"Matt Ols[o]n would do well to eject, but it may cost him his school"

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Jay's picture

Do I really worry about the work of theologians from hundreds of years ago?  I don't think that I have mentioned them at all in this discussion.

As I said before - church history and systematic theologies are helpful.  They don't serve to sanctify me or make me more like Christ.  They don't cause me to hate sin - only the Bible does that.  And the Bible, as we'd all agree, is the final authority for all matters of faith and practice.  It is sufficient in and of itself.  Culture and history serve as guides - not straitjackets (and I don't like that term because of the loaded connotations that it carries).  They assure me that I'm still on the right path and serve as useful warnings of what people have done wrong and the results.

I'm not arguing to divorce the past from theology - I'm arguing that we do not have to add something to music to 'sanctify' it and make it pleasing to the Lord.  I think that's the crux of our disagreement...I think that it is good, even commendable, to take hymns and update them for use with newer and more modern presentations.  I think that it is entirely possible to be moved by doctrine and write songs that include drums and electric guitars.  I think that the Bible is sufficient in and of itself for all these things.  On the other hand, I think that there is a tremendous amount of 'modern music' that is awful or even heretical that is popular in 'Christian' circles.

To put it another way - I don't see an explicit ban in the Bible for anything relating to music styles or instrumentation, and because of that, I have a real problem with bolting 'culture' to 'music'.  If I were to write a formula, it might look like this:

Bible = acceptable music that is pleasing to the Lord (My argument)

Bible + sanctified culture = acceptable music that is pleasing to the Lord (traditional argument)

I see lots of admonitions about new songs and singing and making music and making melody, but I'm still not sure why we have to go back and draw on 'sanctified music' or 'sanctified culture'.   I utterly reject the idea that the 1700s-1800s were the zenith for Christendom/Christianity (as someone else noted), unless you want to talk geopolitics, which I think is outside of the realm of this particular discussion. Smile

Appreciate the back and forth with you all (and a few PMs that I've gotten as well).  I'm trying to avoid arguing for my 'style' of music as much as trying to make sense of these ideas and create better discernment.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

DavidO's picture

Bible = acceptable music that is pleasing to the Lord (My argument)

 

So what are the straight from scripture principles you use to evaluate whether music (not the words, just the notes) is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord?
 

Jay's picture

Here are some quick areas that I came up of without thinking too hard; I don't have time to pull up the Bible verses:

1. What does it teach about God?  

2. Is it appropriate for the occasion?

3. Does it motivate me to worship?

4. Does it line up with Bible teaching (edit - added this)?

5. Does is magnify God, His Works, or His Character (edit - added this)?

5. If in a corporate setting - Is it understandable for the congregation (those offering worship to God)?

6. If in a corporate setting - Is it singable for the group (or are people going to get frustrated and not be able to sing)?

Here's a reply question for you - in what other area of Christian faith and practice would we insist that culture must inform our practice? 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

DavidO's picture

Re: #1, how do you apply that to the music apart from the words?

Re: #3, in what other area of Christian faith and practice to we allow the subjective response of individuals to inform our practice?

Re: #4, are you referring to the music alone or words with this question?

 

I'm not talking about culture informing our practices so much as properly discerning the usefulness of cultural idiom.  No one here (if I can be so bold) is arguing for a permanent installation of 18th century forms only and forever in church.  No one here is saying that if it's in Majesty Hymns it is AOK and if it isn't, it's satanic. 

 

 

 

 

Anne Sokol's picture

DavidO wrote:

Re: #3, in what other area of Christian faith and practice to we allow the subjective response of individuals to inform our practice?

color choice, seating arrangement, projector overhead or hymnals, piano or synthesizer, live or pre-recorded, nursery decor, all other decor, flower arrangements, art displays, landscaping, choir robes ...

DavidO's picture

Anne,

 

Thanks for the thoughts, but that question isn't really mine, I borrowed it.

