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  • Direction: Vincent van Gogh: An Eye for God
    Gogh s oeuvre presents a curious dilemma for those quick to classify the artist as Christian While Vincent s faith as revealed in his letters generally conforms to the basic tenets of Christianity it is not the traditional or conventional image of Christendom that appears on his canvases Though he copied several biblical scenes by the old Masters he never felt the need to illustrate the Bible to paint the image of Christ his disciples followers or saints Instead he persisted in revealing the imperativeness of God Consumed by an insatiable curiosity he saw and painted the Divine in nature the sun the heavens the waving fields of grain the laborers plowmen potato diggers along with infants and children One cannot do better than hold onto the thought of God through everything under all circumstances at all places at all times and try to acquire more knowledge about Him which one can do from the Bible as well as from all other things It is good to continue believing that everything is more miraculous than one can comprehend for this is truth it is good to remain sensitive and humble and tender of heart For what can one learn that is better than what God has given by nature to every human soul which is living and loving hoping and believing in the depth of every soul unless it is wantonly destroyed Letter 121 Believing that everything is more miraculous than one can comprehend this central idea is revealed in all of van Gogh s art every object every person he painted was presented as a unique miracle an intriguing mystery a fascinating revelation of God As if through the eyes of a child seeing something for the first time Vincent translated the awe of these experiences onto his canvases AN EYE FOR GOD Though van Gogh never clearly defined what he believed to be his role he saw the artist as a visual seeker someone capable of casting 153 truth in a new light someone with an eye for God a seer Apparently Plato believed that the mode of entry for the haptic is the eye but he emphasized that it is not the eye that sees but rather the eye that permits us to see suggesting that seeing encompasses much more than simply looking that seeing is a disciplined exercise 3 Certainly Vincent was absorbed in the discipline of seeing Having an intense visual sensitivity vision was his preferred sensory modality for contact with the world around him vision was a devouring omnivorous capacity and passion 4 As A J Lubin so poignantly put it Vincent actually became an eye in his art 5 He depicts in great detail allowing the viewer to experience the intricate mysteries of every stamen every petal every seed of a sunflower Van Gogh through his passionate eye engages us in the discipline of looking for the hidden miracles as a way of discovering meaning discovering truth discovering the presence of God Taken

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  • Direction: The Missionary Calling of Flannery O'Connor
    be an influential gifted writer as a Catholic she replied When people have told me that because I am a Catholic I cannot be an artist I have had to reply ruefully that because I am a Catholic I cannot afford to be less than an artist 5 The burden of being an artist of being true to her calling and talent weighed heavily upon her She sensed a compulsion to expose to reform what she observed as hypocritical and corrupt in human nature and resultant actions While most of her targets were Protestants who she believed failed to find their beliefs relevant to their conduct she also targeted fellow Catholics for the same reason To her belief meant commitment and action for proof of genuineness To this mission she dedicated herself in her short career and she perceived that her Catholic upbringing provided the impetus for the fulfillment of her mission A uniqueness of O Connor as a Christian artist lies in her mastery of style the faith element sometimes remains buried or misinterpreted Secular critics often are blind to her Christian message and tend to critique her writings according to traditional approaches or only from her Catholicism But the richness of her writing style cannot be misinterpreted Her humor her ability to choose the right word for the situation her mastery of plot structure and content all have gained her stature and recognition and have placed her in the forefront among twentieth century American authors In the matter of interpretation O Connor recognized the dangers of regionalism and esotericism She did not want her readers always to interpret her fiction from the perspective of her Catholicism She wanted her stories to transcend religious boundaries to transcend even regional and social boundaries O Connor hoped she would be acknowledged beyond these same boundaries to be known as a writer touching universal 161 conditions of narrow mindedness suspicion lack of integrity and injustice But most of all she addressed the denial of faith under pressure as evidenced by the grandmother in A Good Man Is Hard to Find O Connor was not on a campaign to prove any particular dogmas or the superiority of any religious persuasion She resisted the label of Catholic writer I don t care to get labeled as such in the popular sense of it as it is then assumed that you have some religious axe to grind 6 Critics tend to pigeonhole to categorize to interpret from a grasp able perspective much to her dismay It bothered her when critics failed to see beyond her Catholicism Robert Drake in Flannery O Connor A Critical Essay claims that critics have difficulty dealing knowledgeably and seriously with her and her works because they stumble over the theological basis for her stories and themes 7 INTOLERANT OF HYPOCRISY AND INDIVIDUALISM O Connor s dedication and commitment to her beliefs to her Church to her concept of integrity and honesty spurred her to intolerance of the violations she observed

