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I recently attended the New Attitude conference in Louisville. I have gone to several of these events now, and they are always very helpful. Tim Challies live blogged the conference, and you can also find a good summary on the official New Attitude website. Here are some of my random observations from the conference.

1. Al Mohler is really funny. He did what was effectively a stand up routine at the start of his message, talking about cargo shorts.

2. The Courtesy Ninjas were really cool. Giving out free snacks (and breakfast) is a really cool thing to do. Also, the free Hummer limo ride which some people got was good stuff.

3. You get the coolest view of clouds from airplanes. Just imagine – traveling like this was unthinkable 100 years ago, and now we get these incredible views of the sky on a regular basis. Yet another way modern technology can point us to the splendor of God.

4. The music? Awesome.

5. John Piper is amazing – his passion for God’s glory is unmatched, and his message on what kinds of obedience don’t please God was extremely helpful. I always need to be reminded that nothing I can present to God pleases him – only his Son’s obedience pleases God, and I will ever go deeper into debt to God’s grace. That thought is awesome.

6. Free Na Sermons! Get your free Na Sermons!

7. Thank God for times like this, which are so refreshing.

8. Finally, I have not yet fully recovered from Na – I’m going to be sleeping a good long time tonight.

Chris wrote about the “Christian” market, what with Christian music, Christian video games, Christian movies, and so forth. In general, a lot of Christian artists have sequestered themselves into a separate community, which produces what typically ends up being inferior art. I believe he is right to ask “where have all the Christian artists gone?” One only has to look back in Christian history to see great works done by Christians for general cultural consumption. The great European church buildings are a prime example of this, as are the paintings by many medieval artists who were Christians. Bach produced very Christian art for the general public as well.

One of the reasons I think this happens is the secularization of our culture over the past 100 years or so. The culture was nominally Christian in the West from the medieval days until around the turn of this century (this is a VERY rough retelling of history). Because of this, there was no felt need by Christians to create this seperate art culture. Now that the common culture is more non-Christian than it has been for a long time in the West, Christians struggle with how to engage it in an artistic fashion. It is very tempting to join the Christian enclave and simply produce art there, where they are essentially in a less crowded market. It is HARD to compete for recognition among the larger culture, and most good Christian artists decide to fall back on the thought of “well, at least I can get noticed in the Christian art community”.

An example of Christian culture just aping secular culture is the plethora of Christian brand t-shirts. The Coca-Cola shirts that actually say that Christ is Lord, or the Lord of All Things in the Lord of the Rings font shirt. Why not create a unique design that says something Christian. This was cute ten years ago (well, longer ago than that, because I remember having issues with it then), but now it is just old and not creative.

Thus, we get Christian movies that vastly inferior to anything put out by the secular community. We have Christian artists who ape the musical style of everyone else. I would love to see Christian art come to the forefront of the culture as art, not just as “Christian art”. Christians seem to be getting better with movies: Amazing Grace was a great effort by someone I think was a Christian director. The fact that it was better than some secular movies was saying something.

Hello from San Francisco!

First off, sorry about the extra post from Chris. I just got my laptop on an internet network, and am now sitting on a beanbag chair here at JavaOne. Chris: I’ll get to a response to your post – this has bothered me for a while as well. Just not right now.

I really don’t have any deep spiritual thoughts in my head, so here’s a few random observations from San Francisco!

1. Sea Lions are proof that God has a sense of humor. These ungraceful creatures (on land) are reduced to dragging their fat bodies by their flippers, making lots of noise, and fighting each other for little wooden platforms when there are plenty of empty ones for them to lounge on.

2. The San Francisco Giants fans are the coolest fans I’ve seen. There were a lot of them at the ballpark, and they get really into the game.

3. AT&T Park has no bullpen. Instead, they’ve set up two pitcher’s mounds and two home plates along the foul line on the playing field – like my Little League days!

4. Barry Bonds is huge. Everyone in San Fran likes him (except for the smattering of Mets fans who were in attendance). During one of his at bats, they played the Overture from Phantom of the Opera. That seemed strangely appropriate. Unfortunately, he never hit one out while I was there. Ahh, well.

5. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life on a cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge. That was cool. So was the size of the bridge – it is simply HUGE!

6. The country around here is gorgeous.

7. Alcatraz is really cool. I wasn’t on the island, but we sailed by it. The most hilarious thing about it is the two year Indian occupation of the place in the late 60s. Basically, a bunch of American Indians decided to live on Alcatraz, and ended up having to be dislodged. Even today, there are signs on the buildings scratched out by hand saying “Indians Welcome”. Very strange.

8. Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to be.

9. Finally, In-N-Out burger so deserved to beat McDonalds for a nationwide burger joint. They are cheaper, use fresher ingredients, and their burgers and fries are tasty. They even cut the fries daily, instead of warming them up from a frozen bag of pre-cut fries. So why did McDs have to spread nationwide, while In-N-Out is only out here in California?

