Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 5

NickOfTime

Fundamentalism and Sentimentalism

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The evangelical mixture from which Fundamentalism developed made serious concessions to populism. Charles Finney took those concessions to an extreme by patterning the inner ministry of the church after the worlds of commerce, politics, and entertainment. Finney made these adaptations at the precise moment when popular culture was coming into existence. The result was that the predecessors of Fundamentalism invested heavily in adapting their Christianity to popular culture. Fundamentalism inherited this link with popular culture and has perpetuated it rather consistently through the years.

Popular culture came into its own during the Victorian-Edwardian era.1 It provided a channel through which Victorian influences began to affect the lived Christianity of most American evangelicals, and consequently of the Fundamentalists who came after them. While Fundamentalists have not been alone in attempting to assimilate popular culture into Christianity, they have been among the foremost.

One of the main characteristics of Victorian popular culture was its sentimentalism. Victorians did not invent sentimentalism, but they made it a significant aspect of their mental and emotional furniture. As the predecessors of Fundamentalism absorbed Victorian popular culture, they imported its sentimentalism into their Christianity.2

Sentimentalism is more than simple overindulgence in emotion. It is a combination of two factors. First, it attaches the wrong degree or kind of emotion to an object. Second, it pursues emotion for the sake of the emotion itself.

Historically, Christians understood each object or activity to merit a certain emotional response (an ordinate affection). To feel more strongly toward a thing than it merited was considered sentimental; to feel less strongly was considered brutal. Alternatively, to direct toward one thing a feeling that rightly belonged to another was also either sentimental or brutal, depending upon the quality of the feeling and its harmony with the object.

Sentimental people mismatch feelings to objects by incorrectly perceiving the value of the objects themselves. They smooth out or eliminate the complicated nature of being and feeling. Consequently, the feelings themselves are sweetened or otherwise imbalanced.3

Dickens is a good illustration of sentimentalism. His characters tend to be one-dimensional stereotypes. Feelings aroused by those characters are clichéd and, from a later perspective, simply corny. For example, little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop is such an impossibly sweet character that it is ridiculous to think of her as human at all. She is more like a porcelain doll. When Nell dies, the reader is supposed to be overcome with pathos. A person who understands what real thirteen-year-olds are like, however, is more likely to be overcome with the humor of the situation. Dickens attempted to evoke a sense of sorrow that far outweighed the value of Nell’s character.4

Nell was one of Dickens’s most popular characters. Why? Because sentimentalism is more concerned with the experience of the emotion than with its object. Dickens’s readers really wanted to feel the kind of bathetic sadness that he tried to evoke. Their clichéd grief, however, was very different from the misery that one experiences at the grave of a real girl. It was a feeling that people could relish. They could and did wallow in it. Their faux sorrow existed for its own sake, not for the sake of the plastic character toward whom it was directed.

A sentimental person is more interested in the feeling than in the object. The feeling must be quickly aroused and predictable. The words stereotype and cliché really are applicable to the process that occurs.

Because sentimentalism exists for the sake of the emotion, the focus naturally turns toward the individual who feels the emotion. As sentimentalism develops, it focuses less and less upon the object of sentiment, and more and more upon the quality of the sentiment itself. A sentimental song cannot say why a boy loves a girl. All it can say is how very, very, very much he loves her. As people become more sentimental they become more and more occupied with their own inner states, eventually resulting in profound self-absorption.

The consequences of sentimentalism for Christianity were profound. For example, sentimentalism changed the very categories in which unconditional election and efficacious calling were debated. Previous generations had resorted mainly to arguments about the nature of freedom (this approach can be found as late as Finney). The new sentimentalism, however, completely changed the way that people saw God. God was no longer complicated. He was no longer terrible in His holiness. He was not a God who hid Himself or who left His children weeping in perplexity.5 Rather, His fundamental attribute became niceness. God was now thought to be the quintessence of fair-mindedness. Such a God would never barge into an unresponsive heart. Furthermore, His niceness and even-handedness required Him to do everything that He could possibly do for every single sinner. It was unthinkable that God might do more for some (call them the “elect”) than He might do for others.6

Salvation was also sentimentalized. The unsaved were no longer regarded as rebels, lawbreakers, and criminals. They were now seen as poor, lost, lonely wanderers who needed to be shown the way home. The problem with sin was no longer that it scandalized justice and offended moral sense, but that it left the sinner weary, empty, and sad. The question became, “Are you weary? Are you heavy-hearted?” The invitation to salvation was no longer to repent, but to “Come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.” And, of course, the response was, “I’ve wandered far away from God. Now I’m coming home.”

Eternity was sentimentalized. Christians used to think of heavenly places primarily as the throne of God and Christ: “The Prince is ever in them.” Faced with the wonder of their eternal home, the faithful had exclaimed, “Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed!” Such a complicated view of eternity had to be flattened out. Heaven was transformed into a kind of church picnic in which a big family reunion would take place. The redeemed could now express their expectation of a spiritual romp to the rollicking, “Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me.”

