Jun 27 2016

To the Atheistic Skeptic: “Is man the measure of all things?”

The ultimate question: Can man live without God?

Pridefully, I look at my own life and think that I have things under control. It is truly amazing how ‘in control’ I feel until some unforeseen circumstance arises and reality hits that I am far from “in control.”

While looking at this question, Mortimer J. Adler said, “More consequences for life and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than any other basic question.” It makes sense: if there is no ultimate authority, it cannot be said honestly that there is an injustice if a child is molested, an unborn baby murdered, or a man steals ten dollars from his boss. The answer to this ultimate question infiltrates every realm of man’s life.

So is there a God or not?

With true atheism, the universe is mechanical—including man. With this thinking, determinism was the new buzz word amongst philosophers and psychologists in the nineteenth century. Charles Darwin began touting the idea that man came from natural selection—evolving from animals. This was all atheism needed; a “scientific supported reality.”

Darwin had such a consequential impact on the world as we know it today. Darwin laid the foundations of the modern Tower of Babel and impacted Karl Marx to the point where Marx dedicated his work, Das Kapital to Darwin himself. Marx, believing religion was used to control people and thereby creating societal hierarchies, took Darwin’s theory, applied it to economics, and believed he would create his man-made utopia consisting of a class-less society.

Another level of the Tower was laid.order-1398742_1920

Darwin, being a major scientific influencer just so happened to awaken a philosopher whose impact is currently in process. It has been like a hurricane that hit the coast and is still going strong throughout the country. This philosopher was Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s influence spread to the likes of Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini. Hitler schemed his ideas to eliminate the weak and breed the “superman” based off of Nietzsche’s ideas. These ideas were based on atheism.

The Tower Stretches to the Sky

Sigmund Freud could be added to the list of those influenced by Nietzsche. His ideals for sexual freedom forever marred the sacred marriage bed. Such is the fruit of a world without God. God is dead,” said Nietzsche.  Nietzsche tried to live out the outworking of atheism logically and he went insane the last 10 years of his life.

The Steeple of the Tower

The bloodiest period of history and a world gone mad in the 20th century was Nietzsche’s prediction since God was dead in the 19th century. Such utter hopelessness, hatred, and tyranny of the soul comes from atheism.

It is a suicidal philosophy that embraces a belief in God—so said Albert Camus, of course, an atheist. Ironically, at the height of atheism’s success, is simultaneously the height of the world’s suicide rate.

Just like in ancient times, the people building the Tower of Babel were doing so to essentially make themselves God. Man tried to be the measure of all things. And what did God do? He took the ‘control’ from them. The Tower was destroyed. And so it shall be for atheism.

 

 

 


Jun 20 2016

Gun Control: Sun Tzu and Natural Theology

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. So said Sun Tzu in his well-known work, The Art of War. Sun Tzu’s ideas about war and combat have been applied to many areas of modern life, but how do they apply to the idea of gun control?

With so many people putting forth so many opinions about the topic of gun control, it can be easy to get confused or caught up in emotional arguments. We have seen countless examples, acts of terror and mindless violence, that serve as fuel for the fires of emotional appeal. “Keep us safe! Don’t put deadly weapons in the hands of criminals!” the people cry, pointing at the tragic shootings that have taken place in this country. But, there are some key misunderstandings about what gun control is, and what it would or would not accomplish.

What many don’t seem to grasp is that gun control would not have that much of an impact on the crimes and massacres that keep occurring. We would like to think that we could live in a perfect country, a country with no guns and, subsequently, no shootings. Perhaps even no crimes. But, that’s not what gun control would achieve. What the government wants to do is place limitations on the citizens, increasing its power and decreasing theirs. They don’t want to rid the country of guns. And even if they did, that wouldn’t solve the problem either. There are many examples of countries where guns are restricted to the point of being outlawed, and crime is still a major issue.Revolver on Table

But, what is perhaps the most common point made is that, even if legislations and restrictions were to be placed on law-abiding citizens, limiting their ability or right to own guns, that doesn’t mean that the law breakers will follow those laws. In fact, the opposite effect would occur, as the Crime Prevention Research Center has shown us. Laws, by nature, incite law-breakers. They work like scales, and increased power on one end of the scale tips the balance. In recent American history, we saw the rise of two major underground trade empires; the prohibition act laid the foundation for modern organized crime, and the existence of ‘illegal’ drugs created the infamous drug empire that has infiltrated our country today. By examining both of these black market empires, one can see that restricting and especially outlawing something only creates a higher demand for that thing, and it will be traded and obtained whether legally or not. This is even seen in underground gun trade, in this country and in others. Creating laws banning guns will do nothing to stop law breakers from getting their hands on weapons.

