Songs Without Notes: A Meandering History of Hymnals and Vocal Music, with Rant — Part 2

CrownHimWithManyCrownsThe Calvinist Regulative Principle of Worship

In Switzerland, unlike Luther’s Germany, the Reformation went an entirely different direction. In Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli adopted the Regulative Principle of Worship, arguing that we may only do that which has been authorized by express command, approved precedent, or necessary inference. As a result, he rejected instruments in worship, although he was, like Luther, an accomplished musician. See this excellent article by John Mark Hicks for further background.

The Regulative Principle was originally limited to worship — on the theory that worship holds a special place in NT theology. However, the Churches of Christ have expanded the principle to apply to the use of church buildings, the church treasury, church organization, the name of the church, and for some, all of life. That sounds like an exaggeration, but the claim has been made, and it’s not unusual to read articles from the early 20th Century judging whether it’s wrong to play cards or listen to a brass band in a city park based on the RPW. Questions Answered, a book that compiles articles answering readers’ questions published in the Gospel Advocate, by David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell, is filled with such material. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 4

gay christianWe’re considering Richard Beck’s post at his Experimental Theology blog summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.

4. Love and Liberation

The fourth argument for [a pro-gay marriage (or pro-GM)] position regarding same-sex marriage is a direct appeal to the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

In some hands this appeal is a simple appeal to love and compassion in embracing our shared humanity as beloved children of God in affirming same-sex marriages. 1 John 4.8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

In other hands, the appeal is for justice, often informed by a biblical and prophetic appeal to liberation theology: God’s preferential option for those who are oppressed and suffering. Following the Hebrew prophets and Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4.16-21), the Bible must be read as “good news” for those who are suffering in the world due to hate, violence, oppression and marginalization. As it says in Romans 13.10: “Love does no harm to a neighbor.”  …

[Y]ou can make the appeal for compassion and justice (Argument #4) more compelling and urgent by citing statistics about gay teen suicide and homelessness.

Of the four argument, this is the one hardest to refute. To me, the first three aren’t really serious theology. They are rationalizations.

But this one is different. Continue reading

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Bible Class Survey

bibleclassI get emails. This one is from reader Andrew —

Jay,

I’m working on a research project regarding the quality of Bible classes in our congregations.  I’m trying to put a finger on what makes Bible classes either low or high quality.

I hope to be able to use the research to help improve class quality in our assemblies.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask two things from each of you.

  1. Complete the survey (short 7 questions) at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RRC3J59
  1. Pass this link along to as many others as possible. The more responses I get, the better the data will be.

Thanks so much! Continue reading

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Songs Without Notes: A Meandering History of Hymnals and Vocal Music, with Rant — Part 1

CrownHimWithManyCrownsThe early church sang hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. Commentators don’t even know for sure whether these were words for different things or essentially synonyms.

We don’t know much about how the early church sang. We have an entire book of psalms, of course, but these pre-date Christianity by hundreds of years. And we have some passages in the NT that scholars believe may have been lyrics for songs, such as Phil 2:5-11. But no one really knows for sure — and even if we could know, we have no way of knowing the tunes for these early songs.

Were they improvised by the song leader? Did he chant a line, to be repeated by the church? Over time, did certain melodies become standard?

Unlike Western music, there was no regular meter or rhyme in the Psalms and other songs we have. Meter is especially important in Western music, because our music is based on measures of repeating rhythm — 3/4 time for a waltz, 4/4 time for an anthem, 5/4 time for “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, etc. In fact, a Westerner wouldn’t think of anything else as “music.” Ask a Western church to sing a meter-less (rhythmless) biblical psalm as written, and we wouldn’t know where to begin. For us, music is all about the rhythm. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 3

gay christianWe’re considering Richard Beck’s post at his Experimental Theology blog summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.

3. The Holy Spirit Changing a Literal and Traditional Reading of the Bible

A huge hermeneutical crisis faced the early church when the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household in Acts 10 and Peter allowed them to be baptized, formally bringing the Gentiles into the church and recognizing them as co-heirs of the covenant God made to Abraham. This was a hermeneutical crisis so big it split the church.

The issue was that circumcision was proclaimed by God to be an “everlasting” sign “in the flesh” of the covenant between God and Israel (Gen. 17.13). A plain and literal reading of the text argued that the Gentiles, therefore, would have to be circumcised to gain access to the promises made by God to Abraham.

