Pentatonix - "Little Drummer Boy"
Monday, December 9, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Geoffrey Botkin adds his to the list of well-done apologies in response to comments made during the recent NCFIC panel discussion:
For the last 20 years I have voiced concerns about the cultural influence of the commercialized Christian music industry, especially gatekeepers who exploit sincere artists. One of the newest in a long line of sub-genres is Reformed Rap. I recently made a serious error by attempting to contribute an opinion to a Reformed Rap discussion in a panel discussion comment. That one comment has generated heat, not light, and way more hurt than healing. I’m the guy responsible for this darkness and pain.
Some have asked me, with genuine interest, “What were you thinking, and actually saying?” Well, explaining myself and contributing to the cultural debate is not my primary concern right now. My comments on that panel raise a legitimate question about my qualification to even address the issue of Christian music with Christian people. My primary concern right now is to right several immediate wrongs, and to do it in a way that pleases and honors the Lord of this situation, Jesus Christ.
For Reformed Rappers, and those who have benefited from their work, what I said sounded like direct, deliberate disdain for what they believe and what they are doing. The intentions of my heart are immaterial to what was heard and what damage was done. What was heard sounded like an arrogant denunciation of sincere Christian men with noble hearts and motives, because I was not thoughtful enough to consider the effect of what I said. I was wrong.
This kind of thoughtlessness is not obedience to Christ’s command to active love in John 13:34. I did not season my speech with grace as commanded in Col. 4:6 in response to the question put before me. This is disobedience. Though in my mind I was not directing any criticism to the zealous, sincere, Christian Rappers who are doing the reforming, I was not clear and precise with my communication. As a result, these sins of disobedience have unsettled the body of Christ, and confused the important issues surrounding a strategic conversation that demands the utmost righteousness and precision. But most of all, the sin in my communication deeply hurt brothers who have my respect. A number of public responses to my comments have been civil and gentlemanly, for which I am thankful, but what is far more important to the Heavenly tribunal is brotherly confession on my part, and brotherly forgiveness from those who were wronged. This is my primary, respectful request to all of you. If you are willing and able, please forgive me.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel. Restoring trust with an offended brother is hard work. But I determined to do what is right to achieve it.
Brothers, I will fight this fight not just out of duty, but because I love you as allies who are important to Christ. You are also important to the next big conflict of our generation. You who stand as architects of a developing theological music genre need to know me as an ally. I am not an antagonist.
At the right time I will tell you those things about your work to which I have never objected, and those things I believe are strategic triumphs in the culture wars. Your deliberate recovery of sound soteriology is an historic victory. Your modeling of mature and responsible manhood in your lives and words is heroic. Your strategic decision to work with local churches and church government shows uncommon wisdom. All this is heroism, not the fruit of disobedient cowardice.
Another thing. Your humility validates your testimony with a kind of power that is also uncommon on today’s Christian landscape. If we have the chance to walk together in any way, it will be a pleasure to watch you model the sanctification, running, boxing and preaching we are all learning from Saul of Tarsus. And may we all continue to learn the ways of holy discourse from the character and person of our merciful Savior.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday, December 2, 2013
Here's a good roundup of the whole debate that's been going on if you've missed it.
Over the past few days the evangelical community has been talking about the kinds of things you would expect — the meaning of Thanksgiving, the turn to the Christmas season, the fact that some stores were opening on Thanksgiving Day and the various issues of the season. And then came rap. Out of the blue, when least expected, the topic changed to rap and the Gospel. Over the last few days a great deal has been written and said, sparked by a panel discussion at an evangelical conference in which rap music was dismissed as unworthy of evangelicals and of the Gospel.
I recognize the arguments made by the panelists. I am tempted to make them myself. In fact, I have made them myself … in my head. I know the arguments well. Form matters when it comes to music, and the form of music is not incidental to the meaning communicated. The biblical vision of music grows out of the union of the good, the beautiful, and the true in the very being of God. That union of the transcendentals means that Christians should seek only those musical expressions that best combine the good, the beautiful, and the true.
In other words, Johann Sebastian Bach. In my view, Bach got it just about right, even almost perfect. His music is an exhilaration of proportion and purpose in which form and message are precisely, intentionally, even magnificently combined. Bach is never far from me, especially when I am working and particularly when I am writing. I should acknowledge Bach in my books. Karl Barth listened to Mozart, and I love Mozart’s music (at least, most of it). But Mozart is a genius in a way that Bach was not, and genius can easily get in the way of musical art. Add to this the fact that Mozart’s worldview was seriously flawed. That explains why his magnificent but unfinished Requiem Mass in D Minor is so moving, but so unsatisfying. Beethoven’s pantheism and Enlightenment sensibilities do not ruin his music, but they do make his incredible music rather inaccessible for Christian worship.
