Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Confession

"Hello, my name is George, and I have a confession to make:

I am a thief, and I love to steal.  In fact, I love to steal so much that I believe I was made that way.  Now, I know many of you will cringe at the idea of stealing, but your traditional view of stealing as wrong is outdated and unfair.  Yes, Scripture calls stealing a sin, but I feel the standards have changed over time for people like me who have an incurable bent toward theft.  I know that theft has been outlawed in every civilized society going back to Hammurabi, but in our modern age, we must be circumspect about history.  After all, those past societies also possessed laws promoting and protecting slavery and were oppressive to women.  Can we really believe the veracity of the standards of cultures that would promote such obscenely wrong things as justification for modern standards?  I think not.

I know you're still offended that I would choose to embrace stealing.  However, stealing makes me happy and I love doing it.  Who are you to tell me that I can neither be happy nor do what I love?  Perhaps its the term thief.  I don't like it either as there is so much negativity and historical inaccuracy tied up in it.  I'm going to appropriate another innocuous term from the English language and apply it to helpless people like myself.  From now on, I don't want to be known as a thief, I want to be known as "economical."  Economy is a good and virtuous thing and appreciated by our society.  As one who takes what is not mine, I'm being economical, just not in the traditional way.  From now on, I'm going to insist that everyone refer to me, and others who have embraced our true identity as thieves, as economical.

Additionally, I am tired of everyone in society and the Church telling me that my lifestyle choice is wrong.  I've discovered my identity; I am who I am and I cannot change.  Truly, I feel hated when others tell me I'm wrong because I know in my heart that I am not.  I am entitled to a job and a position of influence in society just like everyone else regardless of my lifestyle choice.  New laws are needed to protect me from feeling hated or unwanted because of my identity.  Telling someone they are wrong, regardless of the standards you use, is indeed hate.  As of right now, I am in the process of establishing a non-profit organization, EPAHAD, or Economical People Against Hate And Discrimination.  Using our vast monetary resources gained through stealing and sensational endorsements by left-wing politicians and Hollywood icons, EPAHAD will defend those who are economical in every avenue possible.  No longer will those in society be able to haplessly label theft as wrong and thieves as wrongdoers.  EPAHAD will work to legally silence all those who speak out against theft and those who are economical.  If you speak out against us, you will lose your job, your influence, and your dignity.  Economy is the wave of the future.

Lastly, the Church.  I love God.  God made me the way I am.  He made me to love stealing, and I cannot deny the way He fashioned me.  However, I have major issues with His followers, the Christian Church.  The Church keeps using that antiquated book, the Bible, to justify telling me that my lifestyle choice is wrong.  I cannot abide them telling me to reject who I am at my very core.  I want to be a member of my Church, and given a position of authority in order to proclaim the virtues of the economical lifestyle and how to please God through it.  Therefore, I am now demanding that the Church forego all mention of the economical lifestyle in a negative light, and instead, affirm those who practice economy.  Scorn for the economical should no longer be tolerated by Church leaders.  The Church should sanction us, and proclaim God's blessing upon us.  Now some will reject this notion based on Biblical grounds and outdated standards like the Ten Commandments.  We live in the modern age, and the Church needs to embrace modern thinking, or it will doom itself to irrelevance.

Thank you for reading my confession.  I will not rest until the members of the economical movement are free from discrimination and enjoy pride and a place of prominence in society.  Don't stand against this wave of the future!"  

Obviously, the above is SATIRE in the extreme.  However, it is a true reflection of the tactics employed by the rabid homosexual movement, and so far, those tactics have enjoyed some success.  Phil Robertson is another victim of the homosexual machine, which insists that it never be spoken against, but instead affirmed and blessed, regardless of any negative historical evidence or standards one brings to bear.  It is no longer right to call something right or wrong, or to insist that we operate our society and churches on Biblical and historical precedence.  Phil was neither elegant, nor eloquent, however, the root of what was spoken is Biblical truth. 

