“Restoration” of Jesus “Portrait” Goes Wrong

Anyone seen this article in the NY Times yet?

Botched Restoration of Ecce Homo Fresco

(Hope the link works. It was kinda iffy when I clicked over there)

Three versions of "ecce homo" fresco

Three versions of “ecce homo” fresco. Left to right, the original painting by Elías García Martínez, 19th Century; a deteriorated version; the restored version by Cecilia Giménez.

This article was actually brought up on my writing forum today, and I had to share. Reactions there, among Christians, atheists, agnostics, and people of many different religions, were anything from horror to hysterical laughter to eye rolling. I was one of the laughers, actually, and I mean slap-my-thigh-and-rock-back-and-forth laughter. I had to wonder, Did Jesus chuckle over it, too? Did he applaud the woman?

I could only see the humor in this after having read Beautiful Outlaw. Otherwise, I might have been just as scandalized as the people of Spain. I laughed as hard at the “restoration” as I did at the original. In fact, the original makes me cringe — far more than the restoration. Wait, I said, does he look happy, wistful, to have that crown of thorns pressed into his skin? Where’s the blood that poured out for us? Wait, there it is, one little drop on his forehead. This particular pose must have taken place before the floggings, or maybe the floggings just tickled a bit. And the mockery? Na-na-na-boo-boo, said the Romans. What kind of truth is the original supposed to be portraying anyway?

If you can’t tell, it’s the original painting that scandalizes me. And the world’s treatment of this poor lady who dared reach out a hand and attempt to recreate that silly, beloved portrait. What kind of hate mail is she receiving today? How are her neighbors treating her? Shatter the world’s perceptions of Jesus and we might as well move to Mars.


Thoughts on the Mars Landing

I love this geeky stuff, no mistake. I love seeing what humanity is capable of accomplishing. But most of all, I love that this geeky stuff causes me to reflect on how infinite and creative our God is. But listening to scientists talk about these amazing things inevitably fills me with sadness and frustration.

This 3 minute video is a rundown on the complexity of the landing, the riskiness involved, and at the end, a scientist explains why they have made this attempt:

Mars Rover’s “Seven Minutes of Terror”

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

Note especially the scientist’s statement that “if life is found there, my conclusion would be that life is easy, it’s a natural process, and that the universe is littered with places that have life. And I think that would be a pretty spectacular find.”

My immediate reaction was, “No! That would not be spectacular. How much more spectacular to find that life is NOT easy, that it is a miracle, that it was created in a very unique place, in an inexplicable way, by an act of love.” That would be a spectacular discovery.

This brings to mind Dr. William Lane Craig’s arguments in On Guard (the blurb and my rating can be found on my Recommended Reading page) in which he gives explains the excessively small chance that life exists at all. Dr. Craig isn’t making this stuff up; he’s just quoting the numbers. Numbers that all scientists, like our hopeful idealist in the video, have access to and seem to forget about:

Astronomers have been stunned by the discovery of how complex and delicate a balance of initial conditions must be present in the big bang itself if the universe is to permit the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos. This delicate balance of initial conditions has come to be known as the “fine-tuning” of the universe for life.

Now what scientists have been surprised to discover is that these constants and quantities must fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of values for the universe to be life-permitting.

Fine tuning in this neutral sense is uncontroversial and well established. Physics abounds with examples of fine-tuning. … The so-called weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which operates inside the nucleus of an atom, is so finely tuned that an alteration in its value by even one part of 10 to the 100th power (that’s 10 followed by 100 zeroes) would have prevented a life-permitting universe!

Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of  [a] low-entropy state’s existing by chance alone is on the order of one chance out of 10 to 10th power to the 123rd power, a number that is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement.

The fine-tuning here is beyond comprehension. Having an accuracy of even one part out of 10 to the sixtieth power is like firing a bullet toward the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light-years away, and nailing a one-inch target!

The examples of fine-tuning are so many and so various that they aren’t likely to disappear with the advance of science. Like it or not, fine-tuning is just a fact of life that is scientifically well established.

By contrast the odds of our solar system’s suddenly forming by the random collision of particles is one chance out of 10 to the 10th power to the 60th power.

On Guard, p. 107-109, 119

And the NASA scientist above hopes to find that “life is easy.” 🙂 Good luck with that, man. If it comforts you to hope that life is easily come by and that you are common in the great universe, go for it. You’re most welcome to that hope. On the other hand, I prefer to believe I am rare and precious and deeply loved by one who crafted me with a purpose in mind. Hey, numbers are numbers, and those numbers say I am rare, indeed.

Review: Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge

cover of beautiful outlawOur group finally finished this amazing book. There is simply so much good content in it that it’s hard to focus on what to say about it.

First and foremost, it changes everything. It has changed my view of Jesus. It has changed my view of myself in relation to Jesus. It has changed my view of religious practices that skew my view of both Jesus and myself. It lets me know that it’s okay that I grew up not fitting into the church culture. My instincts were spot-on. But no one told me that until now.

While reading Beautiful Outlaw, the four books of the Bible that feature Jesus’s life stop sounding like paintings on the Vatican wall. Nor are his lofty sayings something to be puzzled over and deciphered by us mere mortals; they are filled with humor, sarcasm, wit, ferocity — and they make sense! Why? Because Eldredge painstakingly explores the multifaceted personality of Jesus. He helps his readers reestablish the fact that God does have a personality — and one that is not all lightning bolts or chubby baby cherubs. The first facet Eldredge explores is Jesus’s playfulness. God? Playful? You bet. And it’s one heck of an icebreaker. Other facets of who he is and what he’s like fall under chapter headings like “Extravagant Generosity,” “Fierce Intention,”  “Scandalous Freedom,” and “Cunning.” Jesus, cunning? How else did he win debates against those learned men? Scandalous? One isn’t hated and hunted when one plays it safe.

The last third of the book then explores how we are to respond to this information. This may not be the Jesus we learned about in Sunday school, and so this book is challenging, as well as eye-opening. Sick of doom and gloom Jesus? Give this book a shot. Unable to live up to holier-than-thou Jesus? Read this book. And this is where I will step on toes: if a follower of Christ can read Beautiful Outlaw cover to cover and not love Jesus on a deeper level, a more concrete, real, life-changing level, there is something scary going on.


If church culture is offensive to you or causes you to step away and ask, “Why do they act like that? Why do they talk like that?”, or if Jesus has long been “that good guy in the sky” and you long for more, this is the book, folks. Each chapter brings Jesus into sharp focus, from airy and mysterious, to immediate, real, in the flesh with dust on his feet.

This is a book I will return to over and over again. It’s already marked up, fingerprinted, dogeared, and dirty. Sorta like Jesus must’ve looked after a long walk between towns. It earns a solid five fish:

5-fish rating



***Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, published by Faith Words (2011), may be found online and in your local bookstore.