Steve Pettit and the Skillman family

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Jim's picture

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Anticipated concern? 

Seen here: (the YouTube comments):

Hmmm The president of BJU is playing with the group. Makes me wonder if Dr. Bob Sr. or Dr. Bob Jr. would approve. The song is not up to the standards that were pushed when I was a student. I was at BJU during the transition years between Dr. Bob Jr. and Dr Bob III. My father was a student during the years of Dr. Bob Sr. This kind of music was considered acceptable growing up, However Dr. Bob Jr. had all of this kind of music confiscated from me while I was a student. So I find myself wondering if the pendulum has swung back to my father's era under Dr. Bob Sr.

Me: No concerns ... I love Bluegrass!

Ron Bean's picture

The video of their performance of Rocky Top was posted on one of the BJU Facebook groups and elicited this response from a grad:

You know that yellow and green stuff in the fountain around the bridge of nations. That's the puke of the Founder and Jr. when they see this kind of stuff going on at their beloved school. Not what they intended.

BTW, the water is clear in the fountains and I like Bluegrass. It's uniquely American folk music.

 

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is all so strange, now. I'm growing farther and farther from the cultural mores of Midwestern, white-bread Baptist fundamentalism. At first it scared me. Now, it's not so frightening. I'm not sure how fully some men appreciate what a cultural vacuum they operate in - a very particular, very narrowly-defined expression of Christianity. 

It's incredibly hard for me to tip-toe out of the fundamentalist world I come from. There is no "fundamentalism" in the Pacific Northwest to speak of. It's hard. To be quite honest, I just listened to Hillsong's new worship album while I finished my sermon - something I'd never done before in my life. Such an act would be "worldly" and "evil" in many fundamentalist circles.  It was hard for me to actually listen to it; not because of the music, but because the I'd considered such an act to be "sinful" for so long. I left slightly ashamed as I began to listen to it ... and as I pondered the lyrics, I discovered the album isn't evil at all. 

Some of you here are probably laughing at me. But, for me, this was a big step - a crossing of a bridge I can't ever go back over. I've listened to a CCM album, and appreciated it and liked it. My wife and I also just returned from a two-day training by a Christian foster organization, so we can hopefully be licensed as foster parents. We sat and chatted with Christians from the evangelical world ("the enemy") who love Jesus, go to "hip" churches, and have sound theology. It's so easy to forget what a ghetto some Baptist fundamentalists live in.

So ... when I see something like this post (an objection to bluegrass music), I feel conflicted. I'm sad someone could live in such a cloistered world that this is a big deal. I'm also astonished I was a part of it for so long, and wondering what camp I even fit into, anymore! 

Am I even a "fundamentalist" anymore? If you define it the way the FBFI does, then no (Dan Unruh, if you're reading this, feel free to contribute a hearty "Amen!"). If you define it historically, in a "big-tent" way, then I am. Is it a label that's worth anything? I'm really not sure, anymore. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

CAWatson's picture

Tyler, 

In my time at a fundamentalist college that no longer exists, and later years at a fundamentalist seminary (which still does exist), as well as more than a decade of ministry in "Midwestern, white bread, Baptist fundamentalism," I have never experienced the kind of fundamentalism of which you speak. 

Only in my earlier years in my introduction to fundamentalism out of mega-church evangelicalism as a teenager did I experience a small amount of the legalistic side of fundamentalism (the pastor is big in the FBF). However, to the best of my knowledge, the legalism (or rather the legalistic individuals who were in the church), for the most part, is gone. 

I had coffee with the local e-free pastor this week. Later in the day, I attended the local ministerial association meeting - with both conservative and liberal Lutherans, the e-free guy, the Church of Christ/Christian Church guy, and myself. 

Fundamentalism is an idea. In fact, it is one of the best ideas (to parrot Bauder). 

Don Johnson's picture

While I agree, Fundamentalism is an idea, it isn't simply Orthodoxy. In other words, just holding to orthodox doctrine isn't fundamentalism.

Bauder also uses the word Orthopraxy. That, too, is part of the idea of fundamentalism. While there are contexts for everything, even bluegrass, some places and times are not appropriate for it. For the Christian, some musical offerings (loosely so-called) are never appropriate. One key point in the idea of fundamentalism is the recognition that this kind of discernment is biblical and always necessary.

