Those who keep up with me on this blog know that I’ve been doing some things with Scandinavian Christians. In Finland a while back, I spoke at an apologetics conference about imagination and the arts, drawing on my recent book with Matt Ristuccia, Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind.
(Also from that conference: I met and was introduced to the work of Klaus Härö, a major award-winning Finnish filmmaker, who happens to be an evangelical, Lutheran Christian. More on him later after I finish tracking down all of his movies that are available here.)
As I have blogged about, the mission societies in the Scandinavian countries–rather than the state churches–are the bastions of conservative, evangelical, Lutheran, confessional Christianity. And they continue to do the work that got them started a couple of centuries ago: sending missionaries. Having played a big role in the evangelization of Africa, as well as starting churches in the early days of the United States, the mission societies today do not draw back from some of the toughest and most dangerous challenges, such as reaching Muslims in Afghanistan.
I was approached by a missionary to Israel, Terho Kanervikkoaho, who was at the conference and who is the editor of Mishkan, a journal for Israeli Christians and Jewish Christians more generally. (See, for example, their two special issues on Luther and the Jews, here and here.) They were planning an issue focusing on the arts and invited me to contribute.
I thought that the perfect topic would be what I had already written about the calling and the gifts of Bezalel, the artist of the Tabernacle, a topic that opens up into the other teachings of the Bible about the arts. I wrote about this in my book State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe. That section, in turn, was taken from my very first book, The Gift of Art: The Place of the Arts in Scripture.So I got permission from my publisher, Crossway, to reprint the two key chapters as a contribution to Mishkan. You can read the article here.
It was strange and oddly gratifying to work over material from my very first book–which got me started as a Christian writer–having retired and now being closer to the end of my writing career. Bezalel represents the first treatment of vocation in the Bible. At the time, I mentioned that, but little did I know that I would be studying vocation much more extensively, to the point of writing three books on the topic. I saw in this project how my writing has had a unity throughout my career from beginning to end, all tied together here in a bow.
Illustration: Bezalel and Oholiab, from the Nuremberg Bible Biblia Sacra Germanaica (15th century) [Public Domain]