Even the Lord Jesus was transformed by the sentimentalism of the age. No longer was He viewed primarily as the transcendent sovereign who was coming to judge the quick and the dead. He was now seen primarily as a friend (oh, such a friend).7 This shift probably grew from a desire to emphasize intimacy with Christ, but it resulted in two gross misapprehensions of spiritual closeness. On the one hand, Christ was envisioned more and more as buddy or chum, and spiritual intimacy gave way to mere familiarity. On the other hand, a growing body of expression began to envision Jesus as a kind of spiritual boyfriend and to speak of intimacy in terms of romantic love. People came to the garden alone while the dew was still on the roses in order to meet the Son of God in a parody of a lover’s tryst. From a later perspective, such expressions seem scandalously comical. At the time, however, there were plenty of people whose vision of spirituality was significantly shaped by such stereotyped clichés.8

Finally, under the influence of sentimentalism the role of the individual changed. Expressions of piety became more subjective and self-focused. The perfections of God and the splendor of His plan were pushed to the side as the emotional experience and expression of the worshipper assumed center stage.

These were the influences that Fundamentalism inherited.9 They are the same influences that continue to affect the movement. The shape of sentimentalism has changed, but Fundamentalists in general have either tried to adapt to its latest expressions or else to perpetuate the older expressions as if they were somehow the faith itself.

The past three essays have attempted to define the intellectual and cultural location of Fundamentalism. They have expounded three influences that shaped the evangelical movement out of which Fundamentalism emerged. Those influences were Common Sense Realism, populism, and sentimentalism. All three influences were detrimental, and all three continue to affect the Fundamentalist movement.

To understand Fundamentalism better, we next need to discuss the theological environment out of which it developed. Before that discussion can take place, however, a few loose ends need to be tied up. To do that, I want to go back and to answer certain nagging questions about the matters we have been discussing. In other words, it is time for a digression.


1 The Victorian era properly ends with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Victorian sensibilities continued to remain influential throughout the Edwardian period, which is typically extended past the death of Edward VII to the end of the Great War. During the Edwardian period, however, a transition was taking place that would produce the Jazz Age following the World War.

2 Victorian sentimentalism is one of the commonplaces of literary and historical discussion. Recently, however, it has come in for a good bit of scholarly examination. One of the more influential recent volumes in Victorian sentimentalism is Fred Kaplan, Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987). Another influential discussion occurs in Murray Roston, Victorian Contexts: Literature and the Visual Arts (New York: New York University Press, 1996). Recent interaction with both of these authors is provided by Suzy Anger, Knowing the Past: Victorian Literature and Culture (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press).

3 A brief but helpful discussion of sentimentalism can be found under the heading “Sentimentality” in Karl Beckson and Arthur Ganz, Literary Terms: A Dictionary (New York: Farrar, Strous and Giroux, 1975), 228-229. See also Thomas Winter, “Sentimentality” in Bret E. Carroll, ed., American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia (New York: Moschovitis Group, 2003), 414-416.

4 For a thorough treatment of Dickens, see George H. Ford, Dickens and His Readers (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955) or, more recently, Mary Lenard, Preaching Pity: Dickens, Gaskell, and Sentimentalism in Victorian Culture (Studies in Nineteenth-Century British Literature, Vol. 11) (New York: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 1999).

5 Psalm 88.

6 My point is not to argue for either side in the debate. It is simply to note the shift in the kinds of arguments that seemed plausible to Christian people. Sentimental arguments about what God’s love or fairness obligate Him to do would have been met with incredulity from both sides a few generations earlier.

7 It is noteworthy that in Scripture, we are never told to address Jesus individually as a friend, though His enemies accused Him of being the friend of publicans and sinners. He names us as His friends, but that is a very different matter. The shift to “friend” language as a norm for defining one’s relationship with Christ represents a very marked downgrading of esteem for Him.

8 There is a legitimate use of marriage imagery to depict the relationship between God and the soul or Christ and the church. Also, Christians have sometimes employed sexual imagery to explain the simultaneous longing and self-forgetfulness of spiritual intimacy, together with the awful nakedness of the soul before God. All of this is miles away from the “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentimentalism of the Victorian period.

9 Daryl Hart, “When Is a Fundamentalist a Modernist? J. Gresham Machen, Cultural Modernism, and Conservative Protestantism,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65:3 (Autumn 1997), 605-633.

The Recovery

Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)

Sin! wilt thou vanquish me?
And shall I yield the victory?
Shall all my joys be spoil’d,
And pleasures soil’d
By thee?
Shall I remain
As one that’s slain
And never more lift up the head?
Is not my Saviour dead?
His blood, thy bane, my balsam, bliss, joy, wine,
Shall thee destroy; heal, feed, make me divine.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm looking forward to seeing how Kevin will deal with the "nagging questions."
Meanwhile, I especially appreciate this installment for giving some names to things.... handles, so we can pick them up and examine them more carefully.

As with common sense and populism, I think there is a danger of overreacting to the sentimentalism problem.
Many of these sentimental songs are only sentimental if you look at them a certain way. That many of them truly are emotionally messed up I don't doubt, but time and distance from their original setting them has actually improved some of them. That is, people don't always sing them today (when they sing them at all) with inordinate sentiment as either the goal or the experience. "Glory for Me" is a good example. I think we may have actually sung that one (either that or I read the lyrics) while preaching through Romans 8... and the motivation--and I think the experience as well--was mainly theological... though also, hopefully, heart-warming.