Brenda T's picture

Jay, thanks for this explanation:

 I'm not arguing to divorce the past from theology - I'm arguing that we do not have to add something to music to 'sanctify' it and make it pleasing to the Lord.  I think that's the crux of our disagreement...I think that it is good, even commendable, to take hymns and update them for use with newer and more modern presentations.  I think that it is entirely possible to be moved by doctrine and write songs that include drums and electric guitars.  I think that the Bible is sufficient in and of itself for all these things.  On the other hand, I think that there is a tremendous amount of 'modern music' that is awful or even heretical that is popular in 'Christian' circles.

To put it another way - I don't see an explicit ban in the Bible for anything relating to music styles or instrumentation,

1. If it is "good" to update hymn tunes, what from Scripture informs that decision and declares it "good"?  Isn't  it current culture (not Scripture) that is informing the decision and manner in which tunes are updated?

2. What doctrine, from Scripture, moves one to include drums and electric guitars?

3. Or, is it that the Bible nowhere specifically prohibits updating hymn tunes or using certain instruments therefore those things are "good" and are in keeping with your Sola Scriptura application simply because Scripture is silent on specifically condemning such things?

Jay's picture

Good questions, all. 

Don't have a lot of time, but let me answer Brenda first:

1.  I'm not trying to be antagonistic here and I think we're beginning to stray into communication theory.  What kind of Bible are you using?  A KJV, NASB, ESV, NIV...?  We have no qualms about using updated Bible translations without explicit Biblical precedent, so why is it problematic to update hymns (written centuries later) for today's Christians?  If it isn't, then why are we discussing that? Smile

2.  There aren't any doctrines.  The Bible was completed sometime in the late AD 90s.  Pianos seem to have been developed at or around 1700.  Harpsichords predate that, but I'm not sure exactly when they were developed - the 1400's is when we can find isolated references to them.  There are instruments cited in the Bible that we don't use today, because we don't know what they are or how they worked.  Psalms has references to 'stringed instruments', although again, we don't have specifics (that I'm aware of).  There are references to tambourines and a few other instruments (I'm excluding the obvious Daniel references here because that's a pagan king's court) that are used for worship.  Both 1 and 2 Chronicles (1 Chronicles 15:15-17 and 2 Chronicles 5:10-14) reference the using of cymbals (?!) in worship.

If you want to argue that Scripture bans all instruments that it doesn't particularly mention, go right ahead...but you might be surprised at what you have and don't have to work with.  It's an argument from silence that doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about how it's usually presented.  If someone wants to go all regulative principle on music - be my guest.  I'm not Reformed, so I don't believe in that.

3.  Here's my theory, and this is just as best I understand it - God gave us His Word that is clear and final in all things that it teaches.  He did not include specifics on how to do things because He knows full well that times, cultures, people, and technologies change and we would be bound by any explicit prohibitions He might have given.  He also knows that some of those explicit rules and bindings (if given) might impact our ability to minister to the nations or even each other.  Does that help?

I'm obviously excluding clear commands, like "do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers" and "do not steal" from how to create and run an worship setting.  Those are different.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Brenda T's picture

why is it problematic to update hymns (written centuries later) for today's Christians?

I haven't said it was a problem.  Others may have elsewhere, but I haven't. I was asking what is "good" about it. You, in your argument about sola scriptura, said it was a "good" thing to do and I was wondering what from Scripture informs us that it's "good" to update hymn tunes.

 

There aren't any doctrines.

If there aren't any doctrines, then I'm not understanding why you wrote, "I think that it is entirely possible to be moved by doctrine and write songs that include drums and electric guitars."

 

If you want to argue that Scripture bans all instruments that it doesn't particularly mention, go right ahead...

Thanks for the permission, but I haven't argued that position and have no intention to do so. Perhaps I should be asking you what instruments Scripture tells you to use. I believe you were arguing earlier that all we need is Scripture to tell us how to worship with our music. So, what instruments does Scripture say are sufficient for life and godliness?

