According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interview with Makoto Fujimura, "A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture"

 
"The Four Holy Gospels" - Makoto Fujimura
 
 
A beautiful video on the convergance of modern art and
Christian worship, in the work of artist Makoto Fujimura.
 
 
Ask an artist (Makoto Fujimura)... Response
 
by Rachael Held Evans
April 16, 2013
 
Today I am pleased to share Makoto Fujimura’s responses to your questions for “Ask an artist…” as part of our ongoing interview series.
 
Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Makoto served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and advising governmental policies on the arts. Makoto’s work is exhibited at galleries around the world, including Dillon Gallery in New York, Sato Museum in Tokyo, The Contemporary Museum of Tokyo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum, Bentley Gallery in Arizona, Gallery Exit and Oxford House at Taikoo Place in Hong Kong, and Vienna’s Belvedere Museum. He is one of the first artists to paint live on stage at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall as part of an ongoing collaboration with composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra.
 
Makoto founded the International Arts Movement in 1992, a non-profit whose “Encounter” conferences have featured cultural catalysts such as Dr. Elaine Scarry, Dennis Donoghue, Billy Collins, Dana Gioia, Calvin DeWitt and Miroslav Volf. His second book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture, is a collection of essays bringing together people of all backgrounds in a conversation and meditation on culture, art, and humanity.
 
In celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, Crossway Publishing commissioned and published The Four Holy Gospels, featuring Makoto’s illuminations of the sacred texts. In 2011 the Fujimura Institute was established and launched the Four Qu4rtets, a collaboration between Makoto, painter Bruce Herman, Duke theologian/pianist Jeremy Begbie, and Yale composer Christopher Theofanidis, based on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. The exhibition will travel to Baylor, Duke, and Yale Universities, Gordon College and other institutions around the globe. Bucknell University honored him with the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2012. He is a recipient of two Doctor of Arts Honorary Degrees, from Belhaven University in 2011 and Biola University in 2012.
 
You asked some fantastic questions, and I hope you are challenged and inspired by Makoto’s responses.
 
From Red: I have always felt that Christian art (particularly music and written fiction) is of a much lower quality than what you find in the 'secular' world. Despite growing up in church and being fairly comfortable with the church culture, Christian music, novels, and other forms of art have always left me feeling bored, restless, and honestly, a little fed up. I've had many conversations about this over the years, and most people seem to believe that Christian art has become anemic because Christians are afraid to look at the "tough stuff" in life and want everything to be safe and sugar-coated. Others suggest that North American Christians are trained from childhood to follow all the "rules," and that this attitude can subconsciously hinder adults from knowing how to truly "create" apart from a pattern. I was wondering if you have noticed this anemia in the Christian arts, and if you have a theory about the cause?
 
Let me first address some "macro" issues regarding faith and culture issues. Since I am from a theological perspective that sees culture as a good gift from God, I do not seek to define "Christian culture" verses "secular culture." In John 10, Jesus speaks of leading the sheep out of the gate; thus, in this case, the sheep are led out into the wider pasture of culture. Why? It's because the sheep need to find nourishment outside of their pens that they cannot otherwise find. I believe that Christians’ response to culture need to be the same: We need to be let out, guided by the Holy Spirit, and be nourished by the greater culture - otherwise we will starve!
 
So in answering the weakness of Christian creative output, I would say that we shouldn’t have a mindset in which we categorize, "Is this Christian, or not?" But instead ask, "Is this good and point toward our thriving?"
 
From Eric: One thing I appreciate about your art is that it's refreshingly free of what people often think of as Christian clichés. How would you advise artists (and musicians, writers, etc.) to create works that reflect Christianity without restricting their vocabulary to that overly-familiar set of religious symbols? (I'm thinking of the prayer-and-conversion scene in every "Christian" novel, the hymn-tunes quoted in "Christian" instrumental music, the sermonizing in "Christian" poetry, and so on.) Is this just a matter of improving our technical skills, or are there intentional strategies you've found for broadening artistic vocabulary?
 
First, I would focus on making our Christianity a noun, rather than an adjective. Rather than creating Christian art, make art that is thoroughly and completely in Christ. That means we need to start with knowing Christ, and walking intimately with God. Second, endeavor to learn symbols from all sorts of cultures, including "pagan" cultures. I believe that all cultures have keys to unlock our deeper understanding of the Gospel, but those nuggets of truth have been twisted. We need to go into the Babylons of the world, like Daniel, and first learn to be a better Babylonian than the Babylonians. Then we need to work to untwist the cultural language, and interpret their dreams. We may even, then, create new expressions and new words, which, it seems to me, the Holy Spirit offers.
 
From Sarah: How can the church start to unleash the artistic talent in the community beyond designing posters and church bulletins (i.e. support the arts in a deeper sense)? What role should the church play in the arts?
 
