The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, July 31, 2003
What's in a Name?
I was snooping around the Relevant Magazine site, I found a reference to this "alternative" Christian music festival called Porticofest based in Beaverton, OR, which is not too far away. It was really interesting (telling?) what the bands who are participating call themselves. For example there are: "angry mob", "brutal fight", "fighting jacks", "revenge of the day", and "war by the day". There's also "four foot hero", "six foot midget", and "inch high". Full list of bands is here (with links).

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
One the Home Front 4
Here is the text of the ad for our house we put up for sale in Dallas:

DALLAS: Historic 1870 Cottage, 848 SW Levens.
2 bdrm, 1 ba, 1612 total sq ft on a 65x100 lot.
Parlor used as 3 bdrm, orig wood work, doors,
fixtures, asking $121,000-shown by appt.
503-623-7027 FSBO,
Sat Aug 2, 10-3

Monday, July 28, 2003
The Check's in the Mail
I know this is a bit off topic, but what are you all planning on doing with your Federal "rebate" check? I our case, since we are already not paying Federal income tax (we zero out after deductions and child credits), this would be additional money coming out of someone else's pockets.

So what do I (or you) do with our check (We already have ours in hand: $1200!):

a) take the money and run

b) donate the questionable money to a Christian charity

c) give the money to a bonafide widow or orphan

d) rip up the check and refuse to take illegitate welfare from the government

Here's an additional question: is the redistribution of wealth by the civil magistrate ever sanctioned by the scriptures?

Friday, July 25, 2003
On the Home Front 3
We finally put our Dallas home on the market on Wednesday. There a still a few extra things to fix here and there, but the house is thoroughly decluttered and cleaned. I just put a couple of coats of polyurethane on the kitchen floor and touched up the interior trim in the house where we had accumulated nine years of dings. Now we just need the right seller. We are using the FSBO route right now. You can see our listing here.

We are scheduled to break ground on the addition on our Newberg house on Monday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Even more on Heaven/New Jerusalem
Christianity Today also has this delightful article from Edith Schaeffer. Contra gnostic amillenialists, who see the New Jerusalem strictly in allegorical, spiritual terms, Mrs. Schaeffer argues that the heavenly city will be as real and tangible as San Francisco -- but even more beautiful and without the tragic effects of sin. The New Jerusalem will be culture!

Monday, July 21, 2003
More on a Cultural View of Heaven
Here a 1985 article from Christianity Today site from one of my favorite authors, the late Anthony Hoekema.

"The possibilities that now rise before us boggle the mind. Will there be "better Beethoven" on the new earth, as one author has suggested? Shall we then see better Rembrandts, better Raphaels, better Constables? Shall we read better poetry, better drama, and better prose?"

Thursday, July 17, 2003
Cultural Tactics: Playing it Safe?
Andrew Sandlin has a provocative new piece at his site, "Backwater Cultures", in which he dually rips on protectionist/separatist types and well as ecclesiocentric types (Rich Lusk, are you "listening"?). He says in part:

"The myth of the virility of backwater cultures has serious spiritual consequences. We cannot for long maintain unpolluted backwater cultures. If we refuse to overtake the evil in our culture, it will soon overtake us. There can be no detente with depraved culture. Depraved culture must be redeemed, not avoided. The hungry jaws of Satan will not be satisfied after he has devoured the evil culture — he will then seek out the Christian Church and family."

This at first sounds pretty good. But how does Pastor Sandlin propose that we redeem the godless culture we find our selves in? Do we take the Bob Briner Roaring Lambs approach and storm the cultural centers and try to take them over? Just try to go to Hollywood and make the movie you want to make and see how far you get. It will be you who will be coopted. Contemporary secular society - especially popular culture - is a cooption machine.

I still maintain that Christians have to get active culturally in their local community. Begin on a small scale. Focus on the brothers and sisters in the local church(es). Get grounded in the word and doctrine. Get focused on Christ through worship and prayer. And GET BUSY. Make high quality wares (books, songs, chairs, food - whatever) which first and foremost will edify the saints (and in the process you will make stuff very likely they will help non-Christians as well).

Sandlin seems to want to approach culture from the "popular culture" model - an approach to culture which is (to use neo-Calvinist terminology) structurally doomed. Better to take the "folk culture" approach. Folk cultures nearly always have great integrity and richness. Taking the popular culture approach just makes us another ingredient in the cultural minestrone.

Check out what they are doing in Moscow, Idaho. If this is "backwater Christian culture", bring it on, baby.

