13 February 2006

A word on worldliness

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

A-hunk a-hunk o' burnin' blog...The following is excerpted from a sermon titled "The Lord's Own View of His Church and People," preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, and first published in 1887.

Timeless relevance

Here Spurgeon responded to the notion—already prevalent in the mid-nineteenth century—that the way to win the world is to cater to worldly tastes. Churches were offering entertainments as a way of "reaching" the unreached. Preachers were adapting their messages in order to tone down the offense of the cross and reflect the prevailing "scholarship" of the times. Those who opposed these innovations and defended the unvarnished gospel (especially Spurgeon) were derided as harsh, unsophisticated, provincial, or brutish troublemakers.

Sound familiar?

What's highly ironic here is that Spurgeon's message is still as relevant and as seasonable as the day he first said these words, but those in his era who were most keen on working hard to "be relevant" became a sad footnote in the history of the evangelical church. Few of them are remembered by name today, and not one of them is remembered primarily for any positive contribution they made to the growth of the church or the advancement of the gospel.

They were trying to get the church to adapt to modernist thought; lots of people in the church embraced this as a wonderful step forward; and modernist ideas finally left almost every major denomination in the world spiritually bankrupt before the middle of the twentieth century.

To add irony on top of irony, modernism is the very thing most Emergent types these days claim they are eager to purge from the church. They want the church to join the post-modern conversation on postmodernist grounds. While claiming to deplore modernism, they have adopted the old modernist agenda almost in toto. See how perfectly Spurgeon's plea applies to what is happening in the church today:

The church should be separate from the world

SpurgeonThe church is a separate and distinct thing from the world. I suppose there is such a thing as "the Christian world"; but I do not know what it is, or where it can be found. It must be a singular mixture. I know what is meant by a worldly Christian; and I suppose the Christian world must be an aggregate of worldly Christians. But the church of Christ is not of the world. "Ye are not of the world," says Christ, "even as I am not of the world."

Great attempts have been made of late to make the church receive the world, and wherever it has succeeded it has come to this result, the world has swallowed up the church. It must be so. The greater is sure to swamp the less.

They say, "Do not let us draw any hard-and-fast lines. A great many good people attend our services who may not be quite decided, but still their opinion should be consulted, and their vote should be taken upon the choice of a minister, and there should be entertainments and amusements, in which they can assist."

The theory seems to be, that it is well to have a broad gangway from the church to the world: if this be carried out, the result will be that the nominal church will use that gangway to go over to the world, but it will not be used in the other direction.

It is thought by some that it would perhaps be better to have no distinct church at all. If the world will not come up to the church, let the church go down to the world; that seems to be the theory. Let the Israelites dwell with the Canaanites, and become one happy family. Such a blending does not appear to have been anticipated by our Lord in the chapter which was read just now: I mean the fifteenth of John. Read verses eighteen and nineteen: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."

Did he ever say—"Try to make an alliance with the world, and in all things be conformed to its ways"? Nothing could have been further from our Lord's mind. Oh, that we could see more of holy separation; more dissent from ungodliness, more nonconformity to the world! This is "the dissidence of Dissent" that I care for, far more than I do for party names and the political strife which is engendered by them.

The church is to be a garden, walled, taken out of the common, and made a separate and select plot of ground. She is to be a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed, no longer open to the fowl of the air, and the beasts of the field. Saints are to be separate from the rest of men, even as Abraham was when he said to the sons of Seth, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you."

Come now, my dear friends, are you of this sort? Are you foreigners in a country not your own? You are no Christians, remember, if you are not so. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." That is the Lord's own word to you. Did not he himself suffer without the gate that you might go forth unto him without the camp?

Are you at one with the rest of mankind? Could anybody live with you, and never see that any alteration had taken place in you? Would they think that you were just the same as any other man? Then, by your fruits ye shall be known. If there is no difference of life between you and the world, the text does not address you as the "sister" and the "spouse" of Christ. Those who are such are enclosed from the world, and shut up for Christ.

"I wish I were more so," cries one. So do I, my friend, and may you and I practically prove the sincerity of that desire by a growing separateness from the world!

C. H. Spurgeon

Incidentally, Spurgeon had hordes of detractors who constantly urged him to tone down his criticism of early modernism. They insisted that he needed to defer to the sensitivities of Christian leaders who were convinced dialogue and compromise were a better response to modernist innovators than the jeremiads Spurgeon frequently delivered. Spurgeon's critics were especially fond of pointing out that he had no seminary training, and had not even gone to college. Many urged him to shut up and let scholars and academicians respond to modernism.

I'm glad he shunned that type of counsel.

Phil's signature

39 comments:

TheBlueRaja said...

A provocative and timely warning.

As for Spurgeon's relationship to academia, I read this in a bio about Spurgeon - maybe you can comment on the accuracy of it: "In view of his own lack of higher training, he was dependent in Biblical work upon the research of his assistants for scientifical material and on the Puritan divines for method and point of view; and his commentaries are practical and homiletical rather than scientific." Do you know who his primary influences in biblical scholarship were or if this is even an accurate statement?

Gordon Cloud said...

There really is nothing new under the sun. I am coming to believe that modernistic tendencies are evidence of the human nature rebelling against the ways of the previous generation. They are often carried out in the guise of "relevance" but I suspect the underlying motive is more sinister.

Libbie said...

I'm curious about what people said to JC Ryle to try and shut him up too, as he often sounds very similar to Spurgeon, and indeed MacArthur, when talking about those 'isms' that threaten the church.

Carla said...

Phil,

I cannot tell you just how thankful I am that you serve up these portions of Spurgeon every Monday.

It's refreshing and encouraging to know that he dealt with so much of the same attitude and the same criticism in his day, that so many of us deal with now.

So once again, thanks for the helping of Spurgeon today.

SDG...
Carla

Darel said...

If I only came here once a week, it would be on Monday in order to read the Spurgeon quotes. That alone is worth the price of admission.

donsands said...

I love to read Spurgeon.

It's such a fine line to walk between the extremes of the world. Those that have a good works religion, and those who have no religion.
I suppose we need to become all things to all men [the religious, & non-religious] that we may win some, but to walk that fine line is so difficult for me.
I have been the fool on both sides, and I am learning to walk in His love being unashamed of the gospel, and by His grace I will press on to be the child of light Jesus Christ has called me to be.
And help my local church do the same.

Jim Crigler said...

There seems to be a tension between "... the Christian world must be an aggregate of worldly Christians" and "The church is to be a garden, walled, taken out of the common, and made a separate and select plot of ground."

Can someone clarify?

