I just finished Respectable Sins,by Jerry Bridges, and must heartily recommend it to anyone. The reasons are multiple.
How so? Bridges models a beautiful portion of the Christian life by being a man with 50 years of ministry under his belt, multiple physical and life difficulties, and yet preserving a mind agile to the task of exegeting Scripture; he was over 75 when the book was published, an age when all too many are simply repeating what they've heard before. Not Bridges; he retains a rather youthful ability to approach issues in a new, fresh way.
In doing so, he manages to draw a bead on the real issues which plague the church today; pride, gossip, hyper-criticality (not to be confused with "discernment"), anger, and the like. Like Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart, this book succeeds in discerning where the actual issues lie. It is not with music, or whether one drinks, or what kind of clothes one wears, but rather with.....the heart.
Through this, he also models how Christians ought to approach examples; Bridges does not shy away from giving examples from his own life, but he does shy away from naming the precise situations and the guilty, or blessed, parties. All of us ought to have such a horror of gossip as Bridges displays!
One slight weakness ironically coexists with the great strength of the book, chapter 17 on judgmentalism. He does a wonderful job explaining what our faith is not about per Romans 14 and elsewhere, and yet....there is something of a lack of clarity. Even so, this may be a good thing; Bridges' entire point is, after all, to speak to our hearts and minds, and to derail us from our theological "hobby horses" we too often indulge. Two thumbs up for this book!
Many in this country argue that we could not perform airport security like the Israelis; let's take a look at that. Overall, 670 million passengers board flights annually, screened by 60,000 TSA agents (1/ 10,000 passengers; 12 minutes per passenger) with a budget of $6.8 billion, or about $10/passenger, or $125,000 per screener.
In contrast, the ISA appears to generally require only a few minutes of interview for each passenger who is not of "special interest." I am not certain, but I would guess that if you hired TSA agents like Israel hires screeners, you could put a lot more of that $6.8 billion into people instead of machines, making the airways safer, saner, and grope-free. I'm sure there are any number of Marines and Rangers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq who have effectively learned the techniques.
For an example of how we might apply the principles of poetry to music in the church, let's take a look at Isaac Watts' great hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
It seems to me, sad to say, that most people who play this hymn miss the point, musically speaking. The typical arrangement begins and ends at forte, and is played at such a rate to "get through three or four verses before the congregation gets tired of the tune." If we read it carefully, however, we see Watts is in awe and deeply contemplative; we might actually arrange it better this way.
In Verse 1, Watts is approaching that awful hill with horror and dread; one instrumentalist plays only the melody softly as the congregation whispers the lyrics.
In Verse 2, Watts is applying what he sees to his life and responding as he approaches the Cross. Mezzo forte, complete the chords and perhaps add an instrumentalist.
In Verse 3, Watts is (effectively) at the foot of the cross, proclaiming it to the world. Forte, and if the organist or bassist wants to indulge some power chords, have at it.
Verse 4; Mezzo piano; the poet is backing away from the Cross, waiting for the first of the week.
It's not the only reasonable interpretation of this hymn, of course; changes in tempo or other themes might convey the message well as well. What we do, however, when we listen to the poem and play accordingly is to use musical themes to emphasize the message. It's also worth noting that the basic structure I've outlined is used both in heavy metal ballads (Stairway to Heaven) and classical music (Beethoven's symphonies). Music musically played is both a "Stairway to Heaven" and a bridge between generations.
No, not the movie "Why we Fight" which was presented to soldiers during World War Two as they deployed, but rather one reason (not "the," but "one") we fight in church, and also why efforts for evangelism and discipleship often falter.
Specifically, we no longer understand poetry. Now why does this impair evangelism, discipleship, and our getting along?
Simple; poetry appeals, more than prose, to the heart along with the mind, and we've been systematically eliminating this from the schools for a century--along with the general war our society has been waging on literary (liberal, classical, liberal arts) education. For another reference--and this on the 48th anniversary of his death--read C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, in which Lewis decries the "debunking" of literary sentiment prevalent over half a century ago.
Now let's consider what we have now that we have done here; by downgrading the significance of literature, poetry, and music in our education (and often in our churches), we debilitate ourselves. We lose the ability to differentiate, more or less, between Shakespeare and doggerel, and in the process, we lose the ability to speak to another man in a way he understands.
Your church may be suffering from this, and here are some ways to tell. Look around during music time, and see if people are singing, and how; enthusiastically, or???? Look at the worship leader(s); are they simply singing, or are they trying to whip up enthusiasm? If the congregation is silent to a great degree, or those leading worship are trying to whip up enthusiasm, you know that a bit of poetry just might be in order. Where there is strife over musical styles, a bit of poetry might help as well; strife over musical styles largely ignores the bigger question over whether what music is used is speaking to the hearts of men.
