Posted in Life

My Life Is In a Box

My life is in a box, an intermediary moment from here to there, from there to here or from there to where. For several years, I lived as a bit of a gypsy. Things were overrated. We only needed what we needed, and the rest was dead weight.

I don’t live that way anymore. I don’t know those people anymore. Their faces seem a little less familiar everytime I log on Facebook….

It is a pause. Life on pause. For a moment. Take a breath. In the moment, I am scrambling to rebuild, and slowly, like Legos. l If you look at the right angle, you can see what I am shaping. But, right now, it all just looks like stacks here, there…an arch on this side, and a wall here…one day it will be a great city….

Things. Things. I have an obsession with things. New things. Pretty things. Shiny glass things….I am constantly buying new things, as if buying them will make the rebuilding faster. Because I have new things, I must have moved on…

 

But relics of my past life sit in a box, waiting. Waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for change. Waiting for permanence. Waiting for the moment when I can unpack them. My life is in a box.

 

 

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Posted in Art

The heartbreak of creativity: a public service announcement

I just found this blog today. It’s everything I wish I would have thought to say.

Drinking Tips for Teens

ross jobs A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.” You can hear the original audio version here .

Hello, I’m Ross Murray, beloved columnist, salad dressing connoisseur and author of the best-selling self-help book Don’t Kid Yourself, Mister. Today, I’d like to talk about a condition that afflicts 2 out of 6 Canadians and in some areas as many as 1 in 3. I’m talking about… creativity.

Creativity can strike anyone, anytime, though probably not before 10 a.m. Creative people are just like you and me, except with weirder clothes and occasionally dubious hygiene. Creativity is a highly distracting affliction, but, with regular treatment and flattery, most creative people lead full, productive lives… Let me try that again: most creative people lead full lives.

There are two types of creativity. Some people are born creative, although early creativity remains difficult to diagnose. Many parents become convinced that their…

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Posted in God

The Prodigal Son’s Brother: On the Offensive Topic of Grace

Grace can be an offensive topic. Of course, we all want to believe that grace is an honorable attribute, and that like Christ, we show grace. But what about when grace doesn’t benefit us?

My latest pondering about this has been the prodigal son story. No one ever really talks about the prodigal son’s brother. Not really anyway. I’ve heard many moving descriptions of how the father watches down the road, his eyes welling with tears as he runs down the road to greet the son. The music swells as father throws his arm around the son, proclaiming, “My son’s come home again.” The servants arrive, bringing the scarlet robe and ring and then we see all the guests have arrived, but lurking in the shadows there is a dark figure….

I grew up over churched. We went to a small non-denominational church. At the time, our church had a Christian school that I attended up until high school. I went to Christian school five days a week, and then church on Sunday, and sometimes midweek events. If I learned anything during this childhood, it was that God blesses those who are obedient, and does not bless those who are not. I learned not to associate with children in their wayward deeds, because this does not please God. I tried very hard to be a good little girl, and being a quite shy one anyway, this was not hard.

On through my teens, I listened to my youth pastors who vehemently proclaimed abstinence, and many other approaches to modern relationships. (They have since recanted some other their teachings, admitting that maybe there are other approaches than kissing dating goodbye).

Through high school I shunned drugs, alcohol and partying, because I knew that God would not be pleased. I went to a Christian college, and much can be said about ethics in Christian colleges. Sure, I thought it might have been fun to out drinking with the girls down the hall. But I didn’t, because I knew God would not be pleased.

Now into my adulthood, I look at those girls, and others along the way, and they are much more successful and in many ways happier than me. I am left to wonder why I chose the narrow road, when the broad path that leads to destruction, is quickly remedied by grace. Promiscuous teenage girls have repented and are now successful women with wonderful husbands, while I am left single. Slacker students in high school, found their niche and now own their own businesses, while I struggle to make a buck.

God is free to dispense grace where he sees appropriate, and I dare not question the wisdom of the Almighty. But, from down here, it so often seems unfair. No one ever talks about the prodigal son’s brother. Isn’t it time we do?