Dan B. said...

As always, Spurgeon's words are right on. Churches moving towards such "modern" thinking need to realize that what the world really needs is the blatant truth.

If the church "packages" its service no different than what the world is used to outside of the walls of the church, and does not use language that convicts, what are they calling unbelievers to? Certainly not repentance, since I've heard some in the "modern" churches shy away from using terms such as sin.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Sound stuff. Thanks for sharing that.

God Bless

danny2 said...

200 years from now (should the Lord not return) do you think that modernism and post modernism won't be split up. it just seems like we're having the same conversations all over again.

as for the timeliness of spurgeon. i'm always surprised by it, then feel a little rebuked. why should i be surprised that God-centered preaching is timely for our generation?

maranatha man said...

Phil, Great post! Thank you for the steady diet of Spurgeon!

David B. Hewitt said...

"Spurgeon's critics were especially fond of pointing out that he had no seminary training, and had not even gone to college."

Wow. I never knew that. And to think... I have a Master's Degree (MDiv). I have been given much...indeed, much is required.

I'll also agree with the others who have posted here about the wonderful Spurgeon posts you all place here on Mondays. Truly, this is my favorite day to visit here!

All Glory to God!
David Hewitt

centuri0n said...

No seminary training? You mean Tim Enloe and Spurgeon have something in common?

MAY IT NEVER BE!

... booyah ...

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm glad for what Spurgeon said; it represents Scripture. I've read him for years and I think his Treasury of David is still the best thing on the Psalms. Most churches don't preach separation. Those that do get labeled and attacked as legalistic, and often by people who say they love Spurgeon.

I see separation making a little bit of a come-back recently, and I think, mainly as a reaction to post-modernism, severe worldliness. People who have rarely to ever taught separation see foundations crumbling, making separation en vogue again. It even sounds new because they have purposefully ignored it for decades. Professing Christianity has dipped below a level of comfortable worldliness for them. After having already "grown bigger" by discarding separation themselves, they revive the doctrine in reaction to something actually just less separatist and bigger than they.

OK, so Spurgeon taught separation. How does it get done? How does this doctrine apply? And if we want to rid churches of worldliness, how can we do that without separating from other churches and the pastors of worldly churches? If we belong to a convention or association of churches rife with worldliness, how can we obey the doctrine of separation, and, well, not separate from the associations or conventions? How can we make the only standard for separation the fundamentals of the faith and be consistent in separating from worldliness?

centuri0n said...

Kent --

I think it is important not just to read the word "separate" in Spurgeon's discourse here and think the desiderata of his pericope is a pluriform dismissal of anything material or substantial.

In other words, what kind of "separation" is Spurgeon talking about? Should we not speak in common English? Should we not wear "normal" clothes but only choose some radically distinct fashion of modestly and humility? Or is he talking about the radical separation of the Gospel culture and message from the competing culture and message that materialism, atheism, syncretism and universalism is actively preaching and teaching in the world?

Let me give an example very close to home: should a Christian blog at all? Look: play a little "next blog" from the blogger bar here at PyroManiacs. I promise you that if you view 50 blogs at random, you won't find more than 1 that you might find appealing from a Christian standpoint. Blogs are over-rum by worldliness. So in that, is blogging as a method out the window for Christians to disseminate the Gospel?

As you can guess, I think not. What we do is redeem the blog method for the Gospel message. That's a lot easier said than done if you take a look at the 4000+ blogs (for example) that call themselves "God Blogs" in the TTLB ranking system. For me and my intransigent Baptist standards, I'd say easily half of those blogs are not normatively Christian -- and I would start at the top and rule out Hugh Hewitt as the first problem blogger.

But in that, what's the standard? Dude: the Gospel is the standard. For example, let's imagine that Hewitt personally makes nominal confession of faith: does that make his blog "Christian"? In what way can that be true if he is willing to call Mohammed, without qualification, "the prophet"?

The Gospel. It's the thing by which we stand, and by which we are being saved, an in which we ought not to believe in vain. When we start mollifying the Gospel in order to blog, or produce popular music CDs, or have a radio show, or (for pete's sake) have a church, we are breaking the proper rule of separation. It's the Gospel which is inviolable, and as Paul has said, after that we can all things to all people in order to save some of them.

I'm typing at high speed between meetings, so pardon me if this reply is truncated. Your input here at TeamPyro is valuable. I'm interested how you receive this answer.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Centurion. I mean that. I'll recommend Peter go visit you sometime if he could just snap out of this vision he's having, something about a picnic blanket.

To start, perhaps you should know that my definition of worldliness is not "wearing a Budweiser t-shirt," "saying, 'groovy,'" or "using a Selectric ball instead of a manual Smith-Corona." We has electricity too.

I culled three thoughts from your post; you can tell me if I'm wrong. One, a sort of definition of the world: "the competing culture and message that materialism, atheism, syncretism and universalism." I'd be amazed really if that's what Spurgeon was thinking. Two, a standard of separation, that being, "It's the Gospel which is inviolable." What verse would you have for that? My view has several passages which buttress it. And then third, thou gavest a whole bunch of hypotheticals designed to perform a kind of moral equivalence on separation standards. Two words: cloud cover.

Since Paul commanded "be not conformed to this world" as a basis of perpetually offering ourselves to God (Rom. 12:1, 2), we are required to do that even if it is outside of "the Gospel" standard. But let's say that everything Christ commanded does fit into the inviolable Gospel, since He required that for making disciples (Mt. 28:20), and what is a disciple? A London Baptist Confession view of sanctification sees it proceeding from justification. Isn't salvation itself sanctification? The Gospel saves from what? How about from worldliness (1 Jn. 2:15-17; Titus 2:12)? Does worldly worship fit into the true worship that God seeks through the Gospel (John 4:23, 24)? Are worldly and worship mutually exclusive? Does what you offer God reflect on what you think of Him? How does our view of God disconnect from the Gospel? What is profanity? Is anything profane anymore? These are just a sampling.

People play dumb on worldliness. God knows that we know. Assyria didn't know that she was a tool of God (Is. 10), but that didn't mean she wasn't responsible for knowing. I don't think it's that difficult for anyone who cares, so Luci, you've got some splainin to do!

