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


Apr 18 2016

Islam: Compatible with the United States?

Being a Muslim is not only a religion, but a race. The only identity one is to proclaim. In Islam, the civil government exists to uphold Muslim Law–or Sharia. Any other religion is not tolerated…

…or if it is, it must be the case for the time being. Ayaan Harsi Ali, a former Muslim, believes that the followers of Islam will stop at nothing until the whole world bows the knee and is subjugate to Allah. Does this sound like toleration? On it’s face, is Islam compatible with a pluralistic society such as the United States?

Trying to morph both western civilization with Islam is, for all intense and purposes, impossible. Western culture is taboo for most Muslims and cannot be tolerated. In the Middle East, the resounding majority believe that only one religion is right–which flies in the face of tolerance.

In the American culture, “all religions are equally right and no religion is wrong.” -D.A. Carson

Former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, author of Answering Jihad, wrestled with whether or not Islam promotes peace, which he was taught, or violence, which is taught in the Qur’an. His studies took him to Surah Nine in the Qur’an which essentially states that, violence is authorized in order to “prevail over every faith.”

Islam and Sharia Domination

Islamic Domination

Qureshi, like many Muslims who study this passage, came to the conclusion that true Muslims must fight against those who do not submit to Islam. How does this mesh with American culture? It does not.

Tolerance is the resounding cry in one camp, and in the other,  truth. Is it possible to champion both? The answer is No. Tolerance and the Islamic culture is a one sided relationship–like friends with benefits.  Devout Muslims look forward to the day Sharia Law can be implemented worldwide.

Should America then allow Muslims to reap the benefits of a free society without a reasonable expectation of assimilation? Should the nation try to integrate immigrants instead of allowing little cities to develop and slowly take over?

 “The spectacular failure of integration has brought some nations to the verge of social chaos” -Bruce Bawer

In the end, the true enemy of the United States is itself–just like Europe, and any other country that is a pluralistic state trying to work with Islam. Where genuineness and tolerance are on the pedestal instead of facts and  judgments, subtle domination will eventually come. When Sharia reaches a point where toleration flies out the window, western civilization as we know it is gone. Sharia does not include pluralism. From a patriotic point of view, if Muslims are not going to assimilate to western culture’s belief in freedom of religion, they need to leave–forced if necessary.

Is this too intolerant? Flip the coin to see the other side…

 

Further Discussion:

Dr. Tennent provides an introductory course to Islam.


Apr 11 2016

Sharia Law: Coming to a Town Near You?

Reality Check

Horror stories of Islamic Terror gain instant attention across the globe. Fear grips those of us who wonder, ‘how bad is it going to get?’ 9/11, San Bernadino, Brussels, Paris, London…The list goes on. The news screen flashes of mobs screaming and demanding for Western civilizations to adopt Sharia Law. The question is raised, ‘Is Sharia Law coming to a town near you?’

The Muslim population in the United States is approximately 3.3 million Muslims equaling about 1% of the population. Rumors have spread recently that a few cities in Michigan implemented Sharia Law. This rumor is false. NO cities in the U.S. have implemented Sharia Law, BUT…

Instead of Sharia Courts, there are “dispute resolution services” offered to practicing Muslims. These are like the ecclesiastical courts of the Christian church, yet they are based on religious Islamic law. They are, supposedly, only civil type courts which are non-binding and do not adjudicate criminal violations. These courts will deal with family issues, for example.

Within the U.S. there have been times where Sharia Law was used as a defense for particular crimes. Hypothetical Example: “I killed my daughter for not obeying me in marrying this Muslim”—under Sharia Law, this is considered an honor killing and is acceptable. Some states though have banned such laws from applying, and this defense cannot be used. Sharia Law, in it’s current practice, is a violation of human rights.

What is going on now?

The threat of Muslims demanding Sharia Law have caused states to adopt counter-laws banning any Sharia legislature. Defender of the American way of life, Rep. Chip Limehouse from South Carolina, sponsored a bill banning Sharia Law. Limehouse has stated that Sharia has been used as defenses within the court systems. Limehouse urges more states to adopt legislation banning Sharia Law to apply within U.S. courts.

“Sharia Law has been used as a defense in American courtrooms.”   

-Limehouse

The Following States Have Banned Sharia Law

Alabama Arkansas Florida Indiana Iowa Washington
North Carolina Oklahoma South Carolina Texas Virginia  
Missouri Wyoming Mississippi West Virginia Kentucky

I’m Islamophobic!