Jay's picture

DavidO & Larry - touche on the language thing; words are affected by cultural acceptance and connotation.  I needed to think that through some, but I think I'm coming around on your argument.  I'm still hesitant to agree with you, but haven't been able to put my finger on why.  I do not think that using current instrumentation and styles to praise the Lord necessitates a whole hearted embrace of heathenism or unsaved practices, which seems to be a major argument in the anti-CCM camp.  My dog may be a Labrador, but that doesn't mean that all dogs are Labradors, if that syllogism makes sense.  Christians are supposed to be distinct, and anyone who has ever come into my office at work knows that I'm not listening to the latest Billboard hit even though some of the music I like uses the same instruments that those bands do.  (Well, I can't say that with certainty because I don't know the top artists in the pop culture at the moment, and it's been good for me to get away from some of the artists I listened to in high school.)

Tim Emeslie:

I agree the Christian goal is not culture-shaping directly, but having a culture is unavoidable. The only way our culture will resemble some past culture is that we believe, love, and feel they same way they did. Because orthodoxy in those areas is of prime importance, I think we are well-served to identify within past cultures those forms that facilitated that which we truly want to emulate. This will involve making correct judgments about culture within Sola Scriptura.

Tim, I'm still confused.  Why do you keep going back to the necessity of using past [pagan!] cultures for today's believers?  What objective (read: Scripturally determined) measure proves that those cultures are emulation-worthy?  I'm not saying we can't or shouldn't refer to them - I just don't understand why you and Scott (and possibly others) feel so strongly that we need to keep going back to a specific culture, let alone why those cultures are 'right' and need to be reclaimed.  Are you really convinced that those eras were better for people to live in or that they made people more holy?  For all the arguments about the depravity of today's culture, you seem to be relying heavily on a culture-based argument yourself.

I know I keep asking that question, but I think that may constitute the bulwark of the 'traditionalist' arguments and it really needs to be examined instead of just accepted.  So I'm after an answer, but I also want you to look at that harder as well.

As for that first bolded line - the purpose of Christians is to love and praise and think about God, not to love, praise and think about God the way that X people did however many years ago.

BrendaT:

The 'good' thing is that it is entirely appropriate to want to have Scripture and music in the 'modern language', whether the English of King James' day or the Americanese that you and I speak now in the 21st century.  Korean Believers should want the Bible in Korean; Germans in German, etc.  Believers should want to have God's Word in forms they can understand and study.  Of course, then we get into translation philosophy too.  Now let me attempt to head off an objection at the pass - the translations they still use have to accurately represent the Biblical text, so loose paraphrases like the Message can be used (although I wouldn't endorse them) but the infamous Cotton Patch Translation would not.

When I wrote: "I think that it is entirely possible to be moved by doctrine and write songs that include drums and electric guitars.", I meant that a person could be moved by the doctrine that they are reading/studying to the point of writing a song about it.  That song could include electric guitars and drums, if the composer so chose, without it being a sinful (read: displeasing to the Lord) song.  I do think that it could be totally appropriate for a believer who is studying God's Word to write a song that includes those instruments as a result of their study of said doctrine.  To be honest, I think we ought to be writing songs about certain doctrines that get short shrift in hymnals.

As for 'permission' - that was tongue in cheek.  If you took it as a put-down or critical remark, I apologize for the ambiguity.  I do not think that Scripture explicitly forbids any instrument that we currently know of, although other principles (timeliness, orderliness, etc.) still apply.  I just don't see that taught anywhere in the Bible.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

WilliamD's picture

Tim Emslie wrote:

The only way our culture will resemble some past culture is that we believe, love, and feel they same way they did. Because orthodoxy in those areas is of prime importance, I think we are well-served to identify within past cultures those forms that facilitated that which we truly want to emulate. This will involve making correct judgments about culture within Sola Scriptura.

 

then why stop with musical forms? Why not clothing also? Surely powdered wigs and ruffled shirt sleeves reflect a more godly culture and should also be worn to church. 