The same goes with a congregation remote from one another, or not reaching out to the lost. God speaks to our hearts through poetry in His Word; why not us in our daily lives?
For a bit of encouragement, check out this flash mob scene where a few dozen vocalists render, sans accompaniment, the Halleluiah Chorus of Handel in a mall food court at Christmastime. H/T Mrs. Bubba
Personally, of course, I'm appalled. Everybody knows that a better Christmastime selection is "For unto us a child is born." :^) Is anybody with me?
First, some background; those people who may have read my blog over the past few weeks (all three of them? ha!) may have inferred from my posts regarding the KJV-only movement and other characteristics of hyper-fundamentalist Baptist churches that my "axe to grind" may have been somewhat personal. If they have, they are right; my family has just left such a church that was trying to keep these objectionable theologies "under wraps" for a while. Obviously, there are any number of side issues there, which I will not go into here.
However, inspired by dear brother Jim's comment on Sword of the Lord, a hyper-fundamentalist newspaper, I've found a quote from a book loaned to me by my now former pastor that illustrates a lot of things brilliantly. The author tries to make the case that Bibles translated from the Critical Text are not valid Bibles with such brilliant evidence such as this (page 110)
This author has in his possession a photograph of the man puffing on a cigar.
Now, I would agree that tobacco is disgusting, and that it is good to avoid it for any number of reasons. However, what the author is doing here is called, in informal logic, the ad hominem fallacy, the erroneous belief that an argument can be refuted by drawing attention to personal traits of the speaker. The quote above is one of four such attacks in a relatively short paragraph on page 110 of that book. Put gently, verse 9 of Jude comes to mind regarding this author!
There are any number of conclusions we can draw from this. First, it is critically important that a pastor or teacher learn, and apply, the rules of formal and informal logic. For that matter, it's not a bad idea for any deacon or church member to do the same--both to understand Scripture better and to keep the pastor honest.
Next, it is unfortunately a fact that too many hyper-fundamentalists--King James Version enthusiasts, Trail of Blood enthusiasts, Sword of the Lord writers/readers, and so on--not only indulge ad hominem and guilt by association fallacies, but they do so (e.g. cigar quote above) on bases not even endorsed by Scripture.
Personally, I love the fundamentals of the faith too much to allow the "King James and culottes, I don't drink and I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do" crowd to be the only face of fundamentalism the world sees.
For obvious reasons, including at least one assault prosecution of a TSA worker who was mocked by his colleagues after walking through the Rapiscan, the use of this machine is justly quite controversial. Here is an interesting article where the TSA really lays out the guts of the program; that they are keeping "dangerous items" off planes.
That's fine as far as it goes, but the question remains whether they were confiscating possibly injurious items from people who would....use them to injure others. Are illegal drugs going to down a jetliner, or were those "caught" young males from radical Muslim sects? The airlines' association rightly notes that they are getting dangerous items--Grandma's knitting needles or your shampoo--but not dangerous people like the "Eunuchbomber" who lit explosives in his skivvies a couple of Christmasses ago on a flight to Detroit.
Moreover, for those willing to become a "Eunuchbomber" or worse, it's worth noting that the Rapiscan offers no way of detecting explosives stored inside a terrorist's body. The physics is simple; high frequency waves are attenuated quickly in the body's saline environment. Hence, you don't see anything below a few mm of skin, and even some pleated garments are "too thick" for the Rapiscan to penetrate.
Which is why El Al, Israel's airline, doesn't endorse this technology. Lipisuction plus explosive implants with a virtually undetectable detonator will walk right through anything the TSA can do to stop it, and yes, I expect someone to try it someday. Hopefully we learn something from El Al about this before it is too late.
....is made by a source of John Stossel in this interesting column. More or less, what the source does is measure carbon emissions, land use, and such for both grass-fed and corn-fed meat and dairy animals, and very consistently finds that modern feedlot methods use less land, emit less carbon, and even yield a fat content "similar to" that of grass fed animals.
As one who routinely buys grass fed beef, however, I've got to quibble more than a little with the claim that the differences in fat content are minor; when one compares the marbling on feedlot beef to that of grass fed animals, the difference is visible to the casual observer. There is simply a LOT more fat on the animal, and even the meat is of a different color--grass fed is a much deeper red, closer to the color of bison meat. Whether it makes a major difference in health is up to debate, but the differences in fat percentage and content are not exactly subtle.
