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.

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Theology in a Toy Store

A Toy Store in TrinomaA parent often suffers heartbreak in a toy store. Most especially when you see your child with rounded-eyes, caught up in excitement, asks you, “Can I have this dad?”

Every parent wants to own the toy store, when your kid is in it.  I wish I could say, “Grab all the things you want, to your heart’s content.” Toys! They bring so much joys to children. And toy stores abound not really because of kids, but because parents pay the price of their existence.

 

But then, you go to calculate, perhaps with your limitations, you can’t afford to have all the toys you’d ever want your kids to have. First, you’d have to contend how much they would modify your budget, second the space they would deduct from your house. And then, when you think about it too, toys are a just passing fancy. One minute, your kid keeps quiet and behaved when you buy them, and then just a few hours or days, the kid has another hunger for another toy.

But still, on a toy store just recently, my eyes were almost wet and there was a lump on my throat. Seeing my kid wanting so much toys, I wanted to buy her all till she’s satisfied. But then I can’t. It’s all too much for the current budget. I’m sure every common parent must have had that dilemma.

And then I remembered, Jesus the Lord,

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat 7:11 ESV)”

As far as I can, I want to be a good father to my kids. But the deeper parts of me, I know I lack many things, sinner that I am.  But as I was gazing my child in a toy store, wanting to bring so much for her because I know that those things would make her happy, I was transfixed with the thought of how God the Father would bring so much joy to us, when He gives us all things, when even ultimately He would give us all of Him, yes Himself, because of Christ’s work.

As Science channels tells us how infinite the universe is, can you imagine How much more infinite the Maker of it is?  In fact, the word infinite is an understatement. He would bring us so much joy, much more than the universe can ever contain.  And that is so much true, even as much as a universe truer than as much as I want to buy all the things my kid wants in a toy store.

In the meantime, there is so much suffering in this life, I know.  And so as when it was in the time of the Apostle Paul.  But I always tell myself this is oh so true because I can feel its truth, standing as a father to my kid in a toy store.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32 ESV)

In the meantime, we wait as kids. And tell you what: one afternoon, 2000 years ago, thru someone’s bloody hands, our Father has already paid the cost of everything.

Xerox for the Glory of God or How My Wife’s Business Made Vivid the Cross

My wife is actually engaged in the photocopying business. She opened a little shop that offers the most affordable photocopy services in our area.

Yesterday morning, she requested me to buy 10 bundles of substance 20 paper.  Now paper is just paper and it’s light but if you get to carry 5,000 sheets with substance 20, that’s really a bit heavy.

She called me up first thing in the morning and then I had to go to the supplier without breakfast.  I also woke up with a slight headache that morning.

Now I have to carry these bundles one by one.

And more than that, I was catching my breath for every bundle that I carried to my vehicle.  As I counted the steps towards the supplier seen at the end of the alley, I counted a total of 84 steps. That means 84 steps to and fro with the latter ones with the heavy load on my shoulders.

And then as I did… It struck me.  Jesus carrying the cross.

As I carried each bundle towards my car, can you imagine how it was torturous having a headache as you are carrying a heavy load?  The headache throbs! Like each burdened heavy step is punctuated by the headache or vice-versa.  Each step = a throb, ouch! Step, throb, step, throb, ah!!! what a headache.  And here was I, partly hating this request from my wife and partly hating the headache.  I remembered our Lord…he had a headache too.  And it was even more painful because it was a piercing set of thorns.

I had to ask for our office assistant to carry them as I reached our shop later.

While carrying these bundles, I kinda felt a certain sense of humility.  Here was I, a Doctor of Medicine, carrying heavy loads of paper as a menial work man.  I mean, there’s nothing denigrating about being a man who do manual labor but it was definitely humbling.  If my colleagues would see me, they would probably shake their heads and then suggest that I should have hired someone who could carry those and help me.

But then, humbling as it may seem – a doctor acting like a manual laborer, the picture became more vivid.  What if you’re the Creator of all that exists, and here you are being born as a carpenter? Nothing wrong with being a carpenter but have you ever seen a carpenter’s house?

And then, can you recall the time of Jesus’ arrest? It was dawn. Have you ever asked if he took breakfast?  Of course he didn’t!  I felt the pangs of hunger as I was carrying those bundles.  Jesus was often called a glutton by His foes because He appreciated food.  How does it feel to carry heavy loads without a good breakfast meal?

I had no breakfast...and there was chowking on the side.

...and macdonald's in front..

And all of this I felt, as I was carrying all of these bundles.  I was complaining and then I realized, what have I to complain about?  Because when you think about it, great and greater loads have been carried by the Doctor of the Universe, not to mention with a more massive headache and hunger.

Why would I have to carry these load? Well, the answer is: profit.  These would earn income for my family.  Income that we don’t have yet, but expected to be acquired when all of these would turn up to be photocopied documents.

I had to ask for our office assistant to carry them as I reached our shop later.

And then I ask, why would Jesus have to carry all the load?  There is no profit he would earn, because he lacked nothing. There is practically no reason.

What was the motive for all of these?  My mouth is shut as I wonder and scamper for rationales.  There is no rational explanation.

Except perhaps, love.

Free Classic Christian Audio Books to Download this March 2010

Download – christianaudio.com

I really suggest you make the above download this month of March 2010.  Hurry for you may miss this FREE OFFER.

Click for a FREE Audio Link

When I’m in a long drive, I make it a point to listen to audio books.  It makes those awake moments worthwhile.  Driving is tiring but filling the time it takes to do it with classic worthy books make it worthwhile.  I suggest you download these.

The first of these is this outstanding classic called The Cost of Discipleship. In my humble opinion, no preacher of the Word should miss this.

Click if you want more info of this book

Here are some blurbs from Amazon that would make you realize the importance of this book.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” With these words, in The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave powerful voice to the millions of Christians who believe personal sacrifice is an essential component of faith. Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, was an exemplar of sacrificial faith: he opposed the Nazis from the first and was eventually imprisoned in Buchenwald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. The Cost of Discipleship, first published in German in 1937, was Bonhoeffer’s answer to the questions, “What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day?” Bonhoeffer’s answers are rooted in Lutheran grace and derived from Christian scripture (almost a third of the book consists of an extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount). The book builds to a stunning conclusion: its closing chapter, “The Image of Christ,” describes the believer’s spiritual life as participation in Christ’s incarnation, with a rare and epigrammatic confidence: “Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord,” Bonhoeffer writes, “we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race.” —Michael Joseph Gross

Product Description

One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus

What can the call to discipleship, the adherence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the businessman, the soldier, the laborer, or the aristocrat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers these timeless questions by providing a seminal reading of the dichotomy between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” “Cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves…grace without discipleship….Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the girl which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know….It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

The Cost of Discipleship is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.

The next is one of  my favorite books on the Cross.  In our Church in Pampanga (CBC) we usually exposit one of the 50 reasons every Lord’s Supper.  It has tremendously blessed our church in so doing.  May the grace of the Cross be learned and cherished by all.

Click here for more details of this book

Happy Downloading and then Happy Listening.

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