The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, September 28, 2007
New Saint Andrews
gets the New York Times treatment...

Doug Wilson clarifies a few things here.

In contrasting NSA with Patrick Henry College, he makes the following important distinction:

But the primary reference of this is to an honest difference in strategy -- do we fight the culture war politically, or culturally?

This is a point I address in Plowing and is a blindspot for many conservative Evangelicals who equate political activism with cultural activism.

Thursday, September 27, 2007
Food for Thought
The food scene in nearby Portland hailed by the New York Times!

A snippet:

To walk through a farmer’s market on a summer morning and to see beautiful golden chanterelles and organic cipollini onions, sweet cherry tomatoes, pattypan squash and bell peppers in purple, ivory and orange, is to have some idea of what you might find on Mr. Sauton’s lunch menu. You’ll even find glorious local corn on the menu, something you would never see in France.

“Well, we bend the rules a little,” he said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From the L.A. Times:

[The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art keeps] the outlaw paintings in the basement, locked in the museum’s vault. Not just the Picassos — the Kandinskys, the Miros, the Warhols. The Monet, the Pissarro, the Toulouse-Lautrec, the Van Gogh. Possibly the best Jackson Pollock outside the U.S. Ruled by one of the most vehemently anti-Western governments in the world, Iran is, by many assessments, home to the most extensive collection of late 19th and 20th century Western art outside the West. It is a treasure trove of masters that is all but forgotten outside knowledgeable art circles because, for all but a few of the last 30 years, it has been virtually unseen.

(found at the Art History Newsletter blog)

Monday, September 24, 2007
My Visit to the Barnes
The year was 1980 as far as I can tell.

I was visiting my sculptor friend Tim who lived in Media, Pa., just outside Philadelphia. He offered to take me to this quirky little museum that I simply had to see. At the time I was deeply interested in modernism. My favorite painter was Cezanne and I loved Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Tim knew this and took me to one of his favorite haunts.

The museum was tucked away on a side street in a very wealthy suburb on the Main Line. It looked like any of the other mansions on the street - tucked behind the hedges as I recall. The museum was open only a couple of days a week. We got there early to ensure that we could get in. The admission price was $4 dollars. Exact change was required! And cameras and backpacks were abolutely forbidden.

What I saw when we went inside was mildblowing. The museum was stuffed with great art. There were dozens of Cezannes, two or three - maybe more - rose and blue period Picassos, murals by Matisse, a masterpiece by Seurat. It went on and on. The quirky rules and hodge-podge way of hanging the works didn't really bother me. It was, all in all, a delightful experience.

Now, the Barnes is on the verge of moving to new digs in central Philadelphia. This may enable more people to see Mr. Barnes great and quirky collection. I am glad I was able to experience what is was like when the Barnes was below the radar and behind the hedges.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Wilson on Kuyperianism

True Kuyperian practice is not to go out into the world and do pretty much what everybody else is doing, only with a Jesus label attached. This is not the lordship of Christ -- rather it is Christians getting into the manufacture of knock-offs. If something gets popular in the world, the Christians are right there with a competing model made with cheap labor in a Third World factory and using a lot more plastic.

In order for the Kuyperian spheres to be rightly related to one another, it is necessary for all of them to be rightly related to worship, a worship of God that is at the center. In the first place, this means worship on the Lord's Day, and in the second place, worship in other settings -- like chapel at seminary.

(Doug Wilson's post goes on to propose that the chapel services at seminaries are a crucial barometer of the health of seminary.)

Purhaps a better indication of a correct posture towards worship is one's sabbath day observance - formal worship and keeping the rest of day holy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Begbie on Music
a must read essay from Books & Culture.

There is also a marvelous little riff by John Wilson on molecules and environmentalism from a free-market perspective.

Monday, September 17, 2007
Dutch Irony

There is therefore a pleasing symmetry in the exhibit. The wealth and produce from the New World was transported across the Atlantic to Amsterdam, where it was used to record the lives of Dutch traders and employ the skills of painters like Rembrandt.

