Monthly Archives: November 2010

What does that mean anyway?

So this Sunday as we were driving into church I happened to glance over at one of the church signs we passed.  Usually these signs contain what the sermon topic of the week is going to be or some ridiculous quote that makes me slightly queasy.  For example, one week this sign proudly pronounced: “Scooby dooby doo, God loves you.” Seriously, that’s what it said. Proceed with heavy groaning.

Anyway, this Sunday’s epithet was an advertisement for a service that would utilize Christian pop rock.  I don’t get it. What does that mean anyway?

First, a disclaimer- I personally enjoy listening to varieties of both popular and rock music.  I also like cotton candy, but I don’t eat it for breakfast, that would be neither appropriate nor healthy.

Okay, back to Christian pop rock.  It seems like this term is an oxymoron, or it should be.  First, the term pop: popular, was Christianity ever meant to be popular?  In our society, popular also means secular, what is accepted by society at large.  Popular music is born of a worldview that holds up the pillars of “instant gratification,” and “give the people what they want.” What do these things have to do with Christianity?  In my mind: nothing.  In fact, these ideals are downright anti- Christian.

Rock: the term in itself implies the heavy rhythmic force that drives this style of music.  In the days of the Patriarchs, pagan music was vehemently spoken against and mainly on these grounds: the music of pagan worship used extremely loud instrumentation, which rendered the words used superfluous, and the rhythms were meant to encourage frenzied and sexual dancing.  Sound familiar?

Another disclaimer: I was a drummer in high school; I love driving rhythms.  I also love to dance.  I am not saying Christian music should have no rhythmic interest or that Christians shouldn’t dance, but how should these gifts be implemented in the church?  The medium you use to get your message across becomes part of that message.  What is the message of Christian pop rock?  Is it one we wish to propagate in the sanctuary?

Pious doggerel

“One hundred and twenty-one years ago, Presbyterian theologian Robert Lewis Dabney voiced concern over the fact that the popular gospel music of Dwight L. Moody’s cohort, Ira Sankey, was finding its way out of the revival tent and into the sanctuary of many a Reformed congregation.

The most that can be said of Mr. Sankey’s [songs] is that they do not appear to have introduced positive error as yet, and that they exhibit no worse traits than a marked inferiority of matter and style to the established hymnals of the leading churches. The most danger thus far apparent is that of habituating the taste of Christians to a very vapid species of pious doggerel, containing the most diluted possible traces of saving truth, in portions suitable to the most infantile faculties supplemented by a jingle of “vain repetitions.” ”

This is taken from an article on the Reformed Worship website- for the full article click on the link below.

Just any song won’t do

“Holy Holy Holy” or “Nice nice nice” ?

I have trouble praying sometimes . . .

Not that I have trouble coming up with things I think I should tell God, but sometimes I find myself again and again just coming to God with my little list of things I would like Him to do for me today.  In the words of my mother, “God probably laughs when I continue to bring Him all of my ideas about how His world ought to be run- but He lets me ask anyway, so I do.”  I know that requesting things of God is something allowed- even highly encouraged in several places in scripture. In fact, more of the Psalms found in the Bible spend their time petitioning God (or even vehemently complaining) than anything else.  But the Psalms do something I do fairly seldom- more than thanking God for what He has done, they praise Him for who He is.  Sometimes I need to use the words of others to help me to do this.  What words do I use to praise God for who He is?  I seem to run out- my heart can feel them, but my head and my mouth at times have a hard time articulating.  So, last week I decided to start by simply praying my way through a hymnal I have sitting on my bookshelf.  Sunday evening I opened up to the first page- and there was “Holy Holy Holy.”  Now, there are some words.

Lately I have been reading from a book by Frank Burch Brown called Good Taste, Bad Taste and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life.  In chapter eight, Brown quotes Edward Farely saying,

“To attend a typical Protestant Sunday morning worship service is to experience something odd, something like a charade . . . Lacking is a sense of the terrible mystery of God, which sets language atremble and silences facile chattiness . . . If the seraphim assumed this Sunday morning mood,  they would be addressing God not as ‘holy holy holy’ but as ‘nice nice nice.'”

Granted, I think this is a slight exaggeration, but only slight.  I have been in many churches where this seems to be the general feel- it comes across in the posture we take during our worship, and especially in the words we speak and sing.  We are not being trained to think of and speak of God as a Holy God we should prostrate ourselves before, but as a pretty nice guy who is willing to fix your problems so say thank you.

I have been mulling over this idea of the Hebrew verb “prostrate yourselves” and how it is often translated “worship” in our English Bibles.  It seems we have lost much of this sense in our musical worship as a Church today.  During my undergrad I often stumbled upon advertisements for churches that promoted themselves as having “really great worship.”  This generally implied a well-rehearsed band that played lively music in a dimly lit auditorium.  What any of this had to do with prostrating ourselves before the creator of the universe, I have no idea.

Here are the words to the hymn- many of you probably already know the tune (NICAEA) that generally accompanies it. The lyrics were written by Reginald Heber in 1826 paraphrasing texts describing the throne room of God found in Isaiah and Revelation.  Maybe you are at a loss for words as well when it comes to praising the God of the Universe- maybe words like these will help.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

“Holy holy holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8