If someone wants to reduce it to "bluegrass is ok because I like it," then maybe they have departed from fundamentalism, if they were ever there.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree that fundamentalism is an idea! I've always bought this vision, rather than the one that says "fundamentalism = against evangelicalism." You should be grateful that you never saw a version of midwestern Baptist fundamentalism that was very narrow, very strict and very selective in its interpretations of faithful Christianity. To some extent, all our experiences are anecdotal. 

My point is that I'm reaching a point where the objection that "BJU + bluegrass = bad" is so strange to me that it seems to come from another planet. My post was more about my own gradual shift from a set of mores; from  that more plain vanilla, midwestern Baptist fundamentalism of the 1950s to something else. The problem, of course, is that I've often confused those mores with biblical truth - when that isn't always true. As I sat there last night, reviewing my sermon while Hillsong played in the background, I felt like I was looking at pornography in the basement. But, that was cultural conditioning talking - not anything else. I've been taught for so long (not by Seminary, but by church culture) that Christianity = a very particular, very narrow range of external behaviors. 

So, when I see "BJU + bluegrass = bad," I shake my head. Different planet. 

Don's comment (above) illustrates the other side of the coin. He suggests I never was a fundamentalist. I understand, but I still like Don anyway - and I hope he has a good sermon this morning. 

Some of you may object, shake your heads, label me as a "Convergent," etc. Some of you will understand what I'm saying, and others will object and try to draw me into a discussion about fundamentalism. I appreciate it, but no thanks! If you want a bit more about what I believe about Baptist fundamentalism, you can read here.

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

This is true of everyone, of course.

Tyler, you have said before that your experience was in a "Hyles-influenced" kind of fundamentalism. You seem to equate that with 1) All of fundamentalism or 2) 1950s fundamentalism. I dispute that. I think you are talking about a very narrow perspective of a hyper-fundamentalist segment of the movement.

Besides that, I contend that you can't be satisfied simply with orthodoxy in order to be a fundamentalist. You must be interested in orthopraxy and be willing to contend for both. We don't all agree on every interpretation of that, but those features must be present in order to be a fundamentalist. And I would say most fundamentalists aren't that far apart on their interpretations either.

I am not sure about the "bluegrass at BJU" thing. I wasn't there. I've got an older CD from Pettit's evangelistic days of some of this music. It's not terrible. Probably wouldn't have been allowed in the dorms when I was a student at BJU, but might have been allowed in some performance settings. It's all about context. Besides that, however, some seem to want to offend brothers with more sensitive consciences about these things. (I don't think Pettit is guilty of this.) That is no way to conduct one's self as a Christian. Anyway, from what I gather about this incident, it wasn't in the context of a religious service but a "fun time." If so, I wouldn't object. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

G. N. Barkman's picture

I should probably stay out of this one, as I've never heard Steve Petit's music, and I have no idea who the Skillman's are.  Nor do I believe I have heard Hillsong, so what I say is void of these specific examples.

Fundamentalism, historically speaking, is about defending the fundamentals of the Christian faith against those who attack and erode them.  In the "old" days, the attackers were called Modernists and Liberals.  Now, they are just as likely to be called Evangelicals.  Along the way, cultural issues began to take their place as part of the definition of Fundamentalism.  That, in my opinion, is when things began to go off course.  Cultural issues are, for the most part, too subjective to defend or decry Biblically.  I have my opinions and preferences, and you have yours.  I will not break fellowship with you over yours, and expect you to do the same with me.  Liking or not liking a particular style of music is not a fundamental of the faith.  Let's keep God's Word central, and allow Christian liberty where clear Bible doctrine is not the issue.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

Music (along with alcohol) is one of the third rails of Baptist fundamentalism. It's very easy to confuse cultural mores with Biblical teaching. It's easy to assume they're the same thing. For example, consider the KJVO issue and how a bad assumption determines conclusions:

  • The KJV is the standard
  • The NIV is different than the KJV
  • Thus, God's word has been "changed"

The fallacy is in assuming the KJV is the standard. In the same way, many well-meaning Christians do this:

  • 18th - 19th century hymns with piano accompaniment are holy
  • Anything else is new, worldly and "bad"
  • Thus, contemporary worship music is inherently unholy

