The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Machen the Neo-Calvinist

A third solution, fortunately, is possible—namely consecration. Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God. Instead of stifling the pleasures afforded by the acquisition of knowledge or by the appreciation of what is beautiful, let us accept these pleasures as the gifts of a heavenly Father. Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God.

...The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom must be advanced not merely extensively, but also intensively. The Church must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the whole of man. We are accustomed to encourage ourselves in our discouragements by the thought of the time when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. No less inspiring is the other aspect of that same great consummation. That will also be a time when doubts have disappeared, when every contradiction has been removed, when all of science converges to one great conviction, when all of art is devoted to one great end, when all of human thinking is permeated by the refining, ennobling influence of Jesus, when every thought has been brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ.

--from Machen's essay "Christianity and Culture"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Would the Real Luther Please Stand Up!
Many in favor of a culturally saavy and rich Christianity love to quote Luther about work:

"What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. For what we do in our calling here on earth in accordance with His word and command He counts as if it were done in heaven for Him"

"...it looks like a small thing when a maid cooks and cleans and does other housework. But because God’s command is there, even such small work must be praised as a service of God far surpassing the holiness and asceticism of all monks and nuns"

Yet Luther could also talk in astonishingly negative tones about earthy things:

"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."

How seriously are we going to take "everyday" life and work if it is only transitory?

This kind of escapism would make a dispensationalist blush. It would appear that for all his pro-work bravado he sometimes mustered, that Luther never entirely left the monastery.

Friday, August 24, 2007
Marvin Olasky
I attended a benefit last night for Veritas School (where my kids attend) that when really well. It was a symposium Christians involved in the culture at large at the Newmark Theatre in downtown Portland.

I particularly enjoyed the comments of Dr. Olasky. He is so thoughtful and gracious. He challenged us to think about our stance toward ministering to cities - which really means ministering to people - the crown of God's creation and where cultural zeitgeist gets mainly formed. He was just named Dean of The King's College in NYC, where I used to be the library director many moons ago...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Getting it Covered

Coming in October (or thereabouts) there will the a third printing of Plowing in existence. I guess this means I'll have to redo the colors of TNT!

Monday, August 20, 2007
Camp Times
We had a wonderful time among the Ponderosa Pines... I was able to attempt a watercolor landscape (first time in nearly a year!), talk to friends, play ultimate frisbee and kick back for some napping.

The speaker at the camp, D.G. Hart, was by his own admission, provacative. He didn't really talk that much about culture as such, but his views came out here and there. He refered at one point to the church being "spiritual" and culture/government as being "earthly". During the Q&A I asked him to define "spiritual". He quickly admitted that he did not have some kind of gnosticism in mind, affirmed the goodness of creation, the resurrection of the body, etc. But he stressed the need to make a distinction between temporal and eternal things, something that Kuyperians failed to do.

Hart later elaborated on this some more, noting that Kuyperians failed to understand (or take into account) how Adam's originall calling was temporary and the when he was glorified, culture would no longer be part of his calling. I find this, at best, highly speculative, although such a view is widely heald in contemporary reformed circles.

Clearly this a key issue in the debate between many Kuyperians/tranformationalists and those in favor of the "Two-Kingdom" view. As I argue in my book, the Bible affirms that the earth will be renewed and that some parts of culture will be taken into the new heavens and new earth. The church isn't the only thing that is eternal. Culture is eternal too!

Hart also stressed that the Kingdom = Church. Nothing more, nothing less. (He appealed to WCF 25.2) On this, take not of Vos below. Another question to ponder: where does the Kingdom go the other six days of the week that the church is not formally gathered?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Off to Family Camp
Back on Monday with a full report.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
If you Thought it Was Bad then...

"We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire."

-- French scholar from the 17th century cited in an article from Alan Jacobs in Books & Culture on the history of information overload

Monday, August 13, 2007
Common Grace
From Woody Allen's comments on the death of Igmar Bergman in the New York Times:

But I did manage to absorb one thing from him, a thing not dependent on genius or even talent but something that can actually be learned and developed. I am talking about what is often very loosely called a work ethic but is really plain discipline.

I learned from his example to try to turn out the best work I’m capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one.

Friday, August 10, 2007
Artistic Roots
Ever since I was a young boy, I remember admiring the watercolor landscape that my maternal grandfather owned that was painted by his brother, my Uncle Lou. We now have that painting hanging in our living room. My own interst in watercolor painting no doubt has some roots in this - although I do not endeavor to paint like my Uncle.

He was employed by the Navy as a naval architect and painted watercolors as a very good amateur, active in San Diego.

I did a recent Google search and discovered that some of his work is in the San Diego Museum of Art. Pretty cool!

Here is one of his paintings. Looks like he was looking at modernists like O'Keefe.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Vos the Neo-Calvinist

These various forms of human life have each their own sphere in which they work and embody themselves. There is a sphere of science, a sphere of art, a sphere of the family and of the state, a sphere of commerce and industry. Whenever one of these spheres comes under the controlling influence of the principle of the divine supremacy and glory, and this outwardly reveals itself, there we can truly say that the kingdom of God has become manifest.

--Vos in The Kingdom of God and The Church

So it would appear that for Vos the Kingdom is not entirely spiritual right now!

(Thanks to Greg Baus for pointing this out in the responses to my post on Aug 7. This quote is worth singling out...)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Calvin the Neo-Calvinist
Did Jean Calvin believe the Bible taught the redemption and renewal of all creation - not just people?

By the way, on Andrew’s specific point that salvation is for the cosmos, I once checked how Calvin interpreted all of those cosmological passages about Christ saving the world — turns out Calvin only understood the cosmos to include beings with souls. God’s saving all things, then, was an assertion that he was saving men and angels. Not even Calvin was a neo-Calvinist. Could be because he was an Augustinian.

--Darryl Hart in a reponse to a post on De Regno Christi critiquing the Two-Kingdom View of Culture

But here is at least one place where Calvin talks this way:

But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine, — that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.

--Calvin's Commentary on Romans 8:21

It would appear that Calvin was a neo-Calvinist of sorts!

A Visit to the Gnostic Empire
Next week should be an interesting one for the Native Tourist. My family and I will be spending several days in eastern Oregon at First OPC Family Camp (we have attended this several times before).

This year the speaker will be Darryl Hart who will be taking his Two-Kingdom approach to Culture on the road.

So its kind of interesting that we have had two visiting preachers at our church the past two weeks who have preached from a Vos-ian church-as-"Spiritual" perspective the past two weeks. Lunchtime talks after the service were very lively. To put it bluntly, though these men would never admit outright, they see little worth in cultural endeavors. Culture is only temporary. Its all going to burn. Chrisians and the church are to be concerned with "heavenly" matters.

Such a radical position on culture isn't much better (or different) from dispensationalism.

So I have been boning up a little on this stuff. This blog has been really helpful.