The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Holding the Center

Will we have the moxie to stand up and stick out like a sore thumb against the Lie?

From Doug Wilson:

A similar taunt of defiance was written by C.S. Lewis in his classic That Hideous Strength. Speaking of the "fabulously learned and saintly Richard Crowe" he notes that the last words of Crowe had been "Marry, Sirs, if Merlin who was the Devil's son was a true King's man as ever ate bread, is it not a shame that you, being but the sons of bitches, must be rebels and regicides?" Sons of bitches about pegs it.

I use these words deliberately, because it reveals how much postmodern thinking has penetrated the evangelical world. I am not here speaking of those writers who are openly cheering postmodernism and throwing their hats in the air. I am speaking of churches and individual Christians who flinch and wince at the free use of "sons of bitches" and who do not wince at all when someone says that "objective truth" may be a concept that will not serve us well evangelistically in these postmodern times. "Jesus is Lord" is a truth, to be sure, but it is a truth in our linguistic community. And the compromised say that they may not agree with this, but surely we can conduct our discourse on a higher level?

At the end of the day, any theologian who defends the truth as an objective reality apart from our experience of it will be charged with epistemic arrogance and hubris. This charge will be made regardless of his personal demeanor, grace, or graciousness. This charge will be made because the use of language in this debate is all about who will "have the center." The pomos want it, and they will lie to get it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Art What If...
"I'm convinced that had he lived another 10 years, he would have been as famous as Rembrandt and Vermeer."

--from Radio Netherlands program on the Dutch artist Carel Fabritius who died in an explosion in Delft at the age of 32.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Put On
Putting on airs about what other people find pleasurable to eat, listen to, hang on their walls, etc. is contrary to the spirit of Christ. But does this include kitsch? Does it include pictures of Elvis on crushed velvet? Yes, after a fashion. We must not put on airs over such things, ever. But may we recognize cultural immaturity? Yes, but not in a way that becomes indignant over other people’s pleasures.

--from a recent Doug Wilson blog entry

Monday, December 20, 2004
According to the Rijksmuseum web site, there were approxamately 5 million paintings made during the 17th century in the Netherlands.

The population of the United Provinces ranged from 1.5 to 1.9 million during the same time period.

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Minas Tirith and the New Jerusalem
This post is inspired by Matt Colvin's keen observation about the remarkable (at least!) similarity of Peter Jackson's Minas Tirith in LOTR and Bruegel's Babel (pictures of each are on Matt's site.)

I have made this observation earlier, but have not put it in writing:

Minas Tirith is an excellent visual example of how the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21 would look. Many critics of a (more or less) literal, concrete reading of that passage have seen the depiction as "silly". "Its just a big cube. How can a city be a big cube?"

For example, radical agrarian Howard King, in his review of my book, observes
Jerusalem means "City of Peace". It was a castle, a walled fortress, intended to be a place of wealth, of security, of stable order, of community, and of the presence of God. The New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse represents these ideals under a figure. The enormous precious and semi-precious stones of the foundations, the pearly gates, the streets of gold -- all suggest virtually unlimited wealth. The cube-shape and the massive foundations represent perfect stability. The tremendous wall represents absolute security. In words reminiscent of Isaiah's prophecy (54:11), " O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires," John describes the beauty and perfection of the foundations of the city. What do these precious stones represent? The doctrine of the apostles (Revelation 21:14). For the city itself is identified as "the bride, the Lamb's wife"(v. 9,10) . This can be no other than the church, which is the community of the faithful. God himself shall dwell there, with His people forever.

Rev. 21:15-16 states that
And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.(KNJV)

Reading this as a cube is a very uncreative reading. Seeing the New Jerusalem as a vast pyramidal city built in a stepped fashion, like a wedding cake, or like Jackson's Minas Tirith, is a more sensible view. It also helps us see how the imagery of the New City comports with other prophetic language referring to the Mountain of the LORD (Heb. 12:22). And it demonstrates how culture is to be harmoniously integrated with nature.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Rock Concert Worship Experience
Bono and the Edge each take an octave on the final song Yahweh, a song destined to be this generation’s 40. With the lyrical flavor of a Take My Life and Let it Be and the musical flavor of a worship anthem, Yahweh is a worship song, plain and simple. It is a prayer and an invitation for God to turn “clenched fists” in to open hands, to “kiss” and heal a critical mouth, to restore the “city shining on a hill” if it “be your will,” to “take this heart and make it break.” That’s where the album ends, in fact, with those lovely, humble, prayerful words…take this heart and make it break. By now, your hands are raised, and you’re calling Ticketmaster for front row seats to what is sure to be another incredible worship experience – U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb tour.