 

Posted in Art, God

The Worldview of Modern Age Artists

To truly understand the relationship between Christianity and the arts, the Christian must first understand that art reflects the worldview of the culture and its current philosophies. Music, theatre and literature, not only influence, but are influenced by popular thinking. The modern age was no different. As modern thinking drifted farther from a Biblical worldview, so did the art.

The descent of the arts from the church began with the descent of man from the church. The decent of man from the church, began with the development of humanism during the Renaissance. Although the Reformation tried to react against humanism, and made some important strides, the descent into “societal secularization,” had already begun. In the God Who is There, Frances Schaeffer writes that there were four philosophers which created the modern age thinking.

Jean Jacques Rousssau’s Noble Savage and Immanuel Kant’s Subjective Experience

Beginning with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the shift came because humanism largely failed to provide the answers people needed. The new answer was there was no unified answer. Rousseau created, “The Noble Savage.” The noble savage concept states that humanity is perfect, but society corrupts. He wrote that man should have absolute freedom. At the micro level, this sounded great, but the problem came when this was applied at the macro level. It leads to anarchy. His concept, however, of autonomous freedom, the concept behind the Bohemian movement, was later revised into the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Rousseau influenced the thinking of David Hume, and John Wolfgang von Goethe. Hume said truth could not be understood by reason, but by human experience. Goethe said nature is the way to determine truth. These philosophers turned away from the Renaissance/Enlightenment ideas of reason, and emphasized emotion as the guide for human behavior. As such, they become the heroes of the Romantic Movement.

Immanuel Kant is the second of the four men. He said we can only know what we experience. Reason is inadequate for us to understand the world around us, including God.

Wilhelm Hegel and the Loss of Absolutes

German philosopher Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said there were no absolutes, only extremes, which he called thesis and antithesis. Morality and meaning must be derived by a synthesis of these extremes.

According to Schaeffer, Hegel’s philosophy leads to an infinite division of thesis and antithesis, and so man and the universe are constantly changing.

Soren Kierkegaard and the Leap of Faith

The final philosopher influencing reason in the modern age was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s theory was that one cannot arrive at a moral conclusion, or meaning through reason. One had to take a “leap of faith.” Schaeffer writes, “As a result of this, from that time on, if rationalistic man wants to deal with the really important things in life, (such as purpose, significance, the validity of love), he must discard rational thought about them, and take a gigantic, non-rational leap of faith.”

Kierkegaard has been called the father of modern thinking, and the father of modern existentialism. Out of his thinking, flowed the existentialist teachings of Karl Jaspers, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger. Jaspers said that life, in and of itself, has no intrinsic meaning. In order to find meaning and significance in life, one must search for this spiritual, individualized, “final experience.” This deeply emotional moment, that cannot be communicated. This would validate one’s own existence.

The Effects of Existentialism and the Loss of Meaning

Sartre and Camus, the most well known French existentialists, said that life and existence are absurd. There is no meaning to be found, one can only authenticate oneself through acts of will. Heidegger explained significance in the form of angst and dread causes people to move and act, thus validating their existence.

In the 1880’s, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote an essay in which a watchmen cried out, “God is dead, we have killed God.” The idea was that modern technology had killed the need for God. Humans had become like God and eradicated the need for him.

However, according to Schaffer, there was a deeper pattern at work. In The God Who is There, he wrote that human thinking had descended away from God so gradually yet so completely, that Nietzsche’s thinking logically flowed out of existentialism. After all, he wrote, if everything is subjective, then there are no absolutes. If there are no absolutes, how can there be God? God is an absolute.

This is the modern age. This is what people were thinking, discussing, and feeling. This fragmented views of life that philosophers Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard all postulated, became the framework from which modern age artists drew their ideas. To understand the fragmented relationship between Christianity and the arts, the Christian must understand the collective paradigm shift occurring within philosophy.

