Let’s Have More Worship Wars

Thought provoking article by Russell Moore. Read the entire post here: http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/02/13/lets-have-more-worship-wars/

“…But the more I reflect on what I like, and why, the more I’m convinced that my preferences are almost entirely cultural and nostalgic.

I’m not saying aesthetics don’t matter in worship. The Spirit equips God’s people to sing and to play and to write music. So when music is not good this is often evidence of, at worst, disobedience, and at best, misappropriation of talents. And the Scripture commands us to worship in “reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).

Worship is directed toward God, yes, but worship arises out of a specific community. The psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are teaching ( Col. 3:16). They build up the rest of the Body. That’s why we’ve got to care about what, and how, others hear when we are “addressing one another” (Eph. 5:17) musically.

What I am saying is that most of our varying critiques of musical forms are often just narcissism disguised as concern about theological and liturgical downgrade. That’s why I think we need more, and better, worship wars.

Thankfully, we don’t hear as much about “worship wars” these days, but I wonder if that’s because of growing maturity or if it’s simply because we’ve so segregated ourselves into services and congregations that reflect generational and ethnic and class-oriented musical commonalities. Maybe we need to reignite the wars, but in a Christian sort of way.

What if the war looked like this in your congregation? What if the young singles complained that the drums are too loud, that they’re distracting the senior adults? What if the elderly people complained that the church wasn’t paying attention to the new movements in songwriting or musical style?

When we seek the well-being of others in worship, it’s not just that we cringe through music we hate. As an act of love, this often causes us to appreciate, empathize, and even start to resonate with worship through musical forms we previously never considered.

This would signal a counting of others as more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3), which comes from the Spirit of the humiliated, exalted King Jesus (Phil 2:5-11).  It would mean an outdoing of one another, in order to serve and show honor to the other parts of the Body of Christ. And, however it turned out musically, it would rock….”

-Russell D. Moore, 02-13-12

None But Jesus

In the quiet
In the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored
When You call I won’t refuse
Each new day again I’ll choose

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

In the chaos in confusion
I know You’re sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do Your will
When You call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days

All my delight is in You Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in You Lord
Forever more

 

-Brooke Fraser, ©2005 Song/ATV PublishingAustralia, (Aus and NZ), Hillsong Publishing (rest of the world), All Rights Reserved

New Jerusalem

If words could describe
The longing in my heart
For the place prepared for me
When I think of Heaven’s glory
Awaiting the redeemed
All within me rises up
At the thought of what will be

How I long for the new Jerusalem
Just to see my Savior’s face
All my heart is in Jerusalem
My home my resting place

I’ve heard that the streets are paved with gold
And the light there never fades
I’ve heard of treasures to behold
That words could not explain
And the praise of the saints like an ocean
Holy is the Lamb that was slain

No more crying no more pain
Every tear will be wiped away
All suffering on earth will cease
Forevermore at peace
Jerusalem, Jerusalem

 

New Jerusalem, -Carol Cymbala, Onaje Jefferson and Jason Michael Webb
© 2009 Carol Joy Music/JasonNene Music (Both adm by EverGreen Copyrights)/ASCAP

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWgHeRJKQXA

Praise the Lord: Ye Heavens, Adore Him;

Praise the Lord: ye heavens, adore Him;
Praise Him, angels, in the height;
Sun and moon, rejoice before Him;
Praise Him, all ye stars and light.
Praise the Lord, for He hath spoken;
Worlds His mighty voice obeyed.
Laws which never shall be broken
For their guidance He hath made.

 

Praise the Lord, for He is glorious;
Never shall His promise fail.
God hath made His saints victorious;
Sin and death shall not prevail.
Praise the God of our salvation;
Hosts on high, His power proclaim.
Heaven and earth and all creation,
Laud and magnify His Name.

 

Worship, honor, glory, blessing,
Lord, we offer unto Thee;
Young and old, Thy praise expressing,
In glad homage bend the knee.
All the saints in heaven adore Thee;
We would bow before Thy throne:
As Thine angels serve before Thee,
So on earth Thy will be done.

Amen.

-vv. 1-2 Anon., (c.1801); v.3 Edward Osler (1836)

Hermeneutics in Everyday Life

Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Marxist sees a stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeoisie use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers on the east-west road.