10. You have got to ride a San Francisco cable car before you die. Its fun and a totally unique experience.

I’m here, but feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of this city (this is the way I always feel about New York City as well). This is high up on my list of places for a prospective honeymoon. The only disadvantage is that it gets cold around these parts – San Fran is one of our cooler cities, temperature wise. Still, winters aren’t snowy (which I would miss, actually), so its a great destination just about every time of year.

The only thing I have not experienced yet is the legendary San Francisco fog, so we’ll see how that goes.

A Half-Baked Idea

This post is meant as a simmering pot, to help me think as I write these thoughts down. Hopefully they will make sense to anyone reading (especially you, Brando, once you get home and everything).

Today I saw a link for this video game: http://www.biblearcade.com/games.htm (Brando, I can’t get the hyperlink working…). For those who may not know, this game is a complete copy of Bejeweled, an immensely popular game is quite fun and rather addictive. The premise of Bejeweled (and, consequently, this knock-off game entitled Jewels of Sinai) is that you have to match up three like objects in a sea of other objects. It’s fast paced and kept me playing the few times that I have played it.

I’m going to be very simple with my language here. Why must there be a Jewels of Sinai? It is essentially the same game, except that instead of a simple game with no plot (as if there needed to be one) there is a game attempting to teach a bible story. Pardon me, but since when do we need a bible story in such a game? Will it teach anyone anything deep about God as they furiously click to gain points and lead God’s people to Sinai? Does that question even need to be answered?

What I see here is a trend that seems to be emerging in Christian merchandise, especially Christian video games (think this game about Moses: http://www.thedeliverancegame.com/?gclid=CPTNzsaXwooCFRssVAodx2W2kQ ). It’s the trend that says that all the world’s media must be evil, so as Christians we must make replicas that take out the trash and keep the good. This was the case with the movie Facing the Giants (which, by the way, I did not see because I heard from multiple sources that the acting was atrocious).

Now, hear me carefully. I do believe that Christians should produce art. In times past, some of the most beautiful artistic works were made by Christians (a la Milton’s Paradise Lost, Augustine’s Confessions, or Lewis’ works). However, recently this Christian Industry Machine emerged, promising a plethora of artistic talent, but by Christians. Whereas before the Christians were fine with working from a “secular” publishing house, now Christians must be a part of CCM if they are to be a “Christian” musician. Now Christians are to be under a Christian publishing house. Now Christians must only listen to “Christian” music (as if music were saved), read “Christian” books, watch “Christian” movies, and play “Christian” video games (where “Christian” is described as coming from a publishing house, record label, movie maker, or game developer known as “Christian”).

This doesn’t exactly sound like in the world but not of it. I would argue that the art that these “Christian” venues often promote is second-rate, often merely aping some secular style rather than being truly fresh or original. That’s a sweeping statement, but I believe it can be backed up by many examples (for which I don’t have the time…Brando, have a few?). One example is “Christian” music, which is often simply a re-packaging of a secular artist’s style.

I lament this state of things. Why did the shift occur? Why do we now have a “Christian” market, instead of Christians in the market? Why do we have a “Christian” Music Industry, instead of having Christians in the music industry? Why are there now “Christian” game development companies making the same game as a good secular game, instead of Christians making a brand new, fresh, and innovative game that will blow people away.

Art reflects our Creator and Savior. Why should we settle for having a “Christian industry” that promotes art that doesn’t reflect as much of God’s revealed glory as, oftentimes, the skill of the secular artists do? It sickens me that Christians are not at the forefront of culture. Why are we in the back, bemoaning the terrible culture that is emerging from those evil secular people? We, as representatives of Christ, should reflect Him and His glory through skillful, creative art better than non-Christians. We have a reason to other than self-glorification. We have Christ to exalt! What a waste it would be if we backed away from the world and created our own bubble of art, instead of creating art that glorifies God and shows His majesty to all around!

Those are my thoughts, raw and unedited. If they do not make sense, I apologize. This post is like raw material. It may form the basis for many posts. Brando, if you see this while you’re in San Fransisco and you have a minute, give me your thoughts…

Chrisitan Nolan

David Waiting on God

One of the most exciting stories in the Bible is the Israelite king Saul’s pursuit of the future anointed king of Israel, David. David is getting more and more fame in Israel, and Saul, who has already been told that he is going to be replaced as God’s anointed, begins growing jealous of David. He attempts to kill David a few times, forcing David to go on the run.

Now imagine being David. You have been told that you are to be the next king of Israel. You have defeated a giant, and are praised by the people for being a champion. However, your king’s jealousy is forcing you to go into hiding for your very life. Most people in those circumstances would kill their pursuer if they got the chance. After all, isn’t he the anointed of God? Shouldn’t he be the king of Israel anyway? It is obvious that Saul is living an unrighteous life, and does not honor God. So shouldn’t he be dealt with?