The danger of running too hard and too fast from "sentimentalism," is rushing into a Christianity that is cold and heartless and purely intellectual. Fundamentalism as a whole has a ways to go before it needs to worry about that, but in some parts it's already cold and lifeless even while in many other neighborhoods it remains superficial and sentimental.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mike Durning's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The danger of running too hard and too fast from "sentimentalism," is rushing into a Christianity that is cold and heartless and purely intellectual. Fundamentalism as a whole has a ways to go before it needs to worry about that, but in some parts it's already cold and lifeless even while in many other neighborhoods it remains superficial and sentimental.

Thanks for the caution to us all, Aaron. I share your concern. Even while some wings of Fundamentalism are clearly overwhelmed with Sentimentalism, others run from it to the opposite extreme. As Dr. Bauder noted, there are right amounts of sentiment to be applied to certain things. Sentiment should be, at least to some extent, a function of value judgment. And, as with all things, the swinging pendulum is a lousy model for correcting the errors of the past.

And thanks to Dr. Bauder for a thought-provoking article.

Charlie's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The danger of running too hard and too fast from "sentimentalism," is rushing into a Christianity that is cold and heartless and purely intellectual. Fundamentalism as a whole has a ways to go before it needs to worry about that, but in some parts it's already cold and lifeless even while in many other neighborhoods it remains superficial and sentimental.

In any piece of persuasive communication, there are some ideas that MUST follow from it, and other ideas which MAY follow from it. An author is only responsible for conclusions which MUST be drawn from his work by good and necessary consequence. To use an example, the doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from works MAY be a stepping-stone to anti-nomianism, but it does not have to be. Therefore, it is considered invalid to charge the Protestant doctrine of justification with anti-nomianism.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I have seen, repeatedly on this site, that there are some people who do not make this distinctions. They run as far as they can down whatever pathway an author takes, and then blame the author when they fall off a cliff. Indeed, perhaps that's where the author intended to lead them all along. Aaron, I'm only quoting you because your post opens this door of speculation, not because I'm accusing you of walking through it. Instead of pointing out the "danger of overreaction," lets just talk about what was actually said. Lets not warn everyone about where this road COULD lead. Then all of our discussions get sidetracked into the various extremes that may or may not result from what Kevin says (and not necessarily by you), and we won't see a whole lot of interaction with what Kevin actually has said. I fear several other discussions about this series have already lost their way to some extent.

So let me put in a plea that this discussion remains in the zone actually established by the article - inordinate affection (too much OR too little OR misdirected) vs. ordinate affection

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Todd Wood's picture

I am into warm fuzzies. My thinking can very quickly abandon cold, hard logic and swim in the pools of subjective emotion.

When I graduated as a senior from a public high school around twenty years ago, I was voted, "Mr. Nice."

(laughing)

But sentimentalism is killing us in the I-15 Corridor. Feelings are everything. Families are the idol. God is nice. And this God is always equally favorable to all. It is all over the pages in the religious books. The message leaps out at you from television commercials. It is promoted in the annual conferences. And it saturates the stories given by the religious authorities.

But the God who is wholly Other . . . Hidden . . . Mysterious. . . This God is looked upon as the corrupt abomination.

Everything is turned completely upside down.

(Of course, my feelings are getting worked up right now, even as I type. It brings me to tears just thinking about all this. Of late, Jeremiah has been a dear friend to me.)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Charlie... I share your interest in not wanting to blame Kevin for conclusions that don't necessary follow from his assertions.
On the other hand, I do believe a communicator not only should, but generally wants to factor in the likely response to his communication, not just the correct response.
But in this case, I wasn't really referring purely to what folks might incorrectly surmise from the essay but to the essay itself. That is, it's not clear to me whether Kevin's view is--in itself--an overreaction to sentimentalism. To be more specific, I've heard him speak (and read his writing) on these topics before and heard him frankly reject the songs he mentions here as having no value at all (along with many others that have been a source of great encouragement to many, many believers going through one trial or another). So, I'm tempted to say "Kevin is overreacting," but I'm trying to be less hasty and more polite and just say "Hey, lets be careful not to overreact."

My own journey in regard to "sentimental" music has gone just about full circle. As a young kid I loved many of these songs. As a teen I hated them for their mixture of Civil War era weepiness and (later) Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers-era sappiness... and, truth be told, for their strong association with my parents' generation. Now, in middle age, I have seen so often--one individual at a time--how much these songs mean to some people. And it goes way, way beyond sentimentalism for them.
So, do I sometimes feel a bit embarrassed to sing "In the Garden" at church? Well, the record of how rarely we've sung it shows. But I take comfort in knowing what this song does for the folks at the nursing home. Of course, I can't see their hearts, so it's just my impression I guess, but many of these sentimental songs stir truly complex and--as far as I can tell--quite ordinate affections in many of the elderly saints when they hear them.

(Though I suppose I'm contradicting myself on my earlier argument that time and distance has partly cured some of these songs of their originial sentimentality)

But don't get me wrong. I think Kevin is mostly right here.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Silverghost's picture

While sentimentalism can go too far in ignoring reality and obscuring the facts of sound doctrine, when a believer realizes the truth and applies it to his life, he easily can yield to sentimental attachment to the experiences God has ordered. Yet the Scripture tells us to remember the past experiences. I get a bit sentimental as I read Eph. 2:10-13 (KJV), remembering the pit, out of which God dug me so many years past..."I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore...; But the Master of the sea...lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me..."

