“Practically, what does it mean to speak of transforming softball or orchestral music or any other cultural endeavor? Why cannot softball simply be what it is, recreation? What is distinctively Christian about “Christian art” or “Christian history” or Christian math”? I understand that the rhetoric is sacrosanct (a shibboleth, as it were) but what does it signify? What are the particulars? I understand that when we get to ultimate matters, e.g., theology, there is a distinctively Christian view of things and there is certainly a Christian interpretation of the significance of things. That is a Christian worldview properly understood but what does it mean to speak of transforming penultimate things? Is the neo-Kuyperian view related to the Anabaptist vision of nature and grace and if not, how are they essentially different? What if Leonard Verduin intuited something?”
Dr. R. Scott Clark
Recently, someone left the link to a brief Clark essay wherein this quote was found in the comments section on Iron Ink. The commenter thought this essay proved that Clark was making progress. I disagree.
Clark objects to the idea of grace transforming nature (and so culture) preferring instead to say that grace renews nature in salvation. Clark desires to keep the renewing power of grace constrained to humans as it pertains to their salvation. However, this seems to be a constrained view of reality. After all, it is grace renewed and saved people who are the ones who create culture (an embodiment of nature). If grace renews nature in salvation then grace is going to renew everything that those salvifically renewed people are going to create in culture. One simply can’t have grace renewing nature in salvation without that renewal getting into everything the renewed and salvation visited person touches. The products of culture, after all, don’t come into being apart from the renewed or unrenewed people who create them. I honestly don’t understand why this is so difficult for R2K Clark and his R2K buds.
Then Clark lists several, what I take are supposed to be real stumpers. as to how grace renews nature (grace transforms culture). Let’s take these one by one.
I am going to use baseball as an example but it would apply to softball as well. Baseball just gives me more at-hand examples.
In 2017 the Houston Astros (Baseball) won the World Series. Sometime afterward it was revealed that the Astros won the World Series by the art of cheating as they were stealing signs. Several key team leaders lost their jobs and the team itself was fined $5 million for this cheating scandal. Allow me to propose to Dr. Clark that Christian baseball vis-a-vis non-Christian baseball would be less inclined to have this problem.
If Dr. Clark doesn’t like this example we could note that non-Christian baseball has seen performing-enhancing drugs be a huge issue in the recent past providing a barrier to Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmerio, and Roger Clemens gaining entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame. They are each in essence guilty of playing non-Christian baseball.
We could go on to give examples of Ty Cobb sharpening his spikes so that when he slid into 2nd base he would cut up the Shortstop covering the bag. We could write about Pete Rose paying the penalty for playing non-Christian baseball by violating the rules against gambling while a player.
Let’s pretend that genuine Reformation visited Major League Baseball. Does Dr. Clark actually believe that grace would not renew nature so that grace transformed baseball culture?
2.) Orchestral Music
Francis Schaeffer in this work “The God Who is There,” spends some time looking at the Orchestral music of composer John Cage and demonstrates how Cage’s orchestral music was a declaration that the cosmos was the product of time plus chance. Cage’s music communicated that there was no meaning. This would be non-Christian Orchestral music and it is again difficult to understand how Clark can find this concept difficult. Is what Cage did in music akin to what Bach did in music?
Clark wants to know what makes Christian art, Christian. First, let us note there that the artist as God’s image-bearer cannot avoid getting their worldview into their art. Every piece of art means something and the meaning of that Art is going to determine whether the art in question is Christian or non-Christian or a mixture of both.
Second, art typically aims at beauty. Beauty is an objective category as existing in different genres. Art exists along an objective scale in those different genres of ugly to beautiful. The more beautiful a piece of art is the more Christian that art is and vice-versus.
It would seem that when we compare the modern art of a woman pushing paintballs out of her vagina onto a canvas (yes… that is a thing) and compare that to Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” or Monet’s “Water Lilies,” we would have to say that inasmuch as Rembrandt and Monet were going after beauty their work more closely approached Christian than pushing paintballs out of a human orifice on to a canvas.
This one is a little breathtaking as history is really nothing but theology told in another venue. Does Clark not realize that a period of history as handled by the Marxist Historians Charles and Mary Beard is going to look and read very differently than that same period of history as covered by the Christian Historian C. Gregg Singer?
History is Christian or not Christian depending on the presuppositions that the historian has who is approaching the time period they are writing upon. I expect Nesta Webster or Edmund Burke as Christians to tell me a different story about the French Revolution than I expect to be told by Simon Schama or Albert Sobul. When I read the accounts of the American era of Reconstruction I expect a different report from the Dunning School than I expect to read from the Marxist “historian” Eric Foner.
Clark in all likelihood believes that Math is impervious to Christian or non-Christian categories. However perhaps Clark hasn’t heard of one Kareem Carr?
Harvard PhD student Kareem Carr’s recently had a dialogue about the abstract nature of mathematics and it was profiled by Popular Mechanics in an article entitled “Why Some People Think 2+2=5…and why they’re right.”
Carr’s “hope is that you understand the flexible relationship between our mathematical systems, our perceptions of the world, and the symbolic manipulations we use to reason about reality.
Note what is being said here is that mathematics is a social construct. There is nothing in objective in mathematics. Any such reasoning gives us non-Christian mathematics.
So, pace Dr. Clark we do see that these matters can be handled either in a Christian manner or a non-Christian manner. Frankly, it is bewildering to me at least how any educated man could not readily see this. It’s like not readily noticing the oddity of tits on a boar.
However, the oddity does not end here for Dr. Clark. He goes on to say above that;
“I understand that when we get to ultimate matters, e.g., theology, there is a distinctively Christian view of things and there is certainly a Christian interpretation of the significance of things.”
What else is baseball, orchestral music, art, history, and math but “things?” And if they are “things” then why should there not be a Christian view of these things? Another theologian who shared the same last name as our erstwhile Escondido novice wrote a book a generation ago titled “A Christian View of Men and Things.” Gordon Clark realized that all things were at their heart theological. This is something that seems to escape Dr. R. Scott Clark. Maybe Scott should pick up Gordon’s book and give it a read. Maybe then he would understand?