And yet, the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon the uncircumcised. God was doing a new thing. Not just with Cornelius, but also with the Gentile converts in Antioch. How was the church to reconcile a plain, literal and centuries old traditional reading of the Bible in light of what was happening among the Gentile converts?

The issue came to a head in Acts 15 in what we call the First Apostolic Counsel. There the issues were debated–literal and traditional readings of Scripture clashing with experiences and testimony about the Holy Spirit at work among the uncircumcised. Hesitantly, the church decided in favor of experience and testimony over literal and traditional readings of Scripture.

This is not exactly right. It’s close, but the most dangerous errors are often the ones that are almost true. Continue reading

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Matt Moore: “Discovering True Masculinity: How The Church Helped Me Rest In My Identity As A Man”

gay christianRecommended by a reader: A powerful testimony by a Christian gay man who is not, as he says, a man’s man but has found his place in a B-side (abstinence and gay Christian affirming) church.

Here’s the money quote, but you should read the whole thing:

And by “make me feel like I belonged,” I don’t mean that they tried to shape me into their image. They didn’t give me a guy-makeover, forcing me to go to football games or to participate in other culturally masculine activities I didn’t enjoy.

They actually did (and still do) something utterly foreign to many men today: they sat down and talked to me. They invited me over for dinner or out for coffee and initiated conversations about things in which they knew I had interest. They asked about my life. They asked about my family. They told me about their life. They told me about their family. They shared their struggles with me in a way that showed me they didn’t view my same-sex attraction as worse or weirder than their own brokenness.

These guys embraced the patient work it was to push through my walls and get to know me. They gently, but stubbornly, pursued friendship with me . . . even when I didn’t want them to. If, for no good reason, I declined an invitation to hang out, my phone would start ringing almost immediately. They wouldn’t allow me to retreat from fellowship without a fight.

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Gospel Advocate Under New Ownership

Here’s the press release. I am not acquainted with the new owner, Charles Randall (Randy) Duke, and know only what the press release says. Still, I thought this would be of interest to the readers, given the influence the Advocate has among many congregations.

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From the Comments: Clarifying “Spirit” in Acts, Part 4

HolySpirit7Robert (Part 4),

1 Cor 12 is clear that we receive whatever gifts of the Spirit God chooses. We don’t get to pick. We don’t get to complain. We don’t get to brag. God chooses.

If I can’t heal or raise the dead, it’s because God has so chosen. If God wants to go 50,000 years without giving the power to heal, that would be his business.

In OT times, there were times when there were many prophets, and times when there were no prophets. God’s choice. There are no rules. There are no laws. God chooses. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 2

gay christianWe’re considering Richard Beck’s post at his Experimental Theology blog summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.

2. Marriage as Grace

“Male and female God created them” and “Be fruitful and multiply.” …

[Pro-gay marriage or pro-GM] views of same-sex marriage argue, however, that there is another marriage found in the Bible, the marriage between God and Israel. This marriage is not based upon biology but upon election and grace. In this marriage the Image of God is witnessed in covenantal fidelity.

The primacy of grace over biology is also highlighted by Paul when he discusses the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church, the non-biological children who are grafted into Israel “contrary to nature” via the grace and election of God. This grace is also displayed in the family of the church, a family not formed through biology but through the Spirit and our pledges of covenantal fidelity to God and each other.

Does the Bible evidence covenantal unions that are not literal heterosexual marriage? Are some analogized by the scriptural authors to heterosexual marriage? Absolutely. Do any of these covenantal unions (other than heterosexual marriage) involve actual sex? Of course, not. Apples and oranges. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: Four Arguments for Affirming Same Sex Marriage, Part 1

gay christianRichard Beck’s Experimental Theology continues to be a must-read blog. Even though I sometimes disagree. Especially because I sometimes disagree.

Richard recently posted an article summarizing four arguments for affirming same sex marriage. He did not endorse or advocate these arguments.

On the importance of vocabulary

Now, the debate regarding gay marriage is an intensely emotional one and also a highly politicized one. It this respect it’s like the abortion debate in the US. And like the abortion debate, the smart advocates battle not only over scripture but over control of the narrative and language. Hence, in abortion debates, the sides refer to themselves as “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” each capturing the most politically attractive aspect of their position in their nomenclature.

In the gay marriage debate, those who say the Bible approves gay marriage refer to themselves as “affirming,” and who could be against affirming people? But, of course, the debate isn’t over affirming gay Christians but affirming gay marriage — two very different things. But when we refer to one position by the shorthand of “affirming,” we paint with the brush of a particular narrative — whether we mean to or not. Continue reading

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