Quote:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Or consider the gift of "exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." This remembrances can enthuse us and impel us to live more holy lives for Christ.

Emotions are a gift of God, of which Dr. Bauder seems to downplay in the songs in which we celebrate God's goodness and his blessings, while also looking forward to eternal blessedness with Him. When I get to heaven, I believe: “Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me.” Yes it will be glory for others, which is implicit in singing the song together. By the energy of the Holy Spirit, the true church should be: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." The emotions of invitational hymns, coupled with reality of man's condition can impel him to make a clear decision to repent and to choose Christ. In this article Dr. Bauder seems to be gutting the enthusiasm of the church for the things of God.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

A. Carpenter's picture

I know the author is dealing specifically with Fundamentalism, but I saw nothing in the article that would distinguish Fundamentalist sentimentalism with the sort of sentimentalism that can be found rampant in the sort of southern evangelicalism that is so prominent where I live. This is obviously a widespread problem. I noticed that Bauder admitted to evangelicalism's acceptance of popular culture, but he advanced Fundamentalism as being "among the foremost." I'd be curious to know what specifically makes Fundamentalism's error more egregious than, say, that of the Southern Baptist, Methodist, and Community churches that occupy 3 corners at every 4-way stop down here in the Deep South.

Faith is obeying when you can't even imagine how things might turn out right.

Charlie's picture

Aaron,

I see. Your familiarity with Bauder allows you to pick up on things that others might not. Nothing wrong with that.

Silverghost,

I think you have effectively demonstrated what I warned against in post #3. Kevin is not "gutting the enthusiasm" out of anything proper (at least, in his view). His post was not in any way against emotions, only the abuse of emotions. Remembering what God has done for you in Christ is the kind of emotion that Kevin would approve of, I'm sure. His purpose in writing is to encourage us to put our emotions where they belong.

Aaron,

I think that Bauder would agree with you about evangelicalism, but is purposely limiting his comments to Fundamentalism. I don't think his omission is a "pass."

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Greg Linscott's picture

Silverghost wrote:
In this article Dr. Bauder seems to be gutting the enthusiasm of the church for the things of God.

Bauder wrote:
The perfections of God and the splendor of His plan were pushed to the side as the emotional experience and expression of the worshipper assumed center stage.

It depends on what you mean, SG. I do think Kevin is saying that "glory for me" should take a definite backseat to the glory of God. I would say he is not so much "gutting the enthusiasm" as he is scrutinizing and concluding much of the expression and focus is imagined improperly. To state it summarily, there is a profound difference in focus between "glory for me" and...

Quote:
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

Both attempt to capture standing in the presence of Jesus- but "glory for me" dwells on the sensation one presumes will be experienced, the other imagines and develops the theme of the glory of the Lamb Himself. I don't think you can say either song lacks enthusiasm- but they differ in what they are enthusiastic about.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Silverghost's picture

Charlie wrote:
Silverghost, I think you have effectively demonstrated what I warned against in post #3. Kevin is not "gutting the enthusiasm" out of anything proper (at least, in his view). His post was not in any way against emotions, only the abuse of emotions. Remembering what God has done for you in Christ is the kind of emotion that Kevin would approve of, I'm sure. His purpose in writing is to encourage us to put our emotions where they belong.
Charlie, I had endeavored to not overreact, yet, Aaron and I seem to see this similarly. As Aaron's "eyewitness" account shows, Dr Bauder may be more adamant than you have evaluated:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
That is, it's not clear to me whether Kevin's view is--in itself--an overreaction to sentimentalism. To be more specific, I've heard him speak (and read his writing) on these topics before and heard him frankly reject the songs he mentions here as having no value at all (along with many others that have been a source of great encouragement to many, many believers going through one trial or another). So, I'm tempted to say "Kevin is overreacting," but I'm trying to be less hasty and more polite and just say "Hey, lets be careful not to overreact."
I do not support the stifling of God's gift of emotional reaction, which Bauder rather seems (note that I've used this term "seems" before) to be excising from the church's experience.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

Dan Miller's picture

Proper affections is an interesting study.

My tendency while reading this is to go, "Wow, you're right! Glory for me?!?!? Did I actually sing that? I'm glad we don't sing that hymn at my church." In my church, we would never write a line like that.

So I appreciate Dr. Bauder's foundation in the first part of this article which said BOTH a lack of affections is bad AND sentimentalism is bad. Sure, he gave many examples of inordinate emotionalism, but this article itself tells us not to run too far the other way, lest we be brutal.

This raises the questions:
What is the method by which we should titrate our emotions?

Are we looking for a point or a range?

What place does culture have in the proper set-point for emotion?
(Watch an Italian couple reunite at the airport, then a Norwegian couple.)

Silverghost's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Silverghost wrote:
In this article Dr. Bauder seems to be gutting the enthusiasm of the church for the things of God.

Bauder wrote:
The perfections of God and the splendor of His plan were pushed to the side as the emotional experience and expression of the worshipper assumed center stage.

It depends on what you mean, SG. I do think Kevin is saying that "glory for me" should take a definite backseat to the glory of God.