Sources:

Frances A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, (InterVarsity Press, 1968)

Posted in Art, God

Literature and Drama During the Protestant Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door at Wittenberg Castle. A new professor at an insignificant German university, Luther requested an academic symposium on suspect practices of the Catholic Church, chiefly, the sale of indulgences as authorized by Pope Leo X in 1514.

The resulting movement, later called the Protestant Reformation, emphasized the power of the individual to interpret the Bible–an avante garde idea with the seeds of Renaissance humanism simultaneously taking root. Christianity’s greatest revolution overhauled the entire structure of the faith—including its relationship to the arts.

The Protestant Reformers

The Protestant Reformation, although generally attributed to Martin Luther, was actually the combined work of several Reformers. In Germany, Martin Luther sought to reform the Catholic Church from within. In Zurich, Huldrych Zwingli called for a return to the simpler times of the New Testament, and purity of the Bible’s teachings.

In Geneva, John Calvin wrote The Institutes of the Christian Faith (1536), insisting that the Bible is the fundamental basis for the Christian faith. All theology should be defensible through the Bible. In England, Henry VIII sought to distance himself and England from the jurisdiction of the Pope, and create his own church.

The Reformed View of Art

The Protestant Reformation encouraged the re-examining of theology and personal reading of the Bible. Christians began to question their beliefs. Many developed a new interest in the First and Second Commandments against idol worship and graven images. Zwingli and Calvin took these commandments to mean that religious images should be abolished altogether.

Churches, according to Zwingli and Calvin, should rely on purity of image and simplicity, as opposed to the ostentatious nature of the Catholic Church. Early reformers adamantly caught on to these teachings, and violently destroyed images in the church. Much has been made about these iconoclasts. However, in How Should We Then Live, Frances Schaeffer writes that many of these images were not trashed necessarily out of violence. Many times the donors themselves smashed the images. It was a cathartic purging of a religion they now believed was wrong and full of lies.

In Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, Oxford theologian Alister McGrath writes that Reformed Protestantism had no problem with art, in itself. The objection lay with portrayal of religious subjects. “The Reformed hostility to pictorial representations of God was fundamentally theological in its foundation and did not extend to other subject matters,” Mc Grath writes. “No significant restrictions were placed upon the Reformed artists outside the specific sphere of ecclesiastical ornamentation.”

As a matter of fact, because of the Reformer’s alliance with hard work and capitalism, by the 1600’s, early Calvinists acquired significant wealth. They built highly decorated homes and buildings, and developed affinities toward high art.

However, still the Reformed had a difficult time comprehending God, or mysteries of the Divine, lacking visual stimuli. It was this tense dichotomy that the Puritans took with them to the Americas.

The Art in Lutheran and Anglican Churches

Martin Luther was a musician himself and had no intention of inhibiting creative expression. Luther realized the power of images and in 1545 even sponsored a woodcut series lambasting the Pope. It was the worship of art that disturbed him.

Further, the Anglican church created by the English Reformation, did not associate itself with the changes in the south. Its movement was political, and did not align with popular ideology. Both the Lutheran and the Anglican Churches continued to use religious imagery, drawing on their imaginative power to portray ideas and evoke emotion.

Schaeffer writes that many of the popular artists of the early 1600’s displayed Lutheran ideas in their work. He specifically points to Rembrandt’s Raising of the Cross (1633). A blue bereted painter—Rembrandt—raises Christ’s cross, representing Rembrandt’s own identification with his fallenness and sin. “Rembrandt shows in all his work he was a man of the Reformation,” Schaeffer writes. “He neither idolized nature nor demeaned it…Man was great, but man was also cruel and broken for he had revolted against God.”

The Christian church underwent massive changes during the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers, frustrated with the abuses of the Catholic Church, banned religious images, and threw the art out of the church. They had no problem with the secularization of art, but thought that creativity belonged outside the church walls. This separation would change the way Christian artists lived for the next 400 years.

Sources:

Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution–A History From the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First (Harper One, 2007).
Frances Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Crossway Books, 1976).

