Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some clarification

As usual, my previous post raised some points that I could/should have expanded on in the original.

"Should Christians limit themselves to producing and enjoying music which is explicitly Christian in content?"

My answer to that question is yes, and no.

Key to the discussion is to remember that all good gifts come from the Father. Things like food, strong drink, music, and art are all blessings that are in a sense inherently "Christian" by virtue of their origin. Those who know me know I am a beer aficionado. I do not see beer as a drink which must be redeemed or sanctified by some outward designation Putting a label with a fish or a cross on the bottle would not redeem the beer. Since I believe beer (or wine) is a gift from God, the enjoyment of it in moderation with a heart of thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gifts is enough to redeem it for His glory.

In the same way, love, food, friends, and all of creation are "Christian" subjects. This is the "no" part of my answer. Most times the question above is asked, what is being referred to by "Christian" is more narrow than the definition I offered above. Christ, redemption, God's law, for example. But when we remember that the work of Christ in creation and redempion touches every area of life we are then free to rejoice in all these gifts that only belivers can truly enjoy, free from the perversion of the world. I believe this can and should result in Christians doing art and music that involves the mundane and earthly blessings we enjoy during our pilgrim state. Christians should be writing the best love songs, the best symphonies, the best plays etc. This may or may not involve specific references to Christ and His work. It may involve music that is written by Christians, or not.

I often find music written by pagans that grasps and extols the beauty of family life more edifying than weak-minded, mealy-mouthed, veiled references to some gal's boyfriend who happens to be named Jesus.

What needs to be avoided is the music that places anything in the place of God, promotes a perversion of any of His gifts, or contradicts the truth of His Word. We must keep our eyes open because these problems permeate our culture in every sphere including the modern Church.

I'm sure this raises more questions than it answers but hopefuly it provides some food for thought...

Singing praise to false gods

Last weekend Chels and I were privileged to participate in a sing-along performance of Handel's "Messiah" oratorio held annually in Portland. This morning over breakfast we were discussing how revered this particular musical work is, even among pagans. We wondered, how is it that a pagan would voluntarily sing the words of Scripture without a second thought?

It dawned on me that we Christians do this all the time when we voluntarily use the words of our pagan culture to praise their gods. We do this when we say things like "I don't listen to the words, I just like the music." We do this when we sing Christmas carols praising the generosity of Santa and his elves. We do this when we fill our minds and sing along with pop music that glorifies materialism and loose morality. We do this when we forget that words have meaning and ideas have consequences. And we end up singing praise to the very false gods we claim to eschew in favor of the one true Messiah.

Post-modern Christians have bought into the same lie that enables the pagan to sing the Messiah without blinking: "They are just words, after all, with no objective meaning."

Every season is the appropriate time for Christians to reassert the meaning of words, and the meaning of the Word, in both our speech and actions. This season affords a special opportunity to be salt and light to the world as we remember the eternal significance of His advent as our Savior and rehearse this glorious event in hymns and carols.

Merry Christmas to you all!