Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tyler Blanski: "We Need a Holy Renaissance"

I recently received a copy of a most interesting book entitled When Donkeys Talk: A Quest to Rediscover the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2013).  The author is Tyler Blanski, who is currently finishing his middler year at Nashotah House Theological Seminary.  

I note that the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliff College at the University of Toronto, has this to say about the book:

"Deep, sometimes disturbing, always delightful, Blanski's journey into God's miraculous world leads to a moving encounter with the most astounding miracle of all, the Christ.  This is a compelling Pilgrim's Progress for today, uncovering divine truth in a way that will challenge modern readers, but also invite them into a landscape of powerful beauty they have secretly been longing to inhabit.  A book to savor and to share."

I've read about three quarters of Tyler's book and I can say that it is both fun and profound, with a playfully serious quality that reminds me very much of G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  I commend When Donkeys Talk to everyone who reads this posting.

The excerpt below gives a feel for what the book is all about. 

We need a holy renaissance. A revival without a renaissance makes only converts - yet to be "Christian" today does not always mean to be Christlike.  A renaissance, however, invites us to become disciples of Jesus, to become his lifelong students.  I'm just a house-painter from Minneapolis, but I believe the Holy Spirit is stirring a hunger in Christians today for spaces where they can become students - disciples - of Jesus Christ.  God's activity on earth, ever old and ever new, is a continuous stream of one salvation story after another, and we are invited to participate in these stories in an intimate way.  There actually is a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1).  There actually is "one universal and apostolic church."  And when we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we were reborn into this company of saints.

The word renaissance usually makes us think of the Renaissance, that revival of literature and art in the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries spurred by a renewed interest in the classical models of antiquity.  Names like Petrarch, Dante, Boccaccio, and the painter Giotto come to mind - not to mention Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo.  Music flourished.  Art exploded.  Literature reached new heights. It is a period that glows in history.  People looked to what was good and true from the past and lived it in the present tense.

We are on the cusp of another renaissance - a God renaissance, a holy renaissance - for a renaissance is what happens when new vision and vitality rush into old truths and traditions.  People see themselves as part of something bigger and beautiful.  They wake up.  Minds and hearts come alive.  History is changed.  We do not need to obsess over what is new or how to "reach the culture."  Renaissance don't happen that way.  Renaissances happen when people look back to what is good, true, and truly beautiful and they live it in the present tense, live it in their own unique way.

If you don't stir the pot, the soup burns.  Renaissances get everyone upset because they stir things up. And so people will either persecute Christians again or become Christians themselves, but they won't be able to yawn and disregard the church because it looks just like the rest of contemporary culture.  The church in renaissance strives to be what it is called to be: the light of Christ.  Jesus is a battering ram to what it means to be human.  Two-thousand-some odd years have not been long enough to fully grasp the implications of the incarnation and the repercussions of the resurrection.  The ramifications of what God set in motion on the cross change everything about our world and what it means to be human.  Even Balaam and his twitchy-eared donkey are woven into the fabric of Jesus' swaddling clothes.  The words of Christ "have in themselves something of dreadful majesty" [Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 8.2].  They change what it means to be human.  They are our judgment and hope. 

Our galaxy sings of the Lord with a mathematical elegance, an extraordinary subtlety and poetry.  It brings me to my knees.  It has sometimes even spurred me to dance little jigs in my kitchen, splashing coffee hither and yon.  I feel like a boy at the zoo, unashamedly pointing, staring stupidly, calling attention to the donkeys.  Throw in some sixteenth-century syntax, ersatz Olde English accents, and even a roasted turkey leg, and you get my crazy-ass theory: the theory that the world is resonate with God, that we can't escape him.  We actually live in a "kingdom" where the Lord is reigning.  

Moses approached the burning bush, the bush ablaze with God, and reverently took off his sandals.  For Saint Francis, the whole world was a burning bush ablaze with God, and so out of reverence he never wore sandals.  

We, too, should take off our shoes.    

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