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing, the 1 Corinthians verse "all things to all men," be-likem-to-winnem, seems like Rick Warren's life verse. Paul sacrificed conveniences not to offend people. He didn't have to be worldly to do any of them. Not eating meat offered to idols and refraining from pork around Jews don't represent worldliness. He didn't infiltrate the world by taking up their worldliness, an under-cover Christian. Paul did things like refuse monetary gifts so as not to look like a traveling con man. The salvation of the Gospel is a miracle in which we become partakers of the Divine nature. Salvation imparts His nature, doesn't dumb His nature down to ours. The twisting of that 1 Corinthians verse could easily violate the Gospel. People should know that the Gospel doesn't produce some kind of worldly thing---the incorruptible seed produces something that isn't worldly but his holy (not profane).

Darel said...

Centurion seems always capable of sending me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

I'm like, "Yeah, that's right on!" and then I'm like, "Whaaa?"

See, I'm with you on "Gospel culture and method" and "blogging as a method"....

Then you spin me right round (baby, right round like a record... uh nevermind) with your "redeem the blog method". Now I'm in the "Why does he say these things? Just to get on my nerves?"

There's no redeem to it. Just use the method or the technology or whatever for God's purposes. That's not "redeeming" it, unless this particular blog was used as a porn distributor and you want to redeem it. But you can't redeem a method. You can only redeem an instance. No matter what you do you will never "redeem blogging". Blogging as a concept/method/technology will be used for both good and evil.

Sheesh... now I've got to go redeem writing. You wouldn't believe how much ink and paper needs redeeming as a method.

centuri0n said...

| Kent Brandenburg said...
| Thanks Centurion. I mean
| that. I'll recommend Peter
| go visit you sometime if he
| could just snap out of this
| vision he's having,
| something about a picnic
| blanket.

One of the thing that bothers me about this statement is that the vision Peter received was in particular about the dietary law and not about all things. So, for example, homosexuality was not transformed from being a sin into being a consensual loving relationship between two adults; lying and coarse language was not transformed from a vile use of the tongue to just another way of speaking.

So in that, there is a culture that is opposed to the Gospel, and there is a culture which is a result of the Gospel, and which is expanding the kingdom of God to every tribe, tongue and nation.

| To start, perhaps you should
| know that my definition of
| worldliness is not "wearing
| a Budweiser t-shirt,"
| "saying, 'groovy,'" or
| "using a Selectric ball
| instead of a manual Smith-
| Corona." We has electricity
| too.

I would say this is right-mindedness. But it doesn't stop at some technological invention, and it is not limited to technological advances. Technology is only one aspect of culture: poetry is another; music is another; fashion is another; government is another; etc.

To consider that the Mennonites and the Amish are only wrong in extent but not wrong in objective and scope is to say that we are not enough like them rather than to say they have retreated from the world and have no impact on it.

| I culled three thoughts from
| your post; you can tell me
| if I'm wrong. One, a sort of
| definition of the world:
| "the competing culture and
| message that materialism,
| atheism, syncretism and
| universalism." I'd be amazed
| really if that's what
| Spurgeon was thinking.

I suggest it is exactly what he was saying when he raised this objection:

They say, "Do not let us draw any hard-and-fast lines. A great many good people attend our services who may not be quite decided, but still their opinion should be consulted, and their vote should be taken upon the choice of a minister, and there should be entertainments and amusements, in which they can assist."

Spurgeon is saying that the syncretizers of his age are the ones making the church like the culture, and thereby surrendering the Gospel culture for some "not quite decided" culture. What else could he mean?

| Two,
| a standard of separation,
| that being, "It's the Gospel
| which is inviolable." What
| verse would you have for
| that? My view has several
| passages which buttress it.

The first passage I would offer in defense of my position is 1Cor 15:1-4. There Paul not only defines the Gospel without any fluff, but he also defines it specifically at that which the Christian stand inside of, that which the Christian is saved by, and that which the Christian receives (as Paul says the Corinthians did receive it) and also delivers (as Paul himself delivered it to the Corinthians), or else whatever he is doing is in vain.

If you'd like my extensive exegesis of that passage, I can give it – however, the definitions implicit and explicit in that passage are the basis for (as examples) the anathema in Galatians and the hope of salvation in Romans. It is the exact same message Peter delivers on Pentecost.

When we understand that Christ's final admonition to the church is preach the Gospel to every living thing, making disciples and baptizing them, we understand that the Gospel is the only thing which defines us as followers of Christ. If we trade the Gospel for anything – for a method of expression, for a political advantage, for a moment of peace or safety – we have violated our great commission.

The question is simply: is it a violation of the Gospel to use something other than the Greek and Hebrew of Scripture to preach the Gospel. If the answer is "yes", then we are talking about creating a Gospel culture that opposes the cultures of the world.

| And then third, thou gavest
| a whole bunch of
| hypotheticals designed to
| perform a kind of moral
| equivalence on separation
| standards. Two words: cloud
| cover.

That's a pat criticism, but it has no substance. For example, let's say for one second that if we wear the clothes that the culture wears, we have become of this world. That's fine – but as much as that includes biker wear and the things they wear on MTV, it also includes Armani suits and polo shirts. And that is to say, if everything the culture does is inherently worldly. If it turns out that there are things that the culture does which is frankly neutral – for example, there may be modes of dress in the culture which meet the standard of humility and modesty we believe the NT teaches which falls inside the scope of the Gospel – then it is possible for us to use those things to deliver our message.

| Since Paul commanded "be not
| conformed to this world" as
| a basis of perpetually
| offering ourselves to God
| (Rom. 12:1, 2), we are
| required to do that even if
| it is outside of "the
| Gospel" standard.

Yes, but was Paul saying, "never do anything that the world does, so don't speak in Greek or Hebrew or Latin but speak in this new language which your elders will teach you," or was Paul saying, (in the context of Romans) "Do not make the moral mistakes of the world, but live and act as if your are different from it"?

Given that this admonition then lists specifically being right-minded (v. 2), having sober judgment (v. 3), acting properly in the church (v. 4), etc., I think Paul is actually saying, "you have a standard to which you must be conformed." In fact, he does actually say, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect," (Rom 12:2) and again "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom 13:14)

That's the Gospel, Kent. I can't imagine another context in which you would say otherwise.

| But let's
| say that everything Christ
| commanded does fit into the
| inviolable Gospel, since He
| required that for making
| disciples (Mt. 28:20), and
| what is a disciple?

That is a great question – but let's notice something: rather than stick to the passage you have already pointed to in Romans to find the answer, you trade in for the LBCF. Don't get me wrong: there's nothing the matter with the LBCF – except that it is not Scripture. Let's read the LBCF, but let's also get back to Scripture and see if it tells use if what a disciple is is actually an inviolable part of the Gospel.

| A London
| Baptist Confession view of
| sanctification sees it
| proceeding from
| justification. Isn't
| salvation itself
| sanctification? The Gospel
| saves from what? How about
| from worldliness (1 Jn.
| 2:15-17; Titus 2:12)?