Both attempt to capture standing in the presence of Jesus- but "glory for me" dwells on the sensation one presumes will be experienced, the other imagines and develops the theme of the glory of the Lamb Himself. I don't think you can say either song lacks enthusiasm- but they differ in what they are enthusiastic about.

Dear Greg, God has given to us the instructions to sing with the Holy Spirit's empowering: "be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." I consider this not giving us a mandate to make a distinction as to whether He has given me glory, or if I am glorifying God. We are told: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." There will be glory. The verse before in Rom. 8, tells us that we can be "joint-heirs with Christ." That's mind boggling to me.

As I have said, Aaron has a similar reaction as I:

Aaron Blumer wrote:
That is, it's not clear to me whether Kevin's view is--in itself--an overreaction to sentimentalism. To be more specific, I've heard him speak (and read his writing) on these topics before and heard him frankly reject the songs he mentions here as having no value at all (along with many others that have been a source of great encouragement to many, many believers going through one trial or another). So, I'm tempted to say "Kevin is overreacting," but I'm trying to be less hasty and more polite and just say "Hey, lets be careful not to overreact."
It seems also to me that Bauder is overreacting, which would stifle the rightful enthusiasm of the church.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

Greg Linscott's picture

Silverghost wrote:
God has given to us the instructions to sing with the Holy Spirit's empowering: "be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." I consider this not giving us a mandate to make a distinction as to whether He has given me glory, or if I am glorifying God.
I'm not sure what the connection is you intend to make between the verse and the statement you make following it.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Greg Linscott's picture

Quote:
To be more specific, I've heard him speak (and read his writing) on these topics before and heard him frankly reject the songs he mentions here as having no value at all (along with many others that have been a source of great encouragement to many, many believers going through one trial or another).

Aaron,

Out of curiosity, are there songs being produced today under the label of "Christian" or "Gospel" music that you would reject for one reason or another? What if those songs were said to have been a source of great encouragement to many, etc- perhaps even by someone in your congregation who wishes to perform such a song in your church? Does that change anything?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Rob Fall's picture

Beginning in the mid-19th century, Western Europe (to include North America and Australia\New Zealand) saw a shift in some basic economic attitudes. The shift from zero sum economics to growth economics gave people the space for sentiment. No longer did getting a head men beggar thy neighbor.

In zero sum economics, the size of the economic pie is finite. A larger share comes at the expense of someone else. Hence there is little room for sentiment. To put it starkly either your children starve or mine, guess whose I choose. There is an old Russian story:
Vanya was working out in his field, when Micheal the Archangel appeared in front of him.
"Vanya, you have pleased God. so, he has sent me to grant you one wish," said Micheal.
Vanya stood with his head bowed and thought, "Hmm, a cow would be nice. A horse could pull the plow. A pregnant sow would take us through winter."
"Oh, one thing you need to know," said the archangel. "Anything you ask for God will give double to you neighbor Misha."
"In that case," said Vanya. "Take one of my eyes."

In growth economics, the size of the pie can grow. So, while my share may stay steady, the pie grows making it worth more.

The shift meant children no longer had to "grow up" fast. The dead could be "remembered" instead of buried and forgotten. People could afford to be emotional.

I know the above is some what rambling. Sorry.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Charlie's picture

Just to interject on the "glory for me" comments.

1) I think some people may be interpreting that phrase in a sinister way. "Glory for me" does not mean "glory unto me." The word "for" can mean "in the estimation of." For example, "For Luther, to deny the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist was to call Jesus a liar." The phrase "for Luther" there means, "In the estimation of Luther" or "in Luther's view." (BTW, this construction comes from both Greek and Latin, which employ the "ethical dative.") So, the song "O That Will Be Glory" can be charitably and reasonably interpreted as saying, "When by His grace I shall look on His face, I will view that as glorious."

2) Even that being said, Bauder has a point that the song does focus on the individual's sense of glory, rather than what is objectively glorious. What makes heaven glorious (or more accurately, what makes me feel that heaven is glorious) is rather vague - "just to be near the dear Lord," "just a smile from my Savior." These things aren't evil, but it doesn't really paint the same picture that you find in Revelation, which is why Bauder calls it sentimental. For Bauder, (yes, the ethical dative again) the emotion of the song is misdirected.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Greg Linscott's picture

FWIW, I would not disagree with Charlie's last post.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Todd Wood's picture

Silverghost wrote:
We are told: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." There will be glory. The verse before in Rom. 8, tells us that we can be "joint-heirs with Christ." That's mind boggling to me.

And it is for me, too, SG.

As well, these words by Jesus in his prayer are stunning - "And the glory which thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."

Wow. We need to meditate more and more on the precious reality of our union with God. It makes me want to sing and soar. Again, I wonder what fundamental themes the early patristic fathers dwelt upon.

But at the same time, the devil is right there in our midst, seeking to blur the distinction of the derivative glory experienced by the creature in comparison to the glory of the eternal, triune God. Major theological battles in 2009 cause us to scrutinize just what we are singing. The motto, Sola Dei Gloria, does help us from becoming sentimental saps.