Here are a few other salient points about the satire above:
  1. Notice the emphasis on feelings and the heart rather than an adherence to moral standards or historical standards.  Feelings change and the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).  If I based my life solely on feelings my marriage would dissipate, I would lose my job, and I would be quite miserable.  
  2. Notice the redefinition of terms.  The word "gay" used to mean happy, but now is associated almost exclusively with the homosexual movement.  We would be wise to refrain from using that term.
  3. Notice the pointing out of others' wrongdoing as justification for the individual's wrongdoing.  Yes, the Church and society in times past has failed to adequately address wrong practices, however that is no justification for continued wrongdoing.  The Church needs to better address divorce, gluttony, and financial greed.  However, those shortcomings are between the Church and God, and are not justification for the Church to lay down its arms over homosexuality or any other patently sinful lifestyle.  In emphasizing the failures of others, the homosexual movement is replacing God as the standard of right and wrong with man.  Such an emphasis on a man-to-man (or woman) comparison is just as symptomatic of the broken relationships listed in Romans 1:18ff as homosexuality.
  4. Notice the use of non-profits and the legal system to silence opposition.  This is where we're at as a society.  No longer can one call a spade a spade without fear of lawsuits and being accused of "hate" crimes.
  5. Notice the insistence on not only acceptance, but also affirmation.  The homosexual movement wants the blessing of society, and more importantly, the Church.  I would never verbally or physically mistreat a homosexual person, but I will not nor never proclaim a homosexual lifestyle as justifiable or right in the eyes of God.  The homosexual movement knows that if the Church falls (and some liberal denominations have: the American Episcopal Church, PCUSA, et al) that they are on the path to full societal acceptance.  There is no telling how far things will go when and if such happens.  Pedophilia, bestiality, rape, incest, theft, murder...where does the downfall stop?  There are already organizations in place calling for the legal and moral recognition of pedophilia as a legitimate "lifestyle" choice.
  6. Some are still proclaiming that homosexuality is okay because it is not a "sin against another individual," or "it doesn't harm anyone."  However, such logic is again replacing God as the standard for right and wrong with "harm" as the standard and is still a fallacious argument.  One only needs to research the statistics for disease, relationship stability, and life-expectancy for practicing homosexuals to realize that homosexuality does harm someone...those who practice it.
As a final point, consider the word hate.  I am a sinner, and I fail in many areas, but I, and so many others do not call out homosexuality or other societal ills in hate.  Shame and judgment on those that do.  "Hate" is defined by Merriam-Webster as: "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury."  For those in society and the Church who would point out the wrongfulness of homosexuality and the dangers of affirming such practice, hate is not the impetus.  I do not fear homosexuals, nor am I angry against them for being homosexual, nor have I been injured by them.  However, out of love and a devotion to God and His Holy Word, I cannot sit by quietly and let the practice be affirmed and celebrated.  I know that God can and does offer salvation to all persons.  Homosexuals are not exempt from God's love and have so very much to gain from it.  Christians can commit homosexual sin, but if they continue to unashamedly commit that sin and ask for an affirmation and God's blessing on such, it goes to far.  

I pray for and wish the healing touch of the Holy Spirit upon all those who suffer and struggle under this very real and powerful temptation.  I can judge homosexuality as wrong and not do so with hate.  God never taught us not to get the speck out of our Brother's eye, but only to do so after we have evaluated our own lives and addressed our own sinfulness (the plank).  Pointing out someone's wrongdoing is not hate, and, in fact, may be the ultimate sign of love.

For more thoughts on discerning right from wrong and standing up for God's standards in society and the Church, check out the following:

The Holy Bible 

Fool's Gold - By John MacArthur, et al.     

God Wants You to Judge 

Biblical Discernment 

Biblical Discernment II 


Friday, October 11, 2013

Bless the Lord O My Soul: Giving God Our Second Best.

Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) has been out for some time, but it is still enjoying considerable airplay and is appearing in churches' orders of service.  In addition to hearing this song recently in church, I happened upon a boastful YouTube video title.

Apparently, 10,000 Reasons is the "best worship song ever."  I would imagine that some of the 9+ million viewer/listeners of this video would agree.  In the light of whatever validity a youtube title can offer, I decided to evaluate this song according to some objective standards (and a few subjective ones as well).

First of all, let's look at the text.  You can read the lyrics here.  A cursory evaluation of the text reveals the following:
  1. 3 polysyllabic words (forevermore, unending, whatever)
  2. 7 disyllabic words
  3. Multiple monosyllabic words
  4. 17 Sentences (phrases)
  5. 136 words
Objectively, if you take the above data and calculate the Gunning Fog index, you get a reading level of approximately 3.2.  Therefore, an average young third grader could fully read and interpret this text.  Considering that this is a song geared towards adults and not children, the complexity of the text is lacking.

Also, we must consider that one line of the song does not make grammatical sense.
"For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find"

The second line does not fit grammatically with the first.  Taken alone, the first line makes sense, but when paired with the second line, I am confused as to the intended meaning.  Is the speaker singing ten thousand reasons, or is his heart finding ten thousand reasons?  Textually, we don't know anything about the ten thousand reasons (even though they provide the title of the song).

As an aside, repeating the chorus and particular the phrase "o my soul," does not increase the complexity of the text or aid in its comprehension.