I would agree with you – but we are back to the matter of the definition of worldliness. That's our point of contention. I think – and I may have misunderstood you, so please offer a correction here if I got it wrong – that you are saying, "all expressions of the worldly culture are wrong," but then you are excluding technology but not, for example, modes of music.

If we could clear up the definition of worldliness, that would go a long way to resolving our other issues.

| Does
| worldly worship fit into the
| true worship that God seeks
| through the Gospel (John
| 4:23, 24)? Are worldly and
| worship mutually exclusive?
| Does what you offer God
| reflect on what you think of
| Him? How does our view of
| God disconnect from the
| Gospel? What is profanity?
| Is anything profane anymore?
| These are just a sampling.

A sampling of what? See: I think it is your view that, for example, there are no circumstances in which a 4-piece rock band (drums, base, 2 guitars) could offer worship to God. It is my view that a 4-piece could offer worship to God in music under two conditions: (1) that they were not performing music which is dishonoring to God {e.g. – profane language, false doctrine, etc.}, and (2) they were not "performing" in the sense that they were drawing attention to themselves but they were actually worshipping, drawing attention and giving glory to God.

To be as specific as possible here, in my view it is difficult for a rock band to provide worship music because of the congregation and the culture it lives in. It tends toward all that is wrong with secular rock music: cultic idolatry, an emotive focus, and cheap lyrics that do not honor or extol God. But just because it is difficult does not mean it is wrong: it means that there must be very intentional choices made when using a 4-piece rock band to lead a congregation in worship. 4/4 time is not inherently sinful.

| People play dumb on
| worldliness. God knows that
| we know. Assyria didn't know
| that she was a tool of God
| (Is. 10), but that didn't
| mean she wasn't responsible
| for knowing. I don't think
| it's that difficult for
| anyone who cares, so Luci,
| you've got some splainin to
| do!

I have offered the 'splainin' so far.

| One more thing, the 1
| Corinthians verse "all
| things to all men," be-
| likem-to-winnem, seems like
| Rick Warren's life verse.
| Paul sacrificed conveniences
| not to offend people. He
| didn't have to be worldly to
| do any of them. Not eating
| meat offered to idols and
| refraining from pork around
| Jews don't represent
| worldliness. He didn't
| infiltrate the world by
| taking up their worldliness,
| an under-cover Christian.

I would agree with you. My point is that Paul's confession that he was all things to all people means, as you said, that he gave up conveniences to deliver the Gospel; it means he took on the roll of a servant to all of them – but how did he learn to be a servant? The ideal of servanthood is actually a part of the inviolable Gospel – and I would support that in this way:

(1) Christ Himself took on the form of a servant
(2) Christ's greatest admonition to the apostles is that in order to be the greatest of all, one must be the servant of all
(3) Paul's explanation of marriage specifically says that the husband is to do for the wife what Christ does for the church – which is not to lord over, but to sacrifice even unto death

The matter of who Christ is is inherently part of the Gospel. To say that Christ's work is not service – obedience to God for the sake of those whom He loves, that is loving God first and then one's neighbor – is to neglect the Gospel, to omit a critical fact of the Gospel.

So when Paul is talking about being all things to all people, he's not talking about getting tattoos or some other such ridiculous concession to "authenticity": he's talking about being a servant as Christ was a servant.

| Paul did things like refuse
| monetary gifts so as not to
| look like a traveling con
| man. The salvation of the
| Gospel is a miracle in which
| we become partakers of the
| Divine nature. Salvation
| imparts His nature, doesn't
| dumb His nature down to
| ours. The twisting of that 1
| Corinthians verse could
| easily violate the Gospel.

I agree with you, which is why I didn’t twist that verse.

| People should know that the
| Gospel doesn't produce some
| kind of worldly thing---the
| incorruptible seed produces
| something that isn't worldly
| but his holy (not profane).

It may not produce "some worldly thing", but it does produce some thing in the world: it produces a new man, for starters, and in that it produces the church; it produces a testimony to Christ's work in ways that testify to the principalities and powers, but also testifies to the lost, who must hear the Gospel and must have someone to is the messenger of the Gospel.

| Darel said...
| Centurion seems always
| capable of sending me on a
| rollercoaster ride of
| emotions.
|
| I'm like, "Yeah, that's
| right on!" and then I'm
| like, "Whaaa?"

That's why Phil likes me so much. :-)

| See, I'm with you on "Gospel
| culture and method" and
| "blogging as a method"....

Good for you! That's the good stuff.

| Then you spin me right round
| (baby, right round like a
| record... uh nevermind) with
| your "redeem the blog
| method". Now I'm in the "Why
| does he say these things?
| Just to get on my nerves?"
|
| There's no redeem to it.
| Just use the method or the
| technology or whatever for
| God's purposes. That's not
| "redeeming" it, unless this
| particular blog was used as
| a porn distributor and you
| want to redeem it.

You are confusing "redeeming the url" with "redeeming the method". Look: technorati says there are right now about 27.8 million blogs. Not 1% of them are preaching the Gospel – and blogging was not established as a method for preaching the Gospel, right? So when I say "redeem the method", I am talking about taking a means which is used, by far and away, for secular and frankly-blasphemous ends, and using it for God-honoring ends – that is, for the Gospel.

If the phrase I used offends you, let's find one that doesn't and move on. There's absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that most blogs are disgusting but that the method of communication can be used to spread the Gospel.

| But you
| can't redeem a method. You
| can only redeem an instance.
| No matter what you do you
| will never "redeem
| blogging". Blogging as a
| concept/method/technology
| will be used for both good
| and evil.

I think you can. Can we remove all instances of ungodly blogging? I doubt it. Can we reach more people in a frankly-secular sector of society than we can with tracts and street preachers? I think it is undoubtedly so.

So for us – the Pyros, Triablogue, Al Mohler, Steve Camp, AOMin.org, all the people in my home sidebar, etc. etc. etc. – to use this method, which is overwhelmingly dominated by lousy content, for preaching the Gospel redeems the method. It takes the method out of being strictly for adolescent confession and screed and uses it for the highest purpose in God's creation.

I'd call that redemption.

| Sheesh... now I've got to go
| redeem writing. You wouldn't
| believe how much ink and
| paper needs redeeming as a
| method.

Listen: if we take your view of what redemption means and try to apply it to people, there's no redemption of men, either. Since all men are not redeemed – only particular men are redeemed – then by your view there is no redemption of mankind.