Some people like to throw politically charged language like ‘Islamophobe’ to those who say anything negative regarding Islam. Well, to be honest, I admit that I am afraid of Islam because I know what Islam teaches. Whether or not nominalist Muslims believe it, the Islamic texts proscribe the heinous carnage that is taking place. I am not afraid of being called Islamophobic. I think it’s healthy to be honest about such things.

“The peaceful majority are irrelevant.” –Brigitte Gabriel

The peaceful majority in NAZI Germany did not make a difference for peace during WWII. “Most Muslims are peaceful.” Or so the argument goes. The majority of peaceful Muslims are simply irrelevant. If only 7% of the Muslim population in the U.S. were ‘radical,’ that would be approximately 231,000 people. That is not a small, 100 person rogue congregation of Westboro Baptist fanatics. This is 231,000 people. That is 6 ½ times the largest basketball arena in the U.S. filled to capacity. Amongst these radicals, their desire is to see Sharia Law reign in this land.

The majority of peaceful Muslims are simply irrelevant. 

 

Further discussion:

Tim Challies hosts an article on the Spiritual Impact of ISIS.

 


Apr 4 2016

Muhammad: Islam’s God?

Muslims will allow certain insults to be laid against Allah, but even to a liberal Muslim, an insult against Muhammad would raise a stir. Iqbal, one of the most well-known Islamic thinkers of the 1900’s said, “You can deny God, but you cannot deny the Prophet!” Very telling indeed.

The prophetic tradition, which encompasses Muhammad’s sayings (hadith) and actions (Sunnah), were written and preserved throughout generations and seen as uninspired records of inspired acts. The Qur’an is the ‘inspired’ text, unlike the hadith and Sunnah. Yet, the hadith and Sunnah are monumental in the life of a Muslim; helping him to interpret the Qur’an. Key to understanding Islam is ancient Middle Eastern culture. What surrounds Muslim piety is everything that the prophet Muhammad did and even did not do. Muslims are all united because of ancient Middle Eastern culture was made permanent when Muhammad invented his new religion.

man-iraq-men-portrait-40992“Some Muslim scholars say that the Old and New Testaments prophecy about Muhammad.”

Muslims place a high regard on Muhammad. But technically, they do not consider him divine. However, some extreme Muslims do view him as semi-divine. Muslims do not believe that he created Islam, but that he revived it. Muhammad is believed to be the last and greatest prophet until the Day of Judgment. On an interesting note: Some Muslim scholars say that the Old and New Testaments prophecy about him. Many Muslims believe that Muhammad is beyond a messenger of God, that he is an intercessor—coming to this conclusion without proof from the Qur’an. The closest proof in the Qur’an states, “except as He [God] permitteth” an intercessor.

In later hadiths, it was said that other prophets were asking each other if they could intercede, to which they all said they were unworthy. But get this: Influential Muslims have written poems about how they hope Muhammad will intercede for them. That’s idolatry, and against the hadiths.

“Militant Atheism will never defeat militant Islam. America will face this fight one day.”

The Islamic culture teaches that to pronounce a blessing on Muhammad will get one ten blessings in return. Exalting Islam’s “prophet” is deifying him on a practical level. Since Allah is a transcendent god, followers go through Muhammad to get to this god despite no support in the Qu’ran.

Idolatry takes many forms. All false religions are idolatry. Why is Islam so resistant to the Gospel? is a clarifying article to help us in these challenging times.

 

Further discussion:

Al Mohler discusses how Christians should talk about Islam.


Mar 28 2016

Anti-Christian Culture: A Survival Guide

Youth suicide has tripled in the past half century and people say that popular culture enforces the denial of one’s purpose. The younger generation is stuck and the horizon looks bleak. The youth of today cannot seem to fathom what objective morality or objective standards even mean.

The world of popular culture has ravaged our society. Popular Culture’s message has snuck in so subtly, that the enemy took over right before our eyes and has infected the Church, and in response, the church rolled over dead. Pop culture has won the battle, but the Church culture must win the war.

Pop culture is all hype about the ‘new and improved.’ This cultural cotton candy tasted great for about 5 seconds, but we are going to starve to death if we don’t get real food soon. Pop culture has inundated the American Church and has affected practically everything, including:

  • How we evangelize
  • Songs we sing
  • Clothes we wear
  • Meaning of the Christian day of rest
  • Attitude of Worship

We simply cannot expect to influence the American culture by becoming like the mainstream culture, that is, popular culture. Here’s why: pop culture is a fad…it goes away once the bells and whistles get boring. Maybe this is why the youth have left the ‘irrelevant church.’ We taught them candy alone is delectable food, instead of teaching them to love and eat their vegetables.

