Thinking Out Loud

July 5, 2018

Theology for which we Don’t Have Songs

This post originally appeared under the title,

When We All Get to Heaven

Rapture art

If someone were to ask me if there are any paradigm shifts I’ve noticed in Christian perspectives on various issues, I would have to say that among my peers and those with whom I converse online, three things might quickly spring to mind:

  • A rethinking of the afterlife as ‘New Earth,’ rather than a ‘heaven’ that’s up there as opposed to down here. (For this, see the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.)
  • A reconsideration of the ‘rapture theology’ that has dominated Evangelicalism for the past several decades. (See End Time Delusions by Steve Wohlberg.)
  • A re-assuming of our social justice responsibilities as opposed to placing the weight of our emphasis on doctrinal proclamation. (See Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma.)

However, the songs that we sing in our churches today — and by ‘our’ I mean those of us who have moved toward modern worship as opposed to gospel and classical hymns — do not reflect this change in thinking.

The hymns and gospel songs were consistent with things being preached in the pulpit and for many of us, these doctrines were ingrained through exposure to the music. Consider:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away

That’s rapture theology pure and simple. The hymn When We All Get to Heaven does talk about seeing Jesus and being in His presence, but implies that we are going to get to heaven, some place that’s out there.

Another example of a song under reconsideration, Onward Christian Soldiers talks about taking the cross to the world, but our crusade doesn’t appear to include demonstrating compassion or there being servant leaders among the soldiers. (Most people today agree that crusade is the wrong word; even the Billy Graham Association has dropped the term.)

I’m not opposed to those songs entirely; they shaped who I am today. It’s just that in today’s vertical worship environment, we don’t have songs that tell our story and describe more of the thinking that is currently being taught in our churches. Let me conclude with an illustration.

Last weekend we visited the anchor store in a large chain of musical instrument dealerships. I was telling the manager how my son, recently graduated in electrical engineering, has an interest in designing mixers, keyboards and especially synthesizers. I asked him if the store, when it hires people, is looking for product specialists or people who are good at sales.

He said basically that the product knowledge is a given. Nobody is going to apply who isn’t already a customer and very familiar with what’s in the store. So it’s the sales aptitude that they look for and develop in their staff.

Similarly, if I were asked to speak at a Christian songwriting conference, I wouldn’t talk about the basics of musical composition, I would, like the store manager, take that as a given. Instead, it’s a knowledge of the the lyrical foundation in the writing process that I would want to cultivate. I would want to encourage young Christian musicians to craft pieces that express where the church is today, the things that are central to us, and the things for which presently no songs exist.  

It’s not that vertical worship we have is inadequate in and of itself, but perhaps the whole vertical form is over emphasized to the point we no longer have songs of proclamation that fit our doctrine as it is constantly being amended (i.e. the parenthetic reference to crusade above.)

As we re-think certain Biblical interpretations, our music — or specifically our musicians — should be tracking with our different doctrinal emphases.


We found today’s graphic image along with a very thorough article at this website.

For an entirely unique view on this, here’s an old post I wrote about how a particular sect expresses their story in song.

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July 19, 2014

When We All Get To Heaven

Rapture art

If someone were to ask me if there are any paradigm shifts I’ve noticed in Christian perspectives on various issues, I would have to say that among my peers and those with whom I converse online, three things might quickly spring to mind:

  • A rethinking of the afterlife as ‘New Earth,’ rather than a ‘heaven’ that’s up there as opposed to down here. (For this, see the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn.)
  • A reconsideration of the ‘rapture theology’ that has dominated Evangelicalism for the past several decades. (See End Time Delusions by Steve Wohlberg.)
  • A reassuming of our social justice responsibilities as opposed to placing the weight of our emphasis on doctrinal proclamation. (See Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma.)

However, the songs that we sing in our churches today — and by ‘our’ I mean those of us who have moved toward modern worship as opposed to gospel and classical hymns — do not reflect this change in thinking.

The hymns and gospel songs were consistent with things being preached in the pulpit and for many of us, these doctrines were ingrained through exposure to the music. Consider:

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away

That’s rapture theology pure and simple. When We All Get to Heaven does talk about seeing Jesus and being in His presence, but implies that we are going to get to heaven, some place that’s out there.  Onward Christian Soldiers talks about taking the cross to the world, but our crusade doesn’t appear to include demonstrating compassion or there being servant leaders among the soldiers.