How we allocate our funding has to do with fundamental bottom line issues. Churches are operating under a utilitarian pragmatism, with a "zero sum game," of resources competing with one another, much like a big businesses. We do not see beauty as valuable. Why? Well, I believe this mindset has as much to do with how we view the gospel as how we view the arts.
 
Jesus commended Mary of Bethany (in John 11-12) for extravagantly offering perfume valued at a year’s worth of wages to anoint him for his burial. She broke open the nard of mystery of our being, of who Christ was, and Jesus stated the she "has done a beautiful thing to me. And wherever the Gospel is told, what she has done will also be told." My question is this: Is our gospel accompanied with just as gratuitous, generous, creative and beautiful acts as Mary's? Perhaps both the quality and the power of our art would reach a different height and depth if we created from that perspective. (See my essay "Beautiful Tears" on my website.)
 
From Rachel: Oftentimes, particularly in a religious community, there is the assumption that artists should essentially work for free. While we wouldn't expect, say, a roofer to put a new roof on a church without compensation, we often expect artists to contribute to our churches/ holy spaces/ programs/ events without getting compensated for their time. How have you navigated this somewhat awkward territory? And why is it important for the Church to support artists, not only spiritually and emotionally, but also financially?
 
In answering the more pragmatic questions about how an artist can deal with "working for free" issues, I have always advised artists to set expectations first, whether the task at hand is a) volunteer work, or b) professional. If I am asked to volunteer, I will say yes or no based on my time commitment availability. If it is professional, I will be honest about how much my work is worth. I am fine to discount so that the church can still afford my work, but they need to know the sacrifice (of me and my family) going into such a project.
 
From Cassie: Growing up Chinese, my parents found any visual depiction of Christianity to be idolatrous, which I believe is due to the fact that much of the trappings of high church tradition were too similar to the ancestor worship with which they grew up. How do you respond to claims that visual art can be idolatrous? And what do you do in your painting process to maintain faithfulness to the text? Do you think being a Japanese artist gives you any unique perspective on religion and art?
 
The Second Commandment does not prohibit making of images. It prohibits making of idols. Idols are "a good gift of God that has been made into an 'only thing.'" (Tim Keller, my pastor). Sex, money, love are all good things that can become idols. The Old Testament is full of images and art, from representational to abstract (see Solomon's Temple). We need to understand that at the same time the Decalogue was given, strict instructions were given to Bezalel and Oholiab to carve the Ark of the Covenant. Thus the expression in the Second Commandment "You shall not make for yourself a carved image," is tied to prohibition of "not bow down to them." Bezalel and Oholiab carved images, but in accordance with God's design. After Christ's incarnation, the author of The Book of Hebrews tells us that Christ, the perfect Temple and Sacrifice, fulfilled the design that Bezalel and Oholiab executed in Christ's Body. I take that to mean that all manner of expressions (much like in Peter's vision of eating forbidden animals) are now freed from the curse.
 
Therefore ALL expressions are permissible, but that does not mean that all expressions are created toward our full thriving. We twist the good gifts of God to make idols (Madison Street Ad agencies do this all the time!) We are to, in Christ, liberate all mediums and expressions from "our bondage to decay...to bring into the glorious freedom of the children of God." (Romans 8:21) We are not only children, but heirs, with full authority to bring to our materials and mediums to steward over them.
 
Ancestor worship, I suspect, began as a good effort to remember and honor the dead, to pass on the family history to the children. It has been twisted into a type of duty, a legalistic bounds that require offspring no freedom toward thriving or full experience of love. We need to remember that our reaction against such idolatry, even in our religious duty, can also become just as legalistic. The enemy, and our orphaned hearts, always twist good intent to create bondage to others and ourselves. Christ came to liberate us from that, and the Holy Spirit guides us to live our identity as Christ's heirs, God's Princes and Princesses, to co-create with the great Artist.
 
From Annie: Your thoughts on creating in a generative way have been transformational for me. How do you hold the tension of sharing your art generously and letting it incubate? Do you always lean towards sharing and giving art, or are their seasons (or pieces of art) that you hold close for a season?
 
The tension between being too generous and cultivating your own work and time is much like being a gardener. First you must spend much time tilling the soil, planting and nurturing. Unless you have a beautiful flower to share, we cannot share beauty at all! It's ok to say "my flowers are not ready to be picked yet...”
 
 
 
My Top 5 Books on Creativity
 
My Top 5 Books on Creativity
 
by Makoto Fujimura
March 27, 2013
 
Literature that reveals what art and beauty ought to be.
 
 


 
Simply the best book on what art ought to be. An underground best seller among the creatives in New York City since it came out over 30 years ago, The Gift articulates what artists know in their bones—that their creativity is a gift, not a commodity.
 

