The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, July 30, 2004
An Agrarian Take on Plowing In Hope

I just discovered a review/critique of my book by Howard King, who writes from from a radical agrarian perspective. (King wrote many articles for Patriarch magazine.) Here is the introduction to his article:

With the growing interest in a biblical theology of culture have come two irreconcilable theories. The one salient fact with which all must deal is that Biblical culture was agrarian -- and ours is not. There are only two alternative interpretations of this fact.

Modernists (in the broad sense -- I am not talking about theological liberals only, but anti-traditionalists of every stripe) explain this basic fact by ignoring the well-documented history of greed and the lust for power that shaped our modern world, and by claiming that the biblical agrarian culture was inferior to our own. They hold to a form of cultural evolution which assumes (but never proves) that the culture of the technological society is intrinsically superior to biblical agrarian culture. This seems self-evident to them, I think, because they share many or most of its ultimate values.

Biblical Agrarians, on the other hand, claim that our technological society is apostate and culturally degenerate, and that redemptive history will move us toward the goal of a restoration and perfection of the original decentralized agrarian social order, in which godly culture will flourish. These two theories are diametrically opposed.

Yet, a book from Doug Wilson's publishing house, Canon Press, called Plowing in Hope: Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture, by David Bruce Hegeman seeks to reconcile the two. This is a useful book, for it gathers together most of the data of Scripture that must be systematized in order to answer the question, "What is the biblical concept of culture?" It makes the fatal mistake, however of attempting to steer a middle course between the two opposite theories. This is appealing to those who want the best of both worlds, but it cannot be done with intellectual integrity. You cannot have the technology of the industrialized world without the pollution, the vice, the waste, the corruption, the warfare, the destruction of life that has always gone hand in hand with it. You cannot have an urban civilization without the agglomeration of wealth and power that have always motivated and dominated it. You cannot have the beauty of a world-wide garden and the peace of the rural countryside without the greater part of men living by subsistence farming. This book, by its failure to discern the conflicting formative and sustaining principles of urban and agrarian societies can only promote confusion."

Read more of King's article here.

Thursday, July 29, 2004
Undoing Babel
Some insightful words from Peter Leithart:

"In Christian civilization, this Pentecostal emphasis has been at the core of what it means to be civilized, educated, cultured. Exposure to other civilizations and languages and literatures has been at the heart of education since the Renaissance. Subtract Pentecost from history (as Stanley Fish and others attempt to do), and we'd all be living in our little tribes, our language incomprehensible to anyone else. And we'd be perfectly content to continue that forever."
It is this uniting of peoples of different languages and cultures - under the Lordship of Christ - which has given the West its vast cultural richness. It is a glorious outworking of the Gospel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Getting the Cultural Commission Right
Chuck Colson can be so right at times about culture. So full of insight. And he can be infuriatingly wrong so often as well. A case in point is this piece from ChristianityToday.com:

"That people still raise this question surprised me. "Of course we're called to fulfill the Great Commission," I replied. "But we're also called to fulfill the cultural commission." Christians are agents of God's saving grace—bringing others to Christ, I explained—but we are also agents of his common grace: sustaining and renewing his creation, defending the created institutions of family and society, critiquing false worldviews."

Colson continues:

"Understanding the cultural commission is especially critical as we approach a decisive election. We know what a key role our elected leaders play in culture war battles. But many pastors question whether it's appropriate to urge their flocks to vote for politicians who support moral issues—or even to engage in moral debates."

First of all Colson does what so many evangelicals do: he mixes up (or at least equates) culture-making with political involvement. Politics is important, but it is only one tiny part of culture.

Second, he fails to see that the "Great Commission" and the "cultural commission" are not separate, parallel commissions but are one and the same thing. People are saved and restored in order that they may fulfill the original edenic commission, as I have argued in Plowing and elsewhere.

The church will get nowhere in cultural matters until we get this right.

Monday, July 26, 2004
Solid Theology
Gideon quotes an interview with NT Wright, who speaks about our resurrected bodies being

"more solid than the present one - not less. We tend to think of a new state which will be a less solid thing. But what the New Testament is talking about is a new creation which would be a more solid thing, whatever that will be like."

We have to throw off the neo-platonic, quasi-gnostic view of our bodies (and by extention, physical creation and culture) so popular in evangelical circles for a more biblical understanding.

I'm Back
Last week I was behaving as a . . . well, tourist.

My sister came out for a visit. We went to the Columbia River Gorge where we hiked Oneonta Gorge and Beacon Rock. Then on the hottest day of year we went to Astoria to Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens State Park. It was the warmest day at the ocean I have ever seen in Oregon - 85F!. Saturday Newberg had a parade and fireworks.

Fireworks are surely one of the most delightful cultural developments.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Something I'm Looking Forward to

Hear a cut.