Paul says we can "redeem the time" (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5); if we can do that, we can redeem the blog.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Centurion, I appreciate all the time you are taking in this methodology. My first paragraph, I was not making any point, just having fun with your name. You answered it like I was making some sort of subtle point, but I wasn't. Sometimes I do make subtle points, so I appreciate the thought. I understand you trying to read into that paragraph something that had to with the rest of post, but it had to do only with your blog ID.

The "world" is the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, which does course its way through our entire way of life---art, music, recreation, dress, education, literature, etc. Satan and the world system expresses itself in all aspects of our culture. We are required, with Holy Spirit discernment, to sort throught it, prove it, and hold fast to that which is good.

I'm not sure yet that we agree that the Gospel pertains to everything in the New Testament, the faith once and for all delivered, every manifestation of the Gospel. I believe this. Paul quoted Deut. 30 in Rom. 10 when he explained the ease of the gospel. Confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus relates to all of the will of God for your life. The word nigh unto them, even in their mouth, was a willingness to do whatever God wanted them to do. They were announcing that God was their Suzerain, their Sovereign Master with all the implications found in the specific commands and principles. We turn from idols to serve the living and true God. We can't hold back anything, and must be willing to give up everything.

More than any aspect of our conversion, our music is said to be new, new as in different, not chronologically. The sole direction of music in Scripture is "to God." Our guiding question is: What does God want? He doesn't want something fleshly, sensual, of the spirit of the age (having the world's philosophy), gender neutral, bitter, malicious, rebellious (any other negative emotion seen in Eph. 4 among other places). God rejects unacceptable offerings (Gen. 4, Cain). The only people I have found not willing to admit that the music itself, the score, the notation has a message (is moral or immoral) are professing Christians who want to keep their worldly music. Keep the world's music and you'll get the world's crowd, more than anything. Rick Warren made a big point of that in his Purpose Driven Church. Professing Christian leaders don't want to give up this worldly stuff because they will be castigated and marginalized (i.e. "lose opportunity for ministry"). Billy Graham has figured this out. He starts with nuns at the altar doing personal work, and then he invites in "Christian rap" groups all to draw a crowd--out with George Beverly Shea, in Biggity-Biggity Boo or whatever group. For instance, people know that the music of rock and roll, rap, rhythm and blues, new age, among many others have a message incongruent with God in and of themselves. That's all I'll say on this, but I could say a ton. If something is profane, that means that it expresses a philosophy, message, mood, or the like that is in common with the world. In a recent letter I received from John MacArthur, he bemoaned the dumbing down of our culture because of a Satanic attack on linear thought. The coursening of our culture through profane expressions does effect the capacity for people to see Christ through written language, which happens to be what God's Word is. The lack of separation from worldliness has led to this very thing of which he complained, keeping no clear line of distinction or demarcation between God and the world.

Have you seen or heard of the Crosspoint Christian Worldview series? You don't think that the world has affected art? You don't think there is a message in dress? For instance, when a boy has his pants hanging well below his hips, this says nothing? I could go on. In Zephaniah 1:8 God says, "I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel." Wow, we have to intepret strange apparel, and God was angry with their indistinct dress. Anyway, that's all I'll say here too.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: Regarding the quotation you asked about from the Schaff-Herzog entry on Spurgeon:

It's an odd statement, more than anything. There is such a paucity of "scientifical material" in Spurgeon's sermons that I'd be at a loss to understand why someone with so little space to write a bio on Spurgeon would feel compelled to mention that.

Moreover, if the writer is implying that Spurgeon employed "research assistants" to make up for some deficiency in his own ability to study, that's not at all the case.

Spurgeon had a personal secretary, a man named JW Harrald, who helped him daily with correspondence and editorial work. (After Spurgeon's death, Harrald and Mrs. Spurgeon edited Spurgeon's "Autobiography" from fragments Spurgeon had written and personal insights he had woven into his preaching.) The likelihood that Harrald occasionally gave Spurgeon sermonic and illustrative material drawn from Harrald's own study and reading seems high, given his close involvement with Spurgeon. But it's a real stretch to suggest that Harrald's job was to study for Spurgeon and supply him with prefabricated "scientifical material."

Another of Spurgeon's close associates was W. Y. Fullerton (also a biographer of Spurgeon's). Fullerton often did the copy-editing on Spurgeon's sermons when the preacher was too sick. (To be clear: he was editing messages Spurgeon had preached and stenographers had recorded; he was not supplying Spurgeon with material to preach.) In his bio of Spurgeon, Fullerton describes how he would insert fitting illustrations, adjust the wording, etc. He mentions, as I recall, that on occasion he might even turn an 8-page homily into a 12-page treatise. Fullerton says Spurgeon approved his work, and that Spurgeon himself couldn't always distinguish which words were originally Spurgeon's and which were Fullerton's emendations.

But Spurgeon's reliance on these men and their assistance was owing to the scope of his ministry and the unrelenting demands on his time and energies—not because of any scholarly deficiency stemming from Spurgeon's lack of formal education.

As a matter of fact, Spurgeon was reading Puritans like John Owen profitably on his own by the time he was 9 or 10 years old.

BTW, Spurgeon's refusal to respond to modernism on scholarly grounds with collegial dialogue and an exchange of scholarly papers was a deliberate, pastoral decision, not a necessity forced on him by the limitations of his curriculum vitae. I think history has vindicated that decision.

centuri0n said...

Kent --

First of all, be at liberty to call me "Frank", and be at liberty to have fun. Just because I don;t get it doesn't mean you aren;t allowed to enjoy this blog as a spectator or as a participant.

Second of all, let's be clear that I don't think hip-hop fashion (your example) is redeemable. It violates the essential standards of decency that the NT outlines for us -- the standard which those in the church ought to obey, which makes it part of the Gospel message.

The question is this: if we can agree that hip-hop fashion (both male and female) is not modest, can we agree that this conclusion about hip-hop fashion is not necessarily a valid statement about hip-hop expression, by which I mean hip-hop music?

I think that hip-hop has the same problem rock does in worship: it is essentially performance-based art which does not enjoin the listener to think about something other than himself, so it is not particularly good at drawing attention to God.

However, let's be fair: there are plenty of preachers who do not preach in a way which draws attention to God's word and God's message, but instead preach in a way that draws attention to, well, themselves. You seem to know a good bit about Rick Warren, and I would ask you to consider him as an example of someone who seems to talk a lot about himself when he has the opportunity to preach the Gospel.