I’m not opposed to those songs entirely; they shaped who I am today. It’s just that in today’s vertical worship environment, we don’t have songs that tell our story and describe more of the thinking that is currently being taught in our churches.  Let me conclude with an illustration.

Last weekend we visited the anchor store in a large chain of musical instrument dealerships. I was telling the manager how my son, recently graduated in electrical engineering, has an interest in designing mixers, keyboards and especially synthesizers. I asked him if the store, when it hires people, is looking for product specialists or people who are good at sales.

He said basically that the product knowledge is a given. Nobody is going to apply who isn’t already a customer and very familiar with what’s in the store. So it’s the sales aptitude that they look for and develop in their staff.

Similarly, if I were asked to speak at a Christian songwriting conference, I wouldn’t talk about the basics of musical composition, I would, like the store manager, take that as a given. Instead, it’s a knowledge of the the lyrical foundation in the writing process that I would want to cultivate. I would want to encourage young Christian musicians to craft pieces that express where the church is today, the things that are central to us in 2014-15, and the things for which presently no songs exist.


We found today’s graphic image along with a very thorough article at this website

For an entirely unique view on this, here’s an old post I wrote about how a particular sect expresses their story in song.

September 4, 2013

Wednesday Link List

peanuts

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a link list without any links!  To see the interactive page, click over to Out of Ur.

The interwebs were moving slower over the Labor Day weekend — and we stepped outside our rolling 30 day window — but hopefully what we lack in quantity this week we make up for in quality…

  • A pastor leading a Financial Peace University course realized that along with everybody he was teaching, he and his wife needed to create a budget.
  • “In the Church…”  is the definitive blog post for anybody who finds themselves planted squarely in The Church, but at the same time wanting to distance themselves.
  • In most jurisdictions, kids need to be vaccinated to attend school, but if they’re home schooled… Furthermore, if immunization is dismissed for fear of autism, is spreading measles a valid trade-off? (Also, a related opinion piece at Religion Dispatches.)
  • Yes, you can write a song. Here’s a primer on the form and structure of modern worship compositions.
  • Essay of the Week: Perhaps instead of looking at the five points of Calvinism as dry doctrine, we should think of TULIP as a narrative.
  • There’s always been a campus version of The Alpha Course, but now a Canadian group has completed Alpha Youth, scheduled for January release across North America.
  • So exactly what can be extrapolated “just because the bloggers of the Gospel Coalition happen to be in agreement with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and authoritarian Russian boss Vladimir Putin”?
  • Considering we usually think the ethnic churches have it all covered, it’s interesting to read an article concerned with the ‘white church’ looking for a Latino evangelism game plan.
  • Carlos Whitaker has five or six things he wishes worship leaders would stop saying, followed by 200 more reader suggestions.  (Somewhat related quotation.)
  • It’s small group start-up time again, making this the link you should most want to forward this week.
  • Flashback – One year ago: Psalm 42 in the Pirate translation.
  • Jamie The Very Worst Author talks about a book project that is apparently having trouble getting off the ground.
  • Niche blogging reaches new heights of narrowcasting (Oops! Mixed visual image) with the blog edition of Bearded Gospel Men. Possibly related piece at Christianity Today.
  • Interview of the Week: A Vancouver, Canada journalist talks to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about intentional, New Monasticism communities.
  • A Mormon websites trumpets the new stat that a majority of Latter Day Saints now live outside Canada and the U.S, where the religion began.
  • The artist who gave us the 2011 song “Blessings” (and “Indescribable”), Laura Story has a new album on the way.
  • Here’s a blog archive ‘find’ from earlier this year at Adorate: You hear a lot about ‘sheep stealing,’ but not so much about ‘shepherd stealing,’ or ‘pastor prostitution.’
  • It’s a frequently covered topic, but if you’ve got time, this is one of the better articles on taking a social media fast.
  • At a blog for pastors’ wives, a book promo video for Speak Love also becomes a lesson in journalism for Pete Wilson’s son Gage Wilson. (The Zondervan book by Annie Downs sounds good, too.)
  • Just in case you’ve never heard the music of Johnnyswim, enjoy Heartbeats.
  • We leave you with this weekend Tweet from Church Curmudgeon: “Headed over to the seminary barbecue this afternoon. Otherwise known as casting a pig into a herd of D. Mins.”

Hope you enjoyed today’s selection. Our goal is to celebrate people you know and people blogging in relative obscurity. Suggestions accepted by 5:00 EST through the contact page.

