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Tag: Building on our Legacy

Building On Our Legacy: Christian Art

When you think of Christian Art, what do you think of?

Thomas Kincade

Thomas Kincade Christmas

The Jesus Painter

Jesus, Mike the Jesus Painter

maybe if we are stretching it a bit even Kirk Cameron

Fireproof the Movie, Kirk Cameron

Christian Art has been with us throughout the years.  It has come in all different forms and styles.  Christians didn’t really have their own art early on because much of it was destroyed in the early centuries.  However, symbols began to emerge and over time as Christians started to develop their own cemeteries and places of worship, art began to take hold.

Why talk about art?  This was supposed to be a series on people and the legacy that they have left.  The art was developed by people, and the art tells a story of people.  One of the earliest artistic symbols that has made it throughout the many years is the fish.  Christian Fish SymbolThe fish became very important to the Christian community because one of Jesus’ great miracles was to multiply the fish and the loaves and feed 5,000 people.  Yet, even more than that miracle the fish became tied to the sacred time of communion.  The fish was found in scenes throughout history and has taken on a symbolism of it’s own.

The Greek word for fish is ICHTHYS.  This also was used as an acrostic for the phrase, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior”.  All of these things helped hold the Christian faith together.  As the Church was forming and spreading throughout history, these symbols and more began to pop up all throughout art.

While in Israel, I took several pictures of some of the ancient art.  Here are a few pictures…

Mosaics, Christian Symbol

Graffiti at the Church of the Holy SeplechurCarved into the wall at the Church of the Holy SeplechurHoly Spirit, Dove

As you can see, Christian Art has been around for centuries and will be for many more to come.  It has played a pivotal role in the Christian faith.

So, here is a question for you.  The Christian Fish has showed up all over the place.  Where is the most interesting place that you have found the fish symbol?  Tattoo, Bumper, T-shirt… what else?  

~Peter

A great resource to read up on Christian History is a book by Justo L. Gonzalez called, “The Story of Christianity”.  You can purchase it at Amazon.com here.  
 
Other Posts in this series:
1.  Augustine of Hippo
2. John Chrysostom

Building On Our Legacy: John Chrysostom

Legacy of FaithIf you had asked someone from Antioch in the year 400 if they knew John Chrysostom, no one would have known whom you were talking about.  After explaining a bit more about whom you were looking for they would likely have said, “Oh, you mean John of Constantinople.  Sure, everyone knows him!  John of Constantinople did not get the name Chrysostom till at least a hundred years after his death.  This man was used incredibly by God. Saint John Chrysostom, Icon

From the start he was a step ahead of the rest.  John was a monk, but before becoming a monk he was a lawyer.  He was trained by some of the best in the world.  John was trained by the famous orator Libanius.  Libanius was a Greek-speaking teacher of Rhetoric at the Sophist school.  He was as good as they come.  Libanius was once asked who should take his job when he was to retire.  Libanius responded, that John Chrysostom should. However, Libanius quickly clarified, “that will not be possible because the Christians have laid claim on him.”

How cool is that?  Chrysostom is the type of man that has added so much value that the world is clamoring to get a hold of him.  I have often thought this, but never written much about it.  The Church should be the one who is leading the charge in the arts and sciences.  What if we produced the best work?  So much so that the pagan teachers wished that they could be replaced by those who have dedicated their life and their craft to the Lord.  Imagine!  Well, that was this man John Chrysostom.  Make no mistake about it, God was using him uniquely.  God had empowered him to preach the gospel with skill and clarity.  Chrysostom made it his goal to preach it faithfully.

Chrysostom was so desired that when the position of bishop opened up in Constantinople they had to take John by force to the town.  They didn’t do this because John didn’t want to go.  No, the people wouldn’t let him go!  This was a man who was loved by all.

One of the many things that Chrysostom did was to bring about great reform to the church.  For too long the church had gotten sloppy.  They were sloppy with regard to their sexuality and their money.  Hmmm…  Good thing we don’t struggle with those issues anymore.

The priests who were supposed to be living celibate, or sex free, lives decided that wasn’t really for them.  So they figured out that they could bring a “spiritual sister” into their home.  This woman could stay with him since they weren’t married and that would scratch their itch.  This was completely unacceptable to John.  He set them straight by ensuring that the spiritual sisters were kicked out of the house and that these priests began living celibate lives.

With regard to the finances, John found that the church was entirely too ornate and wealthy.  It wasn’t that the ornateness by itself was an issue, however the ornateness paired with the growing poverty in the streets around the churches made this a horrific tragedy in his mind.  The church was spending money on itself while abandoning the needs of the people.  John turned to craigslist.  He just went off and craigslisted a bunch of stuff the church owned in order to meet the needs of those around him.   (okay, not really craigslist… But you know what I mean!)

This made John an incredibly popular man, while at the same time making him an incredibly hated man.  John, however, could handle this.  John preached a message that sounded much like the script of the movie Blood Diamond.  He says this, “The gold bit in your horse, the gold circlet on the wrist of your slave, the gilding on your shoes, mean that you are robbing the orphan and starving the widow.  When you have passed away, each passer-by who looks upon your great mansion will say, ‘How many tears did it take to build that mansion; how many orphans were stripped; how many widows wronged; how many laborers deprived of their honest wages?’ Even death itself will not deliver you from your accusers.”  WOW!

