The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Time to Break Open the Piggy Bank
A VERMEER is up for sale! (see a decent picture here)

Monday, March 29, 2004
The Great Cultural Clean-Up
of Newberg continues with the closure of the Lamp Post Gallery, distributor of the Painter of Light (tm).

On the positive side, we have a new handmade soap shop.

Friday, March 26, 2004
What's New in Our Home Town
As you can see, we take the establishment of Christian culture seriously in Newberg.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004
More on Heaven (i.e. the New Earth)
Chuck Colson offers a dissapointing response to David Brook's article I quoted a few entries ago. Invoking C.S. Lewis' imagery in the Great Divorce is not a big help. Lewis's book is a parable about Christian commitment; not a serious reflection on the nature of glory.

I did see Alister McGrath's new book A Brief History of Heaven at Border's. His opening chapters looked at the idea of heaven as a garden and heaven as a city. Why not a Garden City?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Christian Influence, or Christian Culture?
From an interview with Hans Rookmaaker:

"Being a Christian is in the first place a matter of mentality and not a
question of accepting a doctrine. It is walking with God. Christ preached
this mentality in the Sermon on the Mount – the hungering and
thirsting after righteousness, the peace making, the showing mercy,
being meek, having a good attitude with respect to sexuality, in short,
taking a stand in life. What Christians strive for and should strive for is
to keep the world clean for God – that is how I translate serving the
kingdom of God – and endeavouring to be salt that salts. We are not
working to achieve a little Christian subculture, we are not working in
the first place for a world of Christian organizations, although I am
certainly not opposed to them, but our lives are always in the service of
the world at large, of the general culture. We strive for a better culture
and not for an elitist Christian community. I believe that the simple
fruits of faith such as honesty, uprightness and the like enter into the
general culture. "

Friday, March 19, 2004
Recreation vs. Diversion
R.C. Sproul, Jr. helps us understand this important distinction in the course of his musings on Bunyan's Vanity Fair .

R.C. also gives us this wonderful cultural vision:

"Instead we ought, as we rest and recreate, to be about the business of creating not pop culture, but transcendent culture. We ought always to be about the business of making visible the invisible kingdom of God . When, for instance, I am seeking to master the mandolin that Jonathan has lent me, I am not distracted, but actually moving closer to the Celestial City . (And I am encouraged to know that as I prac­tice on this loner, he too is building the true culture as he builds me a handmade mandolin that will be mine to keep, and that will survive the fire that burns away the wood, hay and stubble.)"

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
The Problem with Pop

"And the danger with pop culture, it seems to me, is that the notion that you can somehow insert some idea about faith or the faith itself into this vessel and simply transmit it and it be opened up and received in some kind of pure way is naïve. The very nature of pop culture is to dumb things down, to make things more special-effects oriented..."

--from an interview with Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
What a Concept!
I just discovered that Henry Van Til's magisterial work The Calvinistic Concept of Culture is available as a scanned pdf at the Contra Mundum site. This is surely one of the greatest books on Christian culture. (There is even a Spanish translation of the book!)

While you're there, check out the other books, including Schilder's What is Heaven? , which has some interesting passages on the interaction of common grace, culture and eschatology -- much easier to understand than Schilder's Christ and Culture.

Friday, March 12, 2004
Another Cultural Manifesto for Gideon
From Antithesis.com

Little Surprises
I am reading through chapter three of Virginia Postrell's Substance of Style , and who should I meet, but Sinclair Ferguson! She quotes an op-ed piece he wrote on commercialism in worship services for the Dallas Morning News.

The wonders never cease.

Thursday, March 11, 2004
Getting the Dirt on Culture
Check out this neat conference sponsored by Highlands Study Center, "For the Beauty of the Earth" featuring R.C. Sproul Jr, George Grant and Doug Jones.

