Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and MeaningSaving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I have read so far this year. It is a must read for everyone involved with the arts. Nancy explains how arts (music, art, films, writings, architecture. etc. is created with a worldview. I want to leave you with one quote: "God's good gifts - including things like skill and insight - are given to everyone. This is the doctrine of common grace: that God 'causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous' (Matt. 5:45). As a result, most artists' vision is better than their worldview. They are sensitive to dimensions of reality that go beyond what is strictly permitted within the cramped categories of their secular worldview. One might say that the more attuned artists are to actual human experience, the less restricted they are by their worldview, and the richer their vision of the world." I highly recommend this book!

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Below are some excellent quotes from this book:

Through art we can know another's view of the universe.  ~Marcel  p. 7

As I stepped out of the cab, it struck me that our conversation had been sparked by a novel, a work of fiction. Yet should that be surprising? After all, where do most people wrestle with the big questions of life - about God, morality, and the meaning of life? Today's most influential worldview are born in the universities, but they touch all of us through the books we read, the music we listen to, and the movies we watch. Ideas penetrate our minds most deeply when communicated through the imaginative language of image, story, and symbol. It is crucial for Christians to learn how to "read" that language and to identify worldviews transmitted through cultural format. William Barrett wrote, an age sees itself "in the looking glass of its art."  p. 11

William Barrett wrote, an age sees itself “in the looking glass of its art.” p. 11

Ideas are born, nurtured, and developed in the universities long before they step out onto the political stage.  p. 12

Those with the authority to define what qualifies as knowledge wield the greatest power.  p. 12

One of the most important steps in recovering a Christian worldview is simply to recognize it, reclaim it, and reconnect it to its Biblical roots.  p. 13

J. Greshan Machen wrote "False ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel." Not pop culture. Not consumerism. Not moral temptation. False ideas.  p. 15

The most significant factor most effective in helping young people retain their Christian convictions was whether they had a safe place to wrestle with doubts and questions before leaving home. The study concluded, "The more college students felt that they had the opportunity to express their doubts while they were in high school, the higher [their] levels of faith maturity and spiritual maturity.  p. 16

A Biblical motivation for studying worldviews should be the same principle that motivates all authentic discipleship: The goal is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-39). Loving requires knowing the person well. We nurture love for God by studying a Biblical worldview to become more deeply acquainted with His truth, His character, His purpose in history and in our lives. And we demonstrate love for others when we study their worldview to get inside their thinking and find ways to connect God's truth with their innermost concerns and questions.  p. 18

We might say there have been repeated re-enactments of the day of Pentecost when people from multiple nations heard the gospel "in their own language" and were converted (Acts 2:8). According to Lamin Sanneh, a former Muslim from Gambia who now teaches at Yale University, "Christianity is the religion of over two thousand different language groups." There are more Christians who "pray and worship in more languages than in any other religion in the world.  p. 19

In the New Testament times, the Greeks had a term for the underlying principle that unifies the world into orderly cosmos, as opposed to randomness and chaos. They called it the Logos. The Stoic philosophers conceived it as a pantheistic mind pervading the universe. But the apostle John applied the term to Christ. "In the beginning was the Word" - Logos (John 1:1). Every Greek who heard John's gospel understood that He was claiming that Christ Himself is the source of the order and coherence of the universe. As Paul put it, "in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17). Creation has a rational, intelligible order that reflects God's creative plan.  p. 25

True wisdom consists in seeing every field of knowledge through the lens of God's truth - government, economics, science, business, and the arts. When Christians speak of a worldview, they are simply using modern terminology to restate the Bible's comprehensive claim.   p. 26

The Christian gospel is unique because it is the narrative of what God has done in history to accomplish salvation.  p. 35

Many church leaders think the way to attract people into the sanctuary is by using skits, pop music, and video clips in the worship service. But surprisingly, the study found that real church growth has nothing to do with tricks or techniques. Instead the central factor is a church's view of truth. The study found that the more strongly people affirmed orthodox Christian doctrines as objectively true - for everyone, everywhere - the more likely they were to be actively involved in a church.  pp. 35-36

Knowing God is a love relationship that engages the whole person: heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). To maintain that rich balance, however, Christians must always lean against the predominant error of their age. And the most characteristic error today is the break-up of truth.  p. 36

Whoever marches on the English department - and the rest of the university - will end up wielding political power.  ~Todd Gitlin p. 39

