The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Monday, June 30, 2003
Tongue in Sheik Proposal?
Somebody wants Frank Lloyd Wright to redo Baghdad. (From the Washington Post)

Friday, June 27, 2003
In my most recent post, I called contemporary non-Christian culture "Anti-culture" or "Pseudo-Culture. I do this not because I do not think it is real (it surely and tragically is), but because is tries to ape or copy "true" culture, the kind of culture God intended the human race to establish on the earth. True culture is pictured in scripture by Jerusalem/New Jerusalem, while anti-culture is pictured by Babyon (its very name meaning 'confusion'). By common grace fallen man is still able to make art works which contain beauty, novels with the ring of truth, etc. But apart from the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit working in culturemakers, these works will always be hollow at the core.

Calling non-Christian culture "true" culture, is like trying pass off Tang as real orange juice. Its a cheap imatation even though some people are fooled into thinking its the real thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Do We Really Need to Engage Contemporary Culture?
From a recent Breakpoint commentary on using discernment at the movies:

"The best response to the insidious quality of many contemporary films is, as Godawa pointed out, discernment. Discernment enables the Christian to avoid two undesirable extremes: what Godawa describes as cultural anorexia and cultural gluttony. Anorexia is avoiding the culture altogether, but that leaves the Christian incapable of "interacting redemptively" and causes him to miss good things in our popular culture. Cultural gluttony, on the other hand, ignores how popular culture affects us, for good and evil, and takes it all in indiscriminately, consuming everything in front of us."

Some comments: Do we really become "culturally anorexic" (I prefer "culturally impoverished") if we avoid "engagement" with the culture around us? This notion is so short sited. Am I not culturally rich if I "dine" on Chaucer, Milton or Pascal, while listening to corpus Bach, Gegorian chants and Mahalia Jackson, while on my walls I have reproductions of Durer prints and posters of Vermeer and the other Dutch masters? Do I really need contemporary popular culture to be culturally satified? I can't see anyone culturally wasting away on the past riches of Christendom.

As if anyone can be made culturally nourished by what passes as contemporary "culture". (It is really anti-culture or pseudo-culture).

(Also, what on earth is "interacting redemptively" with culture?)

Friday, June 20, 2003
Dorothy Sayers Quote

"The only Christian work is good work done well."

Saw this in today's Breakpoint. Sadly Colson used this quote to laud the generosity of Harold Bloom (a self-proclaimed gnostic Jew), who recently gave his library to St. Michael's College in Vermont. A strange invocation of the notion of Christian culture, if ever there was one.

Thursday, June 19, 2003
"Our dollars, our buying power, and our mountain of stuff do not make us special or unique. As soon as we find our significance or our satisfaction in them, they begin to corrupt and rot our souls. The message of Jesus’ sacrifice and its embodied rehearsal in the Eucharist powerfully subverts our consumerist sense of entitlement and our acquisitive narcissism."

-- From Michael Pahl's article on Consumerism and culture in Meshereth.com. We are not merely culture-makers, but culture-consumers as well. Perhaps it is equally true to say that "Religion is Culture Internalized" as well as to say that "Culture is Religion Externalized."

Here's an interesting thought experiment: What do we ever consume that isn't culture or in some way effected by culture?

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Hey, Who's that Dude in the Knickers?
Ken Myers has a really good article "Modernity, Morality, and Common Grace" that is primarily an homage to Francis Schaeffer and his Calvinistic insights into understanding culture. I can still remember reading Escape from Reason as a college freshman (circa 1976!) and the light going on in my head...

Monday, June 16, 2003
Tabletalk Article
I was informed yesterday by one of our elders after church, that my article just came out in Tabletalk (they hadn't told me that it was out already). Its a reworking of the Postscript in Plowing - talking about what the Sabbath teaches us about work.