(Being facetious)

Tim Emslie's picture

Good question-While stipulating that God in his Sovereignty can and does save and sanctify people from anywhere and anytime,yes, I do think that a culture shaped by Christian ideas is superior to culture shaped by anything else. In our time, that means rejecting a culture and its forms that has done away with God- check out Ravi Zacharias sermon When God bids Farewell. Not that everyone in a more Christianized culture understands and believes the gospel, but people generally think in Christian categories, and cultural forms -music, art, judicial structures-tend to embody Christian thinking and meaning, helping transmit and communicate the whole counsel of God - the pure gospel and rightly ordered piety. This did happen in history, and I think that  is immensely valuable to us. "Restoring" a cultural consensus, even if we view it as having been relatively more Christian than our own is not the goal- keeping alive the faith once-delivered is. As was pointed out, we've been handed more than just a set of doctrines.

 

 

Marsilius's picture

Joel,

I am curious. Church leaders, including the church fathers were quite successful in getting society to eliminate much of the use of pagan music. There is no question about that. On what basis do you say that the influence of Platonic thought created their aversion to pagan music? Can you cite any instances? The passages I have read where church fathers encounter music, dancing, and the shows of pagans cite Scripture. They really don't have any platonic ideas in them. Perhaps you have read passages which do. I am curious. Plato approved of Bacchic drinking and dancing during the time of his festival to allow the god of wine to enter individuals. It was this sort of music that the fathers uniformly opposed. But you seem to say that platonic thinking led to a critical view of the very thing Plato upheld. Perhaps you could explain.

Also, why do you say that the church fathers lacked a robust Creation theology? Many of the Fathers used extensive argumentation from Genesis to prove their points. They repeatedly contradicted leading philosophies and religions of their day with plain Creation doctrine, with Bible passages, and with well-reasoned scriptural ideas. If you are saying that the church fathers were too critical of pagan music because they lacked Creation theology and thus did not discern the good in the pagan music they criticized, then please prove that.

Otherwise, whether or not you agree with Scott A, Stapert's work deserves a serious look. He calls on Christians in our day to be willing to criticize the music of the world just as the church fathers did. I think there is something to that.

Jay's picture

Tim Emslie wrote:
Good question-While stipulating that God in his Sovereignty can and does save and sanctify people from anywhere and anytime, yes, I do think that a culture shaped by Christian ideas is superior to culture shaped by anything else. In our time, that means rejecting a culture and its forms that has done away with God- check out Ravi Zacharias sermon When God bids Farewell. Not that everyone in a more Christianized culture understands and believes the gospel, but people generally think in Christian categories, and cultural forms - music, art, judicial structures - tend to embody Christian thinking and meaning, helping transmit and communicate the whole counsel of God - the pure gospel and rightly ordered piety. This did happen in history, and I think that  is immensely valuable to us. "Restoring" a cultural consensus, even if we view it as having been relatively more Christian than our own is not the goal- keeping alive the faith once-delivered is. As was pointed out, we've been handed more than just a set of doctrines.

Tim, 

Thank you for your response.  If I can push harder, let me ask this question - what cultures were shaped explicitly by Christian ideas?  I see what you're saying, but I think that we have this rosy view of past cultures and tend to overstate the impact that Christianity had on them.  The only culture that I can think of that would be explicitly 'Christian' and that has not been tainted by sin and the fall is the coming Millennial Kingdom.  Yes, people in history were shaped/affected by Christian concepts, but their thinking (unless saved) was still that of a world that is opposed to the Christ.  Even if they were saved, that doesn't mean that their thinking was truly Biblical in all spheres.  This is why I feel so strongly that we have to look elsewhere for Biblical arguments about music.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Matthew 22:34-40, and Ephesians 5:15-20 are key verses for the position that I'm coming to, and I don't see anything there other than broad admonitions to Love the Lord and sing spiritual songs.

I agree with you that Christianity has shaped cultures (and I'm glad it has!), but I'm not sure that we can agree on this point until I can figure out why past cultures are 'better' than current cultures.  I do agree with you that Christian music should be explicitly Christian and that it should communicate Biblical truth or concepts.