The church is a training ground to equip individuals with a Biblical worldview and to send them out to the front lines to think and act creatively on the basis of Biblical truth. The result is not oppression but a wonderful liberation of their creative powers.  pp. 44-45

In Reasons to Believe, reporter John Marks tries to explicate the Biblical concept of truth - somewhat like an anthropologist interpreting the customs of obscure tribe. It takes Marks almost a page, in rising crescendo prose, to communicate what the Bible even means by truth. "When a Bible-believing Christian talks about truth . . . he is not speaking about a thing conditioned by culture or crafted ultimately by language," Marks writes. (That is, truth is not a social construction.) It is not "affected by tides and times or rendered different from generation to generation." (Truth is not relative to time or place.) Scripture is "the explicit word of God." (It has a transcendent source.) It is "nothing more and nothing less than the ultimate fact of existence, raw and undiluted." (It is ultimate truth.) The gospel "does not dissolve in water or burn in fire. It is Truth. It is final! You can almost imagine trumpets blaring as the text climbs to its concluding climax. Marks' struggle simply to explain the Biblical view of truth (which he does not accept) spotlights the challenge faced by Christians today.   p. 45

All art is a language - a language of color, sound, movement, or words.  When we immerse ourselves in a work of art, we enter into the artist's worldview. It can be expansive and glorious worldview, or it can be cramped, dehumanizing worldview.  ~Dana Gioia p. 76

. . . aesthetic elements grow ultimately out of worldviews. This can be a difficult concept to grasp. In popular music, for example, most people readily recognize that the lyrics express the songwriter's perspective and experience. But they tend to assume that musical style is neutral. That is a mistake. Artistic styles develop originally as vehicles for expressing particular worldviews. As painter Louis Finkelstein says, "The sense of all stylistic change is that the underlying view of the world changes."  pp. 76-77

. . . art is never just a copy of nature. Artist always select, arrange, and order their materials to offer an interpretation or perspective. p. 90

Most of the major figures who jump-started modern science were devout Christians - Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Newton. In a 2003 study, sociologist Rodney Stark identified the fifty-two top "stars" who did groundbreaking work to launch the scientific revolution. Turning then to biographical documents, he discovered that all but two of them were Christian. Does that surprise you? Today many people assume that science and religion are inherently in conflict. But historians of science have turned that assumption upside down. Today most historians agree that the scientific outlook actually rests on fundamental concepts derived from a Biblical view of nature.  p. 105

The linkage of natural and spiritual was the trademark of Christian realism. The Catholic apologist Frank Sheed once said, "The secular novelist sees what is visible; the Christian novelist sees what is there." Just so. On one hand, Christian realists affirmed the goodness of the empirical realm known by the senses. On the other hand, they regarded it as only one respect of a richer, multi-dimensional reality created by God. In their worldview, Auerbach explains, the influence of God, "reaches so deeply into the everyday that the two realms of the sublime and the everyday are not only actually unseparated but basically inseparable." Truth was unified. Christian realists gave temporal things eternal significance.  pp. 116-117

God's good gifts - including things like skill and insight - are given to everyone. This is the doctrine of common grace: that God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45). As a result, most artists' vision is better than their worldview. They are sensitive to dimensions of reality that go beyond what is strictly permitted within the cramped categories of their secular worldview. One might say that the more attuned artists are to actual human experience, the less restricted they are by their worldview, and the richer their vision of the world.   pp. 124-125

C.F. von Weizsacker sums up the difference: "Matter in the Platonic sense . . . will not obey mathematical laws exactly." But "matter which God has created from nothing may well strictly follow the rules which strictly follow the rules which its Creator laid down for it." In this way, he concludes, modren science is "a legacy, I might even have said a child, of Christianity."  pp. 125-126

The chief aim of science is to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.  ~Johann Kepler p. 126

Secularism is not neutral, though it often claims to be. In relation to the Biblical God, secularists may be skeptics. But in relationship to their own god substitutes, they are true believers. To adapt an observation from C.S. Lewis, their skepticism is only on the surface. It is for use on other people's beliefs. "They are not nearly skeptical enough" about their own beliefs. And when they enforce secular views in the realm of law, education, sexuality, and health care, they are imposing their own beliefs on everyone else across an entire society.   p. 139

Typology is far more than a literary device, however. The New Testament writers speak of Christ's death and resurrection as cosmic events in which that any individuals in any age can participate. "I have been crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). "We suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him"  (Rom. 8:17 ESV). "Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed" (1 Pet. 4:14). The pattern of Christ's life is a prototype that can explicate and give meaning to any individual's life, imbuing both suffering and joy with additional layers of spiritual significance. It provides the pattern by which your life and mine can be woven into the larger story of God's redemption history.   p. 155