Notwithstanding the simplicity of the text, we can less objectively consider the content of the text.  I will evaluate the text according the following criteria:

  1. What does the text say about the attributes of God?
  2. What does the test say about the attributes of man?
  3. How does the text address the relationship of God to man?
  4. How does the text compare to other Christian songs?
Considering #1, the text makes the following observations of God's attributes: [God is] rich in love, slow to anger, great and holy of name, kind of heart, and good.  These observations are simple and true, but say nothing of God's immortality, faithfulness, forgiveness, immutability, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience and many more atributes.   

When we look at #2, the song makes many more references to man (the writer/speaker).  The author is: continually praising God and will do so for the rest of his life despite his circumstances.  The writer also cries out for (the writer's) soul to "bless the Lord" and "worship His holy name."

It can be inferred from the text that God is patient and loving towards man and that man should exist in a state of praise toward God. These inferences are the closest to adressing the #3 relationship of God to man.  If you read the entire text of the song, more emphasis is placed on the writer calling for his soul to praise, that on any attributes of the One being praised.  This lopsided weight of emphasis could provide the inference that the acts of praising God are important than the acts of the God being praised.

Comparing (#4) 10,000 Reasons to other Christian songs is a slippery slope due to the modern, ever-expansive, and increasingly nebulous view of musical genres.  However the text cannot compare to hymnody, past or present.  Consider the following text from Walter C. Smith (1879):
"Unresting, unhasting and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might.
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above,
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love."
Compared to 10,000 Reasons:
"You're rich in love and you're slow to anger
Your name is great and your heart is kind.
For all your goodness I will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my soul to find."
The above comparison is condemning.  From a purely poetic and textual point of view and also in content, Immortal, Invisible, is far superior on all levels.  While you can attempt to make the argument that hymns are not as "relevant" because of their archaic language or meaty content, most hymns are far more textually and poetically rich.

Instead of a hymn, let's consider another popular worship song, Here I am to Worship - here is the first verse:
"Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You"
And the first verse of 10,000 Reasons:
"The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes"
The first verse of Here I am to Worship makes a key point about the nature of God, and the verse from 10,000 Reasons does not.  Compare the second verse of Here I am to Worship to the aforementioned grammatically dubious second verse from 10,000 Reasons (printed above).
"King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth You created
All for love's sake became poor"
Again, if we're considering a text's discussion of the nature of God and man and their relationship, there isn't much to compare. 

So is 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) really the "best worship song ever," or is it more of a mediocre praise song lacking insight and textual depth?

*Subjectivity Alert!* I am a classically-trained musician and teacher.  I would much rather hear and sing one of the great four-part hymns or choral anthems, than I would hear or sing a modern worship song.  The majority of the songs played on Christian radio do nothing for me in the spiritual sense. However, that is not to say that worship songs are inherently bad.  However, in the case of "10,000 Reasons," I believe the populace has embraced and elevated a song which reveals the worst about American worship music tastes including:
  • Overly Simple texts (Reading Level-wise)
  • Lack of sufficient editorial consideration (Grammar)
  • Lack of deep spiritual content (nature of God/Man and relationship thereof)
  • Emotional manipulation through repetition (o my soul, o my soul, o my soul, ...) 

In my humble opinion, the Christian world continues to sacrifice its integrity in many ways, but most blatantly in supporting a musical industry that feeds us a continual diet of milk and not meat.  While hymns and liturgical chants may use outdated language, the truths those pieces express are timeless.  Can we as Christians not expect modern Christian artists to expound upon those timeless truths about the Savior in a complex, intellectual manner, while using modern language?  Must we accept songs like 10,000 Reasons as the best the 21st Century Christian musician can offer?  Certainly not - we can, and should do better!  If you can't write a Christian song that speaks about the nature of God on at least a high school reading level, and that also compares qualitatively with the music of the past, why are you in the field of songwriting? 

Any Christian piece of music that is intellectually or musically half-done only harms the cause of Christ and gives the world ammunition against us.  Yes, we are promised to be maligned and hated by the world, but we shouldn't willingly give the world any more fodder for attacking people of faith.  This is one reason I don't program modern worship songs, and don't plan to anytime in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Church "Hopping"

After what has been a long and compounding series of signs from God, my wife and I decided this summer to begin looking for a new church.  We, in essence, became temporary church "hoppers."  It's been an interesting ride.

