The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, January 31, 2003
Pick Your Poison
If you had to pick one of the following horrifying situations, which would you pick and why?

1. Spending 12 straight hours in room filled with Thomas Kinkade paintings (no, you can't close your eyes)
2. Spending 12 straight hours reading the Prayer of Jabez over and over
3..Spending 12 straight hours listening to Debbie Boone or Stryper CDs

Thursday, January 30, 2003
Catch the Cash
And other fun things at the CBA Convention. Now this is what Christian Culture is really all about. (Think of the cool ways Canon Press could market my book -- with live oxen or roto-tiller races for example...)

Two Online Books Available
I hope within the next year to undertake a project on Dutch Art of the 17th century, so I have been boning up on the history and culture of the period. So I was very intregued to see this full length book by Ruben C. Alvarado posted at his site entiled Covenant and Capital: the Dutch Republic and the Modern World. Alvarado's focus is on political theory and development, which is not my forte, but is still important to understanding the nature of the society as a whole.

Alvarado has also taken the time to mount another very helpful looking book which looks very promising on Christianity and culture front: an online reprint of J.B. Skemp's The Greeks and the Gospel. We need more of this stuff online.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
A Must See

If you get within a hundred miles of New York City in the next two months, you must battle the traffic, noise and pollution and see the Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman exhibition at the Met. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see all these splendid works in one place. I was able to see the so-called Leicester Codex in Montreal before it was snarfed up by Bill Gates, which surely contains the greatest margin doodles of all time.

The Real Problem
In our last adult sunday school class we had a discussion about whether (or not) we are in a post-Christian culture, and, if so, what are the signs that this is so. Then I came across this article by Jamey Bennett over at Razormouth.com. This quote gets at the heart of why we (and mean we -- the church) show all the symptoms of being post-christian:

"The fact is some of us would rather spend 30 minutes watching
Friends than 30 seconds thinking about how many children have
been aborted in that same amount of time. We tend to think of
the Lordship of Christ as having validity in so-called "religious
matters" but for things like politics or education it has little or no

Could it be that the reason why hardly anyone in the Kingdom gives a hoot about the abortion mess is because they are watching Friends?! A steady diet of Friends and the other abhorrent sitcoms filling the airwaves will numb the moral center of anyone's brain. Apathy is soon to follow. Our saltiness is sapped.

Now, more than ever, we need the doctrine of the antithesis preached in our churches.

Monday, January 27, 2003
If a Machine Creates Something Beautiful, Is It an Artist?
The New York Times want to know. (Maybe computers can do this, not because they are intellegent, but because they are simulating human thought. Machines mimic the image of God invested in us.)

(You can add to this the articles/studies which come out periodically claiming that animals have culture. Pleeeeese.)

Thursday, January 23, 2003
More on the Relationship of Politics and Culture
I found a link to this article at the Center for Cultural Leadership site by Rod Martin: "Cultural Sanctification: The Promise (and Limits) of Politics". Martin quotes George Will: "in a good society, politics is peripheral." I couldn't agree more.

A WTC Replacement Buck Rogers Would Like?

Read about it here.

Friday, January 17, 2003
Got Antithesis?
Also came accross this article from Don Clendenin on "Why They Hate Us: Cultural Reform or Resurgent Culture?" which interacts with Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations. Summarizing Huntington, he concludes:

"The only way the west will survive, he thinks, is for us to unapologetically reaffirm our western values, even as we are careful not to assume that the rest of the world wants them or even needs them. To do that, he thinks, would at any rate be false, immoral, and even dangerous."

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
A Common View of Common Grace?
A correct understanding of common grace is crucial to a biblical understanding of culture. My own view of the topic is summarized by these two essays by Herman Bavinck and John Murray. The greatest expositor of the doctrine of common grace was Abraham Kuyper. Excerpts from his four volume treatise on common grace can be found in English in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader. Kuyper emphasized that common grace must always be balanced by the doctrine of the antithesis. When the latter is de-emphasized, the covenant community is in danger of losing is "saltiness" -- of becoming worldly. This Banner of Truth article provides such a warning.