Because all people were created by a personal God, they cannot completely obliterate personal expression. Even when they reject the Biblical worldview in their thinking, inevitably it comes out in some way in their lives. They cannot help expressing their own nature as individuals created in the image of God.  p. 168

In 1925 [Igor] Stravinsky developed an abscess on his finger, painful enough that he almost cancelled an upcoming piano concert. "Somewhat to his own surprise, he went to a church, got on his knees, and asked for divine aid." The finger continued to fester, however, even as he walked out on the stage. He apologized to the audience for what he feared would be a poor performance and sat down at the piano - when suddenly the pain ceased. He removed the bandage and found that his finger was completely healed. Starvinsky took the sudden cure as a miracle. He returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and wrote several sacred compositions, many of which draw on medieval chant. At the top of the score for Symphony of Psalms, for the first time he wrote the same dedication that Bach attached to all his works: "To the glory of God."   p. 172

As a young man, [Vincent] Van Gogh wanted to become a preacher, but he was turned down by the theology school where he tried to enroll. Undaunted, he trained as a missionary and worked as an evangelist in a poor coal-mining district in southern Belgium. Determined to share the miners' poverty, he gave away his belongings and slept on the floor. Unfortunately, the missionary school did not appreciate his passion, and he was dismissed. Finally Van Gogh realized that art too can be a means of serving God. His swirling stars and writhing landscape express "a vision that ultimately belongs more to the realm of religious revelation than to astronomical observations.  p. 189

We must never treat worldview analysis simply as a way to slap a label on a work of art and pigeonhole it into some neat schema. Historically, artists were not just making pretty pictures but were wrestling with profound questions about life - not through words but through color, texture, tone, and composition. Art is a visual language, and Christians have a responsibility to learn that language.  All worldviews contain some grains of truth, simply because all people are made in God's image and live in God's world. Christians are called to identify what is good, and pour it into Biblical wineskins (to adapt Jesus' metaphor). This explains why Christian artists are able to employ many of the same stylistic elements as secularist artists - taking what is true and pouring it into the much richer, fuller wineskin of a Biblical worldview.   p. 208

Christianity provided the unity he [C.S. Lewis] longed for. Christ's life, death, and resurrection were events that occurred in the physical world, testable by the same means as any other historical event. Yet they were also the fulfillment of the ancient myths that Lewis had always loved. He used the term myth not to mean a story that is false but one that answers the deep human longing for transcendence. In his own words, "The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history."  In other words, the great events of the New Testament have all the wonder and beauty of a myth. Yet they happen in a specific place, at a particular date, and have empirically verifiable historical consequences. The realm of empirical fact is imbued with profound spiritual meaning. Christianity unifies the two realms. The Biblical worldview fulfills both the requirements of human reason and the yearnings of the human spirit.   p. 210

The Bible teaches that history is linear, moving in a definite direction toward a future in which all wrongs will be righted and all wounds healed. Every event has meaning within this overarching goal or purpose.  p. 223

When Paul writes, "We live by faith, not by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7), many readers seem to think he is speaking metaphorically and means "by faith not reason." But Paul is speaking literally. His point is that the spiritual realm is unseen, invisible. It takes tremendous faith to act on the basis of realities we cannot see. He does not mean that Christianity is opposed to reason. Tragically the high dignity accorded to reason as part of the image of God has been so thoroughly lost that even theologically orthodox Christians often hold the mistaken notion that Biblical faith is irrational. This is a major reason they are ineffective in addressing the contemporary world. They have absorbed the same faith/reason dichotomy that lies at the core of contemporary worldview. Thus they have no genuine alternative to offer.  p. 225

Throughout history Christians have employed the metaphor of two books - the book of God's Word (the Bible) and the book of God's world (creation). And because God is the author of both He has author-ity over the right way to interpret them. There is an objective standard of truth. By the same token, human beings, created in God's image, are genuine authors of their own works. If you want to know what a text means, you ask the author.   p. 236