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  • Direction: A Christian and an Artist: Reflections of a Mennonite Theater Professor
    larger artistic decisions such as play selection to smaller aesthetic choices such as the focusing of a light or an actor s particular use of movement at a given point in a performance I know that the artistic choices I make will in some way communicate to the audience It is my responsibility as an artist to find ways to make that communicative transaction effective and ultimately productive in an attempt to call the audience to clarify develop and sometimes change if even on an intuitive or at times relatively insignificant level A second way I find myself modeling behaviors after Jesus example is through the relationships I foster with others in the collaborative artistic process Collaboration at its healthiest gives full consideration to the others in our midst In the theater this means considering the process as much as and sometimes more than the product particularly when working with student artists Respecting the other artists and the 170 audience as critical pieces of the process more often than not results in a performance outcome that exceeds initial expectations for the production Postmodernist Richard Palmer asserts that performance is more than simply an aesthetic act He asserts that for our conception of performance we must think beyond the categories of mere representation and reenactment to the thing done in the performance itself Performance is not just an aesthetic act but a moral act a community act a celebration of what is being brought to experiential fullness through performance Performance of a text does not just say something it does something 6 The thing done not only impacts the relationship between artist and audience but in the theater also speaks to the collaboration between artist and artist in the creative moments that occur in the rehearsal and design process A third example offered through Jesus model actions is his consideration of the underprivileged and his repeated choice to give a voice to the voiceless to those on the societal margins We are not only asked to consider the worth of the Samaritans among us but we are called to enter into the experience of those whose life perspective is different from ours in order to better understand and relate to them in meaningful ways The result is a cross cultural experience that models what it means to see from the other s point of view Goshen College International Education Director Wilbur Birky notes this ultimate example in the life of Jesus Let us propose the Incarnation as an act of divine imagination rooted in a profound realization that even God could not know and understand the human condition without entering into it to experience it in the body That was a true cross cultural experience 7 Theater is in similar ways fully experiential particularly for the actor Using one s voice body and emotions to fully communicate from a point of view different from one s own is to open oneself up to a different way of seeing for purposes of engaging in meaningful dialogue much in the same way that Christ sought to fully embody the human experience Jesus words and actions rather than spelling out clear cut answers often raised important questions which require a lifetime of thoughtful reflection Wilfred Martens expresses it this way As individuals in a pluralistic society we see through a glass darkly we see pieces and fragments instead of the whole As we grope to find meaning and direction we need the voices of others to connect us with the world The more we 171 experience the arts the more we gain a sense of the whole Good literature helps us to identify and face moral and spiritual issues Sometimes its purpose is to ask the right questions rather than resolve problems or provide solutions 8 As an artist in the Mennonite faith community I choose to follow Jesus example to challenge entertain provoke critique prophesy I choose to do this with an attitude of humility rather than to offend or disgust my audience unless it happens that holding to my Christian beliefs in some way offends or disgusts Then I trust we are poised for further dialogue sparked by an earnest desire to seek truth in its various authentic forms THE TRUTH MAKES FREE If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free John 8 31b 32 NRSV Artists are risky people to be around They have a penchant for seeing things differently than other people partly because in addition to rational resources artists rely on a God given intuitive sense rooted in experiential knowledge Artists are often comfortable with seeking truth in the mysterious hidden even dark places as well as in the more obviously beautiful and well lit areas of life This difference in seeing is not always comfortable but is nevertheless important Writer James Baldwin once noted