shaped my thinking, especially those I read when I was "coming of age" in my Christian faith. Some of these include Francis Schaeffer's Escape from Reason (I saw Dr. Schaeffer in Pittsburgh on his How then Shall We Live tour), James Sire's Universe Next Door, and Barr and Macaulay's Being Human. All of these books helped me to see (much to my relief!) that I didn't have to throw away my brain to be Christian.

The book that really brought me over to the study of art history was Rookmaaker's Art Needs No Justication, which sadly has been out of print for years, and is, in my opinion, the best book on Christianity and arts ever written. Thankfully, the book can be found online here. While you're at it, you can read Schaeffer's wonderful "little" book Art and Bible online as well.

Happy reading.

Thursday, November 21, 2002
Back to the Garden
On my drive to work today I saw a white van painted with the inscription "Eden Pest Control Services." I had to chuckle to myself when I read it. Something tells me that they didn't need pest control in the Garden. (Is this why you never see rats or termites in Thomas Kinkaid paintings?) Of course, their selling point might be that they are trying to undo the effect of the curse in the area of those nasty pests. Could it be that Terminix and Raid are agents of grace?

Tuesday, November 19, 2002
The Latest from the Preposterous Question Department

Somehow I think that Jesus would drive an old, beat up Volvo. What do you think? (For an exhaustive look at this question, look here.)

Monday, November 18, 2002
Eric Gill Quote I Stumbled Across
"Culture is a sham if it is only a sort of Gothic front put on an iron building - like the Tower Bridge - or a classical front put on a steel frame - like the Daily Telegraph building on Fleet Street. Culture, if it is to be a real thing and a holy thing, must be the product of what we actually do for a living - not something added, like sugar on a pill."

(Sounds a lot like Ruskin in the Seven Lamps of Architecture.)

Friday, November 15, 2002
My Little Talk Today
This has been a busy week for me. I was invited to give an assembly presentation on Christianity and Culture for the Classical Christian school my oldest daughter attends. It went pretty well, I think, with the exception that I had about 50 minutes of material and about 30 minutes to actually present it.

I left the students with a challenge to truly see themselves for who they are: that they are kings and queens called by God to rule over the earth and take domintion over it by responsible cultural development. I reminded them that they are called to participate in the global project to make culture and see their place in this, no matter how small or "insignificant". And I reminded them that all that they do in this world should be offered up to God as an act of worship. I hope they got a glimpse of this glorious calling to which they are called.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Two-Kingdom Critique - IV
(My most recent entry in this series is here.)
The antithesis.com site just published an excerpt from Michael Horton's recently re-released Where in the World Is the Church. This book is largely an apology for the Two Kingom View (TKV) of culture, although he leaves the door open at points to a tranformationist view. I find much of what Prof. Horton says in this book confusing and/or muddled. For example, about Kuyper's tranformationist appoach, Horton states:

"Nevertheless, Kuyper did make "Christian" versions of many things in the world: Christian schools, newspapers, and political parties tended to obscure the earlier Protestant confidence in the realm of nature as possessing sufficient light and justification for its existence without having to be organized as specifically Christian. This Kuyperian spirit has been especially attractive in some circles in North America, because it is world-embracing and eschews the pietistic retreat from society, and yet it should not be too hastily concluded that one can find a distinctively "Christian" philosophy, political theory, or aesthetic. If these are indeed realms of common grace and natural revelation, they do not require a specifically Christian explanation. Looking for one will only tend to polarize Christians from non-Christians until believers are at last exiled again from the public square, forced to pursue their "Christian" philosophy in their own spiritual ghetto."

Two things need to be said in response. First, Kuyper never said that the cultural enterprise need to be "justified" by being "specifically Christian" in order to be worthwhile or valid. (Citation Dr. Horton?) Kuyper wrote a hefty three volume treatise entitled "Common Grace" discussing how God works both inside and outside the Covenant People to develop the earth through culture. While it is true that one cannot learn how to mix colors for a painting by reading the Bible, it is equally true that unless one's mind is transformed by tthe Word of God (Rom 12:2), one will - if consistent with their non-biblical world-view - use this "natural" knowledge in twisted, ugly way.

