Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, October 05, 2007

America still has great sons. This one made me proud of my adopted home state as well.

Luke Milam, Hero.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Well said, by one of my favorite authors and columnists, Victor Davis Hansen:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Karen Dunning's great response to the article I quoted below:

The first guy is inaccurate in a lot of his musical analysis. Bach did not follow the rules. He was constantly breaking the rules. And I don't know why older people should begin to like Bach more, but it has nothing to do with him being a "rigorous disciplinarian". I find that many musicians have a hard time understanding Bach until they've spent many years in the pursuit of musical excellence. Bach is a totally different aesthetic than we have today. The music of the classical and romantic composers is much more accessible to us because of our movie music. It's very dramatic and harmonically stretched. Many people think Bach is boring. As my father used to say it sounds like finger exercises. I contend that that is because most musicians today play it as if it were a finger exercise. There is a woman who plays Bach better than anyone I've ever heard and it is gloriously musical.

But, the article also seems to make the point that staying in the rules is what makes something "christian". And then does he infer that rock music does not stay within the rules? That contradicts his view that it is mediocre. He seems very confused.

In reality I find rock music to be mostly boring. They don't have innovative and interesting harmonic language for the most part. There are, of course, exceptions to that. There is some really pretty rock, or more appropriately, popular music. I generally can't listen to it for a long period because I get bored. But I find that it has little to do with being Christian or not. The only argument I could understand for that would be about orderliness. It seems to me that heightened rhythmic impulse would be more organizational, not satanic. Again, too much of the rhythm track gets to be boring. So, I guess I would be more concerned about being bored than not Christian.

He also makes the argument about primitive music vs western music, but there is also the question of christian vs pagan music. Western music has a harmonic language that is rich and organizational. There are clear goals and you know when you arrive. That has broken down to some extent in the 20th century but the good art music still acknowledges that. Eastern music is rambling and has no real sense of time or harmonic direction. There is no goal and you don't know when you arrive. When I think of Indian or even New Age music I think of sameness and boring. I usually fall asleep. I'm sure you can understand the difference in philosophical approach to the two different styles. Primitive music, in the sense of currently existent primitive cultures, tends to be more rhythmic than harmonic. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. They at least have a sense of timing. I have a really hard time teaching my buddhist students to count or even value timing.

He also makes the point that many rock musicians could not play Chopin or Brahms. While that is true, I'm not sure what that has to do with being suitable for Christian worship. There is very little subtlety in rock music. Perhaps that is something that could be useful for worship. Certainly, they don't practice any of the various techniques for timbre or qualities of sound that can be produced. Not many people today appreciate the artistic coloring of different artists. I think everything we do should be to the best of our ability. I think there is a certain virtue in rigorous discipline and pursuit of excellence. I'm not sure that should be allowed to stop people from worshiping to the best of their ability, even if it's not perfect. I'm sure God looks upon your intent as much as your follow through.

The other guy seemed to be saying that you have to have the old forms of worship in order for it to be comfortable, understandable and useful. That's true to some extent, but I don't think it means you can't have new music. It's not automatically bad just because it's popular. It doesn't necessarily mean you are giving in to the culture wars just because you use the musical idiom of the day. That german hymnody he touts was once the popular music of that day. My guess is that Bach used some of the popular music of his day, etc. I can understand the desire to be separated from the bad part of the culture, but you know that there are some parts that have virtue. There are virtuous movies. Christians don't say don't look at any movie.

I think there has probably always been this tension between the culture of the day and Christianity. At different times the church has responded in different ways. I think we need to be careful how we respond. In our church we tend to emphasize understanding what the issues are and what is really important. I think if it is taught correctly and we understand what music is really for and that the important part is what you are thinking, it doesn't really matter what form the music takes. It's more about your job than mine.

Front Range Bible Church has traditional music. That is not to say that I'm against contemporary music, Christian or otherwise. I'm not a zealot against rock, nor do I adopt rock music without any kind of standards. Culturally, rock music is the music of youthful rebellion, although this does not apply to every song written and performed in the genre. Musically, rock music falls far short of the standards of western civilization. This article brings the matter to light,
The issue remains, may contemporary Christian music be employed as an evangelistic tool, even if it is generally representative of youthful rebellion and substandard in quality? Are there scriptural analogies to cultural accomodation? There is one great one: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

For the purpose of evangelism, rock music and many other creative cultural accomodations may be employed, as long as they don't cross the line into immorality, what is forbidden to all. Yet this does not make classical and traditional church music outdated or inappropriate. Far from it! Why not have excellent music for worship, which better represents a striving for excellence in the Christian life?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Here's a great article on art and culture. The gist is, that there is no art without standards and judgment. Of course liberals, and anyone without the compass of absolute standards will hate the idea.

Monday, March 26, 2007

We have been eagerly anticipated the Discovery Channel's 11 part series, "The Planet Earth." Last night we watched the first three hours, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. It was the best photography of a nature show we had ever seen - wow! There was more than one moment of such awesome beauty that it brought emotion and we all verbalized our praise of the Creator.