3. A serious and educated Catholic believes that he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and their tradition. Observing that the interpretive community doesn’t take it too seriously, he doesn’t feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn’t bother to read the sign but he’ll stop if the car in front of him does.

5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

6. A preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean: 1) something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing; 2) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things:
1) Take another route to work that doesn’t have a stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the Law.
2) Stop at the stop sign, say “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop,” wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.
Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage: R[abbi] Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R. Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Isaac says: Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says: “Be still, and know that I am God.” R. Hezekiel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus he was judged for his transgression at the stop sign. R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out: “Stop, father!” In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: “Out of the mouth of babes.” R. ben Jacob says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky, for it is written: “Forever, O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens.” R. ben Nathan says: When were stop signs created? On the fourth day, for it is written: “let them serve as signs.” R. Yeshuah says: … [continues for three more pages]

8. A Pharisee does the same thing as an orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000 watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.

9. A scholar from Jesus seminar concludes that the passage “STOP” undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself, but belongs entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

10. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a completely hypothetical street called “Q”. There is an excellent 300 page discussion of speculations on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between the stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunately omission in the commentary, however; the author apparently forgot to explain what the text means.

11. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage “STOP”. For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author for the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P”.

12. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the stop sign were not there.

13. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar emends the text, changing “T” to “H”. “SHOP” is much easier to understand in context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area.

14. A “prophetic” preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world–north, south, east, and west), equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded “mark of the beast,” a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.

-Tim Perry,  http://www.calvin.edu/~lhaarsma/hermeneutics_humor.html

 

Gnosticism, Nicea and Celebrity

Now that it is official that the kind of questions raised in the third and fourth centuries relative to Trinitarianism are nothing more than the constructs of a bunch of middle aged white guys, it is worth perhaps spending a few moments in methodological and historical reflection.

Methodologically, the telepathic ability to see into the minds of others and discern exactly what they are thinking is a great gift. I am quite envious; if I had it, I would not waste my time on webcasts; I’d be doing some telepathic insider trading and making a small fortune on the Dow. Unfortunately,  I can only judge intentions by public actions which rarely if ever allow me to discern exactly why somebody does something.  The ability to spot false consciousness is an even greater skill, though somewhat vulnerable to the Popperian critique of non-falsifiability.

Historically, one might add that this would seem to indicate that modalism is not the only early church heresy which is enjoying something of a comeback in evangelical circles.  The methodological attributes outlined above were also hallmarks of Gnosticism whose basic strategy was `I have secret knowledge that you do not have but which allows me to understand the world – and even you – in ways that you cannot comprehend.  So you need to shut up and listen to me.’

Still, let us go back to the fourth century and see how the `middle aged white guy’ critique measures up.  Well, at the Council of Nicea in 325, many of the participants were no doubt middle aged — which Paul in the Pastorals would actually seem to think is quite a good thing in a church leader.  But white?    I suspect they were ethnically more akin to modern day Turks or south eastern Europeans, not that racial categories really meant anything then.  The key category in the fourth century was that of Roman citizenship, not skin colour.

More significantly, of course, had you been there yourself and looked around the council, you would have seen that many of the delegates had body parts missing – an arm here, a leg there, an occasional eye – because they were survivors of the terrible persecutions under Diocletian and Galerius.  Indeed, many had probably lost close friends and family members too.  Thus, the foundations for the creedal doctrine of the Trinity were laid by men who thought doctrine was something for which it was actually worth suffering and dying.

That someone is willing to die for a cause does not sanctify it; but when you add to this that Nicene orthodoxy has been universally agreed upon as important by millions of Christians of multiple races, nationalities and age profile, through sixteen centuries, surely that should give us pause for thought.  The questions asked at Nicea were important and they were asked by serious men, men serious enough to risk death for their faith.   To dismiss all this with a wave of the hand or through simple lack of knowledge and competence, and to follow this up by playing the race card, is an interesting move.

But hey, if a bunch of middle-aged American pastors in the Elephant Room tell you Nicea and its delegates — and all the Christians who have suffered and died to maintain its truth over the centuries — are irrelevant, who am I to question them?  To do so would surely be the height of arrogance.  Ahem.

