From a yeshiva education you get a case of aesthetic blindness.
Someone recently asked me if I’d read Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev. I had, but it was a long time ago and I didn’t want to characterize such a serious book with dim recollections. So last week I read it again. I still think it’s a book worth reading in every season of your life.
If you have a soul, that is. If you don’t have a soul, I wouldn’t recommend even a single reading of it; best that you not crack the covers. I would suggest you read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss, or anything by Kevin DeYoung.
I first read the book shortly after it was published, which, as it turned out, coincided with a kind of yeshiva education my father sent me for one year earlier. Where I attended was very different from the Ladover yeshiva except in one respect: it was one of those places you can get a case of aesthetic blindness.
Well, it was alike in two respects: it was a place you can get a case of aesthetic blindness, and it was a place that instilled, whenever possible, an irrational fear of the sitra achra.
I don’t want to spoil the book for those of you who have souls by giving you my reasons for loving it; that would be ungenerous. You shouldn’t have to watch someone else eat a bowl of ice cream you could be eating for yourself. If you have a soul, you should read the book and love it for how it changes you. If you don’t have a soul, you shouldn’t learn its contents anyway: I don’t want to put complex ideas into your head so you can twist them to your simple ends.
I sure learned my lesson doing that!
My first reading was from the front end of my experience of the problem, if you catch my drift. Last week’s reading was from the back end of my experience of the problem. I had just gotten a card in the mail from the Session of my church—and when I say “my church” I am abusing both the noun and the possessive pronoun. This is not only not my church, this is not even my religion.
The Session has come to the position that no single musical genre is necessarily theologically superior or inherently more reverent than another. It is our desire to embrace a wider variety of musical genres and instrumentation, allowing us to worship God rightly while reflecting the musical languages of people from a wide variety of age groups and ethnic/cultural backgrounds. Sound theological content continues to be essential, and we are committed to using music with excellent theology that draws all people to Christ through the content and beauty of the songs.
I don’t know what possessed the members of this Session to suppose they were qualified to come to a position on musical genres. I don’t know if it was the bumpkin contingent or the jock contingent. I don’t know if there was bloody intellectual combat between the jocks and the bumpkins. I didn’t ask about it yesterday, but some day I might find out. Could be a funny story in that.
Meantime I remind you all of a quotation from Philip Schaff: “Feeling and imagination are as much in need of redemption, and capable of sanctification, as reason and will”.
For those of you who do have souls, I recommend you think seriously about Schaff's point and keep it in mind as you read My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.
For centuries Christians were advised by guys like St. Augustine and Blaise Pascal not to attend the theater; that the pursuit of holiness was incompatible with the objectives of the theater. I sometimes wonder if an even greater fear was that Tim Challies would use the occasion to say something utterly preposterous.
When will Evangelicals learn that their greatest insights are best left unshared?
Oh, and another thing, while you’re not getting those tattoos, try not to turn your broken marriage vows and your perversion of the ministry into some special platform for kinky theology.
First, it just looks very, very tacky. Tacky is not something the Evangelical church needs any more of. Tackiness is not a fruit of the Spirit.
Second, it causes people to wonder if you’ve never read Acts 5:5-11.
Finally, the fewer times the public hears fun facts from the daffy folks at the Vanderbloemen Group, the greater the blessing.
If you want to know what is wrong with church music, liturgy, and modern worship, you should read Kevin DeYoung on the subject. Kevin doesn’t know what’s wrong either, but if you read him you will get some sense of what he thinks is wrong, and in doing that you will begin to understand why he—and Evangelicals generally—will probably never get it right.
Worship is not about atmospherics. It’s obviously true that Evangelicals have for a long time had scandalous atmospherics; for decades they have been squabbling amongst themselves over whose atmospherics were most conducive to their purposes, and that squabbling continues here in Kevin’s piece.
And the same can be said about choreography, seating arrangements, the newness of the songs, and all of Kevin’s other whimsical scruples.
Any person who has ever worshiped knows this. An Evangelical pastor might not know it, but one who worships in spirit and truth will know that the things that are important to Pastor DeYoung (and other Evangelical hall-monitors who think, for example, that the sing-along is the key to successful worship) are superficial stylizations that don’t interfere with true worship at all, they merely interfere with the—let’s use their word for it—style of worship which accommodates their marketplace preferences.
This has always been, and always will be, the problem with Evangelical worship affectations. They began as an attempt to appear real and relevant. It’s even more preposterous now than it was when they began: as though men could make truth more relevant. And it’s even more ludicrous to think that it would be Evangelicals who'd have the gift of knowing what is relevant.
One decade the Evangelical pastor will dress up as an Elvis impersonator, another decade he will dress up as a NASCAR driver. This coming Sunday he might be dressed up as a redeemer figure in a blockbuster movie.
There is a reason people cannot worship in church anymore. The thing to do is not rail against stale and amateurish affectations. The thing to do is get rid of the affectations and find out what it is the modern church customer is buying.
And then stop selling it to him.
Who, exactly, staffs the church, and how is that done? you might have been careless enough to ask shortly after your MTBI.
Over at the Vanderbloemen Search Group they have cultivated a corporate culture of thought leadership, so everyone from their CEO to their Operations Team contributes to content creation. Their team’s goal is to provide church leaders with content on best practices for staffing so that they can build great teams and see the kingdom expanded in their communities.
This may disgust some of you, it may alarm some of you, but you must understand that stringing together this many buzzwords and slogans is, for them anyway, “serious” work. (There’s that word again.) They compare it to doing organ transplants. They don’t compare it to doing the work of the ministry, but hey, times change, people get tattoos, men apologize by breaking the news of spousal infidelities, the Christian world is consuming beneficial art, religious bumpkins are exegeting popular entertainments….
The call of God has to move with the times.
If your church wants the kingdom to expand in its community, or if for some other reason your church wants to onboard a new team member with the same DNA, then you will want to remember the Vanderbloemen Group.
I myself expect to encounter the Group in my nightmares.
And please don’t forget: if you want to get some free advertising for some scam your church or business is running, please contact Bethany Jenkins over at the gospel concoction.
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