Bach, on the other hand, is perfect. It is also important to know that Bach was a servant of the Lutheran Reformation. In his brilliant new book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, conductor John Eliot Gardiner affirms that Bach saw himself extending the musical theology of Martin Luther, with the glory of God as his supreme purpose and the task of music “to give expression and added eloquence to the biblical text.” So we should just end the development of church music and Christian musical artistry with Bach.
But there is a problem with this proposal. Bach was writing music that was understandable to the culture of his day, and not just to the elites. As a matter of fact, many among the elites did not like his music, accusing Bach of using crude structures, lowly themes, and of borrowing from unworthy musical sources. And then there is the issue of his pounding music as found in his famous organ works. Those pedal sequences in his toccatas are jarring to the senses and physical in reception and impression. Hardly appropriate for use in church and the service of the Gospel.
And the people who would argue now about the unworthiness of rap music often think of Bach as the quintessential Christian musician. As I said already, I have made many of the same arguments myself. In my head. Thankfully not in public. Am I holding back?
No, I allow myself those arguments in my head when I want to absolutize my preferences and satisfy myself in the righteousness and superiority of my own musical taste and theology. The problem for me is that my theology of music will not allow me to stay self-satisfied on the matter, and by God’s grace I have not made arguments out loud that would violate that theology.
Rap music is not my music. I do not come from a culture in which rap music is the medium of communication and I do not have the ear for it that I have for other forms of music. But I do admire its virtuosity and the hold that is has on so many, for whom it is a first and dominant musical language. I want that language taken for the cause of the Gospel and I pray to see a generation of young Gospel-driven rappers take dominion of that music for the glory of God. I see that happening now, and I rejoice in it. I want to see them grow even more in influence, reaching people I cannot reach with music that will reach millions who desperately need the Gospel. The same way that folks who first heard Bach desperately needed to hear the Gospel.
The good, the beautiful, and the true are to be combined to the greatest extent possible in every Christian endeavor, rap included. I have no idea how to evaluate any given rap musical expression, but rappers know. I do know how to evaluate the words, and when the words are saturated with the Gospel and biblical truth that is a wonderful thing. Our rapping Gospel friends will encourage one another to the greatest artistic expression. I want to encourage them in the Gospel. Let Bach’s maxim drive them all — to make (their) music the “handmaid of theology.”\
Bach’s English Suite No. 3 in G Minor is playing as I write this. It makes me happy to hear it. But knowing that the Gospel is being taken to the ears and hearts of new generation by a cadre of gifted young Gospel rappers makes me far happier.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
From the ERLC:
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case, a much anticipated case that pits religious liberty versus a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the Health and Human Services Mandate. Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reacts to the decision:
“The Supreme Court’s consideration of the Hobby Lobby case is the most important religious liberty question in recent years. What’s at stake in this case is whether or not the Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion.
“We cannot accept the theology lesson that the government has sought to teach us, that religion is merely a matter of what happens during the scheduled times of our services, and is left there in the foyer during the rest of the week. Our religious convictions aren’t reduced to mere opinions we hide in our heart and in our hymns. Our religious convictions inform the way we live.
“I pray the Supreme Court recognizes what the founders of this country saw, that religious liberty isn’t a gift handed to us by Uncle Caesar. Religious liberty is given to us by God and is inalienable. Let’s pray for the justices as they think through this monumentally important case.”
The calling for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Hobby Lobby and other family-owned businesses that have conscientious objections to a regulation that requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their employees.filed a friend-of-the-court brief Oct. 21
For-profit companies are not currently exempt from theMandate. The Supreme Court will issue its decision before the end of the Summer 2014 term.
The cases to be heard by the Court are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Sometimes, evangelical Christians do more harm than good on Facebook.
Under the veil of “taking a stand” for our values, I fear we are letting loose all kinds of dishonoring, uncharitable speech. We need to stop.
I understand the frustration of conservative Christians who sense that the values we once shared with the dominant culture are slipping away. Things have changed. We’ve gone from being the moral majority to a minority – and sometimes we feel beleaguered. We come across examples of social ostracism or we hear about the legal challenges Christians face when they fail to compromise. It’s frustrating to watch the brokenness of Washington, D.C, as politicians in both parties seem more concerned about their prospects for reelection than the people they represent.
Evangelicals are having to learn how to be a distinct minority – people who must make a case for our values in the public square rather than simply assuming others share our views. We will soon be known for beliefs that are out of step with contemporary society. So be it. The Church has been in this situation many times before.
The question before us is this: Will we be known for honor?
...I like the way John Piper puts it:
“Being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”
...So, instead of just putting up internet filters so we can control what comes into our computers, perhaps we should put up an “honor filter” that will help us control what goes out of our computers. Consider what questions an “honor filter” we could ask of our Facebook and Twitter statuses.
- Is my point of view offered with respect to those who disagree?
- Do I assume the best of those who are my political opponents?
- Does it look like I am raging against injustice or against people made in God’s image?
- Am I showing honor when reviled or slandered?