Monday, 10 April 2017

Incarnation at the Met

In the midst of my somewhat dazing trip to the US last week to promote the new book, I was able to take a couple of hours to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art - which, having not been to New York since I was a child, I don't believe I've ever been to before. I'm something of a philistine when it comes to the visual arts, but this was moving even to me, especially the Renaissance and early modern Netherlandish materials (I hurried through all that quasi-classicist eighteenth-century French stuff as quickly as I could). But here is one item that particularly struck me:

That is an anonymous Lutheran family painting from Hamburg, probably dated to the 1570s.

But here's the thing. The family are intensely, immediately real. OK, the older son's horse-shaped teenage face looks a little odd, but within the range; and the younger son is a bit blank-faced. But the daughter and, most especially, both parents, could simply step out of that, and if you ever saw them again, you'd recognise them, wouldn't you?

... And then there is Jesus, who looks like no human being who has ever lived.

I do appreciate that painting Jesus is difficult for anyone, and especially so for a Protestant, even a Lutheran. But the 'solution' here, of presenting him as an alien creature in such a way as almost to deny the doctrine of the Incarnation, is, um, problematic. It leaves me wondering: is this purely an artistic problem? Or does it speak to some deeper difficulty in this culture about imagining that Jesus is as real, and as human, as the people we bump into every day? Just asking.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing on Protestantism and its contribution to western civilization. Would it be possible to write about the contrast between the basis for aetheism of certain enlightenment Philosophers such as Kant and Thume and the evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible that has been found out in the last 30-40 years?

    As best as I can determine, there are 4 Primary Evidences for the God of the Bible:

    1. The universe was created from nothing with a definite beginning. You can't get something from nothing without a creator God doing the creation. This Cosmological argument is from Aristotle and is the oldest argument for God. Science philosophers used to think the universe was eternal so there was no evidence for God, but now we know our universe began from nothing about 13.8 BYA. The Days in early Genesis are simply long periods of time. Only the Bible said the universe had a beginning and was created from nothing, the other world religions all say the universe is eternal.

    2. The sequence of Genesis 1 is correct: The darkness that covered the earth was thick dark clouds of carbon dioxide + water vapor (job 38:9 and Genesis 1:2). The cloud cover thinned over time. The land really did rise from the waters and it took photosynthesis from algae and plants to clear the sky so the sun, moon, and stars could be seen on "day 4". The dinosaurs were the birds in day 5. This can be seen in History Channel documentary on How the Earth Was Made. can provide more material. It requires divine revelation for the bible to get this right, which means God is the God of the Bible.

    3. There is no explanation for the origin of life - requires a creator God. - Dr Jim Tour of Rice University et al.

    4. The historical evidence for Christ is beyond a doubt. The apostles would not have all been killed if they did not hold to their witness to the resurrection.

    Dan Alexander
    Houston, TX