Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Paz referred me to a site the other day about which I would like to make some comments. The site is Dial-the-Truth Ministries. When I first saw the URL - AV1611.org, and read the top of the homepage, I knew that I would have problems with the site. You see, this site does not stand on the sole authority of the Bible. No, it stands "on the sole authority of the King James Bible (AV 1611)." In short, this "King James Only" view is contrary to both history and logic. For more info, see this article and this site. Despite this erroneous view, I was (and still am) willing to consider their writings on other topics when the arguments stand alone.

What interested me most about the site was their wholesale and rigorous attack on Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). In their article Bible Guidelines for Christian Music, they claim that at least 95% of CCM does not "pass [Biblical] guidelines."  While they spend a lot of time attacking the content of CCM based upon their apparant belief that all music should be explicitly Christian worship music, I was more interested in their attack on the musical form of CCM or, as they put it, "rock music." They define "rock music" as music in which "the rhythm or the beat literally takes over the music" or "music in which the bass drum carries the melody." Since scripture speaks of making "melody" when it talks about music, they argue that melody should dominate. And since CCM often emphasizes the rhythm over the melody, it is therefore "noise" not music. Next, they point out that even though the drum was a common instrument in Biblical times (a fact they never really prove but I'm willing to accept), the drum is never mentioned in the Bible. So, they conclude, "one simple guideline for Christian music is NO DRUMS!"

Of course, I fundamentally disagree with their complete rejection of rock music. I certainly think that this style can be misused, but when performed skillfully it can reflect God's beauty in form and therefore be glorifying to God. And just because drums are not mentioned in the Bible doesn't mean they shouldn't be used. Last time I checked, tamborines don't contribute much to the melody, but instead are primarily rhythmic instruments just like drums. I think the key error in their thinking on musical form is their contention that God "refers to music as - MELODY." While the word "melody" does appear in the KJV, I looked up the original Hebrew and Greek words and they don't really mean the primary line of notes. The word translated melody in Eph 5:19 for example, actually means "to pluck off, to pull out" or "to cause to vibrate by touching" clearly referring to stringed instruments. If this word was meant to specifically require a particular music style, wouldn't that mean we should only use stringed instruments? Too bad all you flute, clarinet, and trumpet players! Obviously, by using the Greek word "psallo" when advocating the use of music in worship, the Apostle Paul did not mean to prescribe a particular style or particular instruments in that music. Rather, he was using what was probably the common word for "music" at the time. Is a fugue less "Christian" because it emphasizes the harmony of two or more melodic lines interwoven together? Certainly not. Musical style is important, but it's hard to make a case for the inherent godliness of one over the other.

In the past, I have leaned towards the view that rock music (especially harder forms of rock such as heavy metal) is inherently flawed, and am still not convinced that it cannot damage the brain. However, I do not see a biblical reason to reject it entirely and I recognize a bias in my thinking caused by my general distaste for it.

I do enjoy much of CCM, on the other hand, and believe that whether it is explicitly worshipping God or just communicating truth, music can glorify God. I do not listen to a lot of music done by non-Christians, however I do not discount their ability to reflect God's truth and His beauty even while personally rejecting Him. I acknowledge that if skillfully done, a non-Christian musician could theoretically produce music that is more glorifying to God in it's form than the mediocre music of a Christian who uses all the right words.

There seems to me to be two sides to the issue. On the one hand, you have the work of the musician and whether it glorifies God. On the other hand, you have the heart of the listener and whether it glorifies God. Both are important, but I'm more concerned with the latter right now. I want to be a consumer of good art, but even if I listen to mediocre stuff I can glorify God with my heart. Certainly, both should be emphasized.

Anyway, I found the Dial-the-Truth Ministries site to be full of straw-man arguments, hasty generalizations, context-ignoring (there has to be a better way to say that), and many other logical fallacies. Furthermore, the constant use of capitalizations, exclaimation points, and large colorful fonts hurt my eyes. It did get me thinking about music, however, and I don't expect this posting to be my last on this topic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Riding a Blessing

I do not hide
that the bus I ride
to work each day
and in a real way
though I have to pay
I'd like to say
that riding the bus
is a blessing because
while the driver is leading
I can be reading
a really good book
or I can look
out the window and stare
at what I see there.

So when I must wait
for a bus that is late
or when as we go
our movement feels slow,
I'll remember my book
and the glance that I took
at the beautiful sky
as I thought with a sigh,
"How blessed am I
by the Lord Most High!"

Monday, July 21, 2003

Good morning. It is a cloudy day today. Perhaps we will get some rain soon. That would be good. I am spending most of my time at home reading all the C. S. Lewis I can find. I finished The Silent Planet and am nearly through Till We Have Faces. They are delightfully imaginative and profound as expected. I am also reading Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris. I have always appreciated his writing and the insights and stories in the book have been helpful as I continue to ponder what it means to love. I especially enjoyed his chapter on being a man.

Yesterday I viewed two of the latest Hollywood productions. First, I saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Though the special effects were pretty good, that’s about all that was. The character development was weak and the worldview was pantheistic. But the worst part of all was the destruction of the story of Jekyll and Hyde. By creating a good heart in Mr. Hyde, the writers turned him into a Frankenstein. AAAAH! Overall the movie was unbelievable and dull.

The second film I saw was Pirates of the Caribbean. Now it was definitely entertaining. The characters were interesting, and the humor enjoyable. I liked the sword-fight scenes as well. But the movie was ruined by a terrible message at the end. I suspected throughout that they would idolize the "good" pirate, but kept hoping that the story would shift. Unfortunately, the movie mocked absolute morality and order while upholding the use of evil in doing good (the ends justify the means).