[And speaking of glory, you are all invited to the "Behold My Glory" (John 17:24) Conference in Idaho Falls, Idaho, January 29-31, 2010. I make a shameless plug for this. Smile ]

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Romans 8 formed the context for our use of the song recently at our church.
There, Paul points out that our adoption means that we are indeed destined for glory... ourselves. The phrase is "the glory which shall be revealed in us." (8:18) In fact all creation is yearning with great longing for the "reveling of the songs of God" (v.19)... groaning with anticipation (and birth pangs) for the moment when it will be delivered into the "glorious liberty of the children of God" ... a moment apparently synonymous with the "redemption of our body" (8:23)

So we are encouraged there to ponder our sharing in glory as God intends to give that to us because of His grace. That's one reason for singing "glory for me" with zeal. It's doctrinally correct. A second reason has to do with personal context. When you are in the midst of discouraging circumstances, perhaps persecution, loss as a result of godly choices, etc. Part of being faithful is pointing our attention to the future glory... our own.
This is the point of Romans 8:18 (part of the point, anyway).

Where this speaks to sentimentalism is that many of the sentimental songs take on quite a different character when they are the soul's answer to the discouraging and chilling forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. For many, they are how they turn their hearts away from the urge to "faint" and toward the resolve to carry on. It's not that these songs are "right because they work" but rather they work because they are right in the way some use them.

On emotional reactions, etc.
SG, Bauder is not arguing here against "emotional reaction" but against emotion as the goal... goal of songs, worship, teaching etc. That's sentimentalism. Feeling for feeling's sake. And my (possible) disagreement with his view is not on that point. Rather, when he begins to apply the principles he has asserted (principles I buy completely), I begin to think they are being applied too expansively--sounding like "we need to get rid of all these songs as well as anything else that smacks even a little of sentimentalism." We do need to get rid of some songs! We need to be more cautious in the use of quite a few more, both from the "second great awakening" era and our present times (characterized by more sentimentalism than ever).

But the lines get very fine between sentimentalism and the sincere heartfelt longings of a person of simple faith. And I'm not going to give my parents' generation (and far less, their parents' generation) grief about what seems to foster ordinate affections in them, though the material itself is sentimental in character. (I'll draw some lines where the doctrine gets clearly bad though!)

Edit: just saw that someone already made at least part of my point from Rom.8. Sorry for the redundancy there.

Edit: FWIW... musically, I hate the song Glory for Me! Sounds like roller skating music.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Rob Fall's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
SNIP

Edit: FWIW... musically, I hate the song Glory for Me! Sounds like roller skating music.

I believe the song you're thinking of is Make Me A Blessing.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Brent Marshall's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
FWIW... musically, I hate the song Glory for Me! Sounds like roller skating music.
Indeed, to me, that is part of the problem. The skating-rink rhythm contributes significantly to the overall feel of the song. Also, the combination of the words and music really emphasizes the repeated "me" and thus the focus on self.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

David King's picture

Thinking back to an article that Kevin wrote several years ago, I believe he is equally concerned with sappy music as he is with sentimental lyrics. His comments that several of the songs named in these posts are better suited for a calliope and in a roller skating rink are quite apt...and the cause for continuing mirth.

As for the early posts about overreacting v. legitimate conclusions, Douglas Wilson has an excellent article ("Triangles Don't Have Outliers") about generalizations and individualism over at Blog and Mablog.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

- Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th Century
(Translation: Paul Gerhardt, 16th Century)

Of course, there are marked differences from the later sentimentalism throughout Bernard's masterpiece, but seeing Christ as "friend" is not one of them. Just to be clear: I'm not for the "chum" and "best bud" type sentimentalism either, but I'm illustrating just how fine these lines are. And I'm suggesting that the error of sentimentalism is mostly an error of excess.

Surely one important purpose of the incarnation was to give us a God who is immanent, approachable, and sympathetic rather than only transcendent and mysterious and terrifying.
True, the sentimentalism of recent years has almost erased awareness of the transcendent and terrifying reality of God entirely. But, again, an overcorrection also leads to error. We're no better off if we neglect the warm and sympathetic realities of God incarnate.
Hebrews 4:15-16, Hebrews 2:17-18, Luke 7:37-38, Mark 10:13-14

Concluding that the second great awakening era was characterized by sentimentalism--and inordinate affections--is pretty easy. The business of testing our affections and determining whether they are ordinate or inordinate is not so easy... nor is evaluating individual songs or individuals singing them.

(As for "Glory for Me"... I said I hated the music. I did not declare it to be inappropriate. It's jubilant and should be. And I think it's jubilant in a way--musically--that many of the era would not find frivolous, though it sounds sappy to many of us today. It's just out of fashion. But, yes, it is one of many of its kind from that period, when there were way too many of its kind)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I confess to being unable (at least on very limited time) to track completely with Dr. Bauder through the philosophical landscape of the last couple of articles. This one, however, definitely strikes a chord with me (no pun intended)!
As Bauder illustrates the dangers of sentimentalism particularly through the use of music (I will not call them hymns), it made me think immediately of my conservative Lutheran upbringing and the struggles I faced (and which sometimes continue) in transitioning into Baptist Fundamentalism. Believe me, the lyrics referenced here offer no comparison to the hymnody which I had to memorize (with absolute perfection) every Friday morning growing up in my Lutheran school.
Yet, unless you have been there you do not understand the frustration you feel when trying to explain to a Baptist brother that you legitimately miss some elements of the liturgical worship you were raised with -- to say nothing of trying to explain to him that you actually believe (horrors!) some of those items to be more Biblical than their Baptist counterparts!
I am very thankful for people who formed a bridge for me into a world which I truly believe is more Biblical overall. I also wish that someone within "our camp" had been writing these things 20-plus years ago when I was struggling in my formative years.
While we are on the subject of sentimentalism, I will add one more illustration to Bauder's list: "announcements."
I have never figured out how they could possibly be construed to be a legitimate element of a "worship service." In many churches they seem to serve more of a sentimental function than even a pragmatic one, and nothing could be more "self-focused."
I never could understand why Baptists can't read their bulletins, or why some churches go to the bother and expense of printing them.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Ed Vasicek's picture

