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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

The Aroma


A few years ago, I was reading a lot of books on art and aesthetics. Here are a couple of fabulous quotes from one great and recommended book called "It Was Good to the Glory of God." These quotes comes from an article in that book by Gregory Wolfe entitled "Art, Faith, and the Stewardship of Culture"

It is my conviction that the Christian community, despite its many laudable efforts to preserve traditional morality and the social fabric, has abdicated its stewardship of culture and, more importantly, has frequently chosen ideology rather than imagination when approaching the challenges of the present. [p. 260]Even in the circles where I have felt most at home – including the conservative intellectual movement and the many Christian organizations dedicated to defending religious orthodoxy – I have come to see a dangerous narrowing of perspective, an increasingly brittle and extreme frame of mind. Again and again, I have seen the emphasis in these circles shift to having the correct opinions and winning political victories rather than on cultivating a reflective vision and seeking to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of our neighbors. [pp. 262-263]

Isn't this interesting. I love the dichotomy of ideology and imagination, or correct opinions verses cultivating a reflective vision. That sits deep causes me to percolate. How easy it is for some people to slip into dogma and hard ideology. I find it myself often in the church. I feel pressed towards hard and fast definitions and language, boxes in which to put people. I feel strongly in the truth, and yet there is pressure to use language and definitions to box people in or out. Which causes me to ask the question... how do we use our imaginations or cultivate a reflective vision that is seeped in the truth and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the creativity of a God of goodness in such a way that we become a people who are winsome with a message that is seductive enough to draw anyone with a seeking heart? Why has the church always slipped into cut and dried techniques, rules, and boundaries within which to form people in our own image rather than into the image of a God who has built into his very nature both truth and beauty, rightness and diversity, perfection and profundity? Too often evangelical Christianity - the spiritual home in which I live - becomes a coffin of right thinking and doctrines that are merely stale systematic versions of a very dynamic and living Word. Even the so-called "Emergent Church," which seeks to bring back richness, art, and holistic spirituality to the Christian church too often becomes merely a place of contemporary cool, including hip bands and clever writers with cooler churches. Where is the rich, sweet, imaginative fragrance of the beauty of God in his people that draws others to him?

One of my favorite passages lately is one in which Paul says to the church that through us God is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of him. Then he says this: "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." [cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15] I'm challenged by this because so rarely are my life, my words, or my actions exuding the rich fragrance of Christ that Paul speaks about. I may not be a sucker for the rules, but I still hinder the aroma of Christ through me. I'd like to work on that imaginative side, and the cultivation of a reflective vision to seek the mind and heart of my neighbors, but I'd also like to live a rich life of true beauty, purity, and goodness.

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