Wish I’d found this before Sunday. This relates perfectly to what we were looking at in Ecclesiastes 3.
Lewis Smedes, writing of his English professor at Calvin College, said:
The first class of the first day of my first semester was English composition. The teacher was Jacob Vandenbosch. He introduced me that day to a God the likes of whom I had never even heard about—a God who liked elegant sentences and was offended by dangling modifiers. Once you believe this, where can you stop? If the Maker of the Universe admired words well put together, think of how he must love sound thought well put together; and if he loved sound thinking, how he must love a Bach concerto; and if he loved a Bach concerto, think of how he prized any human effort to bring a foretaste, be it ever so small, of his Kingdom of justice and peace and happiness to the victimized people of the world. In short, I met the Maker of the Universe, who loved the world he made and was dedicated to its redemption. I found the joy of the Lord, not at prayer meeting, but in English Composition 101.
Thank God for English professors like Jacob Vandenbosch. The world view articulated above, a biblical view of glorifying and enjoying the God who made the world (all of it) and pronounced it good (all of it), is 180 degrees away from the prevailing Evangelical viewpoint: this world is going to hell in a handbasket and the best we can hope for is to get “raptured” out of it.
As I said yesterday, I think the main reason the “two worlds” (sacred and secular) world view is prevalent is because Christians largely ignore the First Testament (Hebrew Bible). This helps to explain why the Jewish community has always been heavily involved in the arts, literature, and science, and have loved beauty in general. Is it any accident that the terms kitsch, schmaltz, and schlock come to us from Yiddish? It’s only by immersing one’s self if that which is truly beautiful, admirable, and praiseworthy–à la Philippians 4:8–that one can recognize that which is, well, kitschy, schmaltzy, or schlocky.
I think this is where many Christians miss the boat: we give lipservice to the idea that God made the world, but we live as if it were made by a demiurge and that it is inherently evil, hence the essence of Christianity being for so many, “don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t chew, don’t spit.” The physical world, in that world view, is bad. One’s only hope is to have as little contact with this evil, physical world as possible. So Christians have retreated from the “bad” world. (Curiously, though, while they have retreated, many busy themselves with making derivative, substandard copies of what they find in the “bad” world: the “sounds just like . . .” Christian music charts, “Godweiser: This Blood’s for You” t-shirts, etc.)
The above view has much in common with Gnosticism and very little to do with biblical Christianity. The world view of the Bible is that this world, made by God, is very good. God tells us to enjoy it, because when we enjoy it and give thanks to him for it, we are enjoying him. To be sure, sin has entered into the world, but God is in the business of redeeming this fallen world, not abandoning it, and his people are to be about the redemption of the world too. All spheres of existence are to be redeemed: science, the arts, literature, everything.
The Second Testament (Greek Bible) assumes this world view. Without it, we can’t understand what Jesus means by being “in the world, but not of the world.” If we don’t study both Testaments, we end up lopsided. We end up unwittingly making fun of ourselves more than “South Park” ever could.
As long as art teachers are getting dismissed from their jobs for taking students to an art museum that contains (gasp!) nude sculptures, as long as “Christian urban legends” are accepted as Gospel truth (or, more precisely, as long as a world view prevails that makes such legends seem even remotely plausible), and as long as Christians think stuff like this and this* are cool, we have a long, long way to go.
*If you follow this link and click on the Product Description, please notice that the “Sword of the Spirit” is–the New Testament! Not the whole Bible: just the New Testament.