Peanuts on Theology

February 8, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Yes, it's that giant drum kit from last week; only now we know it's at Breath of Worship church in Livingston County, NY and played by pastor Dr. Mark Temperato. See below.

Don’t just sit there; click something!

  • Like I said earlier this week, I don’t agree with everything James MacDonald does, but I love this quote in reference to T. D. Jakes, “I don’t think that throwing grenades in his lap as he seeks to ascend the hill of biblical orthodoxy represents the behavior ethic of Christ.”  The article is over MacDonald’s resignation from The Gospel Coalition.
  • An anonymous pastor clarifies once and for all that the kind of “church discipline” we read about in the recent Andrew story is Biblical but only where the person has not confessed their sin.  In the now well-traveled story, the Biblical injunction is being wrongly applied.
  • A 72-year old priest in St. Louis had a tendency to go off-script when he could adapt words from his sermon to better suit the theme of his prayers. But the “new English-language translation of the missal may have given bishops an opportunity to rein in freewheeling priests who have been praying in their own words for decades.”  So the Rev. William Rowe was fired.
  • For their final album, the David Crowder Band cracks the Christian charts in the #1 position, earning this writeup from Billboard Magazine.
  • Roast Pastor Department: “Only in the church will you find people who constantly disagree and argue with someone who has devoted their life to diligently studying the Scriptures.”  Read this great analysis of a problem that’s more widespread than you might think.
  • Okay, so the drum set pictured in last week’s WLL here is legit, and it is located in a church.  And the drummer is the pastor.  And the “Dr.” in Dr. Mark Temperato refers to not one, but three doctorates, presumably from School of Bible Theology Seminary and University in San Jacinto, CA. Try to look away, but you know you want to read this.
  • Here’s a story we missed last month: Australian tennis legend Margaret Court (as in tennis court; bet she’s never heard that one) is now a conservative Evangelical pastor with the expected conservative Evangelical view on marriage in general and gay marriage in particular.  But the location of the Australian Open is named after her.  So a movement started to try to rename the stadium, spearheaded by — just to confuse us in North America — someone named Phelps.
  • Christian Music:  The Canadian music and media site Your Music Zone has the announcement about a companion book to go with the song and CD Blessings by Laura Story.
  • Also at Your Music Zone the word that Downhere and Hawk Nelson are among contemporary gospel nominees for a Juno Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Award in the U.S.
  • Christian Publishing: The book Heaven is for Real has now spent longer — 53 weeks versus 52 — sitting atop a New York Times bestseller list than The Shack.
  • I never thought that reading a devotional piece about the hymn, Abide With Me, would turn up a reference to an interview with Chris Martin of Coldplay, but he’s quoted as saying, ” that of all the songs he had looked at, he found that 18th century ish hymns expressed joy and pain in the same song best.”  It’s interest to re-read the hymn’s words in that context.
  • You are expected to whisper in the library so you don’t disturb other patrons, but a man in Seattle is free to watch porn on the public library computers, in full view of another patrons seven-year old and ten-year old daughters.
  • A pastor leaves a sealed envelope in his desk addressed, “Read to [the congregation] in the event of my untimely death.” Then, two months ago, he is killed with his wife in a car crash. What words did he want his church to hear?
  • Jeff Bethke’s “religion” spoken word video finds an ally in David Bowden who says, I Believe in Scripture.  Meanwhile, James White takes 51 minutes to respond to a Muslim who responded to Bethke.
  • Reporters aren’t allowed at the National Prayer Breakfast, but the Washington Post reproduces the transcript of President Obama’s speech.
  • Lots of music links this week, here’s the new video from the band The City Harmonic, “I Have a Dream (Feels Like Home).”  Great song, guys!
  • Kent Shaffer crunches more numbers and comes up with a list of the top U.S. churches to watch and learn from; assuming you want to limit your study to the American church, and limit your role models to Evangelical megachurches.
  • With just a few months to go before the Olympics in England, churches are coordinating evangelistic efforts.
  • Tim Challies has started producing his own infographics; his Books of the Bible chart is a must-see.  Click a second time for a full-sized image; I guarantee some of you will be copying and forwarding this one.
  • If you still find yourself wanting more to read, here’s a link that will take you to Dan Kimball’s ever-growing series of Wednesday Weird Bible Verses.
  • We close today with a video from YouTube channel Get out the Box.

Join us tomorrow at Thinking out Loud for a non-interview with Todd Burpo, pastor and author of Heaven is for Real.

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