Secondly, pop culture strives to gain attention. Do you know what we do with our spare time? A recent statistic showed that the average person watches 9.1 years of their life with TV/movies. That is about 2 hours a day. Do we fill that ‘spare’ time with what could be MOST God-honoring?

Here is the thing; pop culture is an anti-Christian culture. It follows, and is a medium for, the ideology of the day: Liberalism. Liberalism teaches that man is his own master and no one can tell him he is wrong. This autonomous individualism will end up isolating people (hint: increase suicide) from each other. Like a ring in a bull’s nose, pop culture will turn the masses where it leads. It turns objective morality into subjective morality.

“Popular cultures greatest influence is in the way it shapes how we think and feel…and how we think and feel about thinking and feeling.” -Ken Myers

Sadly, many Christians in the past and present, look at pop culture and it’s growing anti-Christian influence as bad, but they didn’t know how to articulate and explain their reasoning. How can something that is not sinful in and of itself become sinful? How do we know what moderation is and how far is too far? Where should we err? How best do we glorify and honor God with our time? We are to live in, but not of the world. Ken Myers states, “The Church can only engage the culture by being a culture.”

The Solution: Create a Unique Christian Culture

The Church shouldn’t hide in the woods and separate itself from society. Instead, we are to be the champions of objective goodness, truth, and beauty. The culture should look to us to know what is objectively superior.  Within the Church Culture:

  • Church leaders must ensure that worship is not embracing pop culture styles.
  • Parents need to raise their children to appreciate that which is objectively superior: like Johann S. Bach. Refining one’s palate takes time and discipline.
  • Individual Christians must examine their lives and see if they are the product of pop culture, and if so, they need to renew their minds to that which is pleasing in the sight of God.

May the Lord help us to be in the world and not of the world. May we raise our children to love that which is Good, True, & Beautiful in this growing anti-Christian culture.

 


Mar 21 2016

#1 Rule for Fighting Poverty: Economic Freedom!

How does someone like Bernie Sanders get even close to the presidency in the United States of America? Bernie gives off a magnificent illusion of how great the U.S. can be under a socialistic regime. Many Christians are following suit because they believe that national redistribution of wealth is more pious, ethical, and fair—but believe it or not, capitalism is the answer to ending poverty!

Let’s recap so far:

Statistics showing free-markets best for Poverty

Decrease of Poverty Due to Free Enterprise

Capitalism

  • Economic Freedom
  • Voluntary Exchange
  • Freedom from coercion, fraud, theft
  • Peaceful means of exchange
  • Encourages hard work ethics

 

Socialism

  • Centralized (Government) Control of Economy
  • Systematized theft and force
  • Violent means of exchange
  • Discourages hard work ethics

 

Helping the Poor of the 3rd World

Many well meaning people blame capitalism and 1st world countries for the barrenness of 3rd world countries. Usually the accusation is greed. Socialism and more rules and laws are hailed as the answer. History has a different story. The more contact a 3rd world country has with a capitalistic country, the better off they have become economically.

Get this: It was the British who brought rubber trees to Malaya over 100 years ago and now Malaya is a booming metropolis of rubber plantations–owned by its own citizens! Some people have tried to eradicate poverty by foreign aid. Yet, what actually keeps third world nations in poverty is internal causes. Free-markets free the poor and oppressed from economic oppression. 

What causes poverty?

Internal causes consist of things like:

  • unstable governments
  • culture and morals of people
  • lack of education
  • lack of ambition

One of the biggest issues is unstable governments. For example, the United States gave millions of foreign aid to Idi Amin of Uganda. Amin kept the aid for his own means and continued to slaughter tens of thousands of people. It does no good to send shipping containers over to these countries when the government in power does not distribute them. The third world does not need socialism…in order raise their standard of living, the third world needs capitalism.

“The more economic regulations passed on society, the more the poor are oppressed. Even when those regulations are meant to help the poor. “

“…if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented.”

-Arthur C. Brooks

Watch this video below. We should let the facts inform us as we strive to help the poor and love our neighbor.

Further Discussion:

Arthur Brooks

Click HERE to Watch Video