Monday, July 19, 2004
Feel Left Behind?

The Millenium is here.

Friday, July 16, 2004
A Culture of Life (What Christian Culture Looks Like - Part X)
from the Bruderhof.
I may not agree with their theology or the specifics of their values and culture, but they earnestly seek out to live out what the believe. And much of what they believe is based on and shaped the scriptures.
"The Living see beyond themselves and their own desires.
The Living see the basic needs and hopes of others as the same as their own.
The Living know that even “dead men walking” can turn away from death toward life.
The Living recognize and practice a “community of life.”
The Living know good and evil tendencies are in every human being.
The Living practice repentance and forgiveness.
The Living are peacemakers.
The Living seek justice for all.
The Living are informed by history.
The Living see beyond their generation into the future.
The Living seek the same opportunity for others that they seek for themselves.
The Living respect, conserve, and share the resources of the Earth.The Living serve the spirit of love.The Living would rather build than destroy.
The Living seek truth instead of lies and illusions.
The Living choose trust over suspicion.
The Living celebrate life:  
  In the smile of a child,
   In the loving touch of hands,
   In the sharing of food and drink,
   In the healing of the sick,
   In the unique quality of each individual person,
   In shared laughter,
   In shared work, 
   In the beauty and sternness of nature,
   In song, dance, and story."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Comprehensive Vision
This recent blog entry from Doug Wilson is so good I quote it here:

"The Lord Jesus resisted temptation by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. One of the things he quoted was the famous passage on not living by bread alone. But the passage says more than what we do not live on. Scripture goes on to say that we are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Put simply, we are to live in an environment dominated by the Word of God. Scripture is to be the air we breath as we undertake anything. Cornelius Van Til put it well when he said that Scripture was authoritative in everything it addresses, and it addresses everything.

There is no area of our lives where we can go stand and be free from the authority and direction of Scripture. Landscaping, chemistry, physics, medicine, changing diapers, law, backhoe operation, etc. all fall under the lordship of Christ. The kingdom of God is not like a poor cell phone plan that gives you places to go where you don’t have coverage."

Monday, July 12, 2004

"To think that part of my job is to go into the galleries and sit and look at Rembrandt and Vermeer and Hals and Rubens and Van Dyck, and think about these paintings and just enjoy them is -- it's a wonderful opportunity . . ."

-- Arthur Wheelock, curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and expert in Vermeer

Friday, July 09, 2004
Articles on Art and Art Making
Came across "Imagination as a Means of Grace" by Leland Ryken.

And Gideon Strauss has had a couple of posts quoting Calvin Seerveld from Rainbows for the Fallen World on the basic approach to Christians need to take in art making (esp. post from July 7). Really good advice.

Thursday, July 08, 2004
Songs For Saplings
We just got the hot new CD from our friend Dana Dirksen (she often performs with my wife Marjorie). An alphabet of simple scripture songs to help hide the Word in a child's heart. A great supplement to Jamie Soles and Judy Rogers.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Luther the Metaphysical Dualist
Read quote from Galatians commentary at Rabbi Saul's blog.

You can take the Monk out of the Monestery...

Is She or Isn't She?
Tonight's the night this little baby (8x10 inches) goes up for sale.

Is it a genuine Vermeer? If so it is the only work of his to likely go up for sale, purhaps forever. The physical evidence appears to be good. But the quality is sub-par. But then again many other Vermeers are weaker that the others.

It would be nice to see a museum like the Getty step up to the plate and use their sizable resources to snap up this work. But I'm afraid it is far too risky for that. Or is it?

(See article on this painting and another on a painting by DeHooch also up for sale.)

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
More on Portland's Pearl District
(See earlier discussion here.) Is the Pearl District really a haven for the so-called Creative Class (Richard Florida-speak), or something a bit different? This article from the Oregonian examines the real truth (sort of).

Thursday, July 01, 2004
Truth in Labeling
Bopped over to Relevant Magazine site and found Dan Buck's "Getting out of the Faith Getto" .

"We have categorized ourselves out of the world. Life is one category. Good music, good art, good health and good prescription drugs are innately spiritual if they are in fact good. We don’t need to label something Christian to the exclusion of the rest of the world for it to be good and pure. Because all things that are good and pure are of God, whether the name on it is Rich Mullins or David Gray. All truth is God’s truth. If we are seeking God out in everything we do He will inevitably show up."

I wonder how Buck's approach would work in a culture, say, like Nazi Germany?

The key phrase here is "if they are in fact good".

Sure, merely slapping the label "Christian" on something doesn't make it good and pure. And there are many things which do not have the explicit label "Christian" which are good and pure. Most of this stuff (all?) if it truly good and pure, must be Christian anyway, or be thoroughly influenced by biblical principles and values.