You see what I mean. The worship wars will continue to be fought, and many kilobytes will be spilt (perhaps even in this very thread). I commend a recent Baptist Bulletin edition on music for your edification. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

I appreciate your comments. I also see your logic arguments that some use. However, you have to be careful with contemporary worship music. I use some of it. Yes, I do. Some Hillsong is great. Some is horrible. Be careful brother. As a former charismatic, YOU HAVE NO IDEA that there are standard charismatic code words in a lot of their songs. Hillsong itself (not Hillsong United and others) is generally ok. But a LOT of current hit worship songs are loaded with charismatic theology, and Baptists are lapping it up in total ignorance. I caution any church from using charismatic inspired music. Some call that guilt by association. I call it setting boundaries for your people.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

During the 1990s when I was at BJU, bluegrass numbers were common during student body functions.  I first heard "I'm My Own Grandpa" and "The Auctioneer Song" at BJU.

However, "Rocky Top" would have probably not been played at BJU since the song glorifies moonshining and the murder of law enforcement officers.  BJU was meticulously consistent in things like that when I was in school.

Like Tyler, I have mixed emotions about all of this.

Kevin Miller's picture

CAWatson wrote:

I had coffee with the local e-free pastor this week. Later in the day, I attended the local ministerial association meeting - with both conservative and liberal Lutherans, the e-free guy, the Church of Christ/Christian Church guy, and myself. 

I grew up in a Minnesota Baptist Association church. From my understanding, it would have been unusual for  a pastor in that association to also be part of a ministerial group that included Lutherans, E-free, and Church of Christ. After all, they had other Minnesota Baptist pastors to associate with.

I currently help every Sunday afternoon with a church service at a rest home/care facility. I turn on the microphone and set up the overhead projector. We have Lutherans, Baptists, E-free, Methodists, and Assembly of God churches take turns running the service. I initially felt quite conflicted helping other denominations run their services, but fortunately I've gotten over that.

 

CAWatson's picture

When I parroted Bauder in stating that fundamentalism is an idea - it is an idea that contains two parts. It is a doctrinal position of evangelical orthodoxy (i.e. agreement with the "fundamentals" - and here I don't really care if you use the Presbyterian list or the Premillennial list) and a militant stance and defense for those doctrines. 

Concerning Charismaticism in music - I will poke two songs:..

Majesty. 

Majesty
Kingdom authority
Flow from His throne
Unto His own
His anthem raise

Majesty was written by Jack Hayford, a Pentecostal minister. The phrase "kingdom authority" within Charismaticism refers to Jesus' performance of healings and miracles. That "kingdom authority," according to Hayford's song "flows from his throne unto his own..." In other words, you have that kingdom authority and that ability to do miracles. And I have heard this song sung in countless fundamentalist churches. 

One more hymn - Yesterday, Today, Forever (also found in the Rejoice Hymnal - though I don't know if all of the verses are in it) - written by none other than A. B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian Missionary Alliance, and a believer in faith-healing. I'll add the first and third verse of the hymn here. 

Oh, how sweet the glorious message simple faith may claim:
Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same;
Still He loves to save the sinful, heal the sick and lame,
Cheer the mourner, still the tempest—glory to His name!

Oft on earth He healed the suff’rer by His mighty hand:
Still our sicknesses and sorrows go at His command;
He who gave His healing virtue to a woman’s touch
To the faith that claims His fullness still will give as much.

We need better discernment when we choose our hymns and hymnals. 

CAWatson's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

I grew up in a Minnesota Baptist Association church. From my understanding, it would have been unusual for  a pastor in that association to also be part of a ministerial group that included Lutherans, E-free, and Church of Christ. After all, they had other Minnesota Baptist pastors to associate with.

I currently help every Sunday afternoon with a church service at a rest home/care facility. I turn on the microphone and set up the overhead projector. We have Lutherans, Baptists, E-free, Methodists, and Assembly of God churches take turns running the service. I initially felt quite conflicted helping other denominations run their services, but fortunately I've gotten over that.

I presently pastor an MBA/MARB church (that is in the process of closing). I was on the rotation for the local nursing home service (one service every 6 weeks or so). I did my last service there last Sunday. They need to hear the gospel from someone, and it might as well be me. 