Two centuries later, the art recording that confident time was shipped back across the Atlantic, to what used to be New Amsterdam, where it adorned the drawing rooms of the new rich before arriving on the walls of the Met.

--from article on the exhibition "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art" that appeared in the New York Sun

"It's curious: The families with Dutch names had nothing to do with (The Met's Dutch collection)," says Liedtke, who organized "The Age of Rembrandt" and wrote the scholarly two-volume catalog.

If the Roosevelts and Vanderbilts of the world were uninterested in acquiring Dutch art, there were plenty of others to step into the breach.

--comments from from Met curator Walter Liedtke

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Culture without Common Grace
from an article by Protestant Reformed pastor/professor David Engelsma (the PRC has been the main historic reformed voice against the idea of common grace over the years):

The basis of the Christian's active involvement in the various ordinances, or spheres, of earthly life is also creation and providence. In creating the world for man in the beginning, God Himself structured human life in the world by certain "human ordinances" (I Pet. 2:13). These include the ordinance, or institution, of marriage and the family, the ordinance of labor, and the ordinance of civil government. The fall did not efface these institutions. The providential power of God maintains them. As structures of creation, these institutions are good. The saints live their earthly life in these ordinances, and are thus busy with "culture," because creation and providence so structure human life. Not common grace, but the providence that upholds creation explains why Christians are actively children in a family; husband or wife in marriage; parents in their own home; farmer, businessman, or laborer; and citizen of a nation.

Implied is the legitimacy, on the basis of creation and providence, of a Christian's energetic engagement with all aspects of God's rich creation. He may write books. She may paint pictures. He may explore the Amazon. She may discover drugs that alleviate the pain of arthritis. He may be president of a Christian college or a seminary. Communication, beauty, discovery, medicine, education-all are aspects of creation. In the course of this work, or recreation, the Christian may lawfully avail himself of the gifts, knowledge, discoveries, and inventions that divine providence has bestowed on, and produced through, the ungodly. All these things are simply part of the world that God gives to His children.

As regards the Christian's motivation for life in the human ordinances, it is, on the one hand, obedience to God's calling. God commands the believer to live the Christian life in the ordinances, not outside them in asceticism and world-flight. "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (I Pet. 2:13). Renunciation of creation and flight from ordinary human life in it are not superior holiness, but the "doctrines of devils" (I Tim. 4:1). The reason is that God wants His holy people to show His glory in everyday, earthly life against the dark background of the ungodliness of the wicked in these same ordinances. Therefore, on the other hand, the motivation of the Christian life in the human ordinances is the desire to glorify God. But common grace has nothing to do with this aspect of the Christian's life in the world.

The way Engelsma uses terms like "providence" and "ordinances" and "creation" sound an awful lot like common grace, as it is often used to talk about culture making...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007
An Open Letter On “Ministry”

[I wrote this a number of years ago, when I still lived in Dallas, Oregon. The issues it discusses are of vital importance for the covenant community today, especially given the radical bifurcation of church and culture which is promoted by the Two -Kingdom proponants.]

Dear _____ -

Thanks for the heads up on your article interacting with my (and other’s) response to your earlier articles on ministry and the arts. Alas, I am still unconvinced by your (and Luther and Vieth's) arguments.