This is another great post from Dr. Bauder! Thank you.

I do have a few considerations to add (although we have already had some great ones above).

Sentimentalism in evangelicalism and fundamentalism is obvious. The songs do, in fact, document the point. So do the remnants of churches focusing on revival and embracing a cure to all ills via decisions of various sorts. The "high pressure" approach is geared to affect the emotions in one manner, the eliciting of emotions via music another (as in many Pentecostal type churches, for example).

Personality type is a big issue here. Churches and entire movements specialize in drawing and repelling certain types: achievers, deep feelers, relational, and contemplatives. Eras of time exalt or cultures exalt one type or another as well. Being relational, I am "turned off" when someone tries to appeal to my emotions. I feel like others are attempting to manipulate me (salesmen don't like me; neither do revivalists). In other eras/cutlures, the peer pressure is to allow one's emotions to carry him/her along.

My background made the "Victorian Captivity" of evangelicalism/fundamentalism seem obvious. Unlike many of my peers, I was raised in a big city, and my grandparents came from eastern Europe. I was not raised with the Anglo-intense (or even German) viewpoints of so many who dominate the evangelical/fundamental world. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood, and was raised Roman Catholic.

When I became a born-again believer at age 17 (back in 1974), I found some of the songs in the hymnal downright embarrassing. I loved the Lord, but not in the romantic way portrayed in some of the songs. Between the old English of the KJV, quoting Charles Spurgeon right and left, and sermon illustrations about light gas lamps, it seemed obvious that these churches were trying to hang onto a bygone era. It was not hard to conclude that most fundamental/evangelical leaders seemed to consider the Victorian Era a "Golden Era," long lost, but longed for.

Then the Christian patriotic movement came along and presented America as this great Christian nation that had forsaken God. Again, the Victorian Era (and earlier) was the standard. Forget the massacre of the Indians, stealing their lands, enslaving Africans, or stealing land from Mexico. We were this wonderful godly nation because we went to church and read our Bibles.

I do think that Dr. Bauder has some great insights. But we must not embrace the idea that we moved away from something "better" into Victorian sentimentalism. I would much rather have raised my children in 1885 America than 1675 Europe. I wonder if Dr. Bauder is creating a "Golden Era" during the Reformation period, a time in which most people decided whether to be Lutheran or Catholic based upon what county you lived in?

It is important to assert that Christianity has always existed with and (intentionally or unintentionally) melded with popular culture, philosophy, or even pagan religions. The Victorian Era was probably one of the better compromises, in some ways. But its paradigms certainly affected the church, every bit as much as modernism had and post-modernism is now affecting it.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joseph's picture

Thanks for that great post, Ed.

I agree with practically the whole thing but had a few quibbles or points of clarification.

Technically, and I believe Bauder was being technical, popular culture is a recent phenomenon, so in that sense Christianity has not always co-existed with popular culture. I see you point, though, and agree with it (if it's simply to emphasize that Christianity has always existed in some specific culture).

I have also spoken against "golden era" nostalgia, and while I'm not sure Bauder has it, I agree with you that it is easy to see it as an assumption or implicit attitude in the way the articles are written. This is an inevitable problem with narrative: any narrative that includes descriptions of decline will imply that there was a move from something better to something worse, and this is so necessarily; the problem is how general this comparison is: the more general, the more inaccurate (as a rule) because normally goods that are exhibited in an culture co-exist with a specific and related set of evils, and when new goods are introduced to replace certain existing evil, new evils are often introduced, thus balancing out a sense that moving from good to bad necessarily implies anything about the relative superiority (in general) of one age over another.

Even if you're not right about Bauder in this instance, I think you are definitely right when your insight is applied to a broader target. I see a lot of romanticing among Reformed folks especially, and I find it detestably unhistorical. They forget they either would have been killed or persecuted depending on where they lived, or they would have very likely supported the persecution and killing of other Christians who disagreed with them. Although I am a loud advocate for being historically informed in our judgments, I still find it hard to imagine Christianity co-existing with the easy killing and persecutions that charaterized early modern Europe (I just heard Eamon Duffy lecture last night on Reginald Pole and Thomas Cranmer, and was reminding how ceasily and strangely cruelty could co-exist with undoubtedly genuine piety).

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joseph wrote:
Thanks for that great post, Ed.