Harleys in Heaven
An engaging article on the earthiness of heaven by John Stackhouse from Christianity Today. Talks extensively about the garden city idea which I develop in Plowing. One thing is certain: if there are Harleys in heaven, they will have better mufflers so they don't wake me up in the middle of night rattling our windows! (Of course there won't be night on the New Earth - never mind.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
On the Home Front 2
Took yesterday off, so I was away from computerdom. We have been busy, busy, busy getting our old house in Dallas (1870 - hence my email address)ready for the market. Decluttering and spiffing up. Arduous toilsome work. But we're almost there.

The birch tree came down Monday. I haven't seen them yet, but the tree man did end up milling boards out of the lower part of the tree that he said came out just beautiful.

A pristine piece of wood is a sight to behold. Like a fresh piece of paper, it shouts potential!

Friday, July 11, 2003
Quote for a Friday
Who wrote this?:

"Jesus Christ is the Master who can comfort and strengthen a man, a laborer and working man whose life is hard—because he is the Great Man of Sorrows who knows our ills, who was called a carpenter’s son, though he was the Son of God, who worked for thirty years, in a carpenter’s shop to fulfill God’s will. And God wills that in imitation of Christ man should live humbly and go through life not reaching for the sky, but adapting himself to the earth below, learning from the Gospel to be meek and simple of heart."

Thursday, July 10, 2003
"Cultural-Engagement" Project
I have decided to undertake a project of exploring the term "cultural engagement" as it is used by evangelicals (especially reformed folk). The way this term is used leads to a lot of muddled thinking about culture by Christians.

To begin my project, I decided to plug "cultural engagement" in Google. The first item I came up with that was specifically theological was http://www.church-reform.com/culture.htm. The author of the page urges Christians to immerse themselves in their culture in order to better communicate the gospel. He offers the following aphorism:

The Church must be MORALLY separated from,
yet CULTURALLY connected to the World

He then argues that:

So what is the world? Let's continue in I John: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world" (I John 2:16 NAS). In a word, the world is sin. We are not to be conformed to or love the sinful ways of the world, a world which is ruled by Satan, which only spawns evil values, ideas and philosophies. So it is the sinful ways that we are to stay away from - not the cultural ways! Cultural characteristics such as food, language, music style and dress style are morally neutral - they are neither good nor evil (expect for a few cases when they veer outside of biblical standards).

Assuming that "cultural characterists" are "morally neutral" is a fatal error. Cultural form/style is as moral/ethical in character as the intellectual content that is communicated. The antithesis applies to style (medium) as well as content (message). This kind of uncritical approach to culture is rampant in the evangelical world. It is very prevalent in missiology. Indigenous cultural forms are uncritically brought into church liturgies, congregational songs, etc. The result is liturgical dissonance, even liturgical synchretism.

Don't get me wrong. We can (and may) "plunder" the surrounding culture for useful forms. But we must do so with great care and discernment. We need to take the time to determine what these forms actually express and see if they are truly consonant with the values of scripture, before we adopt them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

"Pop culture is a dog, and one that needs to be put to sleep."
--R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Landmarks, Churches and Codes
In his most recent Breakpoint commentary, Chuck Colson lauds the recent decision of the White House to make grants available for restoring historical landmarks owned by Religious organizations in the same way that grants are offered to other landmarks. Since church buildings with landmark status can have their development limited by historic preservation laws, Colson argues, they should be eligible for preservation grants as well. But this cuts both ways. For churches to except money from the civil government for building restoration, they further cements the civil governments authority over them in preservation matters, as well as in matters of city planning, building codes, etc.

This is an interesting interaction of the different social spheres. Should the civil authorities have the right to tell church congregations what to do with their assets? Should churches have to follow building codes? Bow to planning laws?

Thursday, July 03, 2003
On the Home Front
Our plans for the addition were approved by the city earlier this week. I still haven't seen their "editing" of the plans to see what changes they want us to make (if any).

The first order of business is to take down a 60+ ft. birch tree in the back yard. This has broken the heart of one of our good friends. Its regrettable but there is really no other workable alternative. At least the arborist who will be taking the tree down will be able to mill the tree into boards if it turns out to be in good shape. Some white birch boards would make some nice book shelves: culture = transformation.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Machen's Mountaintop Musings

"What will be the end of that European civilization, of which I had a survey from my mountain vantage ground—of that European civilization and its daughter in America? What does the future hold in store? Will Luther prove to have lived in vain? Will all the dreams of liberty issue into some vast industrial machine? Will even nature be reduced to standard, as in our country the sweetness of the woods and hills is being destroyed, as I have seen them destroyed in Maine, by the uniformities and artificialities and officialdom of our national parks? . . .

"I can see no escape from that conclusion in the signs of the times; too inexorable seems to me to be the march of events. No, I can see only one alternative. The alternative is that there is a God—a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men."

-- from J. Gresham Machen's "Mountains and Why We Love Them"