In that, the method -- which is public speaking -- has the same pitfall hip-hop does. Do we abandon public speaking as too worldly a method? No. God willing, we use public speaking as a method for God's glory -- avoiding, by grace, the abuses of self-glorification and working, again by grace, to deliver God's message which is the Gospel to all the earth.

There may be a way to use rap music as worship music. I admit to you I cannot imagine what it is, and I would object to it at face value if the idea was proposed at our church. But to say, without any consideration, that there is no way that rap could glorify God to me seems a little short-sighted when music like Southern Gospel (which I would consider an ultra-conservative musical expression today) did not exist 200 years ago and at one time had to be an innovation created by the changing interests and talents of the body of Christ.

And it's after midnight at my house as I type this, so before I start blathering on about Santa (that's a joke; my blog readers got it), I;m going to bed. I'm sure there will be more on this later.

Jim Crigler said...

There are two different topics being discussed here that I'm not sure are being separated adequately:

1. Worldliness in worship, and
2. Worldliness in general

What I believe CHS was getting at was worldliness in the worship meetings of the visible Church.

Both topics are good subjects for discussion. But since Phil seems to be posting this alongside James' running series on the Church, I think it most appropriate to discuss it that way.

Jim Crigler said...

Centuri0n wrote: There may be a way to use rap music as worship music. I admit to you I cannot imagine what it is ...

You guys ever do a responsive reading?
;-)
^^^ <--- (smiley for the humor impaired).

TheBlueRaja said...

Interesting stuff. Thanks!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Frank,

I believe my view of this would be the same as Spurgeon, that he represents my heritage, not to get into a Spurgeon tit-for-tat, but the quote of Spurgeon started this. If I'm not wrong, Mr. Johnson has concerns for today as represented by Spurgeon's words over 100 years ago.

I'm not saying all discernment of worldliness is easy, but it is much easier than we make it, and God will cause or allow us to have a right position. You parse it very carefully with "fashion" and "expression." I'm saying all hip-hop is worldly. Godly people didn't get their heads together to invent it. Profane and godless did. To get an example of your moral equivalence, look at paragraphs 4 and 5 of your last post---since some preachers use wrong forms of public speaking, then hip/hop must be OK as an expression of worship. My reaction is: What?!? Wrong public speaking is a wrong expression. Hip hop is wrong expression. Both are bad and yet both are different. Hip Hop is to Music what Wrong Speaking is to Public Speaking. We throw out neither music or public speaking. We do throw out bad music and bad public speaking. They also both do not relate to "performance." Hip hop is not wrong just because it lends itself toward performance, and I think those listening to Christopher Parkening in concert would disagree with you about performance. Hip hop itself degrades an entire culture with the components of the music itself, breaking down character and morality. The music tends toward a people who operate in the flesh. In the art world, modern art does this as well in its own way. I could say more, but I would be incredulous if you aren't able to get this.

Rap and rock "musicians," among others, will be honest about what their music does, because they aren't ashamed of what the music does and they don't have anything to protect. They will tell you that they want it to be sensual, lustful, rebellious, etc. Then we take that form and put Godly words and that "redeems" it? Not at all. The form blasphemes the words. It profanes the words. It drags the words down to a form incongruous with the nature of God. That is the essence of worldliness. In that way, it is worse than the "secular" version. In so doing, it destroys the Gospel. It would be similar to having Ronald McDonald read the news report on Marines killed in Iraq. The medium doesn't fit the message. It impacts the message intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, all aspects of the Gospel.

Worship is not a matter of our taste. It is recognizing who God is and giving Him what He wants. We may not like what He wants, so we change our taste to fit His. Making worshp a matter of taste fits the post-modern philosophy, which really does go back to Cain, who preferred fruits and vegetables, and to Jeroboam who wanted to make worship more convenient for those in the Northern Kingdom.

The problem is putting this all back in the bag now that men have been defending it for years in order to feed the masses their bread and circuses, calling it the "blessing of God" or "celebration." Men are afraid of a loss of credibility that will come with admitting that they are the cause of encouraging this break down, by bringing the world into the church in the thing that matters the most, worship.

Fashion, art, education, etc. are all other issues very important. To Jim Crigler, and thanks for your comments, you can't separate life in general and worship for the believer in the NT. "Living sacrifice" is not so much as opposed to "dead sacrifice" as it is perpetual worship. As a holy priesthood we continually offer ourselves up as a spiritual sacrifice to God. Whatsoever is pure, lovely, good report...think on these things...requires our music to fit with God all the time. I would give assent to what you say in that what happens in the assembly in the special presence of Christ as His NT temple is a notch higher in importance.

God's music is never for unbelievers in Scripture. They won't like it. The only response they have to it is to see it and fear (Psalm 40:1-3). Most modern music isn't composed to bring fear (reverence). Much more could be said here.

Darel said...

Yikes...

At points I agree with the "can't be redeemed statement". I believe there are certain activities that are inherently evil... let's say robbery as an example.

So, if something is not inherently evil, that is, it is not evil in and of itself (i.e its nature, like the nature of Man), but only by how it is employed... are we really "redeeming" it? I mean, you "redeem the time" because you misused it and so it needs redeeming. If you didn't misuse it, then you can't redeem it, can you?

No matter how much you try, you cannot "take back robbery for God". I'm just saying. He never had it, so He can't "redeem" it. Should we be able say that we are going to "redeem serial murder"? That's a method of making a statement, so since its a method, can't we redeem it? Let's apply a little common sense....

OTOH, I reject the notion that music or any other art is inherently evil. If God can use romantic, sensual and explicit poetry for Scripture, then why would He have a hard time using Rock to present the Gospel? I don't get the connection that Kent is trying to make....

Kent Brandenburg said...

I'm going to guess Darel that you do draw the line somewhere. Visit, or maybe don't visit, sometime the National Art Museum in Washington DC and view The Goddess of the Golden Thighs or The Great Rock of Inner Seeking, among many others. I have other "favorites." Or what about a Mapplethorpe exhibition? I have to be honest; sometimes I can't believe I'm arguing about these things. OK, yes, sensuality is right in a context---the marriage bed is undefiled, for instance. Song of Solomon (poetry) teaches virginity---the Shulammite's brothers built walls to protect her purity (see last chapter of S of Sol). The idea of romance, as of the romantic period, I would ask for you to show me one place in the Bible. That has more to do with Rousseau than any Scriptural author. The kind of exegesis and application that says, 'the Bible has sensual poetry, so all art forms are good,' is astoundingly poor, and I mean this respectively. You could be the poster boy for the church at Pergamos.

