a different work by a Christian artist. The work will "hang" on my blog so that viewers may have an opportunity to reflect, comment, and discuss the work. For July 9th he featured the work of photographer Krystyna Sanderson along with the following image: Now, I think that the image, in and of itself, is quite interesting. However, the title of the image is given as Who Do You Say I Am? For those unaware, this is a direct quote from Matthew 16:15 in which Jesus first asks his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? After telling Jesus that people are referring to him as either John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets, Jesus then asks them directly - But who do you say that I am? The response they give is a pivotal indication of the claim that Jesus has to his identity as the Messiah - the Christ - the Son of the Living God. And Jesus makes it clear to his disciples their knowledge of his identity did not come about through their own intuition, but was revealed to them by God. But, back to our image above. I was, quite frankly, a bit offended at the title of the image. The use of Jesus' words regarding his identity, in the context of a photographic portrait of another human being, seems to me to be inappropriate. Rather than leave a comment at Joe's blog, criticizing the work, I chose to leave a flippant remark, taking the question at a secular level only. I wrote, to answer the question, Who Do You Say I Am? Santa Claus, in July, after being informed that his elves are two months behind schedule. Afterwards, another person left a comment in which he indicated he was a bit taken aback by the title used. He said, Why are the words of Christ which evoked Peter's confession "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" used as the title of this photo of a querulous old man? It seems incongruous. Better to say nothing than think mistakenly that you've said something. Venturing over to the artist's website, another commenter attempted an explanation at why the title was used. He said, Look at the quote I took from Krystyna's gallery of photos on her website: I see each face I photograph as revealing the image of God in which we are all made. It's the old Christian idea that you never know where you'll find Jesus. Whenever you reach out to the least of your brothers in this world (or the greatest), you are reaching out to Jesus himself. While I'll be the first to agree that God bestowed on the human race His Image - the Imago Dei - one should be very careful in ascribing finding Jesus in the physical features we interpret as a human face. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is not the least of my brothers that I help. The Image of God transcends a mere facial portrait. The essence of the soul, the spirit, and the body, intertwined with one another, created anew as God breathed the life into Adam - this essence - gives us value precisely because it is imparted by God. Grabbing a quote from Jesus regarding his identity to use as a portrait title is simply very bad theology. Yet there may something more going on here than just bad theology. Indeed, the whole idea of the artist having the duty, the obligation, or the need, toenlighten us non-artists seems to be extremely big-headed. I enjoy photography and I enjoy visiting other photo-blogs, but one of the things that truly irritates me is how obtuse work often gets passed off as high-minded art. Investigate some of the photo-blogs for yourself and you'll easily find an eclectic mix of depressing and self-indulgent art. And it certainly isn't limited to photography. Remember Christo's umbrellas? Or how about music? For a few years, back in the '80s, I listened to Bruce Cockburn mainly because every art-minded Christian I knew was recommending him. With but a few exceptions, I found his lyrics to be painfully incoherent (that is, when you could get around his liberal preaching). One thing that did seem clear, though, was his high view of the artist (or, his perception of the artist). Consider his song, Maybe the Poet, from the mid '80s, Maybe the poet is gay But he'll be heard anyway Maybe the poet is drugged But he won't stay under the rug Maybe the voice of the spirit In which case you'd better hear it Maybe he's a woman Who can touch you where you're human Male female slave or free Peaceful or disorderly Maybe you and he will not agree But you need him to show you new ways to see Visiting his website today, he doesn't seem to have changed much. How about Bono? Whoa, no way! Let's not even go there. Dylan? Nuh-uh. Well... there's T-Bone Burnett - another critically acclaimed, but virtually unknown, singer-songwriter who supposedly pushed the envelope to who knows where. Or how about his wife Sam Phillips who once said, in a local TV interview, that the inspiration for recent song of hers came after she had gotten lost in a local mall and couldn't find her way out. Oh yeah, no ego issues there. So... what's the whole point of this rant of mine? Why am I venting? To tell you the truth, I don't know. You see... I'm an artist, and you're only obligation is to listen to me.
For those concerned about the all too frequent over-emphasis on experiential worship that we find in the evangelical community, there are some excellent lectures, by R. C. Sproul, J. Ligon Duncan, and Mark Dever, over at Ligonier Ministries. They are based on a seventeen-part series from a pastor's conference titled Overcoming the Eclipse of God. Also addressed is the aspect of evangelism and whether or not there is a dichotomy between our responsibility to evangelize and our responsibility to make disciples. In other words, should our focus on Sunday morning worship be that of evangelizing and catering to the needs of the non-Christians in our midst, or should our call to worship be centered on the worship of God and the building up of the saints? Consider these comments from R. C. Sproul in his message, The Eclipse of God (part 1 & part 2):
One can’t be brought into the presence of the living God and be bored; one can’t be brought into the presence of the living God and walk away convinced that it was irrelevant. …And what I plead, with my comrades in the ministry, is to resist the seduction of entertainment. All of us are judged in our job for how much the church is growing (in numbers). We know there’s a formula out there by which we can build the church and get people there.
But what we have to ask is: What is it that pleases God?
When you have the solemn assembly of the saints, are we designing worship for the lost? Evangelism is at the heart of the Great Commission, but it’s not at the heart of corporate worship on the Sabbath Day. The purpose of worship on the Sabbath Day, is the edification of the saints, and that they may bring their sacrifice of praise into the House of God.
It’s for them to worship.
Or take the lecture Target Audience (part 1 & part 2), from J. Ligon Duncan:
If we're the assembly of the living God. If we're the household, the family of God... the place where discipleship is going to occur... then what is our goal in preaching? What is our target audience?