 
 
 
 
On Beauty and Being Just
Elaine Scarry (Princeton University Press)
 
Though not a Christological reflection, this is one of the most thoughtful, and beautiful, discourses on the value of beauty and how seeking after beauty leads us toward justice. This book was also an underground best seller in the 1980s among creatives.
 
 

 
 
 

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
Madeleine L'Engle (Harold Shaw Publishers)
 
L'Engle illumines our creative journeys, prodding and nudging us to consider the mysteries inherent in our everyday lives and to infuse creativity with faith.

  
 
 
 
 

The Mind of the Maker
Dorothy L. Sayers (HarperOne)
 
Sayers, known as an Inklings friend of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as well as for her popular mystery novels, develops an imaginative and provocative discourse between Trinitarian theology and creativity.
 
 
 
 
 
 

  
Four Quartets
T. S. Eliot (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
 
Eliot is one of the most important thinkers on creativity in modern times, as evidenced by this mid-20th-century masterpiece. In "Qu4rtets," a collaborative project integrating creativity with various disciplines (fujimurainstitute.org), you can peek into his mind.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

"What is Evolutionary Creationism?" A PowerPoint Presentation by Denis Lamoureux

 
"I'm very comfortable with the concept of theistic evolution. I'm deeply convinced of God's
authorship, but I've never expected Scripture to give me a scientific explanation of the
entire process of creation. I expect science to do that. Scripture, in every form and genre,
testifies to the nature and character of God and to the dream of God; science describes
how the dream of God moves and breathes and coheres." - Jon Middendorf
 
 
Thankfully the term Evolutionary Creation is beginning to "catch on" and replace the outmoded descriptive title of Theistic Creation, placing the emphasis on how creation came into being and away from its older, non-specific twin that simply referred to God as creation's author without implicitly telling us by what process God created creation (by implication evolution was its means).

Certainly God is creation's divine Author, but what we wish to see acknowledged is by what means, or by what process, had God divinely chosen to create. Because of the insight science has given to us we now understand that creation resulted by an evolutionary process. And for the Christian it is a process that was mediated and sustained by God. An omnipotent God that directed its process, and is now sustaining this very same process (because, as a principal, evolutionary development does not cease, but is an ongoing process). Who has given to creation its purpose and identity (its teleology and nature), even while He has directed its very complex creation.

And unlike the bible's more ancient biblical authors, prophets, priests, and people in general, we now know through science a lot more about the evolutionary process of creation than those ancient peoples knew themselves (nor could they wildly imagine based in ancient societies that were deeply augmented around universal ideas of mythology and ancient cultural folklores). A process that was directive, mediated, and initiated by God Himself. A process that involved a phenomenal level of complexity using chaos and randomness as its natural means. A means that shares with us God's phenomenal level of sovereignty even as He guided its chaotic, random, evolution from pure energy, to living systems, unto the level of humanity we now observe today.

Moreover, the idea of Evolutionary Creationism affects many classical Christian doctrines requiring a level of sophistication previously unthought through the church's 2000 year history (or 4000 year history should we include Israel's historical progression). During these past two years of writing I have attempted to describe, and reposition, many of these doctrinal developments in detail, thus providing to the theological student, and general Christian worshipper, a biblical guide to detailed examination and discussion by theme and by topic. Hence, I would encourage each reader to make use of this site's very helpful sidebars as they have grown and accumulated through my own personal journey of questions and amazement.

Below, Denis Lamoureux gives a brief 12 minute PowerPoint sketch of what is meant by Evolutionary Creationism. To which Peter Enns reviews Denis' book, "I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution." Afterwhich I provide several Amazon reviews to both of Denis' published books on this subject, along with a chart from his latest book (apologies for its smallness - even when clicked upon! Its the best I could do).

May God bless your study even as you consider this subject's depth and interconnectedness with the Creator God Himself, and those ancient Scriptural references that He has preserved in recording His redemptive work and witness, mission and salvation through Jesus. It has been a phenomenal journey of encouragement and biblical insight providing thanksgiving for God's goodness, love, and wisdom so high above that of our own thoughts and religion. Enjoy.
 
R.E. Slater
April 16, 2013

Video PowerPoint of Book
by Denis Lamoureux



Episode 1 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj1/index.html

Episode 2 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj_2/index.html

Episode 3 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj3/index.html

Episode 4 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj4/index.html

Episode 5 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj5/index.html

Episode 6 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj6/index.html

Episode 7 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj7/index.html

Episode 8 - http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/ilj8/index.html
      

Home Return
              Web Lectures
  Beyond the "Evolution" vs. "Creation" Debate
 
An introduction to the origins debate.
 
  Beyond the "Evolution" vs. "Creation" Debate
      
  Public High School Version of the lecture above.
  Coming to Terms with Evolution: A Personal Story
 
My story of wrestling with origins for well over twenty years.
 