David answers this question with a resounding “no!” He refuses to kill Saul, and grows very angry with those who take life and death into their own hands later. His idea seems to be “God has promised that I will be king, so I will leave the timing up to him.” What amazing trust in God! I know I am tempted to take circumstances into my own hands on a regular basis. “Hasn’t God called me to something else? Why should I wait before seizing this opportunity – it is there for the taking!” However, I believe that God does not always call me to immediately seize an opportunity just because it is there. I need to proceed cautiously, and see if there are good reasons to wait. I also need to be patient if God closes doors that I think should be opened – he has a plan for this. Just because God is calling me to something does not mean that I am to do it this instant – God may have good reasons for me to wait. May I be patient with God’s plans for my life, especially when I feel he is going slowly. God always has a reason, and that reason is for my good.

Chris,

You would be right in saying that the marriage relationship is used a lot more than the relationship of brothers. However, that language is there, and I believe it is helpful to examine what is meant by any metaphor in the Bible. After all, God created us, and designed relationships to teach us something about him, and when the inspired Word of God calls attention to a particular relationship, we should look at it. Also, the picture of Christ going before us in death and resurrection is a good find! This is indeed something that husbands and wives don’t experience (or at least, aren’t guaranteed to experience).

While thinking about other passages that talk about our relationship to Christ, this one came to mind (Romans 8:12-17):

12 So then, brothers, [4] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [5] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Now at first, this just seems to be stating “yeah, we are brothers with Christ”, and it is saying that. However, the term fellow heirs would have sounded very different to Roman ears than it does to modern Western ears. When we talk about heirs to a throne, we typically think of the English and French kingships, where an heir was a biological son – thus, calling someone “fellow heirs” with Christ is talking about a family relationship. Now, thankfully, this IS the picture – we are brought into God’s family, and he treats us as such. However, to a Roman mind, another picture would have also came into picture. Royalty back then wasn’t hereditary. This makes reading Roman history an interesting experience filled with much unnecessary drama – the lack of a clear succession plan caused a lot of headaches for the Empire, as there was a lot of fighting and weakness as a result of this plan. The closest the Emperors ever got to solving the problem was the Roman institution of adoption. In Roman times, adoption could happen among two people of similar ages – a grown Emperor could adopt someone who was around his age, and this person would be immediately brought into the family, and an heir would be clear. I’m not sure if this practice was adopted before or after the Apostle Paul wrote, but this would have informed early Christians reading the text. In this case, God would be the emperor, and he would have adopted his children into his family, placing them with Christ. The adopted weren’t second class sons – they were on equal footing with the biological sons (and were sometimes considered more legitimate – they were chosen heirs, the heir the Emperor had given his blessing to). There were even cases where two Emperors were declared, with two heirs to replace them. (This tended to devolve into chaos, but that was a legal possibility that Romans did not find strange in any way.)

What a strange thought! We are considered fellow heirs with Christ – loved by God and Christ, and we will rule with him! We don’t deserve this rich honor, but God has granted it to us – praise be unto his name!

The Little Dude

At the intense behest of my brother, I decided to post.

So, I am the little brother. What does this mean? Well, first off, I could totally take him now (ok, so maybe it’d be a close fight). So, the parallel between Christ and the church is compared to an older brother to a younger brother? Ok.

Before I make any other comments, however, I will first say that the Bible uses the covenant of marriage to speak on Christ’s relationship to the church far more frequently than the image of Christ being a big brother is used (look up Ephesians 5:22-33 for one such example).

However, I do think that the idea of Christ’s being a big brother is helpful to show some nuances of the relationship.

First off, one patently obvious thing about the big brother/little brother relationship is that the big brother goes before the little brother. The big brother has experienced the parts of life that the little brother often has to wait to go through. For example, my brother drove before I did, he shaved before I did, he went through puberty before I did, he went to college before I have, and he’s had a full-time job before I have. This means that, when I consider colleges, I seek his input. When I will think about a job offer, I will ask his advice, because he’s been through the job interview process. This idea of the older brother going before the younger is an not found in the marriage picture, but it helps because, as the author of Hebrews points out, Christ can sympathize with us because He has been tempted in every way. Even more strikingly, He has died before us, and is the firstborn from the dead (note the use of firstborn from the dead, which clearly implies that others will follow). In this way, Christ has gone before us in a way that none of us have. Much like an older brother, he can say “I’ve been there. I’ve died, and I’ve risen.” Now, it’s not exactly the same, because we are not atoning for the sins of the world (nor could we), but we will die, and those who have trusted Christ will rise from death, much in the same way Christ did.

This aspect is one completely unique to the image of a bigger brother. Unlike protection, in which the husband (or Christ) is called to protect the wife (or the Church), the idea of Christ going before us is only found in the brother picture.

Most other aspects have already been covered by Brando, and I need to get some Latin homework done!