CCP, Obscenity, and Modern Idolatry

The cross with an exposed sex organ? Obscene, isn’t it? But if we would rely on historical sources, the truth of crucifixion was more obscene that those pictures. Have you ever pictured Jesus naked on the cross, with exposed genitals and all?

Perhaps we can accept a gross depiction of a big wound near the lower ribs but can we accept a Jesus naked? If not it is probably because we have been used to pictures of Jesus Christ on a cross with some underclothes.

But historical sources would even indicate to us that the Roman crucifixion was done to publicly humiliate the one crucified, thus there are sources that depict the actual historical Christ exposed. Michaelangelo for one, made a sculpture of such a naked crucified man he depicted as Jesus.

Crucifix, sculpture by Michelangelo, Santo Spirito Church, Florence, Italy (ca. 1494), a depiction of naked crucifixion with the genitals of the condemned exposed

Michaelangelo is truly an artist par excellence. In fact many of his sculptures and images are naked. Nakedness as he might believe, is a sign of innocence.  And truly understandably, that is why his sculpture of David is also naked.

Why then is there such a fuss when an artist puts forth installation arts on CCP?  It has torn the whole Philippine nation in a debating mode once again. The Catholic Church has spoken, then the Senate, then the President of the Phlippines.

So, am I endorsing Mideo Cruz? Make no mistake, I do not condone any such depictions. I would even consider the art of Cruz as rubbish and cowardly. Rubbish because art should highlight beauty and truth. I sound like Imelda Marcos but in the rare times, I think she is correct with this one.

But you counter, there is such a thing as ‘ugly truth.’ Yes I agree. But you don’t publicly exhibit those most of the time. If Mideo Cruz publicly exposes his sex organ on the street, you would not call that ‘art.’ You call that indecency. Artists can call that freedom of expression but my golly, if your freedoms offend me as well as tens and thousands of people, that’s not art, that’s perversion.

I also think it’s cowardly. Why? Because Mideo Cruz only insulted the Catholic side of the equation. I haven’t heard of his installation containing the Muslim Allah or Quran, or any other faith. His was just an expression of polytheism using Catholic images and sacred pieces. If this is really ‘polytheism’ why did he not include images of other faiths? I tell you what, it’s because people like Mideo Cruz are afraid of offending the Muslims. His neck would surely be on the line if he does. There is a line as far as his artistic expression is concerned. It’s what you call the fear of death. Isn’t this true, Mideo Cruz?

But for Catholics, he will have his heyday. He knows those who make vigils to the Black Nazarene are supposed to be kind. If you slap them on the left cheek, they would give their right. So never mind if you put an image of a penis on a venerated picture of what some believe as a picture of Jesus Christ. They would be kind, they might become angry, but injure the artist? “No!” Artists like Mideo Cruz would probably answer. Christians are Mickey Mouse kind.

And so here is my two-cents as far as those images are concerned: I think this is not art. It’s what you call the act of insult. Insult is not art, though I have to admit, some people can do it artistically. But outright insult is not art. It’s offensive. Insult can be done artistically but not this way. At least not in Mideo Cruz’s way.

But you know after the fire has died down, perhaps there is some good on all this indecency. It can make us think and ponder things beside the pictures.

What if it’s true that God went to such indecency to accomplish a purpose? What if He did that for you. I don’t mean him, or her. I mean you. You who are reading this. 

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame….

(Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

But you’d probably would not believe that. That is something art cannot really portray. Only truth can, and only if you are made to believe it.

Suddenly, I am reminded of the commandment in Exodus 20. What if, even the best of our sculptures are an abomination to the Lord? As far as the Bible is concerned, every picture venerated has an X-rated thing to it. Yes, including the ones you put in those altars.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

(Exodus 20:4-5 ESV)

If the above is true, every venerated image is obscene, no different from Mideo Cruz’s art. Maybe Mideo Cruz’s art is Mickey Mouse if that is true.

If the Bible is true, here’s what its New Testament part says.

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed…”

(Acts 17:29-31 ESV)

And that Man, by implication, is an enemy of idols.


