Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A New Podcast Takes on the Gangster Motif of Ridley Scott

A New C&PC Podcast takes a look at the blockbuster film American Gangster and asks some hard questions as well as assessing its aesthetic value. Hear what Rich and I thought of the movie and let us know you thoughts in response.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I am Writing

In case you were wondering why I haven't posted very much lately (though I doubt you were)the answer is simple: business! But I am writing! For those avid fans of my writing, those who simply can't get enough of my ornate prose and keen sense (btw: if such individuals do exist you need to read more)I have a new piece here.

I am currently a staff writer for the Christ & Pop Culture e-zine. Rich has turned our simple podcast into a full blown website with contributing writers. My most recent post Chuck and Truth is the featured article of the day.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Christ and Pop Culture do the Art Scene

The new C&PC Podcast asks and attempts to answer the question: Is there Good Christian Art?

Check out the new website, listen to the podcast, and let us know your thoughts.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

This Day One Year Ago

As I have been sitting and watching the Buckeyes beat up on the Wolverines today I was reminded of this day one year ago. This day one year ago my wife decided to throw me a Birthday party with some of our friends from church. Folks came over and we watched the same rivalry match-up between Ohio State and Michigan. And during half-time as I sat with Melony and Jeremy, Carrie and Josh, Jessica and Rich, and Carly and Sammy around me, my wife and I announced that we were having our first child!

It was an extremely exciting time. These dear friends, and countless others, had been praying with us for the Lord to bless us with a child. It was a wonderful feeling to share such good news with those who had partaken of our sorrow.

As I reflect on that day I sit now watching the Buckeyes win again, but this time I sit with my wife and our beautiful three and half month old girl: Maleigha. What a blessing it is that the Lord gives us the great delight of children. What a wonderful way to spend your Birthday!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Complete Series

Well I have finally finished the far too long series on Christianity and the Imagination. I appreciate your tolerance through it all and am glad to be done with it myself. Here, now, is the complete series available if you're interested.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christ and Pop Culture is Bigger and Better!

C&PC is branching out its short arms, and the project is taking on a new form: that is a research base for Christian engagement in the culture. Rich has developed a new website with regular writers and other contributers to the ministry. The Weekly Podcast will continue but it will be accompanied by blogs and discussions. Check it out!

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Reflecting on the Imaginative: Five Questiosn to Ask

As I conclude this series now, finally, I want to offer these final five questions that you can ask of any imaginative piece that you come across. These questions will help you formulate the worldview of the artistic piece or its creator.

(1) What does this work say about humanity? --> Is humanity, in this song or painting etc., presented in the image of God? As having dignity and worth? Or as an animal, or a beast? Is humanity seen as perfectly good or as inherently sinful? What does the work say about humanity?

(2) What does this work say about God? --> Is God present or not present in this work of art? Is there any hint of his existence or role in the world? Is God dead or just ignored? Is he to blame for the evil in the painting, or is he the source of goodness in the poem?

(3) What is our experience of the work? --> How does this song make you feel? What does that story make you think of? How did you connect with the characters in the film? If the artist is good he will have tried to manipulate your responses to get what he most desires, this will tell you something about the point of the art and its worldview.

(4) What does the work value? --> What is emphasized, praised, highlighted, and condemned in the work? Each piece will express some sort of value, uncovering it will be a key to unlocking the overall worldview.

(5) Does the piece achieve its goal? --> This is not merely an assessment of its effectiveness. It is important to know the author's intent, but if the goal is not achieved we must deal with the accidental influences that it creates. Be aware of these and it will help you to assess the piece theologically.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Fallacy # 5: Works of Art Make No Truth Claims

This final fallacy is an obvious one for our postmodern culture to have turned to. This theory says that art is purely an aesthetic expression. "Art for Art's sake" goes the expression. Movie producers and directors make these claims as do painters and poets. The failure of this claim, however, is that it fails to consider that artists do not create without purpose, and purpose equals intended meaning.

Leland Ryken gives the example of words on the side of a cliff. If you were driving down the highway and saw words in the side of a cliff what would you think? You'd probably wonder what they were doing there. What if you found out they were caused by erosion? Well then you wouldn't probably wonder what they meant anymore, because, after all, erosion does not create with purpose. Artists, however do. And every time we view art, or listen to art, or read art, we believe that the artist has created with meaning. Even Jackson Pollock and Gertrude Stein created with purpose.