I will check out Ravi's sermon, but I should warn you that I'm getting a little bit backlogged with recommendations at this point! 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Brenda T's picture

Korean Believers should want the Bible in Korean; Germans in German, etc.  Believers should want to have God's Word in forms they can understand and study.  Of course, then we get into translation philosophy too.  Now let me attempt to head off an objection at the pass - the translations they still use have to accurately represent the Biblical text,

I was not going to object to your translation example. Koreans should have the Bible in the Korean language. But, should they have it in, say, Gangnam style (which I hear is all the rage in South Korea)? I think we would both say "no" but I don't want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I've misrepresented you.

I agree with you, Jay, that biblical translations should accurately represent the Biblical text. So, how is that principle applied to musical tunes as well as text? That's what I've been attempting to get at (obviously I've been failing, thus far).

On my shelf is The Encyclopedia of Music written by Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson. They are not anti-CCM people and they tell me on p. 77 that rock 'n' roll is "synonymous with rebellion." According to secular musicologists rock = rebellion. There appears to be a cognitive dissonance in using a language or form of rebellion in the worship of God. That's why I've been trying to find out how the Bible informs or endorses the use of rock style music in the worship of the Lord.

Andrew K.'s picture

Brenda T wrote:

Korean Believers should want the Bible in Korean; Germans in German, etc.  Believers should want to have God's Word in forms they can understand and study.  Of course, then we get into translation philosophy too.  Now let me attempt to head off an objection at the pass - the translations they still use have to accurately represent the Biblical text,

I was not going to object to your translation example. Koreans should have the Bible in the Korean language. But, should they have it in, say, Gangnam style (which I hear is all the rage in South Korea)? I think we would both say "no" but I don't want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I've misrepresented you.

I agree with you, Jay, that biblical translations should accurately represent the Biblical text. So, how is that principle applied to musical tunes as well as text? That's what I've been attempting to get at (obviously I've been failing, thus far).

On my shelf is The Encyclopedia of Music written by Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson. They are not anti-CCM people and they tell me on p. 77 that rock 'n' roll is "synonymous with rebellion." According to secular musicologists rock = rebellion. There appears to be a cognitive dissonance in using a language or form of rebellion in the worship of God. That's why I've been trying to find out how the Bible informs or endorses the use of rock style music in the worship of the Lord.

Perhaps culturally, rock music was synonymous with rebellion (provided we could even agree on what "rock music" is--it's actually not the same thing as rock & roll music, for one). It's very arguable that it still is. If we accept that all modern popular music is rock, it seems to be the music of conformity and capitalism, rather than recognized as communicating rebellion against the establishment.

Rock music didn't just drop out of a vacuum, however, but is itself a development and blend of other forms of music including traditional African forms of music, country music, folk music, even gospel music. Are those forms tainted by the association as well?

神是爱

Jay's picture

Good point.

I can't speak for everyone here, but I don't think that I've ever chosen or liked a song because it sounded like rock n' roll.  I chose it because it incorporated Biblical teaching or principles.

Here's a case in point - the song "American Dream" by Casting Crowns:

All work no play may have made Jack a dull boy
But all work no God has left Jack with a lost soul
But he's moving on full steam
He's chasing the American dream
And he's gonna give his family the finer things

Not this time, son, I've no time to waste
Maybe tomorrow we'll have time to play
And then he slips into his new BMW
And drives farther and farther and farther away

So He works all day and tries to sleep at night
He says things will get better;
Better in time

And he works and he builds with his own two hands
And he pours all he has in a castle made with sand
But the wind and the rain are comin' crashing in
Time will tell just how long his kingdom stands
His kingdom stands

His American Dream is beginning to seem
More and more like a nightmare
With every passing day
"Daddy, can you come to my game?"
"Oh Baby, please don't work late."
Another wasted weekend
And they are slipping away

'Cause he works all day and lies awake at night
He tells them things will get better
It'll just take a little more time

He used to say, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins"
But if he loses his soul, what has he gained in the end
I'll take a shack on the rock
Over a castle in the sand

etc.