Now, what gun control would accomplish would be to further restrict our personal freedoms, and the liberties we enjoy as made clear in the second amendment. And, a stricter gun ban could become what many Americans fear: an abolishment of the second amendment. While this is an extreme scenario, it is a scenario that has become a nightmare for many staunch gun owners. But, their point is a valid one, in that the ownership of the gun itself is in many ways more important than if and how that gun is used. As Sun Tzu says, a battle is best won when we can subdue an enemy and not fight. Practically, by carrying a weapon, we have the ability to deter or eliminate a threat without firing once. But in the grander scheme of things, the reason gun ownership is so important is that it protects us from our government. It allows us to protect ourselves, to win the battle of home and self-defense, without fighting. Gun ownership protects us not because we fire the gun, but because we can. And that is why it’s important to battle these legislations. By retaining control of our guns, we defend ourselves and our neighbor both practically and politically. Don’t give the law breakers power at the law-keeper’s expense.

Written By: T.W.

For Further Discussion:

The CATO institute discusses myths surrounding Gun control.


Jun 13 2016

What Existentialism is and Why You Should Care

“What is existentialism?” said the most well-known existentialist of the 20th century. Jean-Paul Sartre died denying he was an existentialist, yet the whole world said that he was. So what is existentialism and why should I care?

‘Be you! Do whatever you want.’ Thus says the motto of the attitude flowing from existentialism. Existentialism falls under the realm of lightstock_347701_download_medium_user_5800378ontology, or the study of being. The focus is on the nature of the human condition. The implications of its teachings are far reaching; no morality, absolute subjectivity, and extreme autonomy. If accepted on a wide scale, it would lead to a catastrophic melt down of society.

3 Key Themes

Living out Existentialism: Some argue that Existentialism is not a philosophy because it is not a formal system. Existentialism is a set of ideas that we use in our framework—in our daily lives, therefore, we live out existentialism. Karl Marx is known to critique philosophies of the past because, he believed, the point is not to know things, but to change things. Existentialism is active.

Anxiety and Authenticity: Anxiety for the existentialist is not how the average person would describe it. The main point is that humans are on their own; there is no ultimate authority and no one telling us how to live. To be ‘authentic’ to the existentialist means that humans would live according to their nature. This concept has taken over society. “Be free to live as you please.” “Don’t be defined.” “No one has the right to tell you different.” This is the heart of individualism.

Freedom: The American Forefathers fought for freedom against political tyranny. Existentialism fights for freedom of the individual to determine their own future—against the wishes of any deity or authority. Within this freedom is also a responsibility. This doesn’t necessarily mean accepting the consequences for one’s actions, but the responsibility to make the decision. This freedom, for many existentialists, is the freedom to be autonomous. Is it any wonder that a woman who was extremely influential in the feminist movement in the twentieth century was an existentialist? Her name was Simone de Beauvoir, author of, The Second Sex, and was the lover of Jean-Paul Sartre.

2 Reasons Why You Should Care

Don’t be an Easy Target-Be Watchful: The Word of God calls us to be, “wise as serpents”, “watchful”, and seekers of that which is true, noble, right, and pure. We must strive to examine life and ideologies that we face everyday in commercials, advertisements, movies, music, and rhetoric. Knowing the foundations of the philosophies floating around can help us avoid being an easy target.

We Can Impact Future Generations: By knowing the pervasive ideologies that flow like the Niagara straight at our children, we can teach them the truth, Biblical reality, and thereby building up the Church of Christ for generations to come. It is imperative that we understand where culture is heading and to be mindful of its philosophies and ideologies because our children depend on us to guide them in the way they should go.

Col. 2:8 “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

For Further Discussion:

The Father of Existentialism-Soren Kierkegaard

Jean-Paul Sartre Documentary

 


Jun 6 2016

Modern Art in Ancient Israel

Bezalel. Sounds like a great name for your first born son, right? As strange as it is, Bezalel was the first recorded person in the Bible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and his calling was to be an artist for the Tabernacle. News to some, art flows through the…

history and culture of God’s people. While it can be difficult to know what kind of art is pleasing or displeasing to the Lord, artwork has been specifically sanctioned by God for ancient Israel and can be used by us today to glorify God.

Art was specifically sanctioned by God.”

Abstract, symbolic, and representational types of art were ordained by God for the use of His worship and glory. Abstract art is not representative of anything (i.e. not symbolic) but simply made for beauty.

It is understandable that the Israelites, striving to be faithful to God’s prohibition against graven images, would not desire to place representational art in the temple. But God instructs these works of art to be displayed. Pomegranates, lilies, lions, oxen, and palm trees were placed in their dedicated places at the word of the Lord.