(from a review in byFaith magazine)

Monday, December 13, 2004
The Out-of-Context Bible Quote of the Year

The LORD has rejected the two kingdoms

--Jer. 33:24 (NIV)

Doug Wilson, after a visit to a local bookstore, had this observation:

We are being disciplined by the modern market to live fragmented lives. The world insists upon it. We think we are not affected by it, but we are. Whatever valuable critiques of modernity might be brought by postmodernity, we have to fix it in our minds that postmodern fragmentation is a very great evil, and it is our temptation.

The effect of the culture around us is very subtle. We need to work hard to see its effects on us and take appropriate action.

Friday, December 10, 2004
Culture is Local
Or at least it ought to be. Or at least that is where is starts.

R.C. Sproul Jr has it right:
I’m sure, had I so desired, I could have driven to Knoxville or Charlotte last night, and seen someone perform that you would have heard of. I certainly could have traipsed off to the movie theater and seen the latest scenes from Hollywood. I would have, in either case, had some minute point of contact with all those who watched with me. But that’s not what I did. Last night I visited the local coffee shop, Java J’s, owned by a local homeschooling family. There, playing their music up on stage, was the Ridgewood Boys. I suspect that it was an unpayed gig, though it was rather professionally done. Rick, the older of the two boys, sang well and earnestly while playing the stand-up bass. Chris, the younger of the two boys, added his voice and played alternately the banjo and the guitar. I was able to bring all six of my children along, and while I was there, got to visit with the eight to ten families from Saint Peter Church that showed up that night. The Ridgewood Boys are Rick Saenz and his son Chris, likewise members at Saint Peter.


Thursday, December 09, 2004
David Brooks Gets it
A couple of weeks ago Brooks wrote a piece in the New York Times recognizing that the John Stott is one pudits need to understand if they want to get into the head of evangilicals - more than, say, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

He was so correct.

Two days ago he wrote another boffo piece on "natalists" - i.e. that segment of America (mostly conservatives - in the "red" states) who -- gasp -- have three or more kids.

Here is one amazing insight by Brooks:

If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.

This also explains the homeschooling and Christian Schools. But its not just about protection. Its about formation. Its about foundations. We want our kid's minds to shaped by the Truth without all the baggage that the world has to offer. They'll have plenty of time to battle that later when they are mature.

Brooks ends hid piece with this observation:

What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.

Well, not quite.

What these "natalists" have learned it that it is more important to build than to fight. Sum it up in one word:


Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Christianity as Resistance
The final essay in Shaming the Devil is a triptych in which Jacobs recounts his quest to learn Linux and buck the Bill Gates machine. It is called "Computer Control (the Virtues of Resistance)," and I very much like that parenthetical; it reminds me that Christians are called to be, inter alia, pockets of resistance to the powers and principalities.

--from a review of Alan Jacob's new book at ChristianityToday.com

Right in my Backyard
Last week there was an article about the evangelical "scene" in Portland in the freebie alternative rag Willamette Week. In it they mentioned the Institute for the Theology of Culture which is run by a professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. The Institute even has a new journal Cultural Encounters coming out soon.

The orientation of the Institute seems to focus on contemporary issues and political involvement rather that culture-making. But it is still pretty cool!

Friday, December 03, 2004
Christmas and Culture
And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

That is, they presented to the King of culture gifts of human culture-making, forshadowing Revelation 21:24,26.

Thursday, December 02, 2004
Cool Dutch Art Site
If you have Flash on your computer, check out the Masterpieces of the Golden Age site at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Beautifully designed.

(Link to the site is on this page.)