So before you go any farther in this post - what do you think about the song?

***

***

***

Does the song sound like rock?  Yes, it does.  But I'm challenged by the Biblical teaching of the song and not as much what the song sounds like.  The reason why I quoted the lyrics is because we need to separate what the song is communicating from what the song sounds like.

That's why I keep going back to what is the message of the song.  Does it line up with the Bible?  In this case, I can argue - yes, it does, because it lines up almost perfectly with Matthew 7:24-27.  There are songs that I've liked because I liked the sound of them, but I won't listen to them any more because the message doesn't line up with the Bible.

That being said, I'm probably far more discerning about this than most.  So I hope that's helpful to you.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

The other principle that comes into play as well is this - if the tone of the music (not the message) is offensive to a brother, I'm obligated by Scripture to shut it off or turn it down, lest I offend someone.  I don't have a ton of time here, so let me just quote 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 and most of Romans 14:

The Believer’s Freedom

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God — even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Romans 14:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Brenda T's picture

I've never listened to the song by Casting Crowns that you've referenced. So, I'm going only off the words here. I don't see how that song would fit into a service designed to worship the Lord. The words sound like a testimonial song that doesn't ever transcend from the individual toward God and misses the point of the Matthew passage. The song is solely horizontal in its communication (man to man) and I don't see a vertical element (man to God).

Yes, the song makes loose reference to building one's house on either rock or sand, but it fails to teach the point of that passage which is that there are people who think they are going to spend eternity with Christ based on their Christian works (not employment or possessions as the song indicates) but then in the end they hear Jesus say "Depart from me."

Jay's picture

Which is why I mentioned a while ago that we need to separate between individual practice and belief and church practice and worship.  I would not use this song in a church setting at all.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

Brenda T wrote:
Yes, the song makes loose reference to building one's house on either rock or sand, but it fails to teach the point of that passage which is that there are people who think they are going to spend eternity with Christ based on their Christian works (not employment or possessions as the song indicates) but then in the end they hear Jesus say "Depart from me."

Parenting and husbanding aren't "Christian works"?  Being captivated by materialism isn't taught against in Scripture?

Wink

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Lee's picture

Jay wrote:

...

That's why I keep going back to what is the message of the song.  Does it line up with the Bible?  In this case, I can argue - yes, it does, because it lines up almost perfectly with Matthew 7:24-27.  There are songs that I've liked because I liked the sound of them, but I won't listen to them any more because the message doesn't line up with the Bible.

That being said, I'm probably far more discerning about this than most.  So I hope that's helpful to you.

Music is a medium of communication.  Every song with lyrics has at least 2 (hopefully) coherent messages to it--the musical one and the lyrical one.  Otherwise there would be no point in wrapping music around a poem. It has absolute ability to stand on its own.  Its ability to communicate its message would not be enhanced by the music leaving only the opportunity to be effectively diminished by the music. (not a goal of communication at any level).

 

If the lyrical message and the musical message are not coherent, at best you wind up with nonsense (nursery rhymes come to mind as good examples of incoherent [conflicting] lyrics and melody).

 

IOW, is it not somewhat disingenuous to state "what is the message of the song" and disregard at least half of the message as a non-issue?

Lee

Lee's picture

Brenda T wrote:

...

On my shelf is The Encyclopedia of Music written by Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson. They are not anti-CCM people and they tell me on p. 77 that rock 'n' roll is "synonymous with rebellion." According to secular musicologists rock = rebellion. There appears to be a cognitive dissonance in using a language or form of rebellion in the worship of God. That's why I've been trying to find out how the Bible informs or endorses the use of rock style music in the worship of the Lord.

I Cor. 10 concludes a lengthy discussion on idolatry and immorality, clarifying the mandates passed down by the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).  Paul's basic conclusion about both immorality and idolatry is to "flee" (I Cor. 6:18; I Cor. 10:14) with follow-up instructions on how to flee (most of chap. 7 and remainder of chap. 10). 