Moreover, is it accurate to simply count the carbon "emitted" (breathed) by cattle without accounting for the carbon sequestration inherent in natural patures? To draw a picture, a century of corn farming had left Joel Salatin's land devoid of topsoil; 30 years of intensive grass based farming has to a great extent restored it. The reestablishment of topsoil where pasturing is used, and the removal of topsoil via the plow, represents a huge carbon impact. To neglect this factor is simply to not do a full analysis.
In short, I view Stossel's source as incomplete at best. However, there is one thing we can both agree on, I think; end corn subsidies, and let's let farmers and consumers make their own choices in the matter.
Apparently, a Canadian court has ruled that scooping ice cream from standard bins used in ice cream shops constitutes a "workplace hazard." Now, certainly some ice cream shops do NOT use well designed, ergonomic cabinets for their product, but I remember my dear sainted mother's counsel on ice cream.
Specifically, there are two temperatures for storing ice cream. One is well below zero, and is useful for storing it for longer periods of time. However, there is also a "serving temperature" at which ice cream can be held for a few days to a week. At this temperature, the product scoops easily, reducing greatly the likelihood of injuries.
Old style soda jerks also know the trick of having a container of warm water for warming the scoop to allow easier scooping of the product--one type of scoop owned by my family even has a liquid inside for conveying warmth from the scooper's hand to the end of the scoop.
It may be true that this workplace had a hazard due to the placement of the product, but my hunch is that whoever owned this ice cream shop failed to convey to his employees proper techniques for scooping ice cream easily and safely. Engineering.You.Can.Use.
Seriously, let's hope and pray that their marriage is longer and happier than his mom and dad's, to put it mildly, and that this is not--like his mom and dad's marriage--in great part a matter of royal political convenience. Pray also that the connection of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Windsor) to the Anglican Church might also be led by someone who actually believes in our Lord.
Vox Day writes about a man whose job was, as an undergraduate, writing papers, including masters and PhD theses. It raises a number of questions, beginning with why kids are apparently graduating from high school without being able to write, continuing with the fact that apparently this man's staff--all novices to various trades--are able to write convincing prose about those trades for those with PhDs in those trades, and finally to the scary point of realizing that.....
.....these guys who cannot "write a lick" to save their lives are going to be, to a point, teaching the nation's children not only in elementary schools and high schools, but also in universities.
Now more than ever, an academic degree seems to correlate to no particular expertise on any subject--and yes, this is something that observers of the current President know quite well.
There is one small place where I differ with the author, however; if professors routinely interviewed students about the papers they'd written, they'd figure out pretty darned quickly which ones had actually written them. There is something to be said for the British tutorial system along these lines, and it's something that homeschoolers will do well to remember.
How do they do it? Simple; they self-insure, and they've actually listened to their actuaries when they said that certain risk factors account for up to 80% of heart disease and diabetes and up to 60% of cancer, and they've written their health insurance rates accordingly. Smokers and the obese pay more, fit nonsmokers pay less.
The result? Zero net increases in health insurance rates for their workers, and 78% of workers approve. It seems that even a produce washer can figure out he doesn't want to pay for chemo for a smoker, or angioplasty for the guy clogging up his arteries with McRib after McRib.
One can not be certain, really. On one hand, you have the harp/lyre, consistent with slower, contemplative music. You have the trumpet, suitable for loud or martial music. You have the timbrel/tambourine, drums, suitable for martial, percussive, and celebratory music. You have singers and, to an extent ( see Psalms 149 and 150), dancers.
In other words, absent modern instruments like the pianoforte, bass guitar, and such, we have the ingredients to do just about any of today's genre. We might assume that it would follow classical Mediterranean or Jewish patterns. Assuming the latter, we have the issue of whether it would be like Haifetz, klezmer, or perhaps the Beastie Boys, all of which are Jewish. As much as I want to sing the Psalms to a klezmer style, I can't say that this is "the" authentic Hebrew style any more than the Beastie Boys. Any serious student of music or history knows that, like language, the distinctives change too quickly to suggest we've retained those styles over 30 centuries.
In short, it seems that the "real" tunes used have been lost to history....perhaps for a reason. We can infer some things were there from the instrumentation, but for our purposes, we are left to derive a tune according to the mood of the text.
In other words, according to the nature of music--poetry with a tune--whereby we receive the lyrics. Our question is then; Are the lyrics Biblical, and does the tune fit the lyrics? A bad example I remember is a little ditty of Proverbs 12:22, "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord", where the tune made one wish to skip and dance. There is a place for dancing, Biblically speaking, but probably not when we're talking about abominations. In the same way, when the Psalms talk about joy, one ought not to re-badge a funeral dirge for the accompaniment.