All things need to proven, tested, to be judged. The way we live is our culture, made up of our art, music, education, etc., and it all must be put through a Scriptural grid. If we can't discern the difference between Bach and Bonjovi, our discernment has sunk. At one time, a majority of church members did understand these things, but the advent of Keswick theology and then the Charismatic movement has eroded this Biblical activity and done serious damage. Satan would love to have us continue down this track.

Jim Crigler said...

Kent actually posted this on Valentine's Day: The idea of romance, as of the romantic period, I would ask for you to show me one place in the Bible.

How big does a place have to be? The Song of Solomon as a whole is a "place," and exemplifies (not teaches) romance between husband and wife, and, yes, purity both outside and inside marriage.

But if by "romantic period" you mean the mid- to late-1800's, then okay, your point is granted at some place. Every period had/has an unbelieving epistemology.

But I'm not sure just where to grant your point: Dvorak is different from Mendelsohnn is different from Wagner is different from, oh, I don't know, Vaughn Williams, say; at least one of them could be considered a Christian, and at least one could not.

Warning: I wrote the following paragraph before I fully read your response to my comments. Please exercise discernment in reading it in that light.

Frankly, I don't accept the notion that "you can't separate life in general and worship for the believer". That's like saying I can't separate the anniversary dinner my wife and I shared a couple of months ago from the Pop-Tarts I got out of the machine at work for breakfast yesterday. It's all one life. I received both with joy and gratitude (well, the latter as much as you can the brown sugar cinnamon kind). I wasn't talking about worship by "the believer," I was talking about the assembled worship of a local church. They are different things.

Here's a question open to all, of course, but I'd especially like to read Kent's response: What kind of music would be an appropriate setting for some of the sarcasm in the Bible, e.g., Isaiah 1:3, which compares the people of God to a ox or a donkey.

I'm beginning to think Kent should put a BRN warning at the beginning of his posts.

Kent Brandenburg said...

OK, this is my last one for at least 4 or 5 hours. Jim, thanks. And your puppet pals too. In a little way, I don't know exactly what we're arguing now. Are we trying to find a way to justify worldly music? You can use Scripture to justify about anything. Not to parallel you Jim with him, but Satan is notorious for using Scripture. Romantic novels and music are almost exclusively written in the experience of the unmarried. I can't say they are written at all for married people.

I think you would know I have no problem with post-marriage romance. Almost by definition, that isn't what "romance" is about. Do you think the big problem in our culture is sensuality in marriage? Uh-uh. The sensual music, which you seem to be admitting exists (YES!), is used to describe love (dumbing down love) and the means by which to obtain a husband or wife, like the Gentiles which know not God. The music itself defrauds young people, drags them and their emotions through the gutter. Writing music so that young people can make the most important decision in their life based on how each other can "groove" with one another does greatly displease God and damage society. Writing music that makes the relationship we have with Christ to be like the, yes, romantic relationship between a man and a woman, blasphemes Him. This is commonly done though in contemporary churches.

I think some very good, sound music could be written for your ox and donkey sarcasm passage if we needed to score it, without identifying with the zeitgeist. Obviously, I don't have a play button, but I do have an imagination that strives not to exalt itself above the knowlege of God. The point is not the sarcasm or the ox and donkey, but how sad it is that a so privileged people could so disregard God. I think lots of appropriate music could be written that would please God.

You will miss it totally if you reduce the issue to whether the person who composed the score was saved or unsaved. We're talking about who concocted the type of music itself. What qualities characterize the music? Again, all of it gets proven, and some gets accepted, some doesn't.

What's BDN?

Darel said...

See, Cent, this kind of stuff is why I think you ought to be careful how you present things.

Kent.... You are co-mingling an art form with a specific piece of art. Some statue is lewd therefore all statuary is evil? Some piece of music is filled with vile thoughts, therefore all music is evil? As soon as a mode of expression is made available, drawing, painting, writing, printing, motion picture, blogging... someone will find a way to use it for evil purposes. That doesn't make any of those activities evil in and of themselves, that makes that particular instance evil.

The life a Christian leads ought to be full of passion. It's not passion that makes Christians different, it's what they are passionate about. A roving punk bass line in a song does not, in and of itself, render that music evil. You may not like that kind of music aesthetically, and that's ok. But if someone is using that music to express their passion for God, then not only is it not evil, it is proper sacrifice.

Your argument, and your methodology are damaging. You equate a whole area of art with some particular expressions that use that art form. Since "bonjovi" in your example is not good Christian music, then all music that uses that same style is therefore invalid. That if music doesn't conform to your personal taste, it is therefore evil.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Darel,

You took bits and pieces of what I said and wove it together like a Nostrodamus hoax. I said this: "We throw out neither music or public speaking. We do throw out bad music and bad public speaking." You sounded like you were arguing with some distortion of me in some parallel trapezoidal universe.

My argument isn't as simple as Elvis was bad so the music he played was bad. I've never made that point, ever. Question: character in the Wizard of Oz who got the diploma?

Jim Crigler said...

Kent ---

"Puppet pals"??? Oh, the avatar. I've been using this pic of Wallace & Gromit (cobbled together from the official web site using the Gimp) as an avatar for about 4 years, mostly in technical forums.

One of the things we're discussing is whether what Spurgeon was saying was fundamentally about private, personal worship or corporate, gathered worship. I'm maintaining that his immediate referrent was the latter, i.e., the church service. What I thought you were saying was that if some kind of music is not right in our corporate worship, it doesn't have any place in the life of any individual believer either. Or did I miss your meaning again?

I don't think I have used the word "sensual" in this discussion. I was responding to your use of the term "romantic period" in the technical musical sense, where it means the time from around Beethoven's death in 1817 to around 1900; e.g., very few people in 2006 would find Dvorak's music "sensual". [I wrote some broad-brush words about music history, but I decided they were too far abeam.]

But if what you're saying is that pop music frequently presents a distorted view of the relationship of a man to a woman, then I wholeheartedly agree. And having lyrics that can be interpreted as "Jesus as my girlfriend/boyfriend" (failing what Doug Wilson once called the "Shiela test") is way, way out of bounds in worship.

"The point is not the sarcasm or the ox and donkey, but how sad it is that a so privileged people could so disregard God." Yes, that's the point. But can we ignore the fact that God used sarcasm to make His point?

You continued, "You will miss it totally if you reduce the issue to whether the person who composed the score was saved or unsaved." Agreed.

"We're talking about who concocted the type of music itself. What qualities characterize the music?" You just said the "who" of the particular piece of music doesn't matter, but now you're saying the "who" of the genre does matter. Did I get that wrong?