The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides 9 Some are more willing than others to embrace this difference For example in art s relation to theological scholarship Gordon Kaufman has called upon theologians to explore seriously theological insight that may be manifest in works of art because such works are not necessarily merely illustrations of established theological truths but may offer new understanding not arrived at by the traditional methods of teaching and learning theology 10 Despite these differences in seeing or rather because of them the Mennonite community needs to be open to the insights such aesthetic inquiries can offer In my own work in the theater my artistic intentions are always borne out of a love and concern for others for those who may be very different from me even when the others are those within my own faith community Baldwin further observed that Societies never know it but the war of an artist with his society

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/27/2/christian-and-artist-reflections-of.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Warfare in the Old Testament: An Argument for Peacemaking in the New Millennium
    achievement the murder of Sisera is accomplished by the non Israelite woman Jael The poem may offer further traces of the breakdown of the nonbelligerent consensus The difficult text of Judges 5 8 links the choosing of new gods to war within the gates Might this phrase suggest a question of which God the village should trust Yahweh who fights alone or another deity It appears plausible that the Song of Deborah reflects an accommodation in the face of ideological tension between traditional nonbelligerents and militarists Judges 5 8 Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel suggests unarmed warriors On the other hand the first phrase of Judges 5 13 speaks of the remnant of the noble Might these be militants heirs of the military bandits who pursue the defeated enemy Jael a non Israelite allies herself with Yahweh by her willingness to come to the help of Yahweh against the mighty Judg 5 23 COMPETING IDEOLOGIES NONBELLIGERENCE OR HOLY WAR Even if we were to agree that the nonbelligerent paradigm governed early Israelite ideology later biblical narratives leave no doubt that Israel became a military kingdom Yahweh war quickly gives place to holy war Even in the days of the judges an outnumbered underdog Israelite 182 defense relies on guerrilla strategy against superior forces Clever tactics often overcome overwhelming odds The climate becomes increasingly bellicose with the advent of the kingdom Kings Saul and David seek to gain military superiority to achieve hegemony in the field of international politics One might expect that the rise of a military kingdom would spell the end of poetry which confesses complete reliance on Yahweh and the elimination of the forces of war Surprisingly however the Psalter repeatedly portrays Yahweh as the sole warrior in Israel the one who establishes justice and peace These psalms lie side by side with those that glorify Yahweh for equipping the psalmist for battle Indeed some psalms mix the metaphors giving evidence that the earlier traditions of nonbellicosity have been incorporated by later psalmists who glorify human military efforts General Overview We begin our study by identifying psalms using language that refers to battle weapons enemies warriors refuge or peace We also identify each reference as fitting one of three ideological categories bellicose nonbellicose or a combination of themes Seventy four of the one hundred fifty psalms contain references to military terms Of these seventy four psalms seven psalms are consistently bellicose or supportive of human military activity thirteen combine ideologies and fifty four are exclusively nonbellicose Further classification of these psalms reveals that bellicose ideology is concentrated in a rather narrow band of psalmic genre The thirteen psalms classified as battle songs royal battle songs or royal enthronement psalms all contain language that approves of human military engagement On the other hand the twenty two psalms with military references that we classify as hymns thanksgiving songs wisdom songs and Songs of Zion never speak approvingly of human military action Either they refer to Yahweh as the agent of military deliverance promise peace and justice or speak disapprovingly of the perpetrators of violence The largest group of psalms the laments include one psalm requesting that God give the people military victory two combined forms and thirty one nonbellicose psalms Looking at the general results we can tentatively summarize our discoveries as follows First both bellicose and nonbellicose ideologies are represented Second nonbellicose expressions predominate Third bellicose ideology is almost exclusively limited to royal enthronement and battle songs Fourth military metaphors are used very frequently Nearly half the psalms use them at least once 183 Royal Psalm Bellicose Ideology Psalm 18 offers a particularly interesting study in bellicose ideology In this very ancient psalm David is no longer the passive witness but clearly the active partner with Yahweh in battle The traditional nonbellicose themes of Yahweh as warrior are still present Especially in verses 29 48 however David is described as the active warrior Yahweh equips David with strength feet like a deer