Fujimura Institute

    I was excited, several months ago, to find that Makoto Fujimura was beginning his own art institute.  My friend, Wes Sumrall, and I had long discussed the desire we have to learn from Mako, and this institute provides the possibility.  In the light of this excitement, I am going to do a basic review of the F.I.’s purpose and work, and then explain my delight in one of their newest creations.
    The Institute has one main goal, and works that goal out in two specific ways.  First, the Fujimura Institute organizes panel discussions and collaborative exhibitions.  This is good in and of itself, but it sounds remarkably like IAM, an organization previously founded by Fujimura.  In this sense, the Institute functions as an educational element of IAM itself.  There is also a second, more specific goal to the Institute.  It trains a select group of men and women to carry on the work of Nihonga, an ancient Japanese form of painting.  This aspect of the Institute is fascinating to me in that there has been little desire, within the art community, to train artists in a particular method of art-making.  Our culture prizes the idea of independent and self-made artisans who defy all traditional media and method.  In response to the world-views that have created this cultural view of the artist, we find that the Institute’s main goal is to be ‘regenerative’, restoring to the art community what has been lost through “fractured, fragmented modern perspectives” by constructing a “whole view of the world” in collaboration and community.  
    If I wanted to critique anything about this endeavor, it is simply in that it holds to a narrowed view of what constitutes a “fractured, fragmented” perspective.  Even if we take-for-granted that all or most modern perspectives are “fractured”, we cannot argue that only modern perspectives are fractured.  What of the ancient religions that permeate today’s culture?  Are Theravada Buddhism, Shaivism, Baalism, Kabbalism, Suni-Shiite-Sufi Islam considered holistic perspectives on reality?  In this sense there is a kind of narrowing of vision in the main endeavor of the Institute.  To heal a culture from fragmented perspectives, what is not needed is simply a community, but a community rooted in Christ—the Church.  What a degenerate culture needs is the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
    However, I assume that Fujimura already understands this, as he is involved in his own local church.  So, my critique is really more of a question: to what extent is this artist’s movement capable of being “regenerative”?  First, we must necessarily understand the use of “regenerative” to be an analogy  to the Bible’s use of regeneration.  If we understand “regenerative” to be an analogy, then the Institute can be successful in its endeavors.  A culture really can be renewed by a return to historic practices.  In truth, many modern views have created a culture that disdains continuity with historic and beneficial traditions. I argue that a good step towards healing is taken when a community works together to maintain useful and beneficial traditions, and to discuss practices and thoughts.  But, in no way does this mean that our culture can be regenerated, in the Biblical sense, by anything other than the Holy Spirit confirming what the Scriptures say about Christ.
    To get in on the discussion, you should check out Fujimura’s newest book:

A Friend’s Winter Work


the view from my living room. 

Shout out to my friend, Wes.

Towards a Theology of Aesthetics


    A year or two ago I wrote an essay titled, “The Aesthetic Covenant”.  Prior to any reading on covenant theology I had proposed that: a.God made a covenant with mankind in the garden (Genesis 1:26-30 and 2:16-17)   b. Adam and Eve violated this covenant (Genesis 3:1-6), and yet  c. The blessings and commandments (be fruitful and multiply, have dominion) of this covenant are still in effect (Genesis 3:23).  Thus I proposed that an aspect of this covenant, which I now understand as the Covenant of Works, is aesthetic in nature.  I argued that prior to the Fall, when Adam names the animals and writes a poem about Eve, he is being obedient to God’s commands.  Similarly, after the fall, God’s curses are upon the commands—though the commands remain.  Also, Adam renames Eve.  Herman Bavinck summarizes this well, 

The punishment is also a blessing…that the man will continue living, that he will not immediately fall prey to death, as he had deserved…With that expectation, the first man changed the name of his wife…humanity retains the task entrusted to it from the beginning of creation. (14, The Christian Family)

     What logically follows a study of the Covenant of Works is the question of necessity: is it still necessary to obey these commands if Christ Jesus has perfectly obeyed them for us?  He is our Covenant Representative, our Federal Head, after all, so why should we be expected to keep the demands given to our forefathers in the garden? But God plainly teaches us that though Christ has perfectly kept the demands of the Covenant of Works, we are still supposed to be obedient to God’s law (Romans 3:31) because it flows from His character.  The law is not an arbitrary imposition upon us, but reveals the holiness, goodness, and wisdom of God.  Because the hearts of God’s children are regenerated by the Spirit, we are given the desire to keep God’s commandments. For this reason we are urged to maintain our initial commands:  be fruitful and multiply, subdue the earth, and have dominion.

     If we are mandated to work in a way that demands artisanship and aesthetic sensibility, then an important and necessary step for the theologian is to grasp what the Scriptures teach about the nature of aesthetics:  ’what is aesthetics? why is there ‘aesthetic experience’? How should we make things?’   As such, it is my goal to study the writings of former theologians on this subject, as well as make my own study of the Scriptures.  This blog, then, will be a catalogue of my research.


Interview with Jacob Rowan

This isn’t much of a blog post.  It is mainly a link.  Check out my interview with Jacob Rowan here Jacob is a good friend, and a faithful worker in Christ.  You should all take a look around his website when you finish.  Also, hopefully this interview will peak your interest in the nature of aesthetics.  I am hoping to write more about the relation of theology and philosophy to aesthetics, and particularly to author prologomena on theology’s explanation of aesthetics.  More to follow!