Near the end of the third hour I prepared my family for the inevitable: the pagan push. I was looking at it philosophically as a teaching opportunity, telling everyone to be ready for the smearing of the lines between creature and creator, and man and nature, and instead hearing the philosophy of evolution and the associated pagan doctrines. I was pleasantly surprised to hear instead the concept of the sovereignty of man, and how the fate of nature depends on the care of man. This clearly marked the distinction between man and nature. I genuinely hope this will continue.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I recently finished Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, his light-hearted account of his move to the Provence region of France. It was funny, but for me it also served the important role of confirming everything I have believed about the French.
I returned yesterday from Houston, where I attended the Chafer Theological Seminary Pastor's Conference. The theme of the conference was understanding and evangelizing muslims. It was chock-full of good information, with Dr. Patrick Cate, Walid Shoebat, and Jik Youssefi giving excellent presentations and encouragement.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

There is a fascinating moment in Superman Returns, when he takes Lois Lane for a flight above the earth. There, the cries of help from humanity are heard. Superman hears it all, an omniscient listener to the screams, pleas, and moans of humanity. A declaration is made: "The Word Needs a Savior." I was thinking about that - is this Superman a Christ figure? Critical to clarity in this is the question, "What kind of Savior?" Jesus Christ is a dual Savior. He does indeed save humanity from destruction, after destroying His enemies at the battle of Armageddon. Then He demonstrates what real world peace and prosperity are all about through His millennial reign. But far more important than that is that He saves the world from their sinful separation from God. The lost world is condemned in Adam and separated from the life of God. There is truly a desperate need for a Savior from this. Superman saves like a super fireman or a super cop or rescue worker. There is value in saving a life, but if in the end that person goes into eternal punishment, separate from God into the Lake of Fire, the ultimate purpose is lost.

Jesus the Savior is better: even if a person should die tragically there is eternal life. Nothing is really lost, and eternity is gained. Now that's a Savior!

The Superman model is something like the claim Antichrist will make when he is finally let loose by the rapture and removal of the Restrainer from the earth. Antichrist is the first horseman of the apocalypse in Revelation 6. He goes out conquering and to conquer, intending worldwide control. There will be war, famine, natural disasters of various kinds, and somehow at the end of three and a half years, Antichrist is the master of the entire world, and is so bold as to set up an image of himself in the Jerusalem temple, the anti-ark (as the ark of the covenant is to Messiah, so the image is to Antichrist). Of course he is not seen as the cause of those terrible events, but as the savior through them, but with no reference to eternal life.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In his epilogue to Forth to the Wilderness, James Van Every sets forth his opinion about the inner driver of the frontier people. After all, they stand out in history as a people willing to endure the most difficult set of adversities... but for what?

"Actions presenting so great a contrast to the ordinary course of human behavior indicate the power of the impulse that had gripped them. They had been moved to advance, no once, not occasionally, but again and again, into dangers as terrifying as any man can ever know. They had been sustained to endure such trials by more than a mere craving for land. They had caught a glimpse of a more complete freedom. They were people who truly valued freedom. They had come from stocks which had already set upon freedom a sufficient value to cross an ocean to a strange far land in pursuit of it. In the new world they had found a scene still cluttered with bond service, quitrents, class distinctions, legalistic inequalities. Glowing in the sky over the dark wilderness beyond the promise still beckoned.l The complete freedom they sought may have continued to elude them but the reward of seeking it had not."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In his book Forth to the Wilderness, James Van Every records the transformation of the frontier people of America. The land and a burning desire for freedom had their effect on the frontiersmen, as well as the isolation and suffering which resulted in a near complete self-reliance. The final portion of the book focuses on their self-identity.