vv 33 36 position on the high ground vv 33 36 hands trained to use the mighty bow v 34 a shield v 35 stride vv 36 37 and victory vv 38 42 43 47 48 Unlike the paradigmatic songs Psalm 18 makes no mention of Israel The king is armed and conquers the enemy a familiar royal ancient Near Eastern motif 11 In this royal ideology the king represents the whole people of Israel Nonbellicose Ideology in the Psalms Several recurring themes mark the nonbellicose tradition in Psalms One Yahweh is described not only as shield and refuge but also as king Pss 10 16 45 6 Two the purpose of Yahweh s victory and kingship is justice for the oppressed Pss 9 8 9 18 10 8 9 18 12 5 17 7 14 22 26 etc Three the psalmist avoids violent ways 17 4 Four Yahweh offers peace by disdaining and even destroying weapons of war 33 16 17 46 9 Five it is the wicked who act violently 37 14 15 Six the appropriate response to Yahweh is trust 46 10 Once again a single psalm unit focuses our study Psalms 9 10 which probably should be read as a single acrostic psalm 12 are a lament a prayer for deliverance from enemies 13 Psalm 9 focuses on Yahweh who sits enthroned as the Royal Judge Ps 9 7 8 to judge the world with righteousness and equity In Psalm 10 the focus shifts to the wicked who act violently Ps 10 8 and oppress the poor and helpless 10 9 10 14 This reading of Psalms 9 10 underscores some of the characteristics of nonbellicose ideology noted above This ideology sees the world divided into those who trust Yahweh for security and those who oppress the needy Security is found in two concerns One Yahweh the king protects the weak from the physical threats of the more powerful foe Two Yahweh the Judge provides a

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  • Direction: A Multiethnic Model of the Church
    destroyed the barrier the dividing wall of hostility His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two thus making peace and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death their hostility NIV The church is composed of Jew and Gentile bond and free rich and poor educated and formally uneducated male and female no gender divisions old and young no generational divisions The multiethnic multicongregational church is a church that has adopted the challenge of biblical justice and mission in the context of cultural diversity racial tensions increased pluralism and multiple linguistic and cultural complexities to build symbiotic relationships and harmony between diverse groups intent on bringing biblical reconciliation between them The foundation for this display of the Kingdom of God is the reconciling power of the cross of Christ that brings people to obedience to the vision of God for all humanity The multiethnic and multicongregational church provides for both autonomy and interdependency Paul Hiebert offers the following definition of the multiethnic church A multiethnic church is a church in which there is 1 an attitude and practice of accepting people of all ethnic class and national origins as equal and fully participating members 191 and ministers in the fellowship of the church and 2 the manifestation of this attitude and practice by the involvement of people from different ethnic social and national communities as members in the church Hiebert 1996 The First Baptist Church of Flushing is an integrative congregation committed to seeing various ethnic peoples come together to have a strong influence on one another s lives and upon the structure of the church It lives out its life and ministry in a community of rapid ethnic change In the years from 1980 to 1987 the Asian community many of whom are Chinese and Korean grew from ten to fifty percent of the total population During this same period the Caucasian community dropped from eighty to thirty five percent and many of these whites are Jewish The Hindu and Islamic peoples are also a significant part of our neighborhood with numerous temples and Islamic Centers The Hispanic African American and West Indian communities are also present among us Our congregation faces the challenge of not only a transitional community but also a multilingual community The ministry of First Baptist Church is committed to justice and mercy This is demonstrated in its varied holistic mercy and social ministries in the community A well staffed Pastoral Counseling Center has touched the diverse community with professionally trained counselors who serve clients in English Spanish Portuguese Mandarin and Cantonese Through the years the congregation has provided legal services for immigrants an English Language Institute for ESL training Chinese language instruction for second generation Chinese a food pantry clothing and housing assistance ministry to children and spouses with loved ones in prison and pregnancy counseling as an alternative to abortion The following statements reflect the

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  • Direction: On Faith and the Arts