PHC is less than a month away. My excitement and anticipation is growing, along with a level of anxiety. It is something I have looked forward to for so long, and I trust that God will change me the moment I arrive even as he is already changing me now. I will need His help in all areas of my life at college and I pray that I would learn to serve him humbly and love others truly.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God's will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness... We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it." - from The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

Read that quote again. And again. And again. And again. I did last night....and God used it to change my mind.

Why did it affect me? Because it hit me square in the face. In the name of safety, I myself have wrapped my heart carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoided entanglements, and locked it up. It has not been broken. But it has begun to change. It has started to become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. Thankfully, I don't think I've reached that point, and I am confident that God can undo the damage I have done.

What am I talking about exactly? When I was about 13, I was introduced to the teachings of a man named Jonathan Lindvall. I listened to his tapes and attended one of his seminars. One of the primary beliefs I accepted from his teaching was that I should avoid and suppress romantic emotions before I make a lifelong commitment with my future wife. Notice that the idea was not that romantic emotions should be understood and controlled, but rather avoided and suppressed. My rationale behind this idea was threefold:

Saving romantic feelings until after commitment would...
1. Make me emotionally pure.
2. Save me (and any women who I would love) from the feelings from the pain and heartbreak of rejection/separation.
3. Ensure that my decision of who to marry would not be based on feelings.

These are ideas that I firmly believed were both reasonable and biblical, until a couple of days ago. Early Monday morning, I got an e-mail from Robin Phillips. He wrote because he saw my website and was interested in my belief in betrothal. Robin is the son of famed Christian author Michael Phillips, whose book on courship/betrothal Best Friends for Life was read and enjoyed by my family a couple of years ago. He directed me to his website, which I have spent the last couple of days reading. On it, he critiques the ideas behind Lindvall-esque betrothal. At first, I dismissed most of his arguments because they were clearly affected by his strong disagreement with both Lindvall and his parents on the issue of parental authority (see his testimony). However, his points about the weakness of Lindvall's biblical argumentation in support of betrothal were very convincing.

As of yesterday, I was still convinced of the basic premise behind betrothal, and still agreed with the three points made above. I was working on writing a response to the arguments Robin made in his articles, and began to critically analyze my own arguments on the matter.

First is the idea of emotional purity. Where does this idea come from? It's not biblical, at least not that I can think of. And when I really thought it through, all it meant was having emotions that hadn't been broken. So it was just an extension of point number two.

Secondly I thought about the idea that the pain and heartbreak of broken relationships should be avoided. Though it seems to make sense at first, especially to the American "safety and security" mindset, it is really a lie. And I recognized the lie when I read Lewis's words in the quote above: "If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one...The alternative to tragedy, or at least the risk of tragedy, is damnation." Tragedy, pain, brokenness, can all result from giving your heart to someone that isn't fully committed to you. But THAT'S OK! "We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it."

This was the clincher for me. The concept was introduced to me when I read Desiring God by John Piper a year ago, that the definition of love was delighting in the delight of another. Dell Cook taught this same concept at WVA AZ this year. I guess what I never fully believed about this concept was the truth that real love always involves emotions. And therefore love without emotions is not real love at all. I realized last night that avoiding or suppressing my emotions is never a good idea, because they are an integral part of why God made me.

So I was left with point number three. The fear here is that if emotions are part of a relationship prior to commitment, then the decision to get married will be adversely affected by the presence of those emotions. In other words, emotions can cloud our thinking. Responding to this argument, Robin's section in his book called "Is Love Blind?" points out that "love on the deepest level [is] love that sees deeply to the intrinsic person." He quotes Peter Kreeft who stated "[Love] is the supreme vision, the supreme wisdom, the supreme enlightenment. God is love, and God is not blind; therefore, love is not blind. When we say 'love is blind', we may be thinking of selfish love, or animal love, or puppy love. That may be blind. But agape love is not blind." The emotion-filled love that should precede commitment is not irrational, as long as it's true.

Additionally, there is the concern that if a couple's relationship is based on emotions, then when the emotions are lost, the relationship will be abandoned. But it is a false dichotomy to say that a relationship is either based on commitment or emotions. Why can't it be both? Aren't married people supposed to cultivate and share deep emotions for one another? And can they not, at the same time, be fully committed to one another? Sure there is the danger that emotions will fade and the relationship will lose its vitality. But that doesn't mean we should abandon emotions entirely! The answer to infidelity is not subtracting emotion, but rather adding commitment to the emotion.

Let me be clear. Neither I nor Robin advocate recreational dating. That is, I still believe it to be extremely unwise to approach relationships with the opposite sex with a cavalier, selfish, and "anything goes" attitude. Young people who are not seriously seeking to get married should focus on developing their relationship with Christ and serving both their brothers and sisters in love. I have still "kissed dating goodbye," to borrow the saying.

What has changed is that the process by which I choose my wife will no longer be devoid of emotion. It will be full of emotion, and risks will be taken for the sake of love. However the change of my mind extends beyond my view of pre-marital romance, into my view of love in general. It's one thing to intellectually assent to the concept of delighting in another's delight. But to believe it deep down and act upon that belief is a completely different thing. Though I've still got a long way to go, I think that God has started unlocking my heart, and I trust that He will redeem the years I've spent trying to keep it intact. I pray that God would help me to "throw away all defensive armor" and that He would make me willing to have my heart broken. May my love be dangerously passionate!

Thank you Robin for writing from your heart the things that God has taught you. Thank you God for transforming my mind and continually conforming me to the image of Your Son.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Happy Independence Day to all American patriots!

Let us remember the people who started this great country and the principles they stood for. Declaration of Independence