The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Monday, October 31, 2005
Happy Reformation Day

Check out one of Luther's wedding gifts!

Also, check out this way cool Luther/Reformation digital library with many scanned books and manuscripts/documents from reformation times including this document from Calvin (very large)!

Thursday, October 27, 2005
Some Helpful Distinctions
and historical insights on understanding "environmentalism" from a post by Calvin Beisner in this "umpired debate" on Christianity and Environmentalism at the pcanews.com site.

From Beisner:

Historically, "conservationism," which honored the dominion mandate and saw creation as God-given resources to be managed well for the common weal, gave way in the mid-twentieth century to "preservationism," predicated on the view of man principally as a threat to earth, which in turn gave way to "environmentalism," which saw man as a destructive interloper and tended toward biological egalitarianism, naturalism, and sometimes Eastern mysticism (e.g., in the "Deep Ecology" movement).

Maintaining the distinction between "conservationism" and "enviromentalism" seems very promising. Christians should recapture this word and use it to promote a view which truly balances pro-development/cultural transformation and maintenance of the earth's beauty and fruitfulness ("work" and "keep" -- Gen 2:15).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Was Abraham Kuyper a Theonomist?
Check out this quote (from Mr. Baus' blog):

"One sole desire rules my life, a single urge drives soul and will:
to re-establish God’s holy ordinances in church and home, in state and school... to engrave those divine ordinances, to which Word and Creation witness, so clearly on the nation that once again we bow the knee to God."
--Abraham Kuyper

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Read It & Weep IV
More cultural pessimism from the gnostic reformed...

This time from a speech by D.G. Hart:

Calvinists and Lutherans both stand in the Augustinian tradition but the latter generally receive credit for better preserving the Christian notion of human life as one lived in exile. According to H. Richard Niebuhr, whose book on Christ and Culture continues remarkably to define American Protestant debates about culture, Lutherans conceive of Christ and culture in a paradoxical relationship while Calvinists believe in a cultural model of Christ transforming culture. Although Niebuhr has surprisingly little to say about eschatology, clearly, the Anglo-Protestants who tried to create heaven on earth exhibit the transformationist ideal. Conversely, the Lutheran outlook, which is closer to the Augustinian understanding, has been less attractive to American Protestants who, whether through the Social Gospel or faith-based initiatives, have been trying to Christianize American society. As Niebuhr put it, “Both Paul and Luther have been characterized as cultural conservatives,” by which he means that they “were deeply concerned to bring change into only one of the great cultural institutions and sets of habits of their times -- the religious.” Niebuhr does give Luther credit for understanding well “the actual struggles of the Christian who ‘lives between the times.’” Still the over all effect of the dualism inherent in Lutheran theology is the idea “that in all temporal work in culture men are dealing only with the transitory and the dying. Hence, however important cultural duties are for Christians their life is not in them. . . .”

Finding examples of this Lutheran ambivalence about culture is not difficult. Martin Luther’s most popular song, “A Mighty Fortress,” the one sung on Reformation Sunday by those Protestants who still sing hymns, has a final verse that supports Niebuhr’s contention that the Augustinian understanding of Christ and culture is insufficiently reform-minded:

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Of course, the line about letting goods, kindred and mortal life go is not exactly a blueprint for cultural renewal or preservation. In fact, that line has all the connotations of otherworldliness typically associated with fundamentalism. But not to be missed in the concluding stanza of “A Mighty Fortress” is the fairly explicit assertion of the two-kingdom theology for which Lutheranism is legendary. The “earthly powers” in the first line contrast sharply with God’s kingdom. The former is temporal, the latter is “forever.” Even more important for my purposes is the eschatology implicit in this contrast. The word of God, like his kingdom, transcends “earthly powers.” In fact, even without the help of those earthly powers, the divine purpose endures.

It gets worse. Hart quotes Luther's commentary on Hebrews 11:13:

we must not seek to build for ourselves eternal life here in this world and pursue it and cleave to it as if it were our greatest treasure and heavenly kingdom, and as if we wished to exploit the Lord Christ and the Gospel and achieve wealth and power through Him. No, but because we have to live on earth, and so long as it is God’s will, we should eat, drink, woo, plant, build, and have house and home and what God grants, and use them as guests and strangers in a strange land, who know they must leave all such things behind and take our staff out of this strange land and evil, unsafe inn, homeward bound for our true fatherland where there is nothing but security, peace, rest, and joy for evermore.

Ick. If we have to get our hands dirty with all this cultural business, we might as well make the most of it...

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Who Said This?
(its not who you would think!)

It is not only prayer that gives God glory, but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

(A book Lutherans apparently don't need to read.)

Memory Lane
Did I ever tell you that I used to be a museum guard?

Its a pretty good way to get to know art really, really well.

