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inSpired by Faith and the Arts
I found the “inSpire Interactive” piece [fall 2006, p. 8] about the hands in Rembrandt’s painting [of the Prodigal Son] interesting. We had just spent a few Sundays on that parable. I have seen the painting many times in the Hermitage, and it is very large. I consulted books on Rembrandt, including the best one by Bob Haak. He has a full folio page on the painting and also a full page on the two hands to show the amazing detail.

However, there is no reference in his discussion to the speculation that Rembrandt may have painted a woman’s and a man’s hand. Haak does say that Rembrandt painted this painting very late in his life, and may not have completed it. The figures of the other people in the painting, like the brother, are not painted with the same quality as the father and son. The supposed man’s hand does not seem completed, certainly not the fingers.

We also should not forget that women used their hands as much as men. In many ways their work was rougher. I still see my mother’s hands, which did the laundry, as we had no machines. And women worked as hard on the farm as men.

Finally, I have my doubts whether Rembrandt thought in terms of a male and female God. He would have been 350 years ahead of his time.
Rimmer de Vries
Camano Island, Washington

The First Presbyterian Church in Henderson, North Carolina, is celebrating the tenth year of the O.B. Moore Art Project, an annual call for works of art that reflect on theological terms. Each year four concepts, such as alienation, hope, mercy, or greed, are offered to the public as topics for original works of art. Any medium will be accepted. There are cash prizes for the top three pieces. The church displays the work for a year, and has the right of first refusal to buy it. This is one small way we attempt to be patrons of the arts, as the church has always been.
Rick Brand (M.Div., 1968)
Henderson, North Carolina

_________

I was so pleased to read the article by Dr. Gordon Graham, “The Good, the True, and the Beautiful,” in the fall issue. I became even more excited as I read the reflections by PTS alums about faith and art [in inSpire Interactive].

After thirty-five years of teaching, I chartered a nonprofit organization called Center for Faith & the Arts. In March we began our thirteenth year. We focus on architecture, cinema, dance, drama, fine art, literature, music, photography, and sculpture. The faith aspect is the Judeo-Christian tradition; our motto, “Where love of the arts meets the depths of faith.”

We present programs, maintain a small library of resources, and have a dance troupe, some of whose members are professional dancers, called The St. Thomas Players. We publish a magazine, Muse & Spirit, available free of charge. Subscribe at our web site, www.faithart.org.
J. Daniel Brown (Th.M., 1960)
Salisbury, North Carolina

Both a Scientist and a Believer
I write in response to John Powers’s piece “Science, Theology, and the Theory of Evolution” in Letters in the fall 2006 issue.
The Language of God by Francis Collins, who headed the Human Genome Project, is compelling reading on the topic. Collins is a believer with impeccable scientific credentials. He discusses all aspects of evolution versus creationism, from the viewpoints of both science and believer. As someone who comes from a background of microbiology research (I worked in Merck’s research labs for eleven years), the book illuminated for me that one can be both a scientist and a believer.

When considering first causes, one cannot separate the whole person into parts—physical, mental, and spiritual. That is the basic difficulty with the approach of “science.” This seems to be what Mr. Powers is trying to do.
I suggest this book as a “must read” for anyone concerned with this issue.
Terry Holland
Fresno, California

Rebuilding Beirut: NCC Stands with the People of Lebanon
I read “Ceasefire among the Cedars: Rebuilding Beirut” in the last issue of inSpire and recalled visiting Paul Haidostian and his family in their home in Beirut in October with a delegation from the National Council of Churches USA after the terrible conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. The calm of that afternoon bore no resemblance to the terror of thirty-four days of bombing a few weeks before. The purpose of the visit was to stand with the people of Lebanon, to offer comfort and help, and to ask what message we could carry to our churches and our government in the United States.

Signs of rebuilding were already visible, and beyond the despair of yet another destruction of the country, we could sense the determination to rebuild. Now several months into this year some of the worst fears Paul wrote about are surfacing, and what began as peaceful demonstrations to bring down the government are now accompanied by violence that threatens the fragile unity of a people whose deep desire is for peace for their children and a sovereignty that is respected by Lebanon’s armed and powerful neighbors.

The Christian community in Lebanon is declining at an alarming pace; one Orthodox leader expressed the fear that in fifty years there would be no Christians in the country.

Our delegation met with government officials, the chief Sunni and Shia clerics, and leaders of the Greek and Armenian Orthodox and the Maronite (Catholic) Churches. We met with Quakers at a Friends school, walked in the rubble of a once-vibrant Shiite neighborhood of 25,000, and saw the ruins of several villages in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese want to be left alone and to demonstrate, once again, that Muslim, Christian, and Jew can live together in peace.

Violence is not the answer in this conflict or any other—neither the acts of terror of those desperate to be heard, nor the state violence of a nation whose memories of holocaust fuel the fury of its retaliation.

Paul Haidostian is one of several PTS alums whose witness is both a challenge and an inspiration to the Seminary community and to an enlightened Christian community in the United States. Johnny Awwad (Ph.D., 1996) and Najla Abou-Sawan Kassab (M.Div., 1990) and Joseph Kassab (Th.M., 1989), are also in critical positions of leadership in the church in Lebanon. Paul warned us in his essay that “…globalization of all sorts of processes and realities in the world will…mean that the insecurity of one is the insecurity of all, a lesson we should have learned from our Christian faith….” I pray we claim our relationship to those who have lived and studied among us and work toward a world in which our shared humanity as children of God is valued above all else.
Michael Livingston (M.Div., 1974; Th.M., 1991)
President of the National Council of Churchese