Perhaps what God intends here is that we think about these things, because when we consider whether the lyrics are Biblical, and whether the tune is fitting (not perfect, fitting), we are forced to do the work of the Bereans and truly understand the Scriptures. As a pastor once rebuked a church I was attending, music is not just a time-filler, but rather a tool for communicating the Scriptures to both heart and mind.
So when we appraise church music, it's entirely Biblical and right to say "I think that this captures the joy of this song well," or "this Psalm, clearly call and response, really should have call and response instead of a solo in its presentation to the church." It is, on the other hand, un-Biblical to say "this song has a beat that appeals to animal spirits" or "this song is soooo.....boring."
It is time for an armistice in the "worship wars." The personal attacks, guilt by association arguments, and slippery slope arguments used by both sides indicate that there is a spirit involved. It just isn't the Holy Spirit, to put it mildly.
In my opinion, Paul Greenberg hits another one out of the park with this one about the similarities between bars, churches, coffee houses, and more. There are any number of preachers who might do well to learn human nature as a bartender or barrista, and any number of bartenders and barristas who might do well to minister something even more spiritual than a triple espresso.
His exegesis of the New Testament is also delightful--many pastors would do very well to begin to understand the depth and breadth of the Word in such a way as this journalist does.
First of all, an interesting Wiki link about contemporary music and the so-called "worship wars." Of particular interest to me is this quote:
The musical style of contemporary worship is very much influenced by popular music, and the use of modern instruments is commonplace. Objectors feel that this style of music is 'worldly' and associated with an immoral lifestyle.
Now take a close look at the quote, and the argument therein. Because of Sandi Patti, we are adjured not to listen to any music of the modern day not from our "approved sources." To put it mildly, this is not a Biblical claim. On the other side of the argument, advocates of contemporary music might argue
The musical style of hymnodic worship is a pale imitation of musicality and is associated with spiritually and relationally dead churches. The Muzak in Hell will feature a little old lady warbling "In the Garden."
What we have here is guilt by association arguments instead of a Biblical analysis of music in the church. Let's illustrate how sinful (yes, SINFUL) this is by applying the principle to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem uses an altar and musical instruments similar to those of the Canaanite temples. In order to avoid human sacrifice and the wrath of YHWH, we must tear down His Temple and rebuild it using instructions other than those given to Bezalel by YHWH through Moses.
Any student of music will be able to list innumerable practicioners of all genre of music whose personal lives were, to put it politely, disgraceful. Hence, indulging guilt by association will only result--and it has--in split churches and hateful behavior by brothers. If you've been enlisted on either side of the worship wars, it might be time to desert.
Having been disheartened to see the ease with which many dear brothers and sisters are carried off by such errors as "KJV only/preferred", "Trail of Blood," and "well that wine Jesus made wasn't really wine!", I'm going to see if I can partially inoculate my own family by taking them through hallmarks of theology such as the five solas and their importance, the Fundamentals, and Baptist distinctives. I'm learning, as a dear brother mentioned in a note, that at times, the theological education in the churches I love is appalling.
An article in the paper this morning tells that many college students have started playing a version of the Harry Potter game "quiddich" by running around and playing a ball game with brooms between their legs.
If you choose to play this game and understand why this might be a bad idea, http://www.nuttybuddy.com/. If you choose to play this game and do NOT understand why this might be a bad idea, ignore the previous sentence, please.
In the paper today, there was a "shocking" study which found that when teens engage in oral sex, they're far more likely to engage in full intercourse. As if anyone is surprised at what happens when teenagers are alone and naked.
Also, doctors have found the shocking result that when smokers submit to annual CAT scans, their risk of death due to lung cancer declines by 20%. Fair enough, but given a relative risk of lung cancer vis a vis smoking of 40, it would seem that smokers could reduce their risk of developing this brutal disease by up to 97% simply by laying off the cancer sticks. You want to cut, in the long term, deaths due to lung cancer? Tell smokers that, from this day forward, Medicare and Medicaid will not be covering lung cancer treatments, and let them make their decisions.
Paul Greenberg, one of my favorite columnists, notes with sadness (which I share) that the University of Arkansas has roughly halved the core curriculum in an effort to "get more graduates." More graduates who don't know the difference between Plato and Play-Dough--what a bargain! It's not like an educated citizen needs to be able to figure out what the Federalist Papers or Constitution actually mean, after all.
For many reasons, even a GOP majority is going to have some difficulties getting things past Mr. Obama's veto. So what can they do to look VERY good to the electorate come 2012? To differentiate themselves from Nancy Pelosi's rule:
1. Eliminate voice votes. Voters deserve to know how their representatives voted.
2. Eliminate games to get a majority like the "deemed passed" method Pelosi tried to use for Obamacare.
3. No more earmarks, period.
4. Revive the ethics committee--starting with why Barney Frank did not recuse himself regarding Fannie Mae while he was dating one of their executives.