The same neo-Marxist worldview has filtered down to theology, where it has inspired black, feminist, and liberation theology. During the 2008 presidential campaign, the American public was stunned to discover how radical some versions of black theology can be. For some twenty years, then-candidate Barack Obama had attended a Chicago church pastored by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who asked God not to bless America but to "damn" it. Wright is a follower of theologian James Cone, who condemns white churches as "the racist Antichrist" and advocates " destruction of the white enemy."  Marxist-inspired theologians typically say, I'm not a Marxist, I merely use Marxist tools of analysis. Thus Cone writes, "The Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can . . . help Christians to see how things really are." Cone is tragically mistaken. A Christian worldview does have the resources to analyze economic structures like capitalism. But because he does not recognize those resources, Cone reaches over to the Marxist toolbox to borrow its conceptual tools. The problem with this strategy is that the conceptual tools we use change the way we think - just as practical tools, like the car or the computer, have changed the way we live. Liberation theology often ends up as little more than theological frosting on a Marxist cake.  p. 242

As Paul says, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person" (Col. 4:6). The study of worldviews provides the tools to individualize our approach in presenting the gospel.  p. 246

James Spiegel, professor of philosophy at Taylor University, writes that "every film offers a worldview, a set of beliefs and values for understanding how the world is and how it should be." When watching a movie, we should be asking: What worldview is the movie communicating? Are there elements that are true? Are there elements that are false and destructive? If Christians do not learn to ask those questions, they may well absorb nonbiblical ideas without even being aware of it. T.S. Eliot once noted that the serious books we read do not influence us nearly as much as the books we read for fun (or the movies we watch for entertainment). Why? Because when relaxing, our guard is down and we engage in the "suspension of disbelief" that allows us to enter imaginatively into the story. As a result, the assumptions of the author or screenwriter may go unnoticed and seep all the more deeply into our consciousness. When we "suspend disbelief," we must take care not to suspend our critical faculties.    pp. 253-254

In every subject area, it is Christians who should think the most deeply and be the most creative - until people wonder why it is that all the best books and movies are by Christians.  ~C. S. Lewis  p. 255

"A movie story when 'told' has an informing vision . . . a frame of reference," writes Robert K. Johnson in Reel Spirituality. "In fact, no story can develop without some more-or-less coherent perception of reality, some fundamental opinion about life."  Thus, "any film, as a product of human creativity, contains hints on the worldview of the moviemaker."  p. 262

Of course, a movie is more than the worldview it expresses. Because filmmakers are made in God’s image, their art is often better than their worldview, bringing universal themes to life. p. 264

Because we live in a moral universe that has been spoiled, every act of redemption involves a kind of death. After all, the cross is not a piece of shiny jewelry; it’s a symbol of brutality about a tortured Messiah.  ~Rick Pearcey p. 265

While it’s fine to enjoy film as art and entertainment, we should also watch for the ways it reveals the thinking of our generation – not primarily so we can launch protests and boycotts, but so we can respond to the people in our lives more intelligently and compassionately. Learning to “read” pop culture provides tools to connect with people better and communicate the life-giving truths of Scripture in language and concepts they will understand. p. 265

No great radical idea can survive unless it is embodied in individuals whose lives are the message.  ~Erich Fromm p. 267

Where are today's counterparts to Bach? Where is the music and art that expresses Biblical truths so eloquently that it invites people to embark on a search for God? Christians must go beyond criticizing the degradation of American culture, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on positive solutions. The only way to drive out bad culture is with good culture. After all, Jesus called His disciples salt and light. The metaphor of light means Christians must seek out places of darkness and despair, and enter into those places to illuminate them with the splendor of God's truth. And because salt was used in Biblical times as a preservative - to prevent food from spoiling and decaying - the salt metaphor means that Christians must seek out places where society is corrupt and falling apart, and enter into those places with God's power to preserve and renew.   p. 268

The church must once again become a place with a reputation for nurturing artists, those with a special gift for giving visual and imaginative expression to Biblical truth. The arts are not just window-dressing on a didactic message - a candy coating to help teaching go down more easily. Scripture itself is made up of a wide variety of literary forms: poetry, proverbs, prophecy, historical narrative, commands, parables, love songs, practical admonition, and hymns of praise. In fact, only a fraction of Scripture is devoted to straightforward didactic teaching. The writers of Scripture used artistic and literary forms to convey truths too profound for straightforward propositional statements.   pp. 268-269

Christians are called to adopt the mentality of a missionary, even if they never set foot in a foreign country. A missionary has to sift the indigenous culture carefully, deciding which aspects of the society can be redeemed and which must be rejected.   p. 270