Posted in Art, God

Christianity and Art During the Protestant Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door at Wittenberg Castle. A new professor at an insignificant German university, Luther requested an academic symposium on suspect practices of the Catholic Church, chiefly, the sale of indulgences as authorized by Pope Leo X in 1514.

The resulting movement, later called the Protestant Reformation, emphasized the power of the individual to interpret the Bible–an avante garde idea with the seeds of Renaissance humanism simultaneously taking root. Christianity’s greatest revolution overhauled the entire structure of the faith—including its relationship to the arts.

The Protestant Reformers

The Protestant Reformation, although generally attributed to Martin Luther, was actually the combined work of several Reformers. In Germany, Martin Luther sought to reform the Catholic Church from within. In Zurich, Huldrych Zwingli called for a return to the simpler times of the New Testament, and purity of the Bible’s teachings.

In Geneva, John Calvin wrote The Institutes of the Christian Faith (1536), insisting that the Bible is the fundamental basis for the Christian faith. All theology should be defensible through the Bible. In England, Henry VIII sought to distance himself and England from the jurisdiction of the Pope, and create his own church.

The Reformed View of Art

The Protestant Reformation encouraged the re-examining of theology and personal reading of the Bible. Christians began to question their beliefs. Many developed a new interest in the First and Second Commandments against idol worship and graven images. Zwingli and Calvin took these commandments to mean that religious images should be abolished altogether.

Churches, according to Zwingli and Calvin, should rely on purity of image and simplicity, as opposed to the ostentatious nature of the Catholic Church. Early reformers adamantly caught on to these teachings, and violently destroyed images in the church. Much has been made about these iconoclasts. However, in How Should We Then Live, Frances Schaeffer writes that many of these images were not trashed necessarily out of violence. Many times the donors themselves smashed the images. It was a cathartic purging of a religion they now believed was wrong and full of lies.

In Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, Oxford theologian Alister McGrath writes that Reformed Protestantism had no problem with art, in itself. The objection lay with portrayal of religious subjects. “The Reformed hostility to pictorial representations of God was fundamentally theological in its foundation and did not extend to other subject matters,” Mc Grath writes. “No significant restrictions were placed upon the Reformed artists outside the specific sphere of ecclesiastical ornamentation.”

As a matter of fact, because of the Reformer’s alliance with hard work and capitalism, by the 1600’s, early Calvinists acquired significant wealth. They built highly decorated homes and buildings, and developed affinities toward high art.

However, still the Reformed had a difficult time comprehending God, or mysteries of the Divine, lacking visual stimuli. It was this tense dichotomy that the Puritans took with them to the Americas.

The Art in Lutheran and Anglican Churches

Martin Luther was a musician himself and had no intention of inhibiting creative expression. Luther realized the power of images and in 1545 even sponsored a woodcut series lambasting the Pope. It was the worship of art that disturbed him.

Further, the Anglican church created by the English Reformation, did not associate itself with the changes in the south. Its movement was political, and did not align with popular ideology. Both the Lutheran and the Anglican Churches continued to use religious imagery, drawing on their imaginative power to portray ideas and evoke emotion.

Schaeffer writes that many of the popular artists of the early 1600’s displayed Lutheran ideas in their work. He specifically points to Rembrandt’s Raising of the Cross (1633). A blue bereted painter—Rembrandt—raises Christ’s cross, representing Rembrandt’s own identification with his fallenness and sin. “Rembrandt shows in all his work he was a man of the Reformation,” Schaeffer writes. “He neither idolized nature nor demeaned it…Man was great, but man was also cruel and broken for he had revolted against God.”

The Christian church underwent massive changes during the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers, frustrated with the abuses of the Catholic Church, banned religious images, and threw the art out of the church. They had no problem with the secularization of art, but thought that creativity belonged outside the church walls. This separation would change the way Christian artists lived for the next 400 years.

Sources:

Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution–A History From the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First (Harper One, 2007).
Frances Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Crossway Books, 1976).