Second, it would seem that Dr. Horton was too hasty to conclude that Kuyper "too hastily concluded that one can find a distinctively "Christian" philosophy, political theory, or aesthetic." Earlier in the same excerpt published by Antithesis, Horton explains how the respective worldviews of Medieval Catholic artists and 17th century Dutch reformed painters resulted in a markedly different approach to making art. Worldview does make a difference. Christians will do culture differently than non-Christians (and other Christians with a different theological outlook) because of a difference in worldview outlook. (Non-Christian's do often outwardly mimic faithful approaches to culture-making, accouting for a superficial similarity.) Why Horton fails to be consistent on this point baffles me.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002
"Oh Bother!" - Where Art Thou?
Came across a reference to what looks like a wonderful spoof on Postmodern Lit Crit called the Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews. You can read a review of it here. I have found Derrida, Liotard, et al to be more like Eeyore. Could this account for Pooh's odd approach to spelling?

Friday, November 08, 2002
Not Necessarily Wild About Harry
Here are few takes on Harry Potter from a Christian perspective: Alan Jacobs says that HP is really about technology. Gerry Wisz says that he knew Merlin and that HP was no Merlin. Krista Faries (her real name) analyzes HP by the light of Aristotle. And Doug Jones and Ben Merkle give HP the Credenda Agenda treatment.

Tolkien Sweeps
We just finished watching Fellowship of the Ring last night on video. I didn't notice it in the theater, but I think there was a little too much use of those wildly sweeping/flying camera shots. Once or twice os okay, but twenty or thirty times? It got tiring after a while.

Thursday, November 07, 2002
About My Most Recent Post
This was intended as a little joke of sorts - poking a little fun at Kinkade, who (of course) calls himself the "Painter of Light(tm)" (Cuyp never claimed this honor for himself). The absolute master of this type of idealistic, luminescent landscape was Claude Lorraine, who pretty much invented it. A whole string of artists have followed in Claude's footsteps. Kinkade's style is just a poor imitation of this tradition.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Idealism Revisited

The latest from the "painter of light".

Monday, November 04, 2002
I just saw that Catholic poet Dana Gioia was nominated by President Bush to be head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia is a wonderful poet who is famous for his essay "Can Poetry Matter" which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in the early nineties (read his poem "Litany"). He has been a frequent guest on Ken Myer's Mars Hill Audio magazine, celebrating the pleasures and nobility of poetry.

This raises the question: should the government be involved as a patron of the arts? This has caused a firestorm of controversy in past. I know that I would not want to accept money from the government to support my artistic habit as a matter of priniciple. Thus, I don't think I would take the position if offered to me (not that they would ever would in a million years). But if we going to have to have someone to be the Director of the NEA, it might as well be someone as wise, sane and erudite as Mr. Gioia.

Friday, November 01, 2002
Puritan Priorities
Gerry Wisz hits the nail on the head with this essay from Razor Mouth:

"One thing you have to say about the Puritans, though, is that they did it. They did become that city on a hill, if only for a generation. Yet if you look at the best of them (not the alarmists or smarmy introspectionists), you will find hardly anything on eschatology (though most were partial-preterists), on Roman Catholicism (though most disdained the city on seven hills), or on politics (though many sat in Parliament and instituted an entirely new government).

"You'll find quite a bit on the Church, plenty on the Christian life, but lots on Christ—his person, character, atonement, abiding, faithfulness, obedience to the Father, and his glory. They stretched to make these things clear to people, and those people took those things and built—however tentatively—a new civilization. Maybe there's something we can take from that."

As Sinclair Ferguson explains in the intoduction to Christian Life: a Doctrinal Introduction , a deep understanding of basic biblical doctrines, combined with real faith leads to a changed life.

And changed lives in turn result in a Christian culture. Its really is that simple.