John E.'s picture

My dyed in the wool, IFB pastor father loves Southern gospel, bluegrass, and old-school country music (Jim Reeves, Chet Atkins, etc.). My mom, who was from Michigan, hated the stuff. When my mom wasn't in the car, the music would be Southern gospel and bluegrass. When my mom was in the car, it was all classical music or PCC's radio station. 

After my mom passed away, my dad went to the Grand Ole Opry. Something my mom would have refused to go to. Whatever else my dad is, he's also a good 'ol boy from the South who loves his region's music, college football, and soul food soaked in hot pepper sauce (for those who know him, ask him to say "Massachusets" next time you see him).

Much of this is cultural. Dr. Bob Jones Jr. was a carefully curated high-brow who loved high art. Not to mention that the university drew heavily from the part of the country my mom grew up in. On the flip side, I remember Dr. Rod Bell speaking fondly in BJU chapel services about country music and the Grand Ole Opry.

Even the ifb isn't immune from the cultural clashes between Yankees and real Americans Southerners Smile

Larry Nelson's picture

This weekend, at our four contemporary services (we also have two traditional services), this was one of the songs we sang:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5L6QlAH3L4

In our 1,100 seat auditorium filled with fellow believers joyously, enthusiastically singing praise to God, I find songs such as this one personally very edifying and encouraging.  Was God being revered and honored this weekend while we sang this song?  (Yes.)  Was the assembly worshipping "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24)?  (I don't doubt it.)  Was the objective of Ephesians 5:19 met?  (Absolutely.)

John E.'s picture

Besides that, however, some seem to want to offend brothers with more sensitive consciences about these things.

A few years ago, a Presbyterian friend of mine quipped, "You can tell if someone is an ex-fundy or not by how often they post pictures of their alcohol on Facebook." 

At first, I puzzled over his comment. I now understand it. Like the cage-stage for Calvinists, there is a cage-stage for "ex-fundies." 

John E.'s picture

My description of Dr. Bob Jones Jr. isn't pejorative. I praise God that I was raised by a high-brow mother and a good 'ol boy father. Because of it, I can read Shakespeare while listening to bluegrass. Likewise, I can work on my car while listening to Mozart. 

Don Johnson's picture

I am not arguing for or against bluegrass in my posts in this thread.

The only point I am arguing is that there is an issue with music that touches on fundamental issues and is an appropriate venue for battle. To just say, "I like it," fails to deal honestly with the subject. There are lots of sinful things that I can enjoy. There is such a thing as the "pleasures of sin."

My point here is that there is good reason to be concerned in many ways with music, music styles, and other cultural expressions. We don't always agree on identical applications of this concept, but to deny the reality of the issue is extremely naive, in my opinion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

John E.'s picture

Don wrote:

My point here is that there is good reason to be concerned in many ways with music, music styles, and other cultural expressions. We don't always agree on identical applications of this concept, but to deny the reality of the issue is extremely naive, in my opinion.

I would add that to ignore that the Fall has affected artistic and cultural expressions is not only "extremely naive" but dangerously so. The notion that music (or any other artistic endeavor) can be amoral is nonsensical at best, willfully rebellious at worst, with a lot of room in-between, I acknowledge. 

Bert Perry's picture

My take is that there are a lot of musical cues that bluegrass can lend to people at BJU and like-minded institutions that will be tremendously helpful.  All too often, people fall into the same traps of thinking that adding volume and adding instrumental parts (playing the same variations of the melody and maybe a harmony) somehow makes it more musical, or that somehow adding flashy frills here and there is equivalent to the same.  We need to get outside our own musical ghetto at times.

No argument, by the way, that the lyrics are important.  It doesn't mean that we need to abandon everything by Hillsong or whoever simply because it's Hillsong, but the concepts in the lyrics are indeed important.  Lyrics, poetry, music, all need to work together to impart God's Word in lyric form to God's people.  And the worst thing we can do is to use guilt by association arguments.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

Yes, using "guilt by association" to argue that such-and-such is sinful is a fallacy. But, saying that I don't listen or do such-and-such because of "guilt by association" is not a fallacy. It could be a wisdom issue. It's like the slippery slope argument. Just because the slippery slope doesn't prove or mean that something is wrong, that doesn't mean that there isn't wisdom for some in avoiding that "something" because of the slippery slope.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The issue of cultural conditioning is very, very important:

  • Are 18th century hymns inherently holier than contemporary Christian music?
  • Is "Come Thou Fount" intrinsically holier than Hillsong's "Who You Say I Am?"
  • Is it the style, rather than the lyrics? Was "Come Thou Fount" not arranged in a contemporary style of its time?