Which brings me back to the celebrity pastor thing.    When I raised the issue last year, I was widely derided as talking nonsense and many critics tried to dismiss the notion by conflating public figure with celebrity, pointing to the problems of defining the term, reducing it to trivia such as `Is signing somebody’s book or being photographed with them at a conference really that wicked?’ or the telepathic/Gnostic insight `The man’s just envious that his church is not as big as theirs!’   Indeed, it was made very clear to me by a number of people that I was the problem, not the fetish pastors.   Yet as I stressed again and again, my concern is not ultimately about being well-known or speaking at a conference or two; it is about the big personality pastor who turns into a fetish, and who gains great and widespread  authority and influence by reason of that, without any proper accountability.   Remind anybody of anything that happened recently?

Carl Trueman, 02-01-12,  http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2012/02/gnosticism-nicea-and-celebrity.php

Total Depravity: The Great Equalizer

“Total Depravity is the great equalizer, for it shows that the best and worst of men, are all equally corrupt in light of God’s perfect standard. “The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23)…“Total depravity is both the nastiest and loveliest of truths, because it’s only by seeing exactly what I was that I can understand what has been done for me. Knowing the depth of God’s love comes only as I fathom how far he had to stoop to grasp me.” Amen.”

Tim Challies, 02-10-2005,  Full article: http://www.challies.com/articles/total-depravity-the-great-equalizer

Jesus’ Plea

The Lord Jesus does not bid the laboring and heavy-laden “go and work.” Those words would carry no comfort to heavy consciences – it would be like requiring labor from an exhausted man. No! He bids them “Come!” He does not say, “Pay Me what you owe.” That demand would drive a broken heart into despair – it would be like claiming a debt from a ruined bankrupt. No! He says, “Come!” He does not say, “Stand still and wait.” That command would only be a mockery – it would be like promising to give medicine at the end of a week to one at the point of death.” No – He says, “Come!” Today; at once; without any delay, “Come unto Me!”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come,  http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/02/02/the-plea-of-jesus-come-unto-me/

Hermeneutics & Skin Art

http://thecripplegate.com/tattoos-and-skin-deep-hermeneutics/

Awesome article from Clint Archer on Hermeneutics and Skin Art.

“It used to be easy for Christians to formulate an opinion about tattoos. Sailors had them. And some prisoners. Other than corpsmen and convicts the only ink you saw in church was on the page.

This is not a pointed tirade against tattoos, nor a defense of them; it’s a jab at bad hermeneutics. I have found that some like to decorate their arguments with Bible verses that have no place in the debate.

These are the three usual suspects…

1. Thou shalt not tattoo thyself.

Leviticus 19:28 ”You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.”

This one is the biggie. It is literally the only verse in the Bible to actually employ the word ‘tattoo.’ So if you can’t get this one to play for your team, you don’t have a team.

The immediate North & South context of the verse should provide a clear indication that an understanding of Leviticus’ place in the canon of Scripture is going to be a key. The verse below says don’t make your daughter a prostitute. I sure hope that still applies. But the verse above says you can’t trim your beard or the hair next to your ears. Ever been to an orthodox synagogue? The gents who congregate there (and keep the whole Mosaic Law—kudos for consistency) look a little different from those who attend the men’s breakfast at your church, right? If Christians don’t need to apply verse  27, then why do we have to obey vs 28 of the same chapter?

I experienced the arm wrestling tourney between Law & Grace when I preached through Deuteronomy. (See Bodily Fluids & Skin Diseases: Is Deuteronomy Relevant to Me?). It was in that laboratory which I examined how the OT and the NT dance in unison. To be sure it’s a greasy topic to grasp, but I’m confident we can all agree that the verses in Leviticus are not directly binding on the NT church in the same way that it was for Israel (Rom 10:4).

So, Lev 19:28 gets a red card and is sent off the field as too old for this team.

2. Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,”

Here’s an oldie-but-goodie that also wants to come out and play every time someone lights a stogie or perforates their nose. Unfortunately for our tat debate, this verse is already busy opposing real sin, namely sexual immorality. It can’t be pried loose from that important function to join our debate team.