Monday, October 17, 2005
All the Great Guitar Licks
without the leftist lyrics. Bruce Cockburn's Speechless.

Friday, October 14, 2005
North Africa was once a vital Christian stronghold: a bastion of Christian culture. It was the region of scholars in Alexandria and of Augustine and his circle. Then Islam happened and in less than 100 years the church was snuffed out.

Wil; history repeat itself in Europe? William Murchison asks this question in a recent Touchstone article.

Here's a snippet:

The first is a strong suggestion in the Lord’s words that what’s wanted from the Church of God, in its relationship to the world, is stark clarity, and a certain boldness. What kind of religious enterprise are a bunch of fishermen likely to get going in the Greco-Roman world, lacking some confidence in the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ the Messiah over Jupiter and Apollo and Venus and the whole marble-visaged crew positioned atop the physical and metaphysical heights of that world?

Yes, where was this Christ business going? Couldn’t it cause trouble—such as getting you nailed head-down to a cross or treated to other imperial inducements to religious quietism? What was this, though? The gates of hell would not prevail against you. You might just have a fighting chance. Indeed, given the authority with which these memorable words were delivered—though the voice must have been characteristically even in tone—you might have a sure thing. Not painless—sure and certain (as the old Anglican burial service would have it). That would make up for a great deal, it seems easy enough to say with proper distance from all the uproar.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
400 Candles
for Rembrandt in 2006. Some stuff to look forward to in the Netherlands:

all the paintings and drawings by RVR owned by the Rijksmuseum on display (not at the same time)

Rembrandt and Caravaggio at the Van Gogh Museum.

There is also a promising show in Milwaukie of all places. (Check out the link where they uncrate an RVR landscape!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Friday in Portland
I finally got to return to the Portland Art Museum after a long absence. (For two week there are free tickets to the museum in honor of its brand new North Wing.)

I had been longing to see the small mini-show of Dutch old masters from the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. It was a delightful sampler of what the Golden Age has to offer. I especially liked the flower piece by Oosterwyck.

Thursday, October 06, 2005
Who said:

Brothers and sisters, love the earth. Be true to the earth, and do not believe those seducers who look longingly to the world beyond, casting suspicion on this world. Jesus is the greatest friend of the earth—Jesus who again and again, in the original spirit of Judaism, proclaimed love for this earth, love for the soil, love for the land.

From a sermon by Andrew Sandlin on 1 Cor. 2:

I draw your attention to a great fact from v. 5. If we employ the classical rhetoric of the Greeks, we forfeit the power of the Holy Spirit. When we say, “Let’s make the Gospel sound urbane and cogent and persuasive in our speech,” God says, “Fine. You’ll have your impressive speech, and you’ll forfeit My power.”

Sisters and brothers, when you declare the Gospel to your family and friends and neighbors, know that you don’t need persuasive words; you only need the power of the Holy Spirit. Too many preachers today lust for rhetoric and lack the power.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005
by another soon to be Canon Press author. Its cool that Canon seeks to publish literary type stuff. They put their publishing efforts where their mouth is.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
And You Thought it Was Hard to Be Human

A museum is a paradise for a work of art. There remains nothing more to be desired in the physical respect. In a museum the temperature and humidity are constant and travelling is done in a professional, air-cushioned manner. By day the public keeps a suitable distance, while as a protection against all too ambitious collectors, the stores are burglar-proof 24 hours a day.

A museum is also a hell for a work of art. You are collected with love and passion, but once you are in, there prove to be 122,999 other beloved works of art. And even if you are the most beloved of all, this involves yet other drawbacks. Before you know it, you are imprioned in a chest on the way to a blockbuster in Berlin or Amsterdam, or you have to endure a second life on a place-mat in a pancake restaurant.

--taken from the Boijmans van Beuningen Art Museum site

Monday, October 03, 2005
What's NU
New Urbanism (NU) seems to be rapidly becoming the cool evangelical thing. Via Barb Harvey I came across yet another Christian take on this view of city making from Trevor.

As I have said before, NU has a lot of promise. As an appoach to shaping cities it far exceeds the Modernist debacle. But this it not saying much. Just about anything is better than the cold social engineering of Modernism.

But NU is just as much a social engineering agenda as Modernism; it is simply a kinder, gentler approach to social engineering with nice sidewalks and quaint front porches (which nobody uses).

Trevor sites principles from the Newurbaism.org site that assert that NU is the most sustainable appoach to city making and that it fosters class integration. I see no evidence to support this. In fact most NU project built so far are playgrounds for yuppie intellectuals (Bobo's) not the balanced utopias we might wish for. It would be great to have more aesthetic, more sustainable, more communitarian, more inclusive neighborhoods/cities. But does NU really fit the bill? This remains to be seen.