The same sifting must be done in every era. On one hand, much of human culture is good, because all humans are made in the image of God and must live within the structures of the world God created. They benefit from God’s common grace, the gifts that God bestows on all creation. As Matthew 5:45 puts it, God causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. The implication is that non-Christians can be creative artists, successful businessmen, skillful doctors, and loving parents. As Jesus said, even “you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children” (Matt. 7:11). On the other hand, Scripture also teaches that sin and evil are pervasive. No part of life is untouched by corruption and falsehood. Nothing is theologically neutral. Christians are responsible for evaluating everything against the plumb line of Scriptural truth. Taken together, these two themes give Christians a balanced approach to culture – affirming and supporting what is good, while resisting anything that conflicts with Scripture. To use Jesus’ metaphor, we are to be innocent as doves but wary as serpents (Matt. 10:16). p. 270

Today’s parallel to Victorianism would include praise music that mirrors the vapid emotionalism and egocentrism of pop culture. I once visited a church where I was startled to hear the congregation sing lines like “You are my all desire,” and “I want to feel the warmth of your embrace.” The lyrics made no mention of God or Jesus. No reference to salvation or justification or any other theological theme. Nothing to suggest that the song was anything but a love song to someone’s girlfriend. The lyrics were such an extreme example of the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend genre that I wondered how any man could sing it with a straight face – though as I looked around the room, I saw several men with their eyes closed, arms raised. Why are evangelicals attracted by such superficial emotionalism? Because they have absorbed a two-story dualism of their own. We call it the sacred/secular split. The problem is that when spiritual things are moved to the upstairs, then worship is reduced to little more than an emotional buzz. Church becomes a brief escape that does little to equip people to deal with the real world of sin, sorrow, conflict, and alienation. The sacred/secular dualism isolates God’s truth in the upstairs, away from the ordinary world – which implicitly denies God’s power to redeem the ordinary world. “It capitulates to the banishment of the arts and of worship from a materialist world,” says theologian and literary critic Amos Wilder. And in the process it “abandons the actual life of men as unredeemable.” pp. 271-272

In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace makes a compelling case that the best defense is a good offense. “The ultimate solution to cultural decay is not so much the repression of bad culture as the production of sound and healthy culture,” he writes. “We should direct most of our energy not to the censorship of decadent culture, but to the production and support of healthy expressions of Christian and non-Christian art.” Public protests and boycotts have their place. But even negative critiques are effective only when motivated by a genuine love for the arts. The long-term solution is to support Christian artists, musicians, authors, and screenwriters who can create humane and healthy alternatives that speak deeply to the human condition. p. 273

Yet in Art for God’s Sake Philip Ryken says, “God’s gifts are never to be hidden; His calling is never to be denied.” p. 274

As Dennis Hollinger puts it, the church itself is the best apologetic. “Postmoderns can best understand a holy, loving, just, forgiving, life-giving God of grace when they see a holy, loving, just, forgiving, life-giving community founded on the grace of God.” The Christian community is the concrete reality where the transcendent reality of the gospel is made manifest – “a visible, corporate expression of the Christian worldview.  This is a sobering thought; because the other side of the coin is that the gospel is also most easily discredited through the church. What happens when nonbelievers hear preachers proclaim the importance of the family, but see churches full of workaholic parents with little time for their own children? When they see power relationships that are as exploitive as anywhere else? When they see Christians trapped in the same sexual addictions as the rest of society? When they see evangelical celebrities using the same dishonest spin tactics as the secular advertising world? Christians may preach passionately about the need for a Biblical worldview, but unless they are submitting themselves to a continual process of sanctification, they will not have the power to live out that worldview – and they will discredit the very message they are seeking to communicate. pp. 276-277

Self-interest and personal ambition can so cloud our perception that we literally do not recognize certain spiritual truths. p. 277

In order to develop a Biblical worldview, each person must first make a searching inventory of his or her own areas of sin, temptation, and weakness, and embark on a process of sanctification in every area of life. p. 277

J. Gresham Machen once said the church is called to advance the kingdom of God in two ways: extensively by attracting ever more people but also intensively by consecrating our lives ever more deeply to God. As Machen put it, “The Church must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the whole man.” p. 277

Francis Schaeffer quote from 1974, “One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary. The technical meaning of conservative is to conserve the status quo. But “we must teach the young to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.” We are called to revolt against false idols and the power they exert over minds and hearts. Christians should be on the front lines fighting to liberate society from its captivity to secular worldviews. p. 278

For the first time since the start of the second millennium of the Christian era, the face of Christianity has again become brown. The great historic churches of Europe and North America are not only minorities within the Christian world, but they are static or declining in the face of real expansion in Asia, Africa, and South America. p. 285

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