The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the category “The Arts”

The SCOTUS Decision and the Christian Future

by Uri Brito

Christians are called to be a future-oriented people. This is easy to forget when we see clear judicial reversals of what God has judicially declared. The SCOTUS decision does not change what is, it simply re-enforces that what is is not cherished. When “what-is” is not cherished, people seek out that which is not.

The Creator established a pattern for all of history. He established condemnations attached with those who attempt to usurp that divine pattern (Rom. 1). The pattern which God has created let no man put asunder. Scalia’s dissent brilliantly summarized the undoing of this pattern:

“Some might conclude that this loaf could have used a while longer in the oven. But that would be wrong; it is already overcooked. The most expert care in preparation cannot redeem a bad recipe.”

Untrained cooks are raving about this new recipe. Though overcooked, it is still the flavor of the day. This is the out-working of that very first sin. As C.S. Lewis observed:

Through pride the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every vice, it’s the complete anti-God state of mind.

And speaking of anti-God state of mind, mainline churches are celebrating today’s ruling with the same enthusiasm as the vocal LBGT community.  The InterFaith Alliance President the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement celebrating today’s Supreme Court decisions:

The enormity of today’s decisions cannot be overstated. The combined impact of these two rulings puts our nation further down the inevitable and proper path towards full marriage equality for the LGBT community. All Americans should rejoice in today’s decisions because they bring us that much closer to fulfilling the promise of our Constitution. I am hopeful that today’s decision striking down DOMA as unconstitutional and overturning the Proposition 8 case on standing will be followed by continued victories in this fight for equality. That a majority of the Court recognized in the DOMA case that this was an issue of equal protection denied is no small victory.

The IRS, on the other hand, is in panic mode. Though nationally distrusted, now it is going to have to create two tax regimes:

One system, for couples in states where same-sex marriage is recognized, will allow gays and lesbians to file their tax returns jointly, exclude them from paying taxes on their spouse’s estate and clear them to contribute together to health savings and flexible spending accounts. The other system, for couples in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage, wouldn’t allow such benefits.

The law does get complicated when the equality trumpet is sounded in a minor key. Ultimately, this is not about civil rights, this is about imposing one right: the right to call evil good and good evil. And these advocates will not rest until their agenda is accepted at a national level. We all know that California has not only bitten the garden fruit, but devoured it. The serpent did not even need subtlety in his argument. However, persuading the nation, that is another story. And as long as there are ten righteous, God will not destroy us.

We are a future-oriented people. And we should always be. Jesus has not relinquished his throne to a perverted Caesar. He is still king of kings and Lord of marriage. His marriage is still to a female bride. And while Hollywood cheers on this ruling, we should be saying “bring it on!” The prophets of Baal may eat well at Jezebel’s table. They may conspire against us and the Lord’s anointed, but when they are finished God will laugh for the future is his.

Uri Brito is the founder of Kuyperian Commentary.

What does it take to write well?

Though it is most often attributed to the great sports writer Red Smith, no one knows for sure who first bled this great insight- “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” Like all great metaphors, this one invites us to slow down and examine its many facets.

First, writing hurts. It hurts in part because you are giving up for public view that which courses through your veins. Though we likely all do it to one degree or another in whatever line of work we do, precious few lines of work have such a clear and immediate connection between the product and the producer. It is my own life-blood, and when it is rejected or despised, I am rejected and despised.

Second, it’s just me. Sure it may in involve paper and ink, or cyber-paper and ink, but no one reads for either the paper or the ink. The raw material is me. I am the one manipulating the raw material. I am the one polishing the raw material. It all starts with a blank page and the writer. The page doesn’t bring much to the table.

That said, there is raw material that feeds the raw material.  I like to think of myself, in terms of my writing, as a pig.  (No doubt I have plenty of critics who would agree.) What I mean is this. A pig takes in copious amounts of stuff, some of it fairly expensive and fine, like pig feed, much of it cheap and base, like scraps from the family table. In God’s good providence, the pig then turns that stuff into something profoundly treasured and dear- bacon. But it takes more than just the consuming to get that done. The pig has to die. In like manner I consume copious amounts of stuff. I read fancy books written by theological giants, and I read blog posts and magazine articles by acerbic wits. But I also take in my surroundings and my circumstance. I am always watching or reading (consuming) or mulling (digesting) or bleeding (giving up the bacon.)

We are often told to write what we know. I would add that writing as bleeding requires that we write what we care about. We can’t expect our readers to invest in that which we are ourselves only mildly interested in.  When we describe our favorite sports team we affirm, “I bleed black and gold.” (Everyone’s favorite teams wear black and gold, right?) When we write we need to be pouring out of us what matters most to us.

Finally, bleeding, or the circulatory system, comes naturally to us. In like manner we should write as we speak. You don’t need to “discover your voice.” You need to understand that your voice is “your voice.” The scary thing about writing is it’s just you. The easy thing is it’s just you. Fake you, affected you, no matter how charming, can never be as good as real you. Use your rhythms, your vocabulary, your diction, your blood.

OK, finally finally. The moment your blood stops flowing you die. With writing it is the same. Write as often as blood is flowing through you. Or to be more clear- write always. On the other hand, know when to stop.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. teaches at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida where he also serves as a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries. He is a contributing scholar to Kuyperian Commentary.