5. Make John Boehner's plane quite a bit smaller than Nancy Pelosi's. Use it less often.
6. Eliminate funding for a few insignificant programs (PBS, NEA, NEH), pointing out that in a time of economic crisis, this is a luxury we cannot afford.
7. Eliminate pork barrel spending, noting it's a "luxury we cannot afford," and also noting that pork barrel spending makes us all poorer.
8. Choose ten of the most obnoxious parts of the healthcare bill (say the tax on sales of gold), and basically dare the Democrats to oppose their repeal. Not the big things yet, just the small things.
9. Rein in the DC party circuit and start work at 8am, like the rest of the country.
10. Pass a pay cut for Congress, arguing that if the rest of the nation is poorer, Congress should be, too.
11. Dare the Democrats to stand against any of this and watch the fur fly.
In other words, play by the Marquess of Queensbury rules, softening up the opponent with well-placed, honest jabs to the midsection before swinging for the solar plexus.
Unfortunately, my take is that with the stunts that the Peloso/Reid/Obama triumverate pulled--midnight votes on bills nobody had read, parliamentary tricks to pass hugely unpopular bills, clearly unConstitutional mandates, and so on--the Democrats should have lost 150, not 50, seats in the House of Representatives and control of the Senate....
.....if Americans were paying attention to what was going on, and caring about the gross ethical and moral lapses on the part of equii asinii. It's a long road back to sanity in government, and we're still stuck in the ditch into which Mssrs. Obama and Reid, and Madame.. Pelosi, have driven us.
It is even possible that there is not enough thinking going on among Americans for us to get out of this ditch. I hope I am wrong, but the fact that Barney Frank and Harry Reid won last night is NOT an encouraging sign.
There seems to be no surer way at times of splitting a church and setting Christian brethren at odds with each other than to bring up the subject of music in the church; one side will characterize the other as "dead" or "frozen chosen" because the music seems "out of date," the other will characterize their "musical opponents" as "too worldly," claiming more or less that what is supposed to be worship has become something of an orgy if the musical style is a mere 10 or 30 years old instead of 50, 100, or 300 years old.
Now I make no pretension that I'm going to bring the "true believers" on either side to repentance, but perhaps there is a hope of coming to the aid of those caught in the crossfire by pointing out some true, Biblical realities of worship in the Temple, and in the New Testament Church.
To wit, David was said to "dance with all his might" before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem--and his wife Michal was condemned for thinking it unseemly and undignified (I believe that this passage points forward to the Cross, by the way). Saul's prophetic experience suggests that such dancing was a routine sign of the prophet's office. The instruments used in the Temple include lyre, trompet/horn/shofar, tambourines, cymbals, and more. Refrains of "Selah" and "His mercy endures forever" indicates that there was some degree of call and response in those days.
In the New Testament, Paul lays down procedures for songs, tongues, prophecies, and more in 1 Corinthians 14. In other words, the New Testament church sometimes got a bit rowdy due to the great joy and enthusiasm of those who newly knew their sins were forgiven.
Paul more or less says "keep the enthusiasm, but let's aim for a blessing for all here." In the same way, the presence of percussive instruments in Temple worship suggests that, then as now, music in the near east had a beat to it, and that people would kick up their heels a bit as they came to Jerusalem. For a modern parallel, one might think line dancing instead of ballroom dancing--and to lyrics far more edifying than "Celebration" or the "Macarena."
The development of polyphony, crescendos and decrescendos may or may not have been accomplished yet, but what seems to be the case is that worship in Bible times was a little bit more "rowdy" than we might believe today.
So how do we divide, then, between good and bad music in the church? Well, for starters, if the instrumentalists don't know the harp from a chainsaw, one might differentiate on the basis of basic talent. Also, the example of Temple worship rings true; the pagans used many of the same structures as did the Hebrews, but with certain unmistakeable differences....things like shrine prostitutes and human sacrifice. In the same way, we might know today that something is up today when the praise band doesn't just use the instruments and harmony techniques of the Pendletones, but also emulates the attire of their backup singers.
It doesn't mean one must give up hymns, or praise choruses, or Bach, or whatever. It simply means that whatever genre are used, the true fundamentalist needs to understand that genre and how the Word of Life may be sung, or played, in that genre. To stomp on one of my favorite soapboxes, it means we need to get a literary education in music. Piano or singing lessons could come in handy, too.