Referencing idolatry, the final conclusion is that any vestige of the culturally prevalent idolatry ("meat offered unto idols") is to be rejected out of hand ("eat not") as soon as affirmation that it has that association ("if any man say unto you This is offered in sacrifice unto idols"), even though it may have become a normal part of commerce ("sold in the shambles") or custom ("bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go"). 

Furthermore, it informs you that all that is necessary to identify its idolatrous ties is the affirmation of "any man", and in this particular situation it is the affirmation of an informed unbeliever.  

And Paul also gives the why to reject it immediately--as a testimony to the unbeliever ("for his sake that showed it"), and because it is a right or wrong issue ("for conscience sake").

Is not rebellion idolatry (I Sam 15:23)? Has "any man," even an informed unbeliever, affirmed a connection with a culturally prevalent idolatry?

Why is it even necessary to have a discussion as to whether we should be bringing this into the church?

 

Lee

DavidO's picture

regarding your Casting Crowns example: 

My main objection is that it pales next to Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" which made some of the same points, but more poignantly.  Smile

Seriously, I'd offer two critiques.  First, it's barely Christian.  That's not a big deal to me in and of itself as I don't suspect you'd advocate its inclusion in worship, but rather personal listening.  By barely Christian, I mean it's not really inconsistent with Christian thought, but it doesn't make any boldly Christian points either, onlyfrom one hazy allusion and a "life without God" line.  Its more moralism than anything else.

Second, the appeal it does make is purely sentimental, made with the stock/cliche images of children left without a parent because he's working too long and hard with the wrong objective.  It doesn't enlarge understanding or perception, it just pushes the standard buttons and we are to respond with canned emotions.  In other words, it's poor art.   David deBruyn did a good series on this at RAM that I implore you to read.  He gives examples to judge and compare.  It's really helpful.

But none of this addresses what we were originally talking about.  You said that you don't think forms (by which I took you to mean musical forms apart from the words) are neutral.  I asked how you judge musical forms (apart from the words) as appropriate for church or not.  You responded with a list that applies primarily to the words only.  Can you help me understand your principles better?

Jay's picture

BrendaT - OK, so it references Matthew 7.  It also references a bunch of other Biblical concepts. 

DavidO wrote:

regarding your Casting Crowns example: 

My main objection is that it pales next to Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" which made some of the same points, but more poignantly.  Smile

OK, I'll give you that one, having heard both the old version and the one that came out in the '90s. Biggrin

Excursus - Yes, I have heard both versions.  I heard the '90s version in high school, shortly before I got saved, and liked it tremendously.  Imagine my surprise when my public school English teacher brought the older version of song in and played it for us in class, and then encouraged us to sing along to it because she was making a different point (which of course I have now forgotten).

Quote:
Seriously, I'd offer two critiques.  First, it's barely Christian.  That's not a big deal to me in and of itself as I don't suspect you'd advocate its inclusion in worship, but rather personal listening.  By barely Christian, I mean it's not really inconsistent with Christian thought, but it doesn't make any boldly Christian points either, only from one hazy allusion and a "life without God" line.  Its more moralism than anything else.

Correct.  One of my bigger frustrations with modern 'Christian' music (which is a whole different thread) is that it's so broad that some of it seems to define "Christian" as "anyone who likes the idea of God".  A lot of Crowns' newer stuff, in particular, is becoming extraordinarily broad and bland, so much so that I don't actually listen to them that much anymore.  That song was the first one that popped into my head, so I used it.  For that matter, so do many of the older and most well loved hymns/gospel songs, so that sword cuts both ways.  As an aside - I'm finding that what I'm really attracted to is remakes of hymns and slower, more contemplative "Christian" music like some of the songs on the "Jesus Firm Foundation" CD.  Not as much the hard 'rock' music that I initially got into and grew up on.