This article was originally published here.

Taylor Swift, Christian Music, John Cage, and Goats

Taylor Swift and American Fragmentation

Taylor Swift Goat Trouble

Ever since she wrote a song about me, see Hey Stephen, Taylor Swift’s music has been on my radar. Her music is in nearly every way contemporary with the current state of other American art. The lyrics, notes, melody, and music video reveal Swift as a modern John Cage.

Read more…

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

The-Eye-Of-Sauron

We have often heard it said that, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This is often said in response to a disagreement in artistic preference and does help maintain a sense of “agreeing to disagree.”  Being able to look past disagreements and maintain civilized, social order is a habit that many of us would do well to nurture, but is there any truth to the old adage?  Is beauty indeed in the eye of the beholder?  Is there any such thing as objective beauty?  Something that’s beautiful even if no human had ever said, “Wow. Pretty.”

One way to pursue an answer to this question is by studying patterns in philosophical thought.  The three major branches of philosophy are: Metaphysics (the study of stuff and its origin, whether physical, spiritual or otherwise), Epistemology (the study of knowledge and how mankind comes to acquire knowledge), and Ethics (the study of the evaluation of human conduct).  Theologian John Frame makes a wise assessment when he generalizes this third branch into “Value Theory” instead of just “Ethics”.  Value theory steps beck from merely assessing rules and codes of conduct to encompass traditional descriptive, normative and applied ethics, as well as aesthetics (the study of beauty) and economics.  Aesthetics fits nicely as a sub-category of “value theory” but might be a tight fit under the category of “ethics”, or would it?

adolf hitler eyes

Here’s what I mean by patterns in philosophical thought. As Christians, when it comes to metaphysics, we do not leave the answers to the big questions about reality, existence, minds, bodies, God, space, time, causality, etc., up to the one asking the questions.  If someone says, “what’s true for you is true for you.  As for me, reality is in the eye of the beholder.”  That’s not an answer that receives much support from orthodox Christianity.  In fact, most folks would scoff, right before questioning the person’s sanity.

Stalin eyes

And what about epistemology?  How can I have knowledge of myself, the external world, and God? As Christians, is there some other point of beginning for knowledge and wisdom besides the revealed Word of God?  If God has said, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”, do we allow for some neutral zone where people can acquire knowledge on their own terms?  How is it that we have the possibility of knowledge?  Should we be rationalists or empiricists, or both, or neither?  Tertium quid, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

What about ethics?  Is moral human conduct up to the individual?  Is it a social contract?  Is it the greatest good for the greatest number of people?  Is the greatest good even recognizable?  When it comes to ethics, Christians are famous, if not notorious, for not allowing ethics to remain in the eye of the beholder.  We have the ten commandments, the two greatest commandments, Psalm 119, which is a really long song about loving the law, the entire Pentateuch, the law of God written on our hearts, etc.  The answer to this question of value theory rests in the revealed Word of God which contains His Law.  No eyes of any beholders here.

mao zedong face

So, I mentioned a pattern earlier.  Metaphysical questions?  Objective answers revealed by God.  Epistemological questions?  Objective standards revealed by God.  Ethical questions?  Ditto.  What about questions about beauty, another branch of value theory?  Does God have an opinion on what is beautiful and what isn’t?  Does He delight in some things and find others detestable?  If ever there was an opportunity to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this is it.  God sees.  God assesses.  God beholds and declares beautiful or ugly.  God weighs in the balances and finds some things wanting.

Pol Pot eyes

Once we’ve rejected the myth that all beauty is subjective, we can make some real progress towards a Christian aesthetic. So where do we begin?  There is the difference between “beauty” and “preference” to consider.  The smell of anchovies or the texture of sushi may come up in the conversation about preferences.  There is the fact that everything that God finds beautiful may not tickle our fancy. Author Nate Wilson commends us to the reproductive patterns of the leopard slug, if we want to expand our horizons of aesthetic study.  God created leopard slugs with all their mucous and odd protrusions, and God created bunnies and kittens.  However, we often see bunnies and kittens on posters containing bible verses, but we never see posters with leopard slugs reproducing.  Is there a verse somewhere in the Bible that extols the blessings of bunnies and kittens while condemning leopard slugs to eternal perdition?  Maybe we do not yet see creation through the new eyes that we have been given.

Are questions concerning objective beauty the easiest questions to answer?  Obviously not.  Does the present author have an entire system of biblical aesthetics worked out?  Uhhhh, nope.  Is beauty one of those square inches of creation about which Jesus Christ says with great affection, “Mine!”?  Yep. So, for those interested in embarking on the journey of Christian aesthetics, there’s a great article by Justin Hawkins over at FareForward.  Here’s a sample…

In the Christian understanding, humanity was made for the contemplation and enjoyment of God, and since the beauty of creation is the shadow of the radiance of the divine beauty, it is no mystery that we are attracted to it as to the echo of a lover’s voice.  In the beauty of creation, our Creator is speaking to us, and that is why we love beautiful things.

Ethics and aesthetics are too closely linked in value theory for one to be objectively true and the other to be left to individual preference.  The non-Christian would agree with me and say that ethics and aesthetics are very closely linked, and they both ought to be based on individual preference.  What should the Christian say?

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