Michael Minkoff, Jr. is an author, editor, and producer from north Georgia. He is the author of a book of poems (The Landfill of Discount Messiahs), a non-fiction narrative (If I Live to Tell), a treatise on the Bible and art (According to His Excellent Greatness), and hundreds of articles featured on a number of blogs.
One of the things that sets Minkoff apart as an author and thinker is his inter-disciplinary commitment to a lack of specialization. Equally interested and conversant in science, art, theology, politics, philosophy, mathematics, literature, and history, Minkoff brings these seemingly disparate disciplines together in a carefully balanced network of understanding. His metaphors can at times be scientific and his science is often poetic. It is this commitment to the integration of knowledge that continues to prove itself vital in our overly compartmentalized world. As he writes in According to His Excellent Greatness:
Through the Incarnate Christ, we have access to “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” which includes both immanent and transcendent treasures. God, the immanent and transcendent, has revealed knowledge to us in Christ, His Word, in a way that we can understand. But we must be careful. As fallen humans, finite even in perfection, we will never be absolutely transcendent over or absolutely immanent in reality. This means that we must rely on God’s revelation of Himself to us. The major problem with most science is that it attempts to achieve absolute transcendence through methodological objectivism. This doesn’t work. The problem with most art is that it attempts an absolute immanence through methodological subjectivism. This also fails.
Intimacy with God is the only path to true knowledge.
I was born Michael Minkoff, Jr. to Charles Michael “Mike” Minkoff, Sr. and Deborah Lynn Minkoff. I was fifth born, the only boy in a family with six children.
At an early age, I showed an aptitude for learning in most disciplines. My parents nurtured my love of reading and encouraged me to write and to create. I started writing (bad) poetry before I was ten.
Over time, I proved to be a singularly obstinate and proud person, butting heads with nearly every authority figure in my life and alienating myself completely from my peers.
I graduated early from high school and went straight to the Georgia Institute of Technology, the alma mater of both my father and second-oldest sister. After about three semesters, I failed out of Chemical Engineering and began working at a food processing company that held contracts with Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Little Debbie. I lost this job as well, and largely for the same reason. I always wanted to do things my own way.
It was around this time that God began to work in me most significantly. Having begun to learn music production and instrumentation, I moved to Monterey, CA with a friend to pursue our musical interests. It was there that I met my wife, Vanessa Young.
I had been raised a Christian in a strict Reformed Presbyterian household. Even after I had jettisoned the rules I had been given as a youth, I never disbelieved that what I had been taught was the intellectual truth.
When I met Vanessa Young, she was not a Christian and I was not living like a Christian. But she was searching for answers, and I figured I had plenty to give her. And to my absolute surprise, she was born again. God used her transformation to teach and convict me, and I immediately began my reconciliation with the church.
The Landfill of Discount Messiahs
I began work on my first book of poems in 2005, after my marriage to Vanessa. It is evidence of a significant change in my approach to writing and thinking that came as a result of my growing relationship with Jesus.
I moved back to Georgia in 2005 and returned to Georgia Tech in a different major: Science, Technology, and Culture, from which I graduated in 2007.
Before this point in my life, I had viewed my insight and my learning as my own—something for my own personal gratification. Due to this, my writings had been intensely personal and selfish, trinkets for my own amusement. I did not care what others thought and I had no desire to communicate to others.
My first and only teacher of poetry, Thomas Lux, challenged me concerning this approach. In our first meeting, Lux commended my techniques but urged me to adopt a different attitude:
Who are you writing this for? If it is only for yourself, it is pointless. Writing is about communication. If you cannot be understood, you have failed as a writer. Your writing is abstract and obtuse. You can and should change that. The sooner, the better.
I took this to heart, and began a painstaking process of learning new habits. The Landfill of Discount Messiahs is the product of that transition. It is all poetry I wrote in the two years I spent finishing my degree. I took numerous poetry workshop classes with Lux, who helped me immensely throughout the process of retooling my creative methods.
The Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal
In 2008, I co-founded the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal. Since then, I have been the main visionary for the Foundation, writing its manifesto (According to His Excellent Greatness) and doing much of the production leg work in the numerous artistic endeavors the Foundation has undertaken.
My main motivation for starting the Nehemiah Foundation was two-fold: the state of the Christian arts and the birth of my first children, twin girls. After they were born, I began thinking about what kind of art I would introduce to them. And this thought was quite discouraging. Aside from the abundance of excellent Christian art that had been created before my lifetime, I could think of only a handful of living Christian artists who were making excellent art.
After an extensive amount of research, I came to the conclusion that there were very many Christian artists in the world producing great art, but the art market had been constructed in such a way that those artists would probably never reach a wide audience. So I began looking for foundations and collectives designed to find and promote excellent Christian art. I could find none.
The need was great and it wasn’t being filled, so I decided to try to do something about it myself. After discussing many options with my father, we decided to found the Nehemiah Foundation to find and fund great Christian art for our own generation.
According to His Excellent Greatness
After setting up the Nehemiah Foundation, I began working on an aesthetic manifesto I could use to explain to artists and the church what the Nehemiah Foundation stands for.
The book is unique as far as books on aesthetics go, in that it is narrow in its scope and focus. I write almost exclusively on the biblical principles that apply to aesthetics—from the consumer to the artist—without writing in any great detail on any particular aesthetic forms.
This was intentional. Books on aesthetics often read like art appreciation textbooks: documenting different artistic movements and their representative artists, taking up hundreds of pages to present a more or less exhaustive description of the path artists have taken without much discussion of the path artists should take. But we as Christians should draw a distinction between the aspects of art that have no necessary moral content—forms and methods—and those aspects that compose the moral and ideological pith, the meaning, of art. Though artists may produce art through any number of valid methods, the meaning of a given art object—the intent and ideological content of it—is not merely subjective.
According to His Excellent Greatness, though short, is dense. For this reason, I have chosen to record an audio book version that I hope will make it more accessible to a wider audience.
In addition to being a writer and an editor, I also write lyrics and music for Physick, a collaborative effort between myself and NFfCR music director Phil Hodges.
For more info on Physick, visit our page.