One Shooting in SM Iloilo

You know when a noise brews something bad. I was in SM Iloilo yesterday, wondering if I would buy some fruits but then I encountered something I just see in movies. There was a shoot out and I almost got caught in the middle!

First there were three loud bullet shots, PAK! PAK! PAK!

I surveyed what was happening whether it was just firecrackers or just structure falling or what. And then there was another PAK! PAK!

I knew they were gunshots. And I guess the rest of the people because they started to run and in about 3 seconds, people are all outside the mall. Some ladies were crying, and men were catching their breaths together with me.

And then there was exchanges among the crowd who turned back to look a good distance away from the doors of SM. It was dark but you can see the unmistakeable mark of panic among the people. By this time, the SM crowd as well as the people in the nearby streets were all transfixed on bright windows of shops that line up the SM walls.

I felt alone.

The dialect is Ilonggo and everyone assumes I’m one of them. Some guy about my age, even attempted a short talk to diffuse the tension. But I just remained silent, which he took as just understandable, I guess. You don’t really expect people to be talkative after a shootout that you all escaped.  All I can make up is that two men have met in the CR and then started shooting at each other.

At the end of the commotion, two men were accosted via a makeshift stretcher out of the mall. I was not sure if either of them was dead.

Another day in my life. I just realized one thing though. One bullet may have strayed and got in my way and right then and there, I  may be one of those being delivered out in a stretcher.

But you don’t think about those things until after all is settled. I walked out and away from the scene after having witnessed enough.

Walking alone towards my hotel, caught in so much wonder…What if?……  One shooting reminded me of one sure thing.  It made indelible of how much I am so unmindful of the way the Lord protects in the many small unnoticeable ways of His.  I could have been right there just feet away where those two men were exchanging shots, directly in between the crossfires, but thank the heavens I was not!  I was thinking and thanking the Lord for all the times He kept me safe, even now as I’m typing all of these.

As well as for tomorrow when I will surely take for granted His preservations while being busy with everyday things.

A Common Calvinistic Weakness

Have you ever met a Calvinist? Well, in the first place, what is a Calvinist?  It would take a lot of words to define what a Calvinist is.  But here is a funny definition.  A Calvinist is someone who is an unconditionally elect lover of books and theological thought.

In other words, one of his weaknesses as I said in an earlier blog is: love for books.  Here is the typical one:  I was requested by a brother who is groomed by the Lord for ministry to buy books for him.  I bought him the best books I can find in the conference and here is my top pick:

Honestly, as I read it, I am so tempted not to give it, hehehe… This material is so good.  Oftentimes, when you are exposed to the theology of the Cross, you think you know enough already.  This book belies that.  Even if you know so much of the Cross, the essays here provoke deep thought and rethinking that if you are alive, there would be inevitably fresh insights.  Like fresh blood oozing out of your hands if you pierce nails thru them.

Here are partial blurbs of it:

“Here is vintage J. I. Packer accompanied by some younger friends. The magisterial but too-little-known essay ‘What Did the Cross Achieve?’ is itself worth the price of the whole book. And there is much more besides. Here, then, are gospel riches, and In My Place Condemned He Stood marks the spot where the buried treasure lies. Start digging!”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina

“The essays in this volume by Packer and Dever are some of the most important things I have ever read. If you want to preach in such a way that results in real conversions and changed lives, you should master the approach to the cross laid out in this book.”
Tim Keller, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

“This book contains some of the finest essays that have ever been written on the death of Christ.”
David F. Wells, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Every student and pastor should own this volume, for the contents are so precious that they deserve more than one reading.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Writing with the precision of learned theologians and the passion of forgiven sinners, J. I. Packer and Mark Dever explain the meaning of atonement, substitution, and propitiation-not just as words, but as saving benefits we can only receive from a crucified Savior.”
Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

Incredible! Mabuhay! Michael Horton in Manila

I have invited one of my virtual mentors, Michael Horton to come to the Philippines and he would be coming this January 29-30 to speak in a conference in Quezon City.

I pray that all of you who are reforming in their faith, who are fans of the WHITE HORSE INN, who love Calvinistic theology, to be there.

By the way, to be completely true here…I didn’t really invite him.  I was just led to find this website…(and that was not by accident, hehehe…Calvinistic me, hehehe…)