"I think some very good, sound music could be written for your ox and donkey sarcasm passage if we needed to score it, without identifying with the zeitgeist." The bit I want to ask here is about the "zeitgeist". What kinds of music are not the product of the "spirit" of some "time"? To go back to technical musical stuff for a minute, our triadic harmony only really emerged post-oh-about-1200. Which means the Psalms as they were sung 2000-3000 years ago (say) would probably sound completely foreign and possibly discordant to us. And "Immortal. Invisible" would sound just as foreign and possibly discordant to King David.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jim,

Certain music listened to in private is not appropriate for public worship in the assembly, especially because of the nature of the activity of public worship, but this doesn't excuse everything private. So maybe I jumped the gun on your thinking such a thing exists as sensual music; I retract my premature statement. I believe it does exist. Scripture has no play button, but romance in the sense of non-married emotional relationship isn't in the Bible. Romancing your wife, if you want to call it that is fine, used in that colloquial way, but that doesn't make sensual, flesh-gratifying music acceptable. I have never contended against God using sarcasm as a literary device. You wanted to know what kind of music would be appropriate for God's use of sarcasm and I thought it was more appropriate to conform the music to the point of the passage, not to the pictures of an ox or donkey. Making ox and donkey music wouldn't fit the text.

My point on an unsaved person concocting the music, and perhaps I was not clear, is that godless people composed certain music within their historical context to accompany or encourage or cause to feel sinful desires or emotions. I can expand on this, but I'm hopeful you get it. This is opposed to Tchaikovsky's music is wrong because he was a pervert. However, he wrote in a classical style philosophically different, even if not purposefully, than rock, rap, honky-tonk, or whatever.

I can't argue about what music David played with the psalms. I don't think you can either, so I don't think a point can be made. We have to argue what we can hear. I'm not against coming up with a new sound, chronologically, therefore something contemporary only in that sense--new. Ben Franklin invented the glass armonica, which I heard at Williamsburg on a visit, and that was a new sound to me. Hitting large glass punch bowls with wooden mallets would make a new sound. Music itself has a message and most people know that. For instance, when a man sings in a sensual voice or like a girl, or just refuses to open his mouth and pronounce the words, something like what Elton John does, or screams the song with a throaty voice, we know what all those things mean, just like we know what glossy, wet-looking lips mean on the fashion side of things. Lots of eastern music uses minor chords with little resolution fitting of their Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Ed Ward in The Rolling Stones: History of Rock and Roll writes: "Sinatra slid around notes before settling on them, and he had a breathiness to his singing that was expressive of things parents would rather not their children were experiencing, even vicariously." What Sinatra was doing is a staple in so-called Christian music in churches today, and these people know they are doing it. It seems to me that a lot of arguing about this is about making room for something that we can know whether it honors God, but we refuse.

Jim Crigler said...

Kent ---

Thanks for clarifying several things. We're together, I think, on husband/wife relationship and on music for public worship being different from other music. And I missed your point on ox and donkey music --- sorry.

I couldn't work out from your most recent comments (isolated from previous comments) whether you were opposed to Tchaikovsky's music or not, but together with your previous comments, I think you aren't because of the genre of the romantic period (in the music history sense). Dare I ask whether the genre was a byproduct of the zeitgeist in which he was immersed (and which forced him to commit suicide because of his perversion)?

I think you mistook my words about triadic harmony as meaning new kinds of sounds, e.g., Franklin's armonica, but that wasn't what I meant at all. I was referring to the basic harmonic nature of the music we listen to, the part that puts music into a certain key and makes chords relate in a particular way. I brought up David's music (and I agree, BTW, that trying to argue out of ignorance about what he sang cuts both ways) as a kind of "how far does the wagon roll" statement in pointing out that our modern system of harmony, not to mention regulated rhythm and conventions of melody, would be be considered outlandish as recently as 800 years ago.

I'm interested in your comment that "Lots of eastern music uses minor chords with little resolution fitting of their Hindu and Buddhist philosophy." I don't think you mean minor keys are inherently wrong, e.g., “Llan­gris­ti­o­lus," the tune for Toplady's "A Debtor To Mercy Alone," which is in a conventional minor key, or even "What Wondrous Love Is This," which is in the Dorian mode, a kind of minor key. Since I haven't listened to a lot of eastern music, can you point me to something that illustrates your point?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Jim,

I'm up kind of late because I'm 43 and I played basketball after Bible study, and I'm not a guy to get to sleep very fast after that.

I can't speak for all of Tchaikovsky's music, but I think most of it is acceptable to listen to. I'm just saying that I don't reject the music simply based on whether I think he was saved or not. It relates to components of the music. I'm not against music of the romantic period, just romantic music based on what I think is the understanding of romance. That's probably a whole chapter of a book that I have to weigh whether is a good use of our time in a blog. I'm against lust being a factor in the choice of a life's partner.

I hear Eastern music regularly when I eat in Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants. I don't know the names of the songs. I am not opposed to minor chords, but the way they use them without resolution. New age music has similar characteristics of cycles of nature, lots of mind-emptying repitition, fitting with transcendental meditation. You sound like you know music theory more than I, but I have a philosophical grasp. I think I would have to talk to you to go further with examples.

It's difficult for me to comment on how outlandish certain developments in music were to start. We have an entirely different issue today. Rock was written for a purpose. Rap had a purpose to start. I only use these as examples, but they clash with Scriptural principles. The written music of hymns in the 18th and 19th century came out of a Scriptural culture or sub-culture. The music of psalmody even earlier had a similar philosophy. So do most classical period and then styled music, especially Baroque. Modern songs can be written in these styles. However, now all sorts of components are being borrowed that communicate a message not fitting with the Bible---sliding, scooping, breathiness, certain syncopation, certain blues chords, heavy emphasis on rhythm, a lack of resolution---copying jazz, hip-hop, country, honky-tonk bar room music, usually for pragmatic reasons. I could say more, but I would think you could understand this.

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Great posting Phil! Keep them coming.

Jim Crigler said...

Kent ---

I'm willing to let the music discussion go for a while, but something you mentioned twice in your last post left me wondering. Twice you brought up philosophy. What teachers, books, etc., have, in addition to the Bible, been influences in your philosophical outlook?

Kent Brandenburg said...

I've taught history 15 years, read much of Will Durant's multivolume History of Civilization, took philosophy and history of philosophy in college, Alan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, The Turning Point Christian World View Series, ed. Marvin Olasky, read about four of those, the ones on art, literature, education, and music. I've read Rolling Stone's History of Rock and Roll. I've read other histories of music and music philosophies. And others.