Below is the question I pulled out of the text for my mini review last month. I will continue with a larger look at the book now.
”If God speaks through both the Bible and human culture at the same time, how would that work?”
That is the central question to this book. Personally, the chapter on Van Gough and his painting The Church in Auvers was brilliant and this is the chapter that John Van Sloten uses to framework this discussion in detail. He gives out two implications that help him ask the question that I used above, but it also helps with this question from the book.
“How would it affect how I seek out, listen to, and experience God?”
If we begin to look for God at work in the music, movies and other cultural experiences we have everyday how would that change the way we view and understand God?
Or, would we realize we do it without even thinking about it?
The first implication is co-illumination.
By co-illumination I mean that the truth contained in the Bible brings light and understanding to the truth contained in broader creation and culture, and the converse: that truth revealed in creation and culture can illuminate the truth revealed in the Bible.
The second implication revolves around the counterbalance of this type of worldview.
”This interconnection brings a counterbalancing influence to the reading of either text. God’s revelation through the Bible tethers, holds in balance, and offers perspective on God’s revelation through nature and human culture, and God’s revelation through culture has the same effect on the Bible.”
When he works through the idea of co-illumination the premise of the whole book takes shape. God is at work through the ordinary. By that I mean think of that awe inspiring moment as you looked out over a crystal clear lake, that mountain top view, or that feeling of a great cup of coffee on your tongue. Each experience, every verse and each scene has the opportunity for a co-illuminating moment of reflection towards God’s creation.
The Bible is full of these moments. The parables are told around elements of the natural world, tax-collectors taught about God, as did shepherding. If Jesus used those daily jobs as ways to show his Father’s mighty works we should be able to see his teachings in the pouring of espresso, or through an architect that forever changes the skyline of our cities.
“It’s about the co-illumination of the ordinary and the ineffable. Christ’s weavings of word and world left an unforgettable impression on his follower’s lives. Not only dod they come to see God’s material goodness implanted in everything around them, but every time they would take a sip of wine, witness a wedding, or walk a certain road, they were reminded of Jesus’ words.”
Here is the start of his explanation of the role counterbalance plays in how we view God in the everyday.
The fact that God speaks today keeps us from limiting God to only what he spoke in the past in the Bible. And reading God’s Word in the Bible keeps us from misinterpreting his words today.
He uses a great story of Van Gogh’s father and his refusal to look at the world in any way other than his own way to illuminate the idea of a counterbalance. Van Gogh’s parents refused the idea that the book spoke of anything beyond thievery and dismissed it for portraying a worldview that was opposite to the biblical worldview that they had. The book was Les Miserables and they refused to read it. THey missed out on a story about grace and forgiveness that illuminates and gives an example of the type of grace and forgiveness that Jesus spoke of.
“The Bible offers a clear, personal presentation of God; it brings God close, gives God a name, and reveals the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Creation and human nature, on the other hand, speak more obliquely about God, often via a different language, and they reveal more of God’s breadth, depth and enormity.”
This book is a great tool for any youth worker. It challenges everyone to have an open and critical mind to the world around us. It calls us to see God at work around us and to be able to share that with others. What has made you stop and take a second look in the last week? Did you tell your students about where you can see God at work in their media choices?
As I watched the Grammys I could not help but think of this book. You can see God at work in the creative minds of the individuals that performed.
What can we take away from the collaboration between Foo Fighters and Deadmau5? A very unlikely combo that have a great single and yet so far apart on the musical spectrum.
What can you say about Adele’s jaw-dropping rendition of Rolling in the Deep? All she had was a microphone and a voice and yet her performance was one that I will remember for a long time. She took out all the special effects and stood there as she proclaimed, “This is me and I am good enough as I am.”
What can you say about the ending and the multi-generational line-up of Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl? I am currently reading Dave Grohl’s biography and it is constantly referencing the musical influences that shaped his career. We promote mentorships and strong positive influences as a way to help our students grow and what better way to show them the importance and the fruit of those relationships through real life instances playing out on stage. If you watch Adam Levine’s facial reactions while he is playing with The Beach Boys you can see that he was living out a dream.
There are moments that the teachings and wisdom from the Words of God enter into our life each day, but we need to ask ourselves if we are watching and listening for them.
One practical point that I have started since reading this book is that I have started a media journal. In it I usually take lyrics of a song, a movie plot, or a sit-com scene and right it down the centre of a page and then from that I mind map out different biblical or life stories that I can use as teaching points. This helps me put together series based on themes, or biblical passages.
If you are looking for other materials that promote biblical worldviews and talk about how to include media choices in that discussion check out these as well.
media.faith.culture by Brett Ullman
media.faith.culture : Parents 101 by Brett Ullman
Think Christian website