The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, April 29, 2005
Anyone Interested in Culture
from a Christian perspective should take a look at this paper by Tim Keller on the "different cultures" within the PCA. (He identifies three - I have always thought there was more like five.) Along the way he discusses their positions viz. the predominant culture within the Niebuhr catagories.

Keller's piece is very insightful and telling. At one point Keller suggests,

It is not apparent (nor likely) that there are any true “Christ of culture” liberals in the PCA who basically believe that the main trends in our society are the work of God’s spirit.

I would disagree. Those in the PCA who are repeatedly calling for "cultural engagement" and the need to be "relevant" do seem to be headed in this direction.

Thursday, April 28, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Everything I Learned About
theology, I learned from Comic Books?

From blurb:
Comic books have become a twenty-first-century mythology. Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Greg Garrett explores this mythology and extracts profound truths belied by glossy art, superhuman characters, and fast-paced action. Find out the surprising spiritual depth of comic books.

Marvel at the deeper meaning of comic books.

Common grace is bigger than I thought.


"I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring a clear remembrance of the Creator. One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made."

--St. Basil, quoted in this article.

Friday, April 22, 2005
Recent Post/Self-Quote from Doug Wilson:
"There is no way that young men can watch, and be entertained by, movies which include displays of nudity, steamy sex scenes, and so forth, without being aroused by them. A boy who tells his mother that he can 'handle it' is using what astute theologians in former ages used to call 'a lie'" (Future Men, pp. 141-142).

I suppose this counts for older men as well. And most women too.

And yet to see (via blog entries, etc.) what Reformed and evangelical folk are watching on a regular basis would seem betray this. Wilson's title to this entry says it all: "Kidding Yourself."

Thursday, April 21, 2005
"Dogma threatens liberty."
--inscription on the clocktower outside the library at Willamette University, which I passed during lunch today.

Willamette was founded by Methodists over 150 years ago.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Aesthetic Pope?

An accomplished pianist who loves Mozart, Ratzinger enjoys playing the grand piano in the seminary's main hall...

--from Yahoo.com's profile


A recent post over at Gideon Strauss' site got me thinking. I have been toying with a defintion of art for years. Here's where I am at right now:

A work of art is a deliberately crafted object, space, text, or performance made with the primary goal of instilling aesthetic or intellectual pleasure in the one who received the work.

Criticisms? What do you think? Have at it!

Friday, April 15, 2005
Looking for a Few Good Garden-Cities
Found this discussion of my book and the hyper-agrarian critique of it by Howard King (see my response) at the House of Degenhart blog. At one point Chad, the author notes:

So King argues that one of the reasons that Hegeman’s garden-city thesis fails is because it uses the Garden of Eden to represent primitive culture, which man must advance by building the great city. This view that Hegeman advocates essentially sees the pre-fall world not as Paradise, but merely a potential paradise. Isn’t it a bit arrogant, though, to suggest such a thing? After all, the Garden represented God’s own handiwork, not raw material for him to do something else with. Adam was to keep and dress the Garden, not uproot the trees and pour the foundation of a new apartment complex (even if it did have an attractive solarium with many plants grown in artificial light, where a man could sit in a smoke-free environment and enjoy “nature”). Whether or not you agree with Hegeman’s view, or King’s view, it is inescapable that the two views are diametrically opposed.

Quite true.

I want to say for the record that I state quite clearly that I do state in Plowing that the Garden of Eden is paradise. This does not mean that it is impossible for something good and perfect to reach an even higher (or different) state of perfection. (Didn't Jesus Christ grow and mature?) God gave men and women the privilage of embellishing (="dress") and uncovering the potentialities invested in the original. It is part of the imago dei.

In the response Chad's post, a question arises:

I enjoyed Hegeman’s book, but also noticed the non-existence of his garden-citys. It doesn’t mean he’s wrong, or they can’t exist, I just don’t know of any.

Let me offer some examples that pop into my head (that I have actually visited): Savannah, Georgia, many of the older parts of eastern US cities such as Brooklyn Heights, the tree-lined streets of old Boston, Philadelphia's Society Hill, the Georgetown section of Washington, DC.

Do you have any other suggestions of real live garden-cities?

Thursday, April 14, 2005
Gnostic Standard Version

5. The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
6. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
7. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8. Jesus shook his head and answered, “Don't you know, Satan? This is all going to burn."

Friday, April 08, 2005
Trip Thoughts - Part Four: The Art
One of the goals of my trip (besides getting a look at Covenant College) was to visit art museums that I would otherwise not get an opportunity to visit. I choose four museums which had (I hoped) strong collections of Dutch 17th century art which I am particularly interested in right now.

