Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Christian Mind

Recently I have been rereading a book we read way back in college called The Christian Mind, by Harry Blamires. Blamires was a student under C.S. Lewis at Oxford. Lately I find myself reading more books that would appeal to the minds of searching college students, but that's another story. Every Anglican, and for that matter Christian, should read this book. It is an ideal gift for a thinking college student. Written in 1963, and first published by S.P.C.K., this book is one of the best kept secrets in Anglicanism. It was, I understand, one of the Episcopal Book Club selections way back when. Obviously not enough people who became leaders in the Episcopal Church and the CofE read it.

The book says that the Church has by and large surrendered to secularism. It makes the argument that there is a secular way of thinking and a Christian way of thinking. He says that it is possible to think secularly about Christian things and secular things (which is what most people do), and that it is possible to think Christianly about secular things and Christian things (which is what Christians should do and promote). The Christian mind is marked by a number of things: its supernatural orienatation; its awareness of truth; its conception of evil; its acceptance of authority; its concern for the person; and its sacramental cast. He discusses each of these areas in detail.

Again, this is a great book, and would make an excellent parish study, or gift (especially to a college student). I am going to add it to my "recommended reading" list that I made for some parishioners. It is not hard reading, but really good and worthwhile nonetheless.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Perpetual Help & Cormac McCarthy

Here is the other icon I did for Christmas. It is Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Sorry for the bad photograph... I swear it is the camera and not me. I am currently working on, you guessed it, another crucifixion. But this one is in a more western style.

One of my goals for this new year is to read more works of fiction. Reading works on theology and philosophy all the time is fun, but variety is the spice of life. Reading good works of fiction, like listening to good music and playing music, and appreciating fine art, helps make one truly well-rounded and intellectually open. So I am currently reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is really good. His writing style, at least in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, is sort of like Hemingway - short, succinct sentences, but packed with meaning. It takes place in this post-apocalyptic world (just read the description I linked to on wikipedia). I mention this novel because it makes me think of the paintings of the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum, who is one of the biggest artists on the international scene today. I have often looked at his art and been amazed at the bleak world it portrays. The people are cold and dirty, like animals, which is how McCarthy portrays many characters in this novel. I wouldn't say that the novel (or Nerdrum's art for that matter) is apocalyptic in the biblical sense of the word, as Daniel and Revelation, while definitely scary in some symbolic sense, do not have the element of hopelessness apparent in these works. I do recommend The Road, though, if you are looking for a really interesting, and sobering novel to read.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Thomas Kinkade: The Painter of Light

I don't know if I had too many mimosa's to drink this New Year's Day, or what, but I just caught Thomas Kinkade, the kitschy "painter of light" on TBN where he was giving an interview about his art, and it kind of blew me away. For years I have had an intense loathing of this man and his work, but now I feel like I understand it it a bit better. Before I go any further, though, I have to confess that once in a while I do watch TBN just to see what's on. As it happened, I was watching the papal mass at St. Peter's and got bored with it for a minute, so I checked TBN (ahhh, isn't postmodern American TV amazing?), that's when I saw Kinkade, whom the interviewer kept referring to as a "young man" (he's not young), sitting there in a beret of all things, waxing eloquent about art. The amazing thing was that he was quite articulate, and had a very definite philosophy about his art. When asked about the relevance of painting today he spoke briefly about the sacramental nature of art, and the power of the still image. Though he didn't use the word "sacramental" that is exactly what he was saying: God communicates His grace to use through inanimate objects. He gave the example of Paul's handkerchief in Acts 19:11-12. So I was shocked. I don't care for his art, though he is indeed a good painter. I don't like his mass marketing style or commercialism either. But he obviously believes strongly in what he does and sees it as his ministry and calling, and I think he does have integrity as an artist. If you can see his interview check it out. I think it may air again.