  Scientific Predictions of the Christian Positions on Origins
  
Fossil predictions of anti-evolutionary positions & evolutionary creation.
  Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution
 Summaries of the 10 chapters in my 2008 book. 
  Ancient Science in the Bible
 An examination of Biblical verses that indicate an ancient view of nature. 
  Human Evolution: An Evolutionary Creationist Approach
  
Various views for relating human evolution to Christianity.
  Was Adam a Real Person?
  
The most challenging issue in the origins debate.
  Intelligent Design in Nature
 
Does beauty, complexity & functionality in nature point to a Mind?
  
    
 


What is “Evolutionary Creation”?
April 15, 2013
 
Lamoureux holds three earned doctoral degrees—dentistry, theology, and biology–which uniquely qualifies him to speak to the issue of human origins and Christian faith. He gets the science, he gets the hermeneutics, and he articulates both clearly for non-specialists.
 
A couple of introductory comments about the 12 minute PowerPoint. First, he says some very nice things about me at the beginning, which I attribute to a brain frozen from the long Canadian winter and a truncated hockey season. Second, as I just mentioned, Lamoureux is Canadian, so keep your ears open for an “aboot” or the like. Third, as you’ll see, Lamoureux is no fan of the Intelligent Design movement. Fourth, for those of you who are beyond the beginner’s stage, you can read his much thicker book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.


* * * * * * * * *
 

Amazon Review by John Lang

This book is a condensed (184 pages vs. 493 pages) and much more affordable version of Lamoureux's 2008 book, Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution. Because it is more concise, this new book is much more accessible to its target audience; namely, conservative Christians who are wrestling with the Creation/Evolution controversy. I believe it fills a much needed gap in the popular literature aimed at the same audience. Specifically, I believe it delivers the hermeneutical guidance that is lacking in most of the other books addressing evolution from a Christian perspective.
 
I could personally relate to the "journey" that the author and many other conservative Christians have made in wrestling with the creation/evolution controversy. I abandoned the "young earth creationist" position in the 1980's after observing evidence I considered conclusive regarding the age of the earth and the universe. For Christians who may still be pondering that issue, I believe The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth is probably the definitive text for reconciling scripture with an "Old Earth" (4.5+/- billion years).
 
For over twenty years, I embraced "Progressive (Old Earth) Creationism". I did not consider evolution to be compatible with the Christian faith. As a result, I never seriously considered the possibility that secular authors might actually be right about evolution. It was not until I read The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins that I encountered what I considered to be conclusive evidence for Common Descent. The fact that Collins was writing from a Christian perspective made this realization somewhat less traumatic.
 
I read several other books by Christian authors such as Coming to Peace With Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology by Darrel Falk, Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator by Richard Colling, etc. These only served to solidify the reality of evolution in my mind. There have been a number of books like these that I believe have been very helpful in demonstrating the evidence for evolution in a manner that is sensitive to Christian concerns.
 
Yet I don't believe there are many books that practically guide conservative Christians as to how they can reconcile acknowledgement of evolution with their convictions about the message of the Bible. Gordon Glover's book, Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation provides an excellent start to this task, but even he acknowledges in his review of Evolutionary Creation that Lamoureux takes the hermeneutical issue to a much deeper level.
 
In I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution , Lamoureux addresses the key issues in a much more concise manner. The significance of this is that he provides practical direction as to how conservative Christians can retain their evangelical convictions while maintaining their integrity with regard to the "Book of God's Works" (nature) and the "Book of God's Words" (scripture). In view of the overwhelming evidence for evolution, coupled with the relative scarcity of credible books addressing the hermeneutical issues that are relevant to the creation/evolution controversy, I consider this book to be a very valuable resource for the conservative Christian community. I can't recommend it highly enough!

 
 
* * * * * * * * *
 
Amazon Review
 
I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution is a condensed read (184 pages vs. 493 pages) and much more affordable version of Lamoureux's 2008 book, Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.
 
In this provocative book, evolutionist and evangelical Christian Denis O. Lamoureux proposes an approach to origins that moves beyond the 'evolution-versus-creation' debate. Arguing for an intimate relationship between the Book of God's Words and the Book of God's Works, he presents evolutionary creation a position that asserts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained and sustained evolutionary process.
 
This view of origins affirms an evolutionary understanding of the concept of intelligent design and the belief that beauty, complexity, and functionality in nature reflect the mind of God. Lamoureux also challenges the popular Christian assumption that the Holy Spirit revealed scientific and historical facts in the opening chapters of the Bible. He contends that Scripture features an ancient understanding of origins that functions as a vessel to deliver inerrant and infallible messages of faith.
 
The book closes with the two most important issues in the origins controversy: pastoral and pedagogical implications. How should churches approach this volatile topic? And what should Christians teach their children about origins?


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Double Clicking on Link Below will provide a clearer picture -
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From Episode 4 -