Category Archives: Arts & Literature
Wonderful quote from Dorotheus of Gaza, a mystic from the 6th century. As she imagined, “ the world as a circle on the ground at whose center was God, she wrote, ‘Leading from the edge to the center are a number of lines, representing ways of life. In their desire to draw near to God, the saints advance along these lines to the middle of the circle, so that the further they go, the nearer they approach one another as well as God. The closer they come to God, the closer they come to one another” (Judith Dupre, Churches, 156).
(I just finished Churches for a study I’m doing for our local church. It’s a great coffee-table book. It’s huge, and you can get it cheaply on Amazon. You need huge pictures to get some sense of what the magnificent churches of Christendom look, and feel, like!)
My wife and I just finished reading Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River. It’s a beautiful book. The best thing about Enger is that he’s a Christian writer who actually writes well. The novel is Christian without being preachy. It’s full of underhanded Biblical allusions and symbolism. Be sure to read it when it’s cold in order to get the full atmosphere of Minnesota and N. Dakota in the winter!
Enger has a new novel out, but I haven’t got to it yet: So Brave, Young and Handsome. Looks good!
Theophilus of Antioch (115-c. 181) notes an interesting connection between Noah and the mythical Greek character, Deucalion. In his long treatise “To Autolycus,” Theophilus argues that the Bible is older than Greek mythology. Along with other church fathers, Theophilus also contends that whatever was true or noble in Greek mythology was borrowed from Biblical truth.
He draws this similarity bewteen Noah and Deucalion: “Noah, when he announced to the men then alive that there was a flood coming, prophesied to them, saying, Come hither, God calls you to repentence. On this account he was fitly called Deucalion,” (Theophilus to Autolycus, III.xix ). The editor explains that “Deucalion” derives from the Greek words, “Deute” (come) and “kaleo” (I call). I don’t know whether this connection would hold up in a court of modern philology, but it ties in nicely with what 2 Peter 2:5 tells us about Noah, namely that he was a “herald [preacher] of righteousness” (ESV). Perhaps the Greeks had some dim memory of this truth as they told the story of Deucalion. Theophilus also states, cryptically: “And of the ark, the remains are to this day to be seen in the Arabian mountains.”
Now that the Spiderman triology is complete, I’ve noticed a common theme. None of the villains in the Spiderman movies is really evil. They all have evil thrust upon them, either by some potion, invention, dysfunctional relationship, or an accidental gun-shot. Additionally, in the last two movies, the villains have good motives–Dr. Octupus is seeking the advancement of science and Sandman is trying to save his sick daughter. The third movie introduces a black blob which causes people to become wicked, but it only magnifies their latent wickedness. It’s hard to actually blame those overcome by the black blob.
Since the third movie highlighted the problem of evil (in the form of the black blob), it had to deal with forgiveness. I was hopeful when Peter’s Aunt gave a little sermon about revenge and forgiveness, but I should have known better. Her advice culminated in: “forgive yourself.” Um, okay … Perhaps that’s why the movie ended with meaninful looks rather than an actual apology from Peter. The only real apology came from the Sandman, but that was an apology for an accident.
So, once again, Hollywood skirts around the problem of evil and teaches our children that evil isn’t really their problem. They aren’t really to blame for their actions–they just need to put on a new suit. Of course, that’s part of the answer–we need to put on the righteous robes of Jesus (or, rather, He needs to put them on us). But, we won’t realize the need for a new suit unless we realize the depth of our own sin. Nor can we take off the black suit, even if we’re in a church bell tower–God Himself is the only one who can take it off.
“Those who will not reason
Perish in the act:
Those who will not act
Perish for that reason”
- W. H. Auden, “Shorts”
There are plenty of reasons to yawn about Harry Potter books, besides the silly stuff about magic, as a recent article shows.
I came across an exciting mission opportunity for academics. This organization sends Christian teachers into other countries, finding positions for them in secular universities. A quote on their home-page says it all:
|“The university is a clear-cut fulcrum with which to move the world. Change the university and you change the world,”
declared Dr. Charles Malik, former president of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
In Sesame and Lilies, Ruskin argues that books constitute a “living aristocracy” into which anyone can enter, by “labour” and “merit” and by nothing else. We can enjoy the company of saints, kings, nobles, and men far above our pathetic intelligence, simply by making the effort to read.
A book should challenge us: “Very ready we are to say of a book, ‘How good this is—that’s exactly how I think!’ But the right feeling is, ‘How strange that is! I never thought of that before, and yet I see it is true; or if I do not now, I hope I shall, some day,’” (18).
The good things in books, the wisdom of the ages, is like gold—we need to dig for it, painfully (18-19).
True education teaches us to speak correctly, to name the world properly: “The entire difference between education and non-education (as regards the merely intellectual part of it), consists in this accuracy. A well-educated gentleman may not know many languages,–may not be able to speak any but his own,–may have read very few books. But whatever language he knows, he knows precisely; whatever word he pronounces, he pronounces rightly; above all, he is learned in the peerage of words; knows the words of true descent and ancient blood, at a glance, from words of modern canaille; remembers all their ancestry, their intermarriages, distant relationships, and the extent to which they were admitted, and offices they held, among the national noblesse of words at any time, and in any country. But an uneducated person may know, my memory, many languages, and talk them all, and yet truly know not a word of any,–not a word even of his own,” (20-21).
Let me engage in some familial nepotism. My father is an extremely talented artist. Growing up, he was always writing some novel, painting, or working a bronze sculpture. We were encouraged to pursue whatever creative impulses we had at the moment, and there were plenty of them!
My father recently published one of those novels he’d worked on during my childhood. In some ways, it’s like another sibling. It was almost published by a major evangelical publishing house (I won’t name them), but it floundered on a legalistic policy they have about Biblical references in fiction.
The novel is, in fact, the life of Christ told from the point of view of a wild dog who starts following Peter around (who tosses him the occasional fish). Obviously, you have to make up a few things that aren’t literally in the Bible in order to stay consistent with a dog’s point of view. What is remarkable is how my father never broke away from the dog’s point of view (this was remarked upon by a college professor who read the book). Although this limits us to what a dog would understand about Biblical events, I found it a stimulating exercise to try and remember what events were being described.
This novel helped me see Jesus through new eyes … through a dog’s eyes. Jesus smells of wood, thus the title. Judas is named “Metalman” because he carried the money-bag. Because the author tells us so little, at the human level, our other senses are awakened to hear, smell, and taste 1st century Palestine. I especially enjoyed how the demoniacs were called “Donkeymen”. What other category would a dog have to put braying people in?
In particular, the crucifixion scene was quite powerful. We’re so familiar with the story, we forget how the scene would have reeked of blood, sweat, and screams.
Now, of course I’m biased, but my parents encouraged us to read non-stop, so I think I know a good book from a bad one (coupled with a few years teaching literature). Although there are so many books, and so little time, check out Treeman.
You can also get a brief preview here.