The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Paved Paradise?
Roads are a key part of the cultural development of the earth. Streets are part of the fabric of the New Jerusalem. The Romans figure out quickly the importance of good roads. And we reap the benefits of the superhighway system today.

This theme was nicely commented on this blog entry (which I found via the CityComforts blog) which refers to a recent program on the History Chanel on "Paving America" which recounts the development of the highway in the US. (Here is Oregon we have the marvelously aesthetic Columbia River Highway which was developed by Sam Hill to transport grain from the eastern part of the state to Portland.)

An additional note: the blogger points out that suburban sprawl is because of the Interstate system. I disagree. Maybe a large part of the sprawl can be blamed on superhighways. But suburbs had their origin cities like New York (Long Island) and Philadelpha because of the development of the train and trolley.

Monday, August 30, 2004
Did You Hear the One about...
the museum janitor, who accidentally threw out the artwork?

(For all of you out there who think contemporary art is trash - you know who you are!)

Friday, August 27, 2004
Doug Wilson on the Second Commandment

Fifth: "But Jesus became a man. Why may we not have an image of Him? To deny images is to deny the Incarnation."

Answer: Jesus said that one who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9). The same cannot be said of His images. We cannot even picture Christ accurately on the physical level; how much less are we able to represent Him as the God/man. The Incarnation means that had cameras been invented in the first century, it would not have been unlawful to take a photo of Christ. The mercy of God delayed the invention of the camera by 1900 years.

(read full blog entry here)

Thursday, August 26, 2004
The Genuine Article
can be found in the Christian Reformed Index of various periodicals associated with the CRC.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Christian Culture: Will Our Children Be Ready?
One thing I wish I developed more in my book is the God-ordained role of the family in culture. I point to it but I don't develop it at great length.

But others have done a fine job at this. One such person is Doug Wilson, whose recent blog entry fleshes this out even more.

The contemporary church's failure to enculturate their children in a biblical culture is an appalling tragedy. Yet in our desire for cultural engagement (if it in fact that and not parental neglect), we have raised a generation of covenant children who are woefully shaped by the world.

Here is some of the tragic evidence (from George Grant's blog on 8.18):

My friend Eric Holmberg, of Reel to Real Ministries, often makes presentations to church groups on the smothering influence of media in our lives. He sent me this very telling transcript of a recent encounter he had with a college fellowship group:

“Who's the character in Seinfeld with the funny hair?”

A chorus of hands shot up excitedly. “Kramer!” came the almost universal reply.

“What time does Friends come on?”

Again, there was no hesitation. “Eight!” “Thursday nights.” “NBC,” offered one young lady, nailing the coordinates in both space and time.

“Complete this line from Spiderman: 'With great power comes…?”

“Great responsibility!” over seventy-five voices cried in unison.

“Now can someone tell me the difference between rap and hip-hop? Or emo and goth?” There was a brief silence as the audience cast about for the best spokesman to address the nuances of the question. But after a few initial observations were made, the response again became lively and democratic. Person after person shared either their thoughts on the distinctions or at least illustrated them by identifying their favorite artists in each category.

“OK,” the speaker said. “Let's now change gears a bit. Who was the prophet in the Old Testament who had no hair?”


“What hour of the day did Jesus die on the cross?” Emboldened by the narrow range of possible answers, a few hands went up and numbers were offered. But it was obvious that nobody real knew.

“Complete this line from Proverbs 3: “Trust in the Lord with all you heart and….”

“…obey Him?” the NBC girl offered hopefully.

“Sorry, although obeying Him is certainly a good idea. OK, someone explain to me the difference between justification and sanctification.”

The silence among the church's college group was now deafening.

As HR Rookmaaker repeatedly said, we must "weep."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Good Work and Christian Culture
Are truly good works possible in this life?

How one answers this question has a profound bearing on how one views the possibility of Christian culture.

Here is an example of "good-work" and cultural pessimism from Gene Veith:

"There can be no such thing as a Christian culture as such, because Christianity comes from faith in the Gospel, not the works of the Law, and God saves individuals, not nations. Not every member of a culture is going to be a Christian. Since conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to coerce or require anyone to become a Christian. The unregenerate cannot obey biblical principles so as to be part of a Christian culture. Neither, while they are in their fallen flesh, can Christians."

Here is an example of good-work and cultural optimism from Calvin Seerveld (via Gideon Straus):
"[C]reaturely life is what the Lord wants redeemed (cf. e.g. Psalm 50, Matthew 6:7-15, especially verse 10); saving persons for bearing obedient fruit in all facets of our existence is what the Holy Spirit was given for after Christ ascended into heaven (John 16:5-15, 1 John 2:27); the world-wide ministry of reconciling everybody, everything, back to God out of the shaping grip of idolatry is what Christ's body is logically to be busy with here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Romans 11:36-12:2), says the Scriptures. In old-fashioned language, I am talking about sanctification that is gritty and concrete. Not as a chore in work-righteousness. Not as a means to a guaranteed millennium on a stipulated timetable. But as the normal, happy task of God's trusting people who are eager to be claiming the riches of God's straightening-out gifts, embodying that insight and joy, showing all that the Rule of Jesus Christ begun is a Rule of understanding, love and shalom - that's enough to make almost anybody jealous of also belonging as adopted child to the Lord of heaven and earth (cf. Romans 11:11-16).