Why did we choose to leave?  The church we had previously been attending (which shall remain unnamed) has been beset by some serious problems including:

  1. Comments from the pulpit suggesting the validity of evolution.  I'll have to reserve my lengthy list of reservations about any compromise on Creation by a direct act for later, but remember, Charles Darwin admitted crafting his theory of evolution to explain away Biblical Creationism, not to supplement Creationism or increase our understanding thereof.  Trying to reconcile Christianity with evolutionary theory is one of the most philosophically dangerous moves of recent years within the evangelical church.
  2. Secretive actions by church leadership creating an air of distrust and skepticism in the congregation.  Be open and honest.  If the church body in honest spiritual consideration rejects your proposals, do not try to implement them in secret.
  3. Intentional marginalization of the elderly and those (myself and many others included) who appreciate hymns and more formal worship.  The elderly are the oldest and wisest generation - don't hate them because they like to sing "How Firm a Foundation," and "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name."  Old does not equal bad, and new does not equal good, and vice versa.
  4. Repetitive preaching lacking Spiritual challenge.  This is a scourge in the church, where preachers, in the interest of placating "seekers," or being politically correct, neglect the spiritual nourishment of established believers.

We've attended services at eight different churches over this summer, some through intentional visits and others while on vacation. 

Through that process of visiting, I do believe we have found a church that is spiritually challenging, alive with true Christian fellowship, and tasteful in worship choices.   Amen!

However, in the course of visiting so many different services, I observed many things which caused me at the least distraction, and at the worst, distress.

  1. Unfriendliness - I have an appreciation for formality and reverence in worship.  However, if a congregation lets its reverence and formality translate into stiffness and a refusal to talk to visitors, the negative effect is palatable.  Fellowship and friendliness should be hallmarks of any Christian church (Acts 2:42)
  2. The appearance of disunity/church problems - We attended a church there 200 people were attending in a Sanctuary built for 2,000 or so.  A gulf of at least 30 feet separated us from the nearest congregant, and most people sat toward the rear.   This didn't give the impression of a vibrant church body.  Individual churches have problems (we're human) and congregation sizes ebb and flow.  At least encourage your congregation to sit close in. 
  3. "Bad" Music (key signature-wise) -Notwithstanding the movement of the Holy Ghost or a sudden "inspiration," wrong notes do exist.  If you're going to improvise along with the congregational music, please insure you have the requisite skill to do so (in the correct key signature).  Yes it happened, and it happened on multiple songs...ouch! 
  4. Loudness - "Loud" is not an aesthetic unto itself, nor is it a requirement for music to be truly "worshipful."   While "loud" may be exciting from a physical or emotional standpoint, it does not equate to spiritual vibrancy. In fact, loud without a contrasting soft, or even (shocker) silence, is meaningless.  Personal Aside: I can't stand services where every prayer is underscored with music.  Such accompaniment is wholly unnecessary.
  5. Sporting event atmosphere -  Save the whoopin' and hollerin' for the football game.   I know I sound like a curmudgeonly old fuddy-duddy, but I find sports-fan-like cheering and whooping in church distracting and irreverent .  I am not against clapping, laughing, or any other jovial expressions in church, but moderation is key.  The focus of worship should be on the attributes of the Savior.  Letting out a loud whoop at the end of a choir anthem or bleating and wee-whistling after a solo special takes the focus off of God and puts the focus on either the performer or the raucous applauder. 
  6. Aerobic Exercise - Again, the crotchety old man is speaking - but having calisthenics in one's efforts to present raised hands to God is terribly distracting.  Jon Acuff has already joked about raised hands while singing here and given suggestions for those who feel uncomfortable with the practice. I'm not against hands raised in worship, though I favor the "Foundation of Faith" myself.  Again (II Samuel 6:22), I'm not against the practice of self-expression in a worship service, but I am for moderation and taste.  If your actions draw attention to yourself and distract from the focus of worship there is cause for consideration.

Take these comments for what they are worth as a dose of opinion mixed with true concern.  I grieve for the modern church and the struggles it faces in our feelings-driven culture.  I think all churches can do a better job of balancing the concerns of evangelism, spiritual vibrancy, heartfelt worship, and a welcoming atmosphere. We do not have to compromise Biblical authority, marginalize entire generations, be overly emotional and casual, compromise good musicianship, or copy the strategies of secular business leaders to be vibrant and successful in the mission to which we are called.

Hebrews 12: 1-2a:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to Blool

I am returning to teach another year and also attempting to return to the occasional blog post in an effort to rid my overly active mind of the thoughts that constantly swirl about therein.  I'm smooshing "blog" and "school" together, and calling it "blool."  Deal with it.

I hope to write a wee bit on some things that have been on my mind lately such as:

  • Music
  • Church
  • School
  • Life

If I try, I ought to be able to get one or two good sentences about those things.