Since the subject of art is the expression of the human experience there is inherent within ever piece judgments, values, and perceptions of the world. Each artist has a worldview. Jay Z's worldview is different than Maya Angelou's but each has one that comes forth and makes truth claims in their various pieces of art.

To suggest that art has no truth claims is to suggest that, in fact, the art is meaningless (and even this may be an expression of meaning, see Gauguin).

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C&PC: Video Game Evangelism

Christ and Pop Culture has a new episode up. This week Rich and I had special guest Owen Strachan on to talk about "Youth Groups, Halo 3, and the Evangelistic Imperative." When we received news that SBC Churches were encouraging their youth groups to use Halo 3 as an opportunity to share the gospel with young men Rich and I took advantage to again speak to the methodology of Christian engagement of the culture. Hear what Rich and Owen have to say as I ask them questions, and as we give our Top Five Countdown of Misguided Uses of Pop-Culture.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

C & PC, and Fairy Potter

So it came as a news flash to the literary world, "Albus Dumbledore" is a homosexual! And your boys at Christ and Pop-Culture were hot on the trail of this news story...well maybe not. But it's an interesting development and it gives me a chance to poke some more fun at Rich's "Harry Potter as a Christ-Figure" Theory. So check it out and leave a comment.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fallacy # 4: The Usefulness of Art Depends on Its Philosophic Viewpoint

I have been discussing, for sometime now...(I know, perhaps too long), that the imagination, and art, convey truths. And that this has great benefit for us. But what are we to do when we run into a piece of imaginative art where the truth is not told? What do we do with the musical compositions of John Cage, whose nihilistic philosophy shaped his approach to composing? The answer for those who hold to this particular fallacy is that we throw it out! There is no value, they say, in works that do not tell the truth. The value is wholly dependent upon the artwork's worldview.

At one level we can appreciate this group's adherence to objective truth, and applaud them for not simply lumping all art together as present viable options for truth. On the other hand, their view is extremely narrow and misses a key feature of all artwork. As Leland Ryken writes, "Works of art clarify the human situation to which the Christian faith speaks, even if their interpretation of reality is wrong."

Art, whether it is visual art, music, or literature, tells us something about the people who create and enjoy it. A painting paints for us a picture of the thoughts and feelings, and values of the culture. If Christians wish to have relevant ministry to their neighbors they can learn something from their art. Picasso's painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon reveals a man who had shifted his thought from humans born in a state of innocence to the loss of humanity (observe the picture moving from left to right). Of course Christians deny this to be true...the fall did misshape humans, but we still bear the evidences of being made in the image of God. But this does tell us something about the deeply depressed soul of a man.

Art's value far exceeds its philosophic viewpoint (not that it should be ignored or downplayed. Art tells us about the world, art furthers thoughts about specific worldview points, and art, even with its sometimes fallacious views, can be of good to Christians for evangelism, apologetics, and general life in this sinful world.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Fallacy # 3: The Usefulness of a Work of Art Consists of its Abstract Ideas

With the increased criticism of that art is merely entertaining and therefore, for some reason, less important to society, art apologists have sought to make a lasting place for art in the world. Their approach, however, robs art of its power and uniqueness. The art apologist attempts to put art on the same level as philosophy and psychology and theology, making it purely ideational. Again this approach robs art of its power.

Art is not useful simply because of its abstract ideas. The very power of art is in its overall presentation, not simply the ides behind it. Leland Ryken is right when he states, "If the ideas are the important thing in a work of art, we obviously do not need the work itself once we have deduced the ideas." The idea of inherent sin isn't nearly as compelling as is reading Lord of the Flies. As Ryken says, "Who would be willing to substitute the thrill of actually experiencing one's favorite novel or movie for a one-page-summary of the ideas embodied in it?" Art's power comes from its overall presentation, and anything less is reductionistic at best, and may almost make art more useless then useful.

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A Halloween Treat from C & PC

If you spent time on Halloween night watching a scary movie then perhaps you'll enjoy a special Halloween treat from Christ and Pop-Culture. In the latest episode of C&PC Rich and I discuss the "Devolution of the Horror Film." Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

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