Time Off
I was "away" from my Blog for a few extra days in order to get the final plans drawn for our house addition. I delivered the plans to the City of Newberg on Friday afternoon. The folks from the planning division were very helpful (very different from the NYC area horror stories I have heard), but alas, they told me they have a four week backlog in reviewing/approving plans. Thankfully because our property is zoned commercial, there are very few planning limitations which effect our property. We are praying that it will happen sooner. I will post the "final" plans at my site in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
What Christian Culture Looks Like - Part VIII
Like the virtuous wife in Proverbs 31, American puritan Ann Bradstreet (1612-1672) was fully submissive to her God-given role as wife and mother, yet she did not "sit on her hands". One the contrary, she used her God-given talents to write elegant poetry which celebrated the different events and circumstances of her life in terms of her faith. For example, see this page which has three of Anne's poems written on the occation of the death of three of her grandchildren. They are full of sorrow, hope and faith in her totally sovereign Lord.

Monday, June 09, 2003
Culture Crowned with Glory
From Andrew Sandlin's brother Richard - an article posted at Center for Cultural Leadership:

"Just think: the hour Christianity was birthed, common work by humble laborers was elevated by Heaven itself. The grocer, the shoe clerk, the construction worker, the college student, the at-home mom, the policeman — all these everyday employments have now been consecrated by the Holy One Himself. When the angels went to the shepherds, common chores would henceforth be crowned with glory forever."

Thursday, June 05, 2003
Here's a book that's been around a while, but I had never heard of before: Greg Johnson's The World According to God: A Biblical View of Culture, Work, Science, Sex & Everything Else published by IVP. You can read the his entire chapter on culture here, or the "Readers Digest" version of it here. His ideas sound like what I talk about in Plowing. I wonder if he read my book?

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
More on the Term 'Secular'
I typed "origin of the word secular" (with the quotes) in Google, and found this hit, which says in part:

Webster defines secular as "pertaining to worldly things or to things not regarded as sacred; temporal." Perhaps the last word is most descriptive, temporal. If we explore the origin of the word "secular," we find that it comes from the Latin "saeculum," which is a word dealing with time or an age. The root concept behind secularism is one that relates to the issue of time. It is more specific than just being worldly or non-religious. It is the view that only now counts. The past and future are of little or no concern now.

Relating the temporal to "earthly" or "secular" or "cultural" things is one common way Christians draw a false sacred/secular distinction (This is the Heart of the errant Two Kindom view). In fact this idea came up in our most recent adult Sunday School discussion, where we were discussing Jesus' role as High Priest and King (we were looking at Hebrews 5). In the discussion, someone talked about how the king dealt with "temporal" affairs, while the priest dealt with "spiritual" affairs. But was the ministry of the priest (and the prophet, and by extention the role of eclesiastical officers today) any less temporal than that of the king? Is the role of the king any less spiritual?

Moreover, when we realize that the New Jerusalem will be temporal (Rev. 22 talks about months), even as it will be everlasting, we can see its commonality with our present mode existence. Culture and culture-making will continue in our heavenly/New Creational existence. Culture has a future - a glorious everlasting future- as well as a rich past. For this reason alone, culture is should be vitally important to Christians. Seeing cultural stuff as merely temporal (and by extension temporary) is grave error we must constantly battle against.

Monday, June 02, 2003
Is There a Secular?
Joel Garver has posted a continuation of his paper on political theology. Here is an excerpt:

"Such assumptions include: the conception of the “secular” as a particular social space as opposed to the religious; a limiting of the “political” to that secular space and conceiving it primarily in terms struggle for power . . ."

As I read this, I thought to myself, is there really a secular anything? The more I think about it, the more I see the term "secular" as a word which has no concrete reality. Within a universe created and governed by an omnipotent, omnipresent God, secularity is impossible. Everything - absolutely everything - is religious. The "secular" is a dream - desparate wish - of atheists, and strangely enough, of some Christians who for some reason want to limit God's influence and rule over all of reality. "Secular" as a word functions like the word "chance": it may be a helpful term to describe certain potential ways of seeing things, but ultimately, the word is absurd and utterly contradicted by the sovereignty of God.