In our day and time... the idea is so often proposed that worship and preaching need to be aimed at unbelievers. That what you do in the church's services, if we are going to be effective in drawing people in, is not to use the language of Zion, which is unknown to those who are not members of Zion; and not to use the weighty substance and content of Christian truth and theology because that would offend those who are not party to that code language; and not to preach to the choir, as it were, but to reach out to those who don't know the Gospel. And thus the whole of the service and the whole of the preaching is to be crafted for those who are not members of God's people.
And of course, that's utterly upside down from the standpoint of the New Testament.
...Preaching evangelistically and expositionally are not options that are mutually exclusive to one another. That's what we ought to be doing every Lord's Day!
...Let's reject this dichotomy between evangelistic and edificational preaching. Those two things are always to go together... And so as we think of our target audience, surely we want unbelievers to come to faith in Christ, but we do not want to starve the sheep as we do that, nor do we want to bring unbelievers into the kingdom under misapprehensions about what life in the kingdom is really like.
And, finally, take a listen to Expository Preaching (part 1 & part 2), by Mark Dever:
Expositional preaching is exposing God's Word to God's people, and exposing God's people to God's Word. ...Expositional preaching is making the point of a particular passage of scripture the point of your message. ...At its best, in doing so, showing people how this is so, that is, how the point you've taken from it is in fact the point of that passage, so that you're training them in reading and understanding the Bible; and applying its truths to their lives individually, and corporately as a congregation.
And brethren, we should want people to grasp God's Word. ...We should want people to know the Word of God, not so that they can pass theology exams, but so that they can follow Christ!
...We get to teach people the wonderful truths of God's Word. And we should want them to know the truths of those different books of scripture. ...Do they know what Ruth is really about? Do they understand the point of Ezekiel? When there are troubles in the church and people are falling into factions, do they know to turn to the book of James? Do they know what the books of the Bible are about?
...we are the front-line of teaching God's people God's Word. ...that is our calling when we enter the pulpit. It is to instruct God's people in God's Word, to feed them by God's Word. We should want people to grasp God's Word, and we should want people to be grasped by God's Word.
Back in September of 2004 I related the incident in which a bird of prey accidentally invaded our screened in "playroom." Yesterday, while working about the house, I heard the unmistakable call of a bird of prey in our yard. Moving to the nearest window I spied the following...
It is through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values, and it is right at this moment that we demonstrate ours. I think we all know what they are trying to do -- they are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cower us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do, and they should not, and they must not, succeed.
When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm.
We will show, by our spirit and dignity, and by our quiet but true strength that there is in the British people, that our values will long outlast theirs. The purpose of terrorism is just that, it is to terrorize people, and we will not be terrorized.
Blair blames Islamic terrorists An intense police hunt is under way in Britain for terrorists behind a string of bombings on London's transport system that killed at least 37 people and wounded 700 early today. Investigators have not yet said whether they believe the bombers left explosives on three trains and a bus or mounted suicide attacks. Considering Brian Williams' comparison of American Patriots to Islamic Terrorists, and judging by some of the comments my post on the matter has received, would it be fair to submit the following CNN rewrite? Blair blames Islamic Freedom Fighters An intense police hunt is under way in Britain for the patriots behind a string of bombings on London's transport system that killed at least 37 infidels and wounded 700 early today. Investigators have not yet said whether they believe the fighters of freedom left explosives on three trains and a bus or mounted suicide attacks. After all, surely someone must think of the incident in those terms and shouldn't we be, at the very least, more tolerant of other moral views? There are many problems with the moral relativist's point of view. Keep in mind that I have never disputed the fact that someone, somewhere, may see (or may yet see) these malevolent terrorists as freedom fighters. What I've been saying is such a person is flat-out wrong. The issue is not, and has never been, how the opposing side views the matter. Such a position leaves one in the self-defeating realm of moral relativism in which no particular viewpoint can be considered true. This is patently absurd. It's not a matter of "the one who wins get to write the history" as if we can never really trust whatever history we've been handed. While I'll be the first to acknowledge the inherent tendency of man to bring his bias to the table, I would much more readily trust the historical accounts written by men of honor than by men of dishonor. One need only look to our recent past for examples: the reality of the horror of the Civil War (and its causes); the journals of Lewis & Clark; racial segregation in the military during WWII; the wanton disregard for the environment during California's Gold Rush; etc., etc., etc. Intentionally dismembering innocent men, women, and children, through coordinated bomb attacks, is morally wrong. And it doesn't matter that someone may consider it otherwise.
When we view morality as ultimately relative, it is not surprising to find the following moronic nonsense spoken with complete seriousness:
Many Americans woke up to a curious story this morning: several of the former Iran Hostages have decided there is a strong resemblance between Iran's new president and one of their captors more than 25 years ago. The White House and most official branches of government are ducking any substantive comment on this story, and photo analysis is going on at this and other news organizations. It is a story that will be at or near the top of our broadcast and certainly made for a robust debate in our afternoon editorial meeting, when several of us raised the point (I'll leave it to others to decide germaneness) that several U.S. presidents were at minimum revolutionaries, and probably were considered terrorists of their time by the Crown in England. (emphasis added) The piece is from NBC anchor Brian Williams' blog. Later, on NBC nightly news, he continued with, What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called 'terrorists' by the British crown, after all. It seems that the someone was him (referencing his own blog entry). That's it. One man's ceiling is another man's floor. Hence, we must be honest with ourselves and admit that one country's terrorist is another country's patriot. Lest we impose our own morality on another culture we also should refrain from using the term "terrorist" altogether and, considering our ceiling / floor logic, admit that the term "freedom fighter" is more appropriate. After all, what is important is not whether the person's actions are truly wrong (for there is nothing really wrong), but whether the person is sincere in their belief. A Brian Williams' History lesson: Terrorists, circa 2000 Terrorists, circa 1776 HT: Michelle Malkin