Glorify God with Excellence.”

Finding and staying within boundaries is sometimes an arduous task. Having seen that God has authorized different types of art (i.e. abstract and representational), it is not surprising that He has allowed the depiction of spiritual realities. The creation of the invisible to the visible. Heavenly beings, like Cherubim angels, were portrayed in the temple. Where it can become tricky is differentiating between objects of worship and objects that point to the true Object of worship.

The slaughter of goats and bulls is gorgeous art, which pleased the Creator. Yes, pause for a moment and you shall old man on sidewalk creating artagree that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement was art, perhaps even comparable to an ancient play elaborately performed each year. Symbolic art can teach and communicate ideas. Taking the sublime example of the Day of Atonement, which conveyed the gospel. The Lord commanded the high priests to offer sacrifices which represented the coming Messiah who offered “once and for all a sacrifice to satisfy Divine Justice.” This was communicated symbolically. Further, the Lord commanded the garments of the High Priest to have twelve jewels affixed to the robes, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. In many ways, this seems more like modern art, instead of the more ‘classical.’

Our art should set us apart, for, we are a holy people.”

Christian art critic, Gene Edward Veith explains, “The aesthetic and expressive dimensions of art are thus sanctioned by the Scriptures.” The Word of God is ladened with different art variations such as poetry, visual arts, music, and fiction as presented in the parables. In Ancient Israel, there is a plethora of creative variety, giving us freedom in our artistic expressions. Above all, our goal in the arts, as well as everything in life is to do everything to the glory of God. We are to be a holy people like the Israelites, set apart for God’s purpose, giving glory to Him in all we do, even in the realm of art in all it’s creativity. Modern art is just one of those many ways.

Further Discussion:
W. Stranger discusses about abstract art and meaning.


May 30 2016

Biblical Principles for Art

Christians tend to over spiritualize things. Analyzing and looking at art Biblically is usually one of those things. Striving to honor the Lord by searching out the Scriptures, while not crossing the line into over-spiritualizing, we find there are Biblical principles to help us in the art world.

In the Bible, art and artwork is not prohibited. God is not anti art. God commanded the Israelites to make artistic designs for the Tabernacle—to worship God by glorifying Him and instructing His people.

Beauty is an end in itself.”

Fascinatingly, God said that art could be made for beauty. And you shall make holy garments…for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2). Beauty can be an end in itself.

Unfortunately, Christians have, by and large, have neglected the arts. We don’t know what to do with art and Christian artists. God ordains the vocation of an artist. Being able to artistically create and teach is a gift from God. Exodus 35:31 gives specific Biblical principles for Christian Artists.

and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship,”

The gifts God has given the Christian artist are:music-church-religion-cathedral

  1. Being filled with the Spirit
  2. Talent/Ability
  3. Intelligence
  4. Knowledge

What magnificent gifts! What gets in the way is sin. Sin hardens our hearts, blinding us to the loveliness of the truth and compelling us to make idols; which are hideous deceptions. In Christian Art’s Dilemma, art must be honest. In order to have ultimate truth, Jesus Christ must be known, for, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through Him we are truly set free. Not merely set free from sin, which brings shame and dishonor to God, but we are free to create art for the glory of God in an entirely new way.

We are made to create beauty, enjoy beauty, and glorify God with beauty.”

God has given us beauty. He Himself is Ultimate Beauty and the Ultimate Artist. It makes me revel in the thought that we are made in God’s Image and have been given the gift of creating beauty, enjoying beauty, and glorifying Him with beauty. With the Psalmist, let us ask and seek from the LORD: “That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple” (Ps. 27:4).

 

 

For Further Discussion:

Biblical Principles of Aesthetics on Renew the Arts


May 23 2016

Art War

Romance, Cupid, and love are probably the average person’s thoughts on the era of Romanticism. This era, ranging roughly from 1800-1880, was not about a mushy, gushy feeling, but rather the glorification of something. In the realm of art, the focus of the Romantics did not glorify objects, but concepts such as liberty, despair, heroism etc. This glorification, however, was swelling with feelings and emotions. The personalization of the artist was morphing into the norm.

With revolutions devastating most of Europe, the downtrodden people wanted to escape reality. They could only escape through their dreams and imaginations. Men became inward focused instead of outward focused, foregoing reason and intellect, which was fostered by the Enlightenment a century prior. While Romanticism was inspired by the current events going on around them, the artist continued to reach back into the past; contrary to Realism. Realism neglected the past because of its focus of the here and now.pexels-photo (11)

Coincidentally, the Realism Era overlapped with Romanticism. The landscape artwork with the emphasis in nature was the merger between the two eras because landscapes could work in both frameworks. Realism surfaced because of the abrupt changes caused by the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution spurred humanity’s chant of “Progress!”