The Church, Hagia SophiaJohn preached the word faithfully, from his heart, with incredible skill time and time again from one of the largest churches in all of Christendom, Hagia Sophia.   This is one of the reasons that John Chrysostom has left the legacy that he has.  Even when he was exiled for preaching the truth no matter what it cost he remained faithful.  The emperor Arcadius banished Chrysostom to the smallest town he could find.  The goal was to minimize the voice of John Chrysostom.  This didn’t stop John.  John may not have had a pulpit, but he had a pen.  He began to write.  Thankfully he did.  We have many of his works today because of the writing that took place then.

John Chrysostom on his deathbed traveled to a small church in order to take communion.  At this small church John uttered some of the most beautiful words that could have come out of this legends mouth.  He said, “In all things, glory to God.  Amen.”

John of Constantinople was given the name Chrysostom because it means golden tongue.  John’s colleagues and his own teacher wanted him to teach and lead in the market place.  John was wanted by everyone and on all sides.  However, John didn’t give in.  He remained faithful to the calling that God had placed on his life.  He preached the word faithfully and with great courage.

I would like to thank John Chrysostom for being an example of humility and also of integrity for the church.  I wish that we had learned from you early on.

~Peter

A great resource to read up on Christian History is a book by Justo L. Gonzalez called, “The Story of Christianity”.  You can purchase it at Amazon.com here.  
 
Other Posts in this series:
1.  Augustine of Hippo

Building On Our Legacy: Augustine of Hippo

Building on our legacy

Over the course of the next several days, I’d like to take a look at a few individuals  who have made a significant impact on our Christian History.  These individuals have lived exemplary lives and are worth talking about.  The issue is that very often we get hung up on the latest and greatest names.  Believe me I love these people too, the Francis Chan’s of the world.  But what about the St. Francis’ of yesteryear?  There is so much that we can learn from them and the contributions that they have made to the Christian faith.

No matter who you are, where you come from, or what language you speak, you have probably heard of a guy by the name of Saint Augustine.  Saint Augustine, before he was known as such was known as the son of Monica.  Monica’s little boy, Augustine, was really smart and he showed a ton of potential.  So much potential that his parents decided to invest everything they had into his education.  They gave up all of their savings in order to send him to the finest schools that money could buy.  Eventually his parents money ran out and he had to return home.  This wasn’t the end of his education.  There were others who saw incredible talent in Augustine.  He was able to go to Carthage to continue his studies and while in Carthage he became a student of rhetoric.  This means that he learned how to speak and write convincingly.  You could say that Augustine became a rock star communicator.

St. Augustine, Author of ConfessionsInterestingly enough, Augustine wasn’t at first concerned with what he was communicating.  His only concern was that he was communicating.  It was only after  reading Cicero, (a master speaker, and philosopher) that Augustine felt like the content of what he was communicating mattered just as much as the fact that he was communicating.  He became convinced that he also needed to seek the truth.

Soon, Augustine in his quest for truth decided that he would abandon his professorship in order to attain that which was most important, truth.  Augustine had two main issues with the truth that Christianity taught.  One issue was that the Bible seemed to present the truth in such a lowly way.  It didn’t fit into his neat little molds and forms that his background in rhetoric allowed for.  The second thing was that he couldn’t understand how if God was so good, that He could allow/create evil.  These were the issues that Augustine spent many years wrestling through.

Augustine decided that he would devote his entire life to Christ.  He would not be lukewarm about anything.  He would be completely sold out to the Christian faith.  One of the things that Augustine wrestled with in this decision was the fact that he knew this meant his life had to change.  See, Augustine liked the things of this world.  Augustine liked the women, the life, and every other thing that he desired.  This would have to change.  He struggled through an intense time where he had to figure out who was going to rule in his life.  Would it be Sin, or would it righteousness?  He eventually chose righteousness.

Free Will, Funny PictureAs Augustine’s fame grew, so did his platform.  He was eventually ordained to serve as Bishop of Hippo.  As Bishop of Hippo, Augustine began to make a huge impact on the Christian world.  He wrestled with thoughts and questions that have set up future generations of believers.  It is because of his time here that he has become one of the most influential theologians.  Two things that Augustine determined that have forever shaped our lives.  The first is that Augustine was a champion for Free Will.  He believed that man had a free will and was not a slave to whatever God wanted him to do.  This was huge.  The other major contribution that Augustine made was his Just War Theory.  This theory stated that there was a right time and also a wrong time to go to war.  For a war to be just it must never be fought over territorial ambitions, or to exercise power.  It must be fought and led by proper authorities and lastly it also must be motivated by love.     On top of these things, Augustine also made significant contribution to the literary world.  He wrote  many works, with one of his most famous works being “Confessions”.

Augustine has been one of the most influential theologians throughout the centuries.  But one of the most interesting things about Augustine is that he was a normal guy like you and me.  He wasn’t born with a halo around his head.  In fact, quite the contrary, this dude lived a wild life.  He grew tired of that, and found that he needed to change.  It was at the point of change that God grabbed a hold of him and rocked the world.

What would it look like if God got a hold of your life?  I bet He could rock the world through you too!

~Peter

A great resource to read up on Christian History is a book by Justo L. Gonzalez called, “The Story of Christianity”.  You can purchase it at Amazon.com here.  

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