While the editors at the Gospel Concoction consistently publish the daffier views a reader might think only hurt their cause, we must concede some real benefits of their high calling. If an incompetent entertainer produces some aesthetic embarrassment, it might be dismissed as the cost of doing business: some Broadway shows will bomb on the first night. People working at the cutting edge of religious entertainments will occasionally produce a real turd; we allow for this possibility. Sometimes when you merely dabble in the profound, you just make piffle. It cannot be helped.
But when Evanjellicles go on to defend their debased sensibilities, when they go on to clarify their reasoning, we know that they are showing us what is in their hearts.
Jimmy Needham is another one of those sad singer/songwriters trotting around the sty looking for his moment at the trough. This is how he sees the process.
After I finally made the music I really wanted to, I noticed something. My most purchased, most celebrated, and most influential songs were the simple, sophomoric, unoriginal, four-chords-and-a-guitar gospel-proclaiming ones. What's more, all the songs I labored for years to create—the ones I really felt dabbled in the profound—were almost never mentioned.
Here TGC is not explaining failures, it is defending principles.
I think this is something onlookers should note.
I also think it is helpful to observe how they abuse Scripture. Even Needham himself knows that his prooftext does not make his point, “Nevertheless, we do see an aspect of God’s character here—he desires to use undesirable things for his glory. He loves using unimpressive objects to demonstrate how supremely impressive he is.”
I wonder if Bach, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, or Pärt would recognize Needham’s experience of dabbling in the profound and writing unimpressive music for the glory of God.
Colorado has gone to pot, as you may know.
Back when I was paying taxes in Colorado I walked up and down my street and nearly every house and apartment sat behind an RV, four-wheeler, snowmobile, boat, or camper. The economy was built on pleasure.
The Fundamentalist Baptist church I attended during those years of the suspension of many of my soul’s liberties and the assault on my conscience was built on the very lowest rung of carnal pleasure: varsity sport; varsity sport and dilettante theater.
In many ways it was disgusting, but it was disgusting in a way that one doesn’t notice while in the moment. One is young, one has dreams, one tolerates, one overlooks, one cracks jokes.
That is all in the past. Now the friends, colleagues, class-mates, and fellow-servants have left, some to new sorrows, some to sexual perversions, some to rather pretentious posts in feminized Christendom, and some to a perplexed reverie about what the Lord is doing.
No one tells you this about old age. I mean I’m not old yet, but on the present trajectory I anticipate a very uncomfortable evening of life. The church is not a place for reflective people. I think the world knows this now.
But we made good our escape, broke our internet silence, and returned to Texas. I’d like to say this is a good thing, but after booting my desktop I see nothing has changed in my absence. Russell Moore is still using current events to flog his gimcrack religion, the Gospel Concoction is still offering idiotic discernment of the entertainment industry, and Trevin continues his artificial insights into the artificial reflections of the artificial life.
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
I am disturbed by a trend which I have no power to change or desire to participate in. I rejoice because, believing that only good comes from God, I have little doubt of the ungodly origin of most contemporary music, and I believe that it too will fail, leaving behind it a vast field in which the seeds of godly music can be planted, and from which a glorious music will rise on another tomorrow. (I am, however, deeply concerned that, in its dying, it will carry many souls back to Hell with it, souls which deserved and probably desire a better reward.)
—Alan Leftwich Jemison III, circa 1996
That bit of piffle I found in an old file I’d marked “Pending”. In the file was a photostat of the August 1996 issue of the Chalcedon Report. That puts us in the twentieth year of a feeble and evil hope. I think even small children can see that contemporary music has not failed—at least not in the sense that Jemison believed it would fail.
It has not failed to be the demand of the insatiable new church ladies, nor has it left any fields, vast or tiny, “in which the seeds of godly music can be planted”.
It is worse now. Now we have Baptist seminary presidents and Presbyterian sessions judging liturgy on demographic rather than aesthetic grounds. In fact the whole institution has become a house of goblins. Yesterday I heard a sermon (I call it a sermon out of my life-long love of irony) telling its patrons how to think about gays, LGBT special interest drudges, and people with same-sex attractions.
The church is a house of goblins where wrong words are used to say the wrong things and where the religious life has become a concoction of personal, fluctuating sentiments.
Trending Christendom. Check your smart phone for next week’s liturgy and homily.
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?
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