I think some of that is that artists want a lot of people to listen and buy their music, so why include something specific like dispensationalism or trinitarianism that would offend potential buyers?  PC&D was one of the first groups that I actually started listening to, and I had no idea that they were modalists until about 6-8 months later when I saw a reference to it on PyroManiacs.  I wish Christians of our kind would write more music that was meatier, and I've complained/commiserated with musicians and friends in my church about it.

Of course, some people would find out it was dispensational and stop right there anyway. Smile

Quote:
Second, the appeal it does make is purely sentimental, made with the stock/cliche images of children left without a parent because he's working too long and hard with the wrong objective.  It doesn't enlarge understanding or perception, it just pushes the standard buttons and we are to respond with canned emotions.  In other words, it's poor art.   David deBruyn did a good series on this at RAM that I implore you to read.  He gives examples to judge and compare.  It's really helpful.

I will read the deBruyn piece.  Sounds interesting.

Maybe the song has more resonance with me because I have a lengthy commute to work than most, because I have a tendency towards overwork, and because I have a few friends that have sacrificed ministry and family for materialism.  

I would disagree, however, with the 'enlarging understanding or perception' part - there are songs in the OT that do not 'enlarge understanding or perception' that are part of the canon (Arguably Exodus 15:1-18, 21; Psalm 130, 131, 133, etc).  So do we exclude them too?

Quote:
But none of this addresses what we were originally talking about.  You said that you don't think forms (by which I took you to mean musical forms apart from the words) are neutral.  I asked how you judge musical forms (apart from the words) as appropriate for church or not.  You responded with a list that applies primarily to the words only.  Can you help me understand your principles better?

Good question.  Let me chew on that and get back to you.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Brenda T's picture

Here are some comparisons to consider. DavidO has directed us to consider Pastor DeBruyn's comparison of lyrics, so I'd like to propose a comparison of tunes using identical lyrics. People make musical choices based on tune -- especially when the text does not change. What Biblical principles inform us as to which of  the following examples would be best for declaring praise, worship, and adoration of our King?

(Sorry for all the links, I didn't know how to embed the videos into the comment)

 

Casting Crowns -- especially for Jay

http://youtu.be/zrOlXLeWJQ4

 

Chris Tomlin -- because he's currently popular

http://youtu.be/B-sTNKV0HvE

 

George Strait -- for the country folk

http://youtu.be/1GKfuU8UDBs

 

Go Fish -- because, well, I don't know why

http://youtu.be/uY03LAOc1ro

 

Mormon Tabernacle Choir -- the token traditional rendition

http://youtu.be/IIhnfo_TpFI

 

Which choice is best/biblical musically?

Michael Riley's picture

Just a suggestion: with Brenda T's examples don't ask, "Which of these sounds most joyful?" Ask instead, "If this song were to function as the processional music for the coming King, what would his arrival look like?"

Jay's picture

Michael Riley wrote:

Just a suggestion: with Brenda T's examples don't ask, "Which of these sounds most joyful?" Ask instead, "If this song were to function as the processional music for the coming King, what would his arrival look like?"

 

 

 

Why?

 

 

 

Must joy look like this?

 

 

Seriously - would we ever equate 'joy' with 'what Jesus' return will look like' outside of a musical context?  Does joy have to look like that, or can it look like a kid throwing herself at her daddy when he gets off the plane home from Iraq?  I'm pretty sure the "joy of the Lord, which is my strength", doesn't look like the return of the King.  For another question, why does my joy have to look like what Michael or Brenda want it to look like?

This is where their arguments begin to break down, in my opinion.   

Besides, we all know that Jesus will return like a thief in the night.  There won't be any time for songs - they will come after!

PS - haven't heard the Crowns rendition, but I like the Tomlin one.  The other stuff I'm not going to deal with.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Michael Riley's picture

Jay,

I really wasn't aiming to make a deep or controversial point here. The song text itself is about the King's coming to establish of the theocratic kingdom. I was just asking us to consider which of these songs best imagines the event that the song is about.

I agree with you: there are a host of different kinds of joys, and these joys are suitable for different occasions.

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