I think the bottom line is that you fail to acknowledge that the word "ministry" is really an archaic synonym for the word "service" (minister is directly taken from the Latin for 'servant'). The two terms can and should be used interchangeably. This follows the biblical usage of diakonos and its derivatives. It is not limited to ecclesiastical or pastoral situations. Rom 13:4 clearly demonstrates this:

“For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (italics added; quoted from the NKJV)

Surely you do not think that Paul is arguing that the civil magistrate (“ruler” in verse two) is an ordained church officer! (It is interesting to note that in the British parliamentary system, cabinet members are called “ministers”. Likewise, here in the US, we commonly call government workers “civil servants”.) In a similar vain, note how the diakonos is used in Acts 6:2:

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables’.” (italics added, NJKV)

“Serving tables” is contrasted with the “ministry of the word” (verse 4). Luke clearly indicates that there is more than one kind of ministry. This passage is usually tied to the office of deacon (1 Tim 3:8ff). It should come as no surprise that we often refer to diaconal work as the “ministry of mercy”. We could point to other examples as well (Mt. 4:11, 8:15; Luke 10:40). If the Bible does not limit the usage of the term “minister”, why should we?

As I pointed out in my earlier email to you, recovering the idea of 'ministry' and applying it properly to all vocations (not just those associated with formal church ministry), will go along way to shaping our understanding of what it means to be redeemed/restored human beings. The Hebrew word abad used in Gen. 2:15 simultaneously has incorporated in it the idea of service as well as work as well as worship. This was what mankind - in our pre-fallen state - was given to do on and to the earth, transforming it unto and for God. The service and work of culture-making are one and the same and have their roots in the cultural mandate given to us in the garden. Service - in all its aspects - is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian (John 12:26).

The implication of this for a biblical understanding of the arts is important. Seeing art-making as a “ministry” is a powerful antidote to the self-serving and self-obsessed nature of the current “art for art’s sake” approach. When a Christian artist sees himself first and foremost as a servant, the focus turns to service rendered by the artist, whether it be the worship of God, the edification of the saints, or the challenging and healing of those outside the church.

Thus, it can be properly said that a Christian musician is a “minister”. Is such a musician a “minister of the word” as he composes or performs his music? Definitely not. But if a Christian musician is worth his salt, he will be serving his listeners; to do less is sub-Christian.

I find your last quote of Luther ironic. "The whole church could be filled with the service of God -- not just the churches, but the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop and the fields." If you were to substitute the word 'service' for 'ministry', I think that would undo your whole argument.

There may be good reasons to keep the offices and tasks (="ministries") of the institutional church distinct from other types of work/ministry/vocations. But insisting the term "ministry" be applied only to church office/activities is linguistically and biblically unwarranted. (I would argue that this narrow usage among the Reformers is evidence of leftover sacerdotalism which had not yet been purged from their worldview.)

I am glad to see your efforts to put your ideas into print. There is way too little thinking on the arts in church – although this (thankfully) has been changing of late.

Regards in Christ,

Dave Hegeman
Dallas, Oregon

Monday, September 10, 2007
NOT out of Commission
Here is an intreguing example of a commissioning service for artists and other cultural workers.

Although we need to make some distinctions (artists and engineers do not hold office in the instutional church!) it is time that we recognize that culture-makers are doing the Lord's work as much as ministers, elders and deacons, just in a different sphere.

I'm not sure we need commissioning services, but we do need to lay waste to the false dualism which denigrates the importance of our cultural calling.

Thursday, September 06, 2007
Christians on the Cutting Edge
On the cover of Art News! TM Sisters who were presenters at the IAM NY Conference in February.


“The thing I learned most at Cambridge was that you should be as brutal as possible toward ideas but as courteous as possible to the people who hold them. "

--Salman Rushdie, speech at Willamette University two weeks ago

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
My Laborings
(or should that be labourings?)

I spent my "Labor Day" working on our house as usual. The big job this weekend was installing a small eave on the west wall of our house to help keep the rain away from the outer wall and foundation on that side of the house. (A contractor friend of ours from rainy Seattle suggested this. It may help deal with some pesky small black ants that plague use - as they do many of our neighbors.) It is nearly completed. Next comes the gutters.

I have also installed shelves in the newer hallway of our house that were made from wood taken from a birch tree that had to be felled to put on the addition. The shelves are very near where the tree once stood...

Now to deal with some leaks before the rainy season!