In the age where the telephone was invented and machinery took over labor, the glorification of real individuals, work, and social justice abounded. The artists during this time period in the late 1800’s focused more on the concrete.

“Romanticism’s dreams woke up to face the stark reality of Realism”

The dreams could not last forever—man finally had to accept the real world. The Scientific age, drawn from Naturalism, assisted society in focusing on the cold, hard facts. In the art realm, the art was drawn from the artist’s perception of how he viewed the world. This led to Impressionism, championed by Monet, and was steered toward abstract art and expressionism.

“Ideas have Consequences,” said philosopher Richard M. Weaver. We can see throughout this quick article how people take ideas and create new ideas. Art has an impact on society and it is important to be aware of the consequences of actions, for, it is we who are influenced by them. Romanticism had an impact on Modern art but not until it went through Realism. Romanticism focused on feelings, Realism focused on facts. How often do we focus get stuck on ‘this’ or ‘that’ instead realizing that its ‘both/and.’ Let us glean from both Romanticism and Realism for its strengths and strive to focus on the good, the true, and the beautiful.


May 17 2016

3 Reasons You Should Care About Art

Nude Art: Is it good or bad? Right or wrong?

A Crucifix in a container of urine: Art? Does it have aesthetic merit? Should we allow our children to view it?person-woman-art-creative

Like most Christians, I did not have any in-depth knowledge of art. I do not consider myself an artistic person. The result of this was my outward indifference to art. I knew little about art and therefore accepted art uncritically without taking into account the quality or significance of the art I encountered. Through my study, I have found 3 reasons why every person should care about art.

  1. Art is Morally Relevant
  2. God Cares About Art
  3. Art Influences the Church

Art is morally relevant

Artistic change has always depended on changes in cultural ideologies. Art is like the picture book of the philosophical trends of historical periods. Art expresses falsehood or truth. Accepting that which promotes a false philosophy will affect one’s moral compass. The arts of today are philosophically and spiritually bankrupt. Christianity alone can give justification to beauty and encourage excellence that this art world needs today. One cannot separate the moral aspect of art and therefore they should care about art.

God cares about art.

Last week I wrote an article explaining how God is the Ultimate Artist. Beauty and creativity is a part of who God is, and it shows up in His handiwork. Yet, God cares about art because of how art is used. In the Second Commandment, God is specific about not making ‘graven images.’ We are influenced easily as visual creatures. It follows that God be concerned about what can easily lead His children astray.

 

“Indifference to art has created a rotting cancer in the Christian church today.”

 

For many, especially today, art has become their religion. This is idolatry. Art is used either for good or for bad. Bezalel created beautiful art, Aaron made a golden calf, and King Hezekiah tore down beautiful art that was getting in the way of worshipping God. Spiritual warfare is fought not just in pulpits and prayer closets, but in art galleries as well.

Art influences the Church

Art influences the Church with every commercial, image, movie, billboard, or book we encounter. How we engage in art determines whether we will be positively or negatively affected. The church building, music, and aesthetic quality of the décor will impact the believer. Like the gothic cathedral of the past, will it invoke a sense of awe of the grandeur of God? Or, like the basketball court-sanctuary, will it promote a feeling of laxity?

 

Isn’t it strange that the beautiful cathedrals of old are no longer in style? The ancient architects perfected the designed to communicate that God is transcendent and holy. The gothic cathedral invoked a sense of smallness in the believer as soon as he stepped foot in the massive doors. It is good to feel small and insignificant in comparison to our great and mighty God.

Art has the power to inspire potent feelings, and sometimes it can be subtle. We cannot escape the fact that everything has an art form. The art in some church services communicate seriousness, while others communicate being comfortable. No matter how much art is removed from a church service, it is still there. And it’s communicating something.

 

For Further Study:

The Gospel Coalition discusses our Need for Great Art.


May 9 2016

The Ultimate Artist: God Himself

Transfixed on the skyline as far as the eye could see. Observing the dawn approach and watching, finally mesmerized by the beauty of the sunrise. That simple, elegant beauty has been given by an Artist. God, by nature of who he is, is the ultimate Artist. The sunrise is one example of countless that shows the supreme example of an artist: God Himself.