Style matters; and there's a whole lot of stuff to discuss under that rubric for corporate worship. For example, I don't think a song leader should breathlessly make love to the microphone! Lyrics matter, too. I hate "In the Garden." I also hate "Away in a Manger." Its theology is wrong; Jesus did cry!  

But, to some people, there is a reflexive suspicion of all things new. I understand that. I'm still that way with many, many things. I was handled a theological box and philosophy (for which I'm very grateful), but I immediately become very cautious when a paradigm threatens to up-end the way I was taught. Sometime there's nothing wrong with doing things differently (and sometimes there is!), but many people can't ever go beyond the pre-packaged system and philosophy they were handed at school.

This is the crux - do we have the ability to discern between sub-cultural mores and Biblical truth? They aren't always the same thing. This is why I changed my position on the Lord's Supper from "close" to "open." It's why I'm much looser of a dispensationalist than I used to be. It's why my soteriology is Reformed-ish. On the other hand, I've grown to appreciate the emphasis I was taught about the church and corporate purity, and the necessity for church discipline. If there's one thing American churches don't seem to care about and/or cheapen, it's (1) membership, (2) purity, (3) discipline, and (4) baptism.

With music, I think there's a whole lot of cultural baggage at play. The recent Baptist Bulletin (May/June) is an excellent resource, with careful and reasoned arguments from both sides.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry Nelson's picture

Wasn't the rationale provided by BJU in regards to its recent dress code changes that students were increasingly coming from homes/churches/schools that no longer held the same prohibitions on girls wearing pants, etc. that they had previously held?

If (I'm inclined to instead say "when") the scales likewise tip in terms of music, and students are more often than not coming from homes/churches/schools in which CCM isn't forbidden, will BJU likewise scrap its prohibition against CCM?

One only has to talk to some current BJU students to know that there are students (and their parents) now attending who view the school's music rules as anachronistic.  (And I've been reliably told of a Hillsong song being sung in a recent student talent competition, to a (mostly) favorable reception.)

Lee's picture

TylerR wrote:

...

My point is that I'm reaching a point where the objection that "BJU + bluegrass = bad" is so strange to me that it seems to come from another planet. ...

My not so humble opinion: "[anything] + bluegrass = bad".  When it comes to bluegrass in any venue--BJU; the White House; Joe's Bar and Grill--the only sane response should be something akin to "I'll take death for $1000, Alex."  Just sayin'..........:)

Lee

Bert Perry's picture

John E. wrote:

Yes, using "guilt by association" to argue that such-and-such is sinful is a fallacy. But, saying that I don't listen or do such-and-such because of "guilt by association" is not a fallacy. It could be a wisdom issue. It's like the slippery slope argument. Just because the slippery slope doesn't prove or mean that something is wrong, that doesn't mean that there isn't wisdom for some in avoiding that "something" because of the slippery slope.

Nope, still fallacies, even if they're dressed up as if they were wisdom.  The logic for such fallacies is always incorrect, hence you cannot trust any conclusions made using such logic.

And really, one doesn't even need to go to a logic text to figure this out, because if something is indeed a wisdom issue, one is implicitly saying that to reject that wisdom is  a sin issue.  Rephrasing things that way does precisely nothing to redeem the argument.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

If it's part of a formal argument that uses it in the syllogism that "proves" the argument. Someone saying that they avoid doing such-and-such because it's a slippery slope is not a formal argument. 

Disagreeing with a wisdom issue isn't a sin. Who on this thread is asserting that or even implying that? 

Scott Matthew's picture

I was just at BJU Homecoming last weekend. It was a great three days. Steve Pettit played his mandolin at the Friday evening class reunions dinner outside the Art Gallery. I heard Orange Blossom Special and was waiting for Puttin on the Dog.  The music was great.  Everyone enjoyed it--Saturday afternoon too outside the Dining Common.

Ron Bean's picture

When need a group to write and publish a music Talmud establishing what constitutes acceptable music and end this constant expression of individual interpretations! SMILE! (Excuse me now while I go watch "O Brother Where Art Thou".)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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