1 Cor 6:19 verse is talking about sexual immorality being a spiritual affront on God’s holiness and a contamination of the Church Body. If this verse did apply to the physical damage we allow to deface the façade of our skin (“temple vandalism”), then we need to be consistent.

Ever mowed the lawn in sandals, or without sunblock? You jeopardized the temple. Do you maintain your ideal BMI? Ever downed a can of Coke without immediately brushing your teeth? You see the thin edge of the wedge. Why draw the line at ink? So let us let this verse get back to work, while we audition another.

3. Do not be conformed to this world.  

Rom 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world …” 

This verse is a strong candidate. I like this one a lot. I don’t get why some Christians try their darndest to blend in with what the world is doing. Being holy and worldly at the same time is a messy business.

A common defense is that of contextualization for the sake of the gospel, which is little more than an sophisticated version of, “everybody’s doing it.” And everybody is doing it. In fact, no tattoo is the new tattoo.

There are so many social non-conformists out there, to distinguish oneself one really needs to get creative about not being a non-conformist. A non-non-conf… anyway, I digress. We should be distinct from our cultural norms, if said norms jar with Scripture. Using skin as a canvas for art used to be a sign of non-conformity and anti-establishment sentiment.

Nowadays it’s more likely an indicator of boredom, herd mentality, or jejune impulsiveness.

Butsince tattoos are no longer associated exclusively with pagan worship (as in the days of the Celts and their inked druids perhaps), this verse doesn’t apply to this scenario.  Nor is the phenomenon still linked with prison inmate pastimes and salty-mouthed seamen. The debate may have been trickier in the transition period, when tats began to go mainstream (say, the early 90s or so?). But that ship has now sailed. The only ones clinging to the tattoo taboo are those out of touch with what the decision to get marked represents these days. It is no longer necessarily rebellious. Tattoo parlors are no longer limited to dingy alleys operated by seedy social misfits. It is no longer alternative culture.

So, we are forced to relegate this verse to the bench until “worldly” refers to tattoos again. I’m optimistic that the trend will fade as soon as this generation gets wrinkly. Bible verses contorted by sagging skin will convince our kids’ generation that long-term decisions have grotesque consequences when made on impulse, at age 17.

So, are there any verses left? I propose we stick to what God is concerned about: the heart.This body will be renewed sansscars later, but the soul needs to stay in shape now.

When I counsel young people who want a tattoo, I ask about their heart in the decision.

motives (1 Cor 10:31)

parents‘ views (Eph 6:1)

level of contentment (1 Tim6:6)

view of modesty in dress (1 Tim 2:9)

understanding of dishonorable nakedness (1 Cor 12:23)

I like this insightful blogpost by Gareth Palmer, a young non-conformist who has some good thoughts on the issue (and no tattoo).

If examining the heart doesn’t work just have your arty teen turn to Leviticus. By the time they have matured enough to know they’ve been hoodwinked by skin deep hermeneutics, they’ll have outgrown the impulse for a tattoo.

What verses would you use to counsel one through making the decision?”

What I Pray My Children Say About Their Parents And Their Home

Jesus was worshipped.

I had a great childhood.

Dad was crazy about mom.

My dad was the same at home as he was at church.

I can’t believe how patient my parents were.

The Gospel was preached.

My parents did not assume I understood the Gospel. Ever.

We prayed often… even when meals weren’t involved.

We laughed… a lot.

My parents loved Jesus.

My parents treated me with respect.

My parents’ love was unconditional.

My parents were servants.

There was wisdom.

My dad asked for my forgiveness… more than once.

I know I was… but I can’t remember being spanked.

My parents loved the church.

My dad preferred me over his ministry.

My parents weren’t perfect, but they were broken.

I was prepared for life.

The standard was sincerity and not behavior.

I was encouraged to be myself.

I learned what it meant to love my spouse by watching mom and dad.

Grace, not law was the means of correction.

My parents listened.

I was free to make mistakes.

There was unending forgiveness.

My parents were my friends.

My parents insisted I know they love me.

-Byron Yawn, 01-31-12

Posted here: http://thetrajectory.org/some-of-what-i-pray-my-children-say-about-their-parents-and-their-home