"The change in frontier temper first perceptible in 1766 and unmistakable by 1769 was a metamorphosis as complete as the transformation of the worm in the cocoon into a winged creature of the air. The misery-haunted inhabitants of the border who had formerly been the perpetually harried victims of seemingly implacable circumstance had suddenly begun instead to see themselves as the appointed masters of their own fate. There had been an alteration in their outlook, their deportment, and their every attitude. A change so remarkable, and one with so direct a bearing on the whole country's future, deserves some attempt at a closer examination. The phenomenon was apparent as in that isolated section of the frontier in the Valley of Virginia. It was there that the people of the border began first fully to recognize their identity as a separate people and to realize that every relief or advantage they sought was to be gained only by their own exertions."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In Dale Van Every's Forth to the Wilderness we saw the first identifying characteristics of the American spirit as a desire for freedom and a wondrous land in which to express it. However there was a daunting challenge to that fervent desire, the frontier wars of 1750-1783. There were the French and Indian War, Pontiac's War, Lord Dunmore's War, and the frontier war that was a part of the War for Independence. All of these, plus innumerable small scale massacres and retributions were brutal, no quarter expressions of deep hatred. From this came another characteristic: self-reliance borne of suffering, and leading to a growing self-identification. As Van Every writes, "Again and again during these last ten bitter years they had been driven from their homes and as often they had returned to the ashes. What they had so far lacked was an identification of themselves as a people. And it was this, after years of brooding and mourning, that they were now beginning to gain. They were beginning to realize that they were a people set apart. Their hatred of their Indian enemies and their mistrust of their own governments were only the outward signs of this growing awareness that they were separate. They were beginning to realize that it was their suffering that distinguished them, that was drawing them together, that was singling them out, that was cutting them off from their unthreatened neighbors to the east who had been made alien by their inability to understand what the frontier had endured. Ten years of misery had taught frontier people that they were not to be saved by waiting upon the efforts of those neighbors, or upon the acts of their governments, or upon the occasional march of armies. They were beginning to realize that if they were to be saved they must save themselves. Bouquet had called them the Frontier People. That, at last, they were about to become."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Van Every is getting at in his discourse on the Indian life in the wilderness is twofold: that personal freedom and the wilderness land are essential factors in Americanism. The frontiersman had a burning desire to escape the suffocating trappings of government, and despised the intrusion of government, and even everyday people, into his everyday life. But the companion to that freedom was (and I believe, still is) a wondrous land in which to express it. America's woods, mountains, hills, plains, deserts, canyons, seashores and waterways contain a nearly limitless place to enjoy the blessings of the creator. The native Americans denied their sinfulness and gave vent to many sinful impulses. Contrary to liberal opinion they were not always great stewards of the land. They were violent and grossly immature and ultimately from their sinfulness and idolatry they were denied the land they so loved. Enfolded within the American spirit is a love for the land, and properly, for freedom and law according to proper proportion. At the highest point of all is love for the Creator who has given such a wonderful gift.
One more quotation from Forth to the Wilderness will sum up my first point about what it means to be an American: "Certain as we are that our world now offers infinitely more rewarding satisfactions and fulfillments, that our civilization represents an immense step forward toward the state to which man was intended to aspire, we must sometimes be haunted by a stray, half-suppressed doubt. The most conventional modern man, leaning back from his desk to reflect upon a recent vacation, may for a moment be startled by the sudden piquancy of such a doubt. He may remember in that unguarded moment before he puts the thought from him that never does he know so deep a sense of well being, never does he feel so completely at peace with himself, as when he is on a trout stream, in a duck blind, on a mountain top, in the woods, by campfire. For a little while he has escaped the clutch of clock and job. He has caught a momentary glimpse of what the Indian meant by freedom."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

From Dale Van Every, Forth to the Wilderness, pp.41-42: "His principal occupation, hunting and fishing to get food, was more of a sport than a task. His other more common undertakings were likewise diverting. He enjoyed the revelation of his eloquence in council, his endurance as a dancer, his calm while gambling, his prowess as a ball player, his taste in the decoration of his person, his singularity in having remarkable dreams. His greatest sport of all was going to war, in the days when the wars were with others of his own kind which could be started and stopped at will. All in all he found it a wonderfully good way of life..."
Dale Van Every continues his description of the Native Americans (p.41). "In his view he was a natural man living in a natural environment that suited him. His world as he had known it was a vast and marvelous land of lakes and rivers, forests and prairies, alive with game. All this, in his deeply religious estimation, represented a higher power's gift to him for his sustenance and enjoyment. Through it he might roam as he pleased. The arch of the sky above him, the gathering of a storm, the splash of a salmon at dawn, the mating whistle of and elk, the lift of his canoe in a rapid, the glow of sunset over a lake, the start of a buck from a thicket, the hiss of raindrops in the dust, the scent of pines in the sun, all were miraculous parts of his world, as he was a part."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One of my favorite works of American history is Dale Van Every's four volume series on the American frontier. The first book, Forth to the Wilderness, has several defining quotes about the American spirit. Over the next few days I will post extended quotations.
The first is about life on the frontier, as defined by the Native Americans. This sets the stage for the ascendancy of the frontiersmen (pp. 38-39): "His way of life was dedicated to the simple and all-inclusive principle that complete personal freedom is the first requisite to becoming a whole man. From dawn to dusk, from childhood to old age, he adhered to this cult of freedom. Whether he built a canoe, carved a pipe, hunted a buffalo, sought a woman, joined a war party, or stretched to doze away the day in the sun, whatever he did was at a moment of his own choosing. His lot was not always an easy one. He often starved, froze, fell ill, or suffered from every sort of misadventure, but never did he suffer what was in his estimation the genuine ignominy of being required to do what another man told him to do."
The second is especially telling of his philosophy (p.39): "As he grew older his destiny grew increasingly apparent. If he was to become a man in the Indian sense of the term he must become more and more of an individualist. He must reject all discipline imposed by others while at suitable intervals he must most rigorously discipline himself in order to develop his skill, hardihood, and courage as hunter and warrior... ...Being a man he needed to subscribe to no rule but his own impulses and the more heedless these were the more proven was hi manhood." The Indian had a complete denial of his sinful nature... 1 John 1:8, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Coming soon... the blog lives again!