“God’s art speaks of Himself, reflecting who He is and what He is like.” -Francis Chan

God has revealed Himself to us in two ways: Nature and the Bible. In the Bible, we have examples of God’s desire for beauty. The first example is simply what he has created in nature at the beginning of Genesis. Later in Exodus, we have God commanding in minute detail how his tabernacle would be built. Amidst these commands we have beautiful works of art that are displayed and crafted by men who were renowned for their ability and called to work for the Lord: Bezalel and Oholiab.

Humans, being made in his image, show that he is an artist by nature. Shakespeare, Dante, Michelangelo, and Bach are men who excelled in their field of artistic expertise. If God was not an artist by nature, we as humans would not be endowed with such abilities.pexels-photo-26671

Since God is the ultimate Artist and we have been given the gift of artistry, we should strive with excellence in developing the artistic skill that has been given to us. The Lord commands us to work as we would work directly for Him. If we have been given children, we have a responsibility to pass on what is good, true and beautiful. Finally, we are to serve the Lord with the artistic gifts we have been given (i.e. musician in worship). God, as the ultimate artist, has blessed us with the ability to appreciate and to engage in the gift of art.

Enjoying and engaging in art can be a unique way to fulfill man’s chief end, which is: To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

 

 


May 2 2016

Christian Art’s Dilemma

Ever wonder why art has lost its wonder, why the lackluster and cheesiness abounds? The cliché and the kitsch have run rampant, and Christian art is usually the worst. Sadly, most Christian art is only cringe-worthy, but why?

The real question is how should a Christian think about art? If our children know how to think correctly, the question of what art to enjoy is easier. How does God view art and beauty? Does He accept our best? Does God have ‘aesthetic standards’? Did God create rules for good art that are woven into the fabric of creation?

“All the arts come from God and are to

be respected as Divine Inventions.”

-John Calvin

Art’s highest purpose is to glorify God by pointing back to Him. Throughout all cultures and times, art is a universal expression. There are four criterion of Christian art:man writing in journal

  1. Art should be honest
  2. It should be creation affirming
  3. Art should not be manipulative
  4. It must have a degree of meaning

Christians must be careful while engaging in the arts. Our hearts respond to art. The fact is that art can be intoxicating and addicting. The type of art Christians engage with should lift us up to the beauties currently unknown. The splendor of that which was lost at the Fall or the joyful anticipation of the coming perfect splendor of the radiance of God’s majesty.

Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:1 are essentials for our analysis of art: These passages commands the believer to focus on whatever is good, beneficial, true, seeking that which is above. If a piece of work is questionable, James 1:5 gives us help. He says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The Lord promises He will help us.

“Keep my eyes fixed upon the Beautiful and Sublime

in its eternal significance, and upon art as one of 

the richest gifts of God to all mankind.”

-Abraham Kuyper

Further Discussion:

Justin Tayler introduces us to a Christian Model of Aesthetics.

For the in depth reader, the SBT Journal discusses Aesthetics and Worship.


Apr 25 2016

Guess what Muslims believe about Abraham!

Abraham and Isaac

Abraham and Isaac

Can you guess what Muslims believe about Abraham? It’s a common belief that is held by both Muslims and Jews…

Both religions believe that Abraham is their father, whom they descend from. Muslims descend from Ishmael, the first-born son of Abraham by his wife’s maidservant Hagar, and Jews descend from Abraham’s promised son Isaac through his wife, Sarah.

But here is where the two religions diverge:

When God told Abraham to go up to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his son, the Muslims believe that it was Ishmael who was supposed to be sacrificed, while the Jews believe that it was Isaac. Which is correct?

The Qur’an, in Surah 37, does not mention specifically which son went up to Mt. Moriah with Abraham, but the Bible does. The Bible is quite clear in Genesis 22 that it was Isaac who was led up to be sacrificed.

Finding Common Ground with Muslims

Witnessing to Muslims can seem difficult, but here is where a Christian can find common ground with a Muslim: Both Christians and Muslims believe Abraham is their father. As a Christian, we are spiritual sons of Abraham.

Here is a great starting point. By finding common ground with Abraham, it would be easy to shift into talking about the Festival of Sacrifice.

The Festival of Sacrifice is a yearly tradition for Muslims who celebrate the event of Abraham almost sacrificing his son in submitting to God’s command. The Festival occurs in the month of September.

How to use the Festival of Sacrifice to share the Gospel to Muslims

The sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham’s son, was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for His people. Here is Abraham who was promised a son in his old age. He took that son and was going to sacrifice him —like our great Father in heaven who sacrificed his only Son to save His people. The Festival is a great opportunity to share the transcendent love of God  through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ to those who are lost in the darkness.

Further discussion:

John Gilchrist explains witnessing to Muslims

Dr. Erwin Lutzer walks through Having a Conversation With a Muslim