"What is the secret of the grail? The land
and the king are one. The beauty, then, of
the earth, and the glory of the Lord are one.
Join us as we gather together to see the Lord’s
blessing, in giving us a land, and a Lord to
rule over it, as we consider together what
it means to be of both formed of the dust,
and remade in the image of the Son, as we
proclaim that He is Lord both of heaven and
of earth, as we gaze in wonder at the very
kingdom of God, right under our fingernails.
Celebrate with us earth, wind and fire, to
the glory of God and for the building of His

While you're at the HSC site, check out "Theology of Dirt" issue of Every Thought Captive, which has some delightful articles, including a review of Plowing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
What Does Your Heaven Say about You?
From a column "Hooked on Heaven Lite" by David Brooks in the New York Times:

"All societies construct their own images of heaven. Most imagine a wondrous city or a verdant garden where human beings come face to face with God. But the heaven that is apparently popular with readers these days is nothing more than an excellent therapy session. In [Mitch] Albom's book, God, to the extent that he exists there, is sort of a genial Dr. Phil. When you go to his heaven, friends and helpers come and tell you how innately wonderful you are. They help you reach closure."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
R.C. Sproul Jr. Ponders
Who needs "The Passion"when you have The Supper?

(thanks for the link from Russ Reeves)

Monday, March 08, 2004
Some Good Advice For Artists
"The Nine Pursuits of the True Artist". A succinct article full of wisdom by musician Charlie Peacock.

Friday, March 05, 2004
New Article
on "Finish" over at Comment magazine - from a series of essays I hope to do on craftsmanship. Gideon (the editor of Comment) has some nice things to say about it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
More on Gardens

"GOD ALMIGHTY first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks; and a man shall ever see that when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection. "

--Francis Bacon, in On Gardens

"One of Moore's favorite metaphors is "gardening the earth." He's all for setting aside land as wilderness, but the rest we should not be afraid to use.

"When you've got over 6 billion people, you can't just say we'll let nature do its thing," he says. "We have no choice but to garden - why don't we do it better? Why don't we do it more efficiently?"

--from article in Wired on ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore. How come I never heard of this guy before?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Even more on Pictures
I should also point out Jeff Meyer's Essay on the permissibility of depict Christ in some contexts and Matt Colvin's fine, though brief critique of it (I have not had an opportunity to read it yet).

Russ Reeves has an excellent post on the subject that summarizes really, really well that all depictions of Christ get wrapped up in worship. I couldn't have said it better.

Monday, March 01, 2004
Historical Depictions Okay?
Mark Horne has a link to the RPES report on the second commandment which criticizes some, but not all uses images of Christ in art:

"Portraiture of Christ--the attempt to say, "This is what Jesus looked like,"--may be precluded on the ground of another principle found in the Second Commandment. Portraiture of Christ may convey the idea that Christ is specially present and localized in the portrait; this would be a violation of the principle that the sovereign rule of God is not to be dishonored by localizing, and therefore seeking to control, Him.

While portraiture of Christ thus defined is to be avoided, depictions of Christ whose primary function is to represent this or that episode in the life of Christ are permissible. They do not constitute a violation of the Second Commandment, and are in accordance with the Biblical teaching regarding the incarnation. "

This all strikes me as amazingly imprecise and ultimately (at least in most cases) a false distinction. Are portraits impermissible because they merely try to "show what Jesus looked like", but when an historical setting is supplied, this attribute magically goes away? Seems to me that if a painting of, say, Christ driving the money-changers out the Temple, had sufficient detail in its depiction of Christ that it could function as a portrait (i.e. a cropped section of the painting contraining Christ's 'likeness' could effectively serve as a portrait), then the principle warned against in the RPES report has been violated.

As I have said before, if an historical depiction of a part of the life of Christ is sketchy or exceptionally vague (as is the case in some of Rembrandt's etchings) then such a depiction might be permissible. But this is surely not the case in movies such as The Passion of the Christ.

The free depiction of Christ in pictures tends to lead to all sorts of abuses. Or other kinds of sillinesses such as nativity scenes which come in white, brown, yellow and red versions.