The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Monday, December 29, 2003
Before There Was the Internet ...
Way before the internet -- that is -- there was the Coffee House (cool article from the Economist.)

Speaking of coffee houses, at our local Coffee Cottage in beautiful downtown Newberg, we were treated to the delightful sounds of the Japanese Koto on Saturday. The musician , a native of Japan, resides in Cresswell, Oregon of all places. (Alas, I forget her name.) She was amazing on the instrument. Really beautiful. The range of sounds that can come out of this instrument is impressive.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
A Picture and a Poem for the Season
First, the picture: Bruegel's The Numbering of at Bethlehem (click here for a larger version and here and here for two other companion works in the Birth narrative.

I have always been delighted by the irony of these paintings which is part of their profound theological message: The King of the universe is about to be born, and no one cares; everyone is going about their everyday tasks oblivious to What is taking place. Bruegel relishes in depicting in exacting detail these varied actions and elements of peasant life: toiling, playing, animals, architecture, things. And all of that Bruegel lovingly paints: people and culture and creation are to be redeemed by the Savior. It is both a genre painting and a liturgical-religious painting. It is subtle and charming and devastating.

Bruegel was the consumate master of the winter landscape (his Hunters in the Snow is one of the greatest landscapes ever painted). Why would he ever even think of depicting Christ's birth in a 16th century Netherlandish village? (Note: nearly every European artist was doing this sort of thing at this time.)

Second: a poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907).

I Saw A Stable
I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger.
The safety of the world was lying there,
And the world’s danger.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
We get to share in God's Last Laugh! -- A meditation on the birth Jesus and Isaac by Patrick Henry Reardon in Touchstone magazine.

Friday, December 19, 2003
More Ideas Have Consequences

"Thy Kingdom Come: to pray this means seeing the world in binocular vision. See it with the love of the creator for his spectacularly beautiful creation; and see it with the deep grief of the creator for the battered and battle-scarred state in which the world now finds itself. Put those two together, and bring the binocular picture into focus: the love and the grief join into the Jesus-shape, the kingdom-shape, the shape of the cross — never was Love, dear King, never was Grief like thine! And with this Jesus before your eyes, pray again, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven! We are praying, as Jesus was praying and acting, for the redemption of the world; for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil; and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all. And if we pray this way, we must of course be prepared to live this way."

-- taken from NT Wright's The Lord and His Prayer (thanks to Kata John for this quote)

Thursday, December 18, 2003
On Progress

"You cannot determine whether an innovation is good until you know what the good life is. "

"Nostalgia is nothing more than remembering the good you never noticed before."

-- these aphorisms are brought to you by RC Sproul, Jr.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Ideas Have Consequences

"For another thing, the NP champions the Lordship of Christ as a (perhaps the) central message of the Faith. In correctly identifying the Gospel as the message of the Lordship of Christ , Tom Wright and others open the way to a full-orbed Gospel whose goal is the subordination of all things — not merely “spiritual� things — to the reign of Jesus Christ. Art, music, education, politics, technology, entertainment — these and all other facets of life must fall within the purview of the Gospel, that is, the rule of Jesus in the world."

-- Andrew Sandlin in a recent brief essay on the New Perspecive on Paul

Monday, December 15, 2003
Box Office Theology
An article from the Star Tribune explores where the "relevancy approach" is taking us. A look at the "cutting" edge. Or why "spirituality" is not Christianity.

Positive Criticism
From a really perceptive blog entry by Terry Teachout on music criticism (applies to other types of criticism as well): about its objective and subjective componants, and about humility and willingness to change one's (expand) mind:

"At the same time, I believe devoutly that criticism is not merely a matter of taste, that it is rooted in objective perceptions of fact; I also think that some critics are more perceptive than others, just as some pieces of music are better than others. I suppose it would be more stylish to put the word "better" in quotes, but the awful truth is that I unhesitatingly accept the existence of a meaningful standard of excellence in the arts."

I absolutely love his comment on Schoenberg!

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Some "Native Tourist" Talk

"Entrance into paradise is available not only to the thief but to all who put their trust in Christ. Origen comments that Christ "gave to all those who believe and confess access to the entrance that Adam had previously closed by sinning. Who else could remove 'the flaming turning sword which was placed to guard the tree of life' and the gates of paradise?" To enter paradise is to return, in Prudentius' poignant phrase, to "our native country."

--from an article in Christianity Today, "Christ's Kingdom and Paradise"

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Artificial Oxford
Parts of New Haven, Conn. are delightful, especially area around the campus of Yale University. It is full of stone, gothic quadrangles reminiscent of Oxford. It also has two superb art museums designed by Louis Kahn (especially fine is the Center for British Art).

New Haven is also famous for its urban blight, which I have not really experienced. The parts of New Haven I saw during my visits there were like many other old northeastern cities: tired, somewhat plain and unkempt.

A promising new book on New Haven: City: Urbanism and Its End, examines the history of the urban texture of the city, points out its immigrant roots, urban flight, new suburbs, and the failure of urban "renewal". It is also Book & Cultures book of the week.

Sounds like a powerful case study.

Monday, December 08, 2003
Big Yellow

Paul Johnson does art history. The whole enchelada. Well almost.

Friday, December 05, 2003
Big Box Churches

"From Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., to Bellevue Baptist Church outside Memphis, evangelical megachurches dot the American landscape like the Wal-Marts, Home Depots, and other big-box stores that so many of them resemble."

-- from an recent article on contemporary evangelicalism through the lens of Jonathan Edwards in US News & World Report

Thursday, December 04, 2003
Cool Tool
The "Ism Book". (Thanks to Gregory Baus' for this link). Now if someone will only do the same for theological isms.

Makes me think of the new virtual reality philosophy seminar computer game: SIM ism.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
'Ol Saint Nick
Last week I traversed over to Hallie Ford Art Museum (one block away from where I work!) to see a wonderful, tiny exhibit of Saint Nicholas icons. I am not big into icons or hagiography, but I know a beautiful object when I see one.

Here's an interesting bit of trivia: one does not "paint" an icon; rather an icon is "written".

Should Christians Strive to Get a Seat at the Table?
R.C. Sproul Jr. wonders if this is such a good idea. Is the price too high?

Monday, December 01, 2003
On Design
Too brief article on what inspires good design from the New York Times. Reflects on Raymond Loewy and Isamu Noguchi, among others. Good design can turn to so many places for inspiration. Most great designers have their work inspired (directly or indirectly) from nature. Or, as we say, creation.