I’ve just finished co-editing A Faith and Culture Devotional. It’s a treasure book of God’s glory from 70 believers who are, themselves, treasures: Dallas Willard, Walter Bradley, Dick Keyes, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Erwin McManus, Scot McKnight, Os Guinness, Bill Edgar, Bruce Herman, Catherine Claire Larson, John Eldredge, and more.
They’re helping me see God’s glory as I learn about ancient empires, DNA, J.R.R. Tolkien and joy, flight, Norman Rockwell, the search for intimacy, string theory, J.S. Bach, the periodic table, the fall of Rome, quantum physics, Bob Dylan, dark matter, U2, Paradise Lost, T.S. Eliot, the genius of Jesus, the Great Awakenings, and the Resurrection.
Somehow I’d missed that Rembrandt painted his Return of the Prodigal Son after losing five of his own children, and two wives. I didn’t know that missionaries (and the Gospel) so impressed Charles Darwin on his early voyage. I missed that Picasso was such a cad, though his tragic late-in-life confession does have the merit of sincerity.
Faith and culture? Why bother? In one day a tsunami, or band of terrorists, can devastate decades of culture-making — including countless human lives. Some of us are in slight shock, if not in mourning. 2008 was, and 2009 may be, years to suggest that life on earth, in this old order, holds no guarantees. Things can and do fall apart.
On a personal level: I left for an overnight hiking trip this summer and came home to find my mother (my best lifelong friend) unconscious in a hospital ICU. After eight days in the ICU and weeks in the hospital, she miraculously survived, but I’m struck by the inevitable loss of her, some day. Three other friends died in their fifties last year.
I’ve realized that our time here is short. I need to wake up. Soon. Now. To love and feel, think and act, well. It helps a bit to have some treasures of many books in one book.
G.K. Chesterton felt that the whole earth, after the Fall, because of the Fall, was something of an epic shipwreck. And that anything good was the result of painstaking redemption, like hauling up silverware and heirlooms from the bottom of the ocean. So it is with culture-making — hard, and because of love.
Faith and culture? Yeah. From Genesis onward, faith has inspired believers to take the raw material of God’s creation and create culture (or as Andy Crouch likes to say, “instances of culture”) — to build in the ruins, to farm, to study, to dance, to paint, to sing, to write books, to love and nurture new life, to drill wells for fresh water, to visit prisoners with hope, to find cures for disease. Faith sees “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” and in response, worships and creates.
Reminders, inklings, and actual knowledge of the glory of God, his beauty and genius, builds my faith in the otherwise “impossible.” On a good day, I begin to look at ruins, despair, chaos in new ways. I admire New York artist Mako Fujimura when overlooking the devastation on September 12, 2001 (as discussed in the last week of the devotional). I wonder along with him, wow, this is really bad, but what might God have in mind and heart here? What is the path of redemption? How does faith in a risen Savior create beauty and life, again, in culture(s)?
A Faith and Culture Devotional offers daily reminders of the Redeemer’s work in the world he loves. Hand to the plow.