“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?
“If two Christians are seeking marriage, isn’t their unity in Christ greater than anything that divides them? Isn’t part of the beauty of the Church that God has called people from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9)? If this is part of the glory of the Church, then surely it is right and good that it be reflected in Christian marriages. The Bible nowhere condemns interracial or other “unequal” marriages, outside of a marriage between a believer and unbeliever. Furthermore, it nowhere promotes marriage between “equals” as the ideal.”
Greetings Mark. Thanks for writing and thanks for your thoughtful questions. I’ll take your points one by one.
1.) Yes, unity in Christ would be greater than anything that divides a man and wife. However, that doesn’t mean that therefore those other categories created and ordained by God are therefore unimportant. Unity in Christ between a Christian Princess from the House of Windsor as marrying a loin-clothed Christian Hottentot from the plains of South Africa still wouldn’t make such a marriage a wise marriage.
Think about it, if ‘unity in Christ is greater than anything that divides them,’ wouldn’t it follow that Christians should marry the first Christian they meet regardless of sex, age, current marital status, economic prospects, illness, disposition, assent, ad infinitum? After all, if being a Christian is the only criteria for a husband and/or wife the first Christian you come across should find you popping the question. I mean, all you need is unity in Christ.
2.) Emphasizing “Unity in Christ” the way you do so that such unity negates very real corporeal and class differences is suggestive of thinking in a Gnostic type fashion. It is as if you are saying that who God has created us to be in our culture, race, values, and classes are all insignificant if only there is “unity in Christ.” That is a very Gnostic way to reason. We are who we are because of how God has creationally and corporeally situated us. Unity in Christ doesn’t destroy or make irrelevant those categories. To think that “Unity in Christ” makes our creational categories insignificant or irrelevant as to deciding on whom to marry is to put one in the orbit of Gnosticism.
3.) Yes, part of the beauty of the Church is that God has called people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. However, it is my conviction from reading Scripture that He calls people from every tribe, tongue, and nation in their tribes, tongues, and nations. In other words, God’s church is comprised of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation but the church is not comprised of an aggregate of individuals from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Instead the Church is comprised as a confederacy of all tribes, tongues, and nations as people exist in those tribes, tongues, and nations. Marriage should normatively occur between two people from the same tribe, tongue, and nation resulting in covenant children who will add numerically to the elect among their tribe, tongue, and nation which belong to God.
4.) If God has called people in every tribe, tongue, and nation, is it really the case that God desires every distinct tribe, tongue, and nation to be amalgamated via marriage so that every tribe, tongue, and nation loses their God created and ordained distinctiveness? It is my conviction that Scripture does not allow us to believe that given how those very tribes, tongues, and nations in their distinct tribes, tongues, and nations are present in the New Jerusalem.
5.) God cast the nations asunder at Babel, so what right does any man have to suggest they should be reunited by a casual disregard for the tribes, tongues, and nations in which He has sovereignly placed us?
6.) As I said it is part of the glory of the Church. However, it is not part of the glory of the Church to slam together what God cast asunder. Christianity has never taught or sung along with John Lennon when he sang, “Imagine there are no countries. It isn’t hard to do.” And “no countries” is where your reasoning ends up as your Christianity eventually ends up in an amalgamated stew. Nations still exist in the New Jerusalem as Revelation repeats even into chapter 22. If we amalgamate then how can the “leaves of the trees be for the healing of the Nations” (Rev. 22:2)?
7.) The Bible may not explicitly condemn inter-racial marriage but allow me to point out that every example of godly marriage we have in scripture is between people of the same race or of a closely related ethnicity.
Among the line of Promise, Isaac married a cousin, Jacob married cousins. Judah’s marriage to a Caananite woman was a source of grief and his two eldest sons were so wicked that God slew them. Judah’s heir of promise ran through his offspring by his daughter-in-law Tamar. Joseph’s Egyptian wife raises questions as to whether she was a Hamite, but was likely Hyksos, a Semitic people.
Some will point to Nu 12 and Moses “Cushite” wife, but the woman in question was Zipporah, kindred Midianite, not an Ethiopian.
8.) The Bible nowhere explicitly condemns jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and yet God has given enough sense that people know that jumping out of airplanes without parachutes is not a good idea. In the same way 2000 years of Church history teaches me that inter-racial marriage is not normative and generally speaking, is not a good idea. A book you might want to consider buying here, in order to see how the Church has spoken on this issue for 2000 years is Achord & Dow’s “Who Is My Neighbor; An Anthology In Natural Relations.”
9.) The Bible does promote marriage as only for those with shared common ground. When the Bible says that Eve was a helpmeet suitable for Adam the idea communicated there is that she was a reflection … a mirror to Adam. This is why Adam could say… “She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” He said this because she was a mirror to him. So, the bible does promote, contrary to your statement, marriage as a reality that should occur as between two people who have a harmony of background and beginnings.
Thanks again Mark for writing.
Recently, the gloriously euphemistic Southern Poverty Law Center placed the Church I serve on their “extremist hate” list because we were in their estimation a “White Nationalist” group.
Stossel, above, demonstrates that the SPLC is a Cultural Marxist joke and is itself the country’s largest and most well-financed extremist hate group in America. Because this is so, it is a badge of honor to be assigned the label of “extremist hate” group by the SPLC. If a hate group accuses you of being “hateful” according to their upside-down standards then it is likely the case that just the opposite is what is true and that you are instead the very essence of compassion, kindness and love. Let me just say here that if ever there was a Church that is filled with compassion, kindness, and love it is Charlotte Christ the King Reformed Church. Yes indeed, we are extremists in that regard.
It should also be noted that this report by Stossel came out not long before the SPLC itself was caught in a net of hate. Top executives at the Southern Poverty Law Center departed the organization amidst reports of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination within the Southern Poverty Law Center. It seems that both current and former SPLC employees stepped forward and complained that the Southern Poverty Law Center was a cacophony of intolerance, sexual harassment, and lack of diversity. Physician heal thyself indeed.
Now, the question naturally arises as to why the Nationally known Southern Poverty Law Center would go out of their way to target a small Mid-Michigan church as an “extremist hate group.” One can only speculate. Several possibilities present themselves.
1.) Rev. Bret L. McAtee is such a spellbinding speaker and powerful writer and had become such an influential presence among the country’s opinion-makers that the SPLC knew that it had to make an effort to besmirch this titan among America’s thought leaders before his Christian convictions covered the globe.
Edit — #1 is, in the words of Foghorn Leghorn; “I say I say I say, that’s a joke son.”
If you really thought I believed #1 I have a bridge to sell to you.
2.) The denomination that the congregation once dated for 50 years pulled some strings among known confederates because they were angered that the local congregation pulled out of and left the denomination. A denomination that is now discussing accepting sodomy in some form or fashion as an acceptable Christian lifestyle.
3.) National Public Radio was butt hurt by a series of Iron Ink articles that rebutted their six-part hatchet job radio series on a particular group of activists that they did not like. As such NPR pulled some strings for this small Mid-Michigan church to be put on the SPLC hit list.
It is remotely possible that 2 & 3 worked conjointly. I note this because once the small, subscription-starved regional newspaper picked up the story there sure seemed synchronicity in the way that some of the articles as sourced by the denomination all fell into place once the story hit.
Of course, all this is speculation. I suppose it is also possible that President Biden saw what a threat I was and put out his own hit orders. Personally, I think #1 the most likely explanation.