There are many who oppose the idea of common grace, especially the followers of Herman Hoeksema, who left (was forced out?) the CRC over the issue in the 1920s. Here is a very informative critque of common grace in the form of a review of Gary North's book on common grace which in turn differs from the classic Kuyperian view.

I also came across this article by Dan Clendenin discussing Richard Mouw's He Shines in All That's Fair and Bill Romanowski's Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture. I have not yet had an opportunity to read these books, but I have wondered whether they might be a bit too optimistic. I will have to see. I often find that many of my brothers and sisters are so hungry for Christian culture that they prematurely "wolf up" whatever seems to have some semblance of biblical virtue without taking full stock of what they are eating.

Monday, January 13, 2003
Architecture and Egos
" . . .above 65 or 70 stories a building is increasingly expensive and inefficient and must be heavily subsidized. It becomes an act of vanity, or greed, or both. When that gives us a Woolworth or Chrysler Building, we can be nonjudgmentally grateful. But should those subsidies go into the emotional rush of flinging something defiantly into the sky, or should they go to the parks and housing and cultural institutions that will make downtown a viable and desirable community?"

--Quoted from a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Ada Louise Huxable, noted architecture critic and author of The Tall Building Artistically Reconsidered: The Search for a Skyscraper Style.

At no extra charge I also provide this link to an article bashing modern architecture from The American Enterpise (includes an nice short sidebar by Andres Duany, father of so-called New Traditionalist town planning).

Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Ideologies Have Consequences
Here's a quote I just saw at Razormouth.com from Gen. Patton of all people:

"One cannot but ponder the question: What if the Arabs had been
Christian? To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of
Mohammad and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding
cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he
was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing. Here, I
think, is a text for some eloquent sermon on the virtues ofChristianity."

I think a similar analysis could be made of the Chinese.

Post-Modernists in Strange Places
Here is a quote from the most recent Breakpoint commentary I received:

"Josh McDowell, in his new book, Beyond Belief to Convictions,
addresses the concerns of Christian parents. As McDowell
documents, teens—even those who sport Christian T-shirts and
WWJD bracelets—often have deeply distorted beliefs about God.
Influenced by postmodernism, they’re all too inclined to absorb
spiritual pragmatism, an "if it works for me, it’s okay" approach.
The good news is that a majority of Christian kids say they don’t
have any set philosophy about life that consistently influences
their decisions. That is, it’s good news so long as we can
challenge them with the right questions and help them
understand what they need to believe and why."

McDowell was a major part of the problem, as I see it. By championing an evidentialist approach to apologetics, he tried to play by the other side's rules. Thus in many ways McDowell gave in to the post-modernist milieu. Presuppositionism avoided this error by asserting that God's sovereignty must always be asserted in the way that we argue for the coherence of our faith. We never for a moment should pretend that the truth isn't what God says it is.

Monday, January 06, 2003
My Take on the Tansey Painting
Here's why I see the painting by Tansey as a parable on history (see below). I see this image as a playful, semi-surrealistic work in the spirit of Escher's drawing hands (which in many respects is the direct opposite of the Tansey painting). The man on the ladder is covering up Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgement from the Sistine Chapel, but as he does so, his shadow disappears. In covering up the earlier work, he paints himself out of existence.

The earlier painting may stand for religion, history, tradition or our sense of judgement. Thus, I see Tansey's painting saying something like:

If you erase your knowledge of history, you erase yourself,


If you erase the idea of judgement, you erase yourself,


It reminds me of the end of the movie Blow Up, where the protagonist disappears into the field of grass. Such is the plight of modern man who would cut himself off from Christianity, norms and historical rootedness.

Thursday, January 02, 2003
Historical Puzzler
The dawn of a new year makes me think about time. And time makes me think about history. Which brings me to this painting by Mark Tansey. I'm not exactly sure what message Tansey intended by this work, but I think it serves as a provacative parable on the nature of history. A larger version is available here. Look closely!