The best collection I visited by far was the at the St Lous Art Museum. They had at least 20 paintings on view. One entire wall of a gallery was lined up with landscapes which had amazing variety - an excellent cross-sample of what the Golden Age has to offer in this area. Their Wouwerman is exceptional. The other painting I particularly liked was the Nicolaes Maes The Account Keeper (an elderly bookkeeper who has dozed off). I enjoyed both Maes' technical excellence along with his wry sense of humor. They also has on display several examples of Dutch glassware including a Roemer - a rounded glass which appears in many still life paintings of the period.

The second best collection I saw was at the Memphis Brooks Art Museum. A small collection which also has some fine pieces including large "tonalist" still life by Koets, a delicate historical "portrait" by Jan Lievens and a nice, fairly large Van Goyen landscape.

The biggest dissapointment was the closure of most of the old master galleries at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. I suspect that their collection would have rivalled St Louis'. I can only hope that can get another opportunity to visit when their collection is re-installed. The Joslyn had only a handful of Dutch pieces. The large still life by Jacob Van Es a Flemish painter was really exceptional.

(links to museum in an earlier entry below)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Trip Thoughts - Part III: Sunday
My daughter and I worshipped Sunday morning at Messiah's Congregation our former church in Brooklyn. It was the first time we had visited in four years (the last time was just before 9-11). The church has recently merged with what used to be Kings Highway Baptist (they became fully Reformed!) and they now meet in their facility, which, to say the least, is a lot more comfortable than the torturous pews at the old Episcopal church they used to rent. (I do miss the ships models however.)

It was a wonderful homecoming. The singing was very rich. Steve Schlissel preached on John 12. And it was great visiting with old friends. It was announced during the worship service that one of Philippa's old playmates had just been accepted to Annapolis. Wow!

Afterwards we had dinner with the Schlissels which included several other old friends and several of Steve and Jeannie's grand kids. Pretty sobering to remember when their parents were babies. How time flies.

Jeannie served brussel sprouts. I wonder if that is in honor of my book?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you"

Trip Thoughts - Part II: The Cities
My drive across the country gave me the opportunity to visit (or at least drive through) a number of cities I have never been to before. These include Nashville, Memphis, St Louis, Kansas City and Omaha.

St. Louis is a city I would like to spend more time in. As I whizzed by in my car I noted many neighborhoods with character-laden brick row houses, old churches, storefronts, etc. I love this kind of urban texture. Reminded me of the eastern cities that I have experienced so often: Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston and above all, Pittsburgh.

My favorite city (at least what I saw of it) was Chattanooga. The downtown part of the city, despite the TVA monstrosity and the brutalist central library, had a marvelous stock of old office buildings, theatres, store fronts, etc. Pretty amazing for a city of its size. To the north of downtown there was a nice restaurant district and they have brought in a nice bunch of cultural amenities including the Tenn. Aquarium and a stadium for the minor league Lookouts. The art museum was closed as it is being expanded. The St. Elmo neighborhood which is just at the base of Lookout Mountain (Where Covenant College is located) looked like a great place. Houses in Chattanooga are also fairly inexpensive. A great place for Christian artists to take up residence?

Friday, April 01, 2005
Trip Thoughts - Part I: The Land
I am very resonsive to landscapes. Driving is such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy God's creation and man's response to it. My drive across the county gave me ample opportunities to take in the vast land.

Regrettably, it was dark when I drove through western Nebraska and much of central southern Wyoming (though I could see the ghosts of land's contours in the snowfields glowing in the muted moonlight.)

The hightlights:

1. The stretch of I-84 in Utah, from where it branches off of I-80 to Ogden, and then from where it branches off of I-15 to the Idaho border. Some of the most beautiful mountain scenery I have seen in some time. Some areas were open and rolling grasslands with mountains in the distance. Amazing colors.

2. Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (I-81 - no surpise here.) We stayed over night with a friend from our Brooklyn days who had just bought a farm north of Roanoke with a million dollar view. The area had many old antebellum farm houses too and a classic old lutheran church. What surprised my is how much this area looks like the Willamette Valley and Coast Range here in Oregon.

3. The open, BIG hills on I-84 in eastern Oregon just west of Ontario. Scenic and spectacular.

BTW, the views from Lookout Mountain in TN/GA were somewhat obscured because of the weather but were still impressive.

Sorry no pictures. (I did take pictures in VA. I'll see how they turn out.)