    writers illuminate and interpret the world by creating art that in turn requires interpretation Dillard draws on her considerable knowledge of writing and writers and her ideas about literary criticism Michael Edwards Towards a Christian Poetics Grand Rapids MI Eerdmans 1984 A scholarly work that explores the possibilities of language and literature in a fallen world In developing his argument for a Christian poetics Edwards includes chapters devoted to painting and music Madeleine L Engle Walking on Water Reflections on Faith and Art Wheaton Shaw 1980 In illustrating the connection between Christian faith and the arts L Engle draws on her own faith and on her personal experience in making art and teaching others about it Flannery O Connor Mystery and Manners Occasional Prose Selected and ed Sally and Robert Fitzgerald New York Farrar Straus and Giroux 1957 194 A collection of essays and lectures Writing from a Catholic believer s point of view O Connor is witty direct and intelligent in her discussion of topics that include writing and teaching of literature as well as the relationship between church faith and fiction writing Al Reimer Mennonite Literary Voices North Newton KS Bethel College 1993 In this survey of historic and contemporary Mennonite writers and writing Reimer traces the growth of literary work among Mennonites pointing out that some of the strongest contemporary writing comes from outsider Mennonites Margaret Loewen Reimer Mennonites and the Artistic Imagination Winnipeg MB Canadian Mennonite Bible College 1998 These are the published Winter Lectures presented at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in 1998 by Margaret Loewen Reimer associate editor of The Canadian Mennonite She traces and analyzes the relationship between Mennonites and the arts under three topics Graven Images Shattered Images and The Resurrected Imagination John Ruth Mennonite Identity and Literary Art Scottdale PA Herald 1978

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  • Direction: Hosea, Amos
    the Northern Kingdom of Israel and whose words were written for the Southern Kingdom of Judah Guenther s passion for communicating the prophetic message to the contemporary church is well suited to the format of the commentary series Within the brief introductions to each book the author offers a structural grid that outlines the book at a glance A preview and outline prepare the reader for the larger unit which follows Detailed explanatory notes offer exegetical clues to inform the reader of the issues at stake and offer guidance in interpretation The interpretive comments demonstrate a clear grasp of the technical concerns of scholars but successfully avoid the temptation to resolve these issues at the expense of needlessly confusing the reader The two sections which follow The Text in Biblical Context and The Text in the Life of the Church consistently connect significant issues raised by the text to the life of the community of faith A minor distraction is the rather unpredictable insertion of these two sections following the interpretive comments e g only a single commentary for the entire passage of Hosea 11 12 14 8 after three such interruptions in Hosea 6 4 11 11 Three features of this commentary deserve special commendation First the essays in the concluding section of the commentary are worth the price of the volume themselves The brief dictionary studies of words motifs concepts and literary constructs will assist the lay teacher and preacher for whom the commentary is designed to prepare for clear communication of the major repeated themes of Hosea and Amos The comprehensive references within the body of the commentary will alert the reader to pertinent articles which include Asherah Ba al Canaanite Fertility Myth Covenant Day of the Lord and Justice and Righteousness Second the occasional grids graphs

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  • Direction: Who Do You Say That I Am: Christians Encounter Other Religions
    world particularly Ethiopia he frequently had opportunity to dialogue with other religionists especially those of Muslim faith who derived from Africa and India What Shenk does first is to explore the issue of religious plurality and within that the questions of exclusivism and inclusivism Can one write convincingly of the exclusive claims of the Gospel They have been severely challenged and increasingly so in recent times Shenk himself firmly believes that Christians need to go back to the first century to see the Gospel as proclaiming a unique event in history the coming of Jesus Christ 71 72 Following two chapters which provide OT and NT perspectives on world religions the author deals with the theological issues of religious plurality Here he asks among other relativistic questions whether general revelation provides another path to salvation If one cannot accept that how does one dialogue with those who hold other views with equal conviction How does one avoid the arrogant intolerance with which many Christians have been charged 133 Or how does one deal with pluralists who can be and often are as intolerant coercive and absolutist as the old fundamentalism of the 1920s 197 Perhaps the most significant aspect of this study is the question of the Christian s witness In his chapter on Christology he begins with the question How do we portray Christ and not betray him 157 In this pluralistic world so much depends on the forms and styles of witness All too often Christian witnesses have been seen as fallible in their misuse of power divisiveness and their reduction of the gospel to doctrine ritual or morality and their identification with Western culture Many Muslims particularly have their tattooed memories of encounters with Christendom Our being must be in harmony with our doing and saying 245

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