Two very different takes on the work of the Holy Spirit and culture.

Thursday, August 19, 2004
Hidden Motives
More wisdom from RC Sproul Jr.:

"A church on its own and alone, even if all the daughters are dressed demurely, even if the little ones sit quietly during worship, even if the heads of the women are covered, is just as worldly as the church down the street with the purple-haired youth guy, and the senior pastor in the clown suit. For the spirit of the age isn’t defined by what the eye can see, but by the heart that declares itself free of all constraints."

(a cautionary response to the Uniting Church and Family conference he recently attended)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
I Wonder if This Is True?

"But very often, especially under modern farming practices, the farmer’s field is depleted and lacking in life and fertility, and other “weeds” invade, not with the intent to compete with the farmer’s crop, but rather to perform a service. Most “weeds” are actually reclaiming, restoring, and redeeming land polluted and spoiled by methods that eye profit alone with little or no homage to the creative life of our natural world."

(from the Bruderhof site)

Maybe that's why we have to put up the tares for now.

Thursday, August 12, 2004
The Tragic Ascendancy of Image over Word - More Evidence?
Poetry and the Novel are (allegedly) dying. What will fill the literary void?

Comic books!

So saith the New York Times. Read chunks of the article here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Dutch Treat
Here in Portland its front page news! (view pdf)

A group of 17th century Dutch paintings, prints and other objects are coming to the Portland Art Museum from the Rijksmuseum. (If you haven't heard, most of the Rijksmuseum is closed for extensive renovations. So they are letting portions of their extensive collection tour the US and Japan.) I will only have to wait until 2007. Patience...

There will also be a small exibit of Dutch works from the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague coming this fall.

Needless to say, the Native Tourist is excited.

Monday, August 09, 2004
First There Was the Naming of the Animals, Then...

Museums started out as Renaissance Wunderkammern -- private "wonder chambers" where the well-heeled could display their collections of wondrous stuff, whether made by nature or by man. They were about the pleasure to be had from the glories of God-given and man-made plenty. It turned out that one way to enjoy and profit from that plenty was to catalogue it, sort it out, find the laws and regularities behind it -- to learn from it and all about it. Most of the natural sciences and many of the humanities took off from those Renaissance treasure chests. The private displays themselves eventually evolved into public museums -- of art and history and science.

--quote from the Washington Post

Now All We Need Is Some Time and a Comfy Chair...

About 100 million different books have been published in history, Kahle said, citing estimates from professor Raj Reddy at Carnegie Mellon University. About 28 million sit in the Library of Congress. On average, a book can be condensed to a megabyte in Microsoft Word. Thus, the books in the Library of Congress could fit into a 28-terabyte storage system.

"For the cost of a house, you could have the Library of Congress," Reddy said, adding that mass book-scanning projects are currently under way in India and China.

(Source of quote)

Friday, August 06, 2004
The Other Shoe Drops
Howard King has just posted the second (and last) part of his scathing critique of my book. Needless to say he and I have drastically different worldviews - even though we are brothers in Christ.

He speaks of "Hegeman's carnal theory of culture", "Hegeman's materialistic view of Christian culture" and he states that "Hegeman's idea of culture is worldly, so his vision of the eternal state is worldly, as well."

I must plead guilty as charged.

I prefer "earthy" rather than "worldly", because of the negative overtones that the latter term has in the Bible. But the scriptures condemn "world" as a sinful, anti-Christian system - not the physical reality of the earth. Which IS eternal.

Good Listenin' for Thursday Night
Heard North Carolina folk singer Jason Harrod last night at the Coffee Cottage. (He used to play in the group Harrod & Funck.)

What an awesome voice.

His Mad Girlfiend song is was hoot! "Tidewater" was allusively sublime.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Where the Culture and "Great" Commissions Meet
is the Kingdom of God.

This is the argument put forth in Lester DeKoster's book Light for the City: Calvin's Preaching, Source of Life and Liberty.

From the description at Discerning Reader:

According to Lester De Koster, the doctrine of predestination as taught by Calvin makes building the kingdom of God, rather than evangelism, the sole and highest calling of Christians. Calvin's preaching, his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and his leadership of the church and government in Geneva were each directed toward establishing God's kingdom on earth. De Koster cogently argues this provocative case in the hope that, by properly understanding Scripture as a "dynamic creative Agent of the City," faithful preaching today, just as in Calvin's day, will strive to evoke the City of God on earth.

The New Jerusalem is more than people. Its culture too!