I have also spoken against "golden era" nostalgia, and while I'm not sure Bauder has it, I agree with you that it is easy to see it as an assumption or implicit attitude in the way the articles are written. This is an inevitable problem with narrative: any narrative that includes descriptions of decline will imply that there was a move from something better to something worse, and this is so necessarily; the problem is how general this comparison is: the more general, the more inaccurate (as a rule) because normally goods that are exhibited in an culture co-exist with a specific and related set of evils, and when new goods are introduced to replace certain existing evil, new evils are often introduced, thus balancing out a sense that moving from good to bad necessarily implies anything about the relative superiority (in general) of one age over another. .

Thanks for your thoughts, and your tweaking my comments is both appreciated and probably correct. I am glad I am not the only one who views any past era as a "Golden Era," except for Eden before the Fall!

"The Midrash Detective"

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Paul J. Scharf wrote:

As Bauder illustrates the dangers of sentimentalism particularly through the use of music (I will not call them hymns), it made me think immediately of my conservative Lutheran upbringing and the struggles I faced (and which sometimes continue) in transitioning into Baptist Fundamentalism. Believe me, the lyrics referenced here offer no comparison to the hymnody which I had to memorize (with absolute perfection) every Friday morning growing up in my Lutheran school.
Yet, unless you have been there you do not understand the frustration you feel when trying to explain to a Baptist brother that you legitimately miss some elements of the liturgical worship you were raised with -- to say nothing of trying to explain to him that you actually believe (horrors!) some of those items to be more Biblical than their Baptist counterparts!

Coming from a fundamental Methodist background, which had elements that were more liturgical in some areas (but different from Lutheranism being revivalistic in others), I understand a great deal of where you are coming from. Just like you, I have a hard time trying to get lifelong Baptists to understand the richness of some of what they are missing out on, but it's like we are talking past one another. Ah well.

Dave Barnhart

Silverghost's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Silverghost wrote:
God has given to us the instructions to sing with the Holy Spirit's empowering: "be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." I consider this not giving us a mandate to make a distinction as to whether He has given me glory, or if I am glorifying God.
I'm not sure what the connection is you intend to make between the verse and the statement you make following it.
Dear Greg: It was in response to your making a distinction as to whether God has given me glory, or if I am glorifying God. I don't see the Scriptures instructing us regarding which song is preferred. I presume that it is the liberty of the individual church to choose, just as it is to the frequency of the Lord's table: "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup..." I consider the making of a distinction regarding a celebration of glory given to us or of us giving of glory to God, to be much ado about nothing.

I lead the songs often, and select them in our Mission Church. It is according to what is effective, without this weight of distinction.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

Silverghost's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Romans 8 formed the context for our use of the song recently at our church.
There, Paul points out that our adoption means that we are indeed destined for glory... ourselves. The phrase is "the glory which shall be revealed in us." (8:18) In fact all creation is yearning with great longing for the "reveling of the songs of God" (v.19)... groaning with anticipation (and birth pangs) for the moment when it will be delivered into the "glorious liberty of the children of God" ... a moment apparently synonymous with the "redemption of our body" (8:23)

So we are encouraged there to ponder our sharing in glory as God intends to give that to us because of His grace. That's one reason for singing "glory for me" with zeal. It's doctrinally correct. A second reason has to do with personal context. When you are in the midst of discouraging circumstances, perhaps persecution, loss as a result of godly choices, etc. Part of being faithful is pointing our attention to the future glory... our own. This is the point of Romans 8:18 (part of the point, anyway).

Where this speaks to sentimentalism is that many of the sentimental songs take on quite a different character when they are the soul's answer to the discouraging and chilling forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. For many, they are how they turn their hearts away from the urge to "faint" and toward the resolve to carry on. It's not that these songs are "right because they work" but rather they work because they are right in the way some use them.

On emotional reactions, etc.
SG, Bauder is not arguing here against "emotional reaction" but against emotion as the goal... goal of songs, worship, teaching etc. That's sentimentalism. Feeling for feeling's sake. And my (possible) disagreement with his view is not on that point. Rather, when he begins to apply the principles he has asserted (principles I buy completely), I begin to think they are being applied too expansively--sounding like "we need to get rid of all these songs as well as anything else that smacks even a little of sentimentalism." We do need to get rid of some songs! We need to be more cautious in the use of quite a few more, both from the "second great awakening" era and our present times (characterized by more sentimentalism than ever).

But the lines get very fine between sentimentalism and the sincere heartfelt longings of a person of simple faith. And I'm not going to give my parents' generation (and far less, their parents' generation) grief about what seems to foster ordinate affections in them, though the material itself is sentimental in character. (I'll draw some lines where the doctrine gets clearly bad though!)

Edit: just saw that someone already made at least part of my point from Rom.8. Sorry for the redundancy there.

Edit: FWIW... musically, I hate the song Glory for Me! Sounds like roller skating music.

Good points, Aaron. I hate sing-song carousel music too. But out of the songs we choose, the message bears the weight. Yet, I sometimes steer away from the sing-song, because it just doesn't fit at all.

However, God made the emotions. I choose to have emotional reaction for the good, so it is a goal. That isn't all my motivation, but it's in the mix. It doesn't seem wise to me to stifle the factor of emotional responsiveness, especially since I believe that the Holy Spirit uses it in the best sense. Let's not limit good music because of doctrinal coldness.

Open our eyes, Lord. Luke 24:31,32,45 KJV <·)}}}>< Silverghost °Ü°

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