Sunday, June 17, 2012


Erin mentioned in the Music Genres thread that Contemporary Christian Music isn't actually very contemporary.  True, but it is hardly the only thing we might say that about.  New Road in Goffstown is an old road now, and throughout New England there are New Boston, New Hampshire, New Hampton, Newton - none of which are remotely new now, just newer than the originals. 

New Thought is a century old. New anything is about a century old, as we went to the synonyms "modern" and then "contemporary," which are now themselves rather dated.

Contemporary Christian Music got its name 25-30 years ago.  Names change only slowly, so that's the name of a certain style of light rock that is used more for both listening and worship, requires instrumentation, in contrast to praise songs - which can be sung at camp - that features understandability in lyrics and a lead singer who is highly interpretive with melody and shading. Not much harmonising, except what the audience/congregation supplies itself.

The style persists, though it is no longer the only "contemporary" style.


Anonymous said...

Lifestyle Christianity is a bane on Christianity and does a terrible disservice to the gospel. This is because it betrays and obscures the sublime simplicity of Christ's message: believe that He has saved you, and that is all. But no, we foist this false impression on society that being Christian is about going to church, paying 10% of your income in special taxes (oops I mean tithes), putting crucifixes everywhere (if Christ returned today, he'd be traumatized by them)... and Christian Rock Music. The latter is particularly farcical! Anyway, the simple message of Christ is completely drowned out in all this.

james said...

"except what the audience/congregation supplies itself" If they can hear themselves over the sound system.

BTW, Anonymous, I seem to recall reading somewhere Jesus talking about building houses on sand or rock, and in another place equating love and obedience. And Paul writes of God creating good works for us to do. Which strongly suggests to this far-from perfect man that believing in Jesus is the start and the foundation of the rest of our lives, which are supposed to include those works God wants us to be doing. Some of those works will have some generic similarity: praying, reading the Bible if literate or hearing it if not, etc, but some are going to be unique to my life and some to yours. And those jobs God has for us can be quite complicated.

Anonymous said...

Hey james thanks for the reply. Jesus also had something to say about the Pharisees' prayers.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Anon, you are quick to condemn the practices of other Christians. For that alone you might be wary. Most of us here are familiar with the "all you need" Gospel and find it does not square well with scripture. I could go into some historical detail of where that diversion from the gospel does come from, but first I would like to know if you can listen.

So far, james as given you scripture and you have called him a Pharisee (yes, yes, you did...the meaning is clear). Not a very good start. But sometimes things can pick up in a discussion once people have gotten past their primary soapbox.

Anonymous said...

Sorry james, I didn't mean to call YOU a pharisee. (I can see how it could be read that way, thanks AVI for pointing that out) I meant to imply that listening to Christian Rock Music and doing other sorts of "Lifestyle" Christian stuff, is identical to the Pharisees' prayers. James is absolutely right with the scripture he quotes. But I think building the house on rock is intended more to refer to our inner spiritual practice rather than the clothes we wear/music we listen to/etc. The good works Paul writes of probably weren't meant to include Christian Rock music or anything comparable in Paul's time. Again, I didn't mean to call james himself a Pharisee, very sorry about that.

Yes AVI, historical details are always interesting. Maybe better to do a blog post about it than a comment, but of course that's your call.

karrde said...

@Anonymous, I'm a little confused.

If this is true: ...building the house on rock is intended more to refer to our inner spiritual practice rather than the clothes we wear/music we listen to...,

then how does that agree with

...listening to Christian Rock Music and doing other sorts of "Lifestyle" Christian stuff, is identical to the Pharisees' prayers...

If inner spiritual practice is more important the music a person listens to, then how is certain music bad (as in Pharisaical)?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I've done a fair number of posts on these topics. Use the search words McKnight, culture, and of course Jesus or Christ/Christian to see. Christian history and what we might learn from it are big deals over here. Overarching points: the believe-and-receive, 4 spiritual laws version of the gospel becomes popular after the Reformation, but especially on the American frontier. It is a product of that culture, and perhaps necessary for that time, but it is a sharply limited gospel. Imagine going to Jesus and saying "Okay, what's the technical minimum I have to do to be a Christian?" I don't think you'd get a pleasant response. The Soulwinners don't think that is their focus (they think they are trying to clear away clutter), but ultimately, that is what they are asking - and teaching. I was suspicious at first with where Scot McKnight was going with The King Jesus Gospel, but he convinced me quickly.

I would disagree about Christian Rock, etc. I'm not fond of it, but I went through all that when I was a 70's Jesus Freak. Yes, using the fashionable things of the world has its dangers, but I find that those who complain most about it usually only want the fashions of another time and place (see John MacArthur, for example.) Five-verse hymnody, camp meeting, praise songs, Gregorian Chant, Christian rock - each has strengths and weaknesses, and we all tend to like what was going 'round when we converted. Because my conversion took places in lurches separated in time and style, I neither love nor hate any of them. My loss, really, because a form that one really loves, even in its weaknesses, can knit the heart to God.

Anonymous said...

"Okay, what's the technical minimum I have to do to be a Christian?"

Let's rephrase that as follows:
"Okay, what do I have to do to be a Christian?" This version is A: synonymous, B: more natural, and C: not a strawman.

And the answer is "Accept Jesus as your lord and savior", nothing more.

I hate to resort to Old Testament, but the healing of Naaman in 2nd Kings is just sooo appropriate here. It's such a perfect analogy for Christ's salvation, it surely can't just be coincidence. And the lesson we're to take from it is that we shouldn't let ourselves get caught up in worldly pattern-based thinking where we think "it can't be simple, it has to be complicated". "What do you mean I just have to wash in the river seven times? That can't be right, surely I'm supposed to listen to some Christian Rock Music, put little Jesus figurines all over my house, etc. etc. etc.!"

karrde said...


What, is there no requirement for repentance and baptism?

I'm trying not to pile on too hard; we may both have something to learn here. There's a difference between A Christian Lifestyle and The Christian Life. You appear to be very aware of that.

But I feel a need to repeat my original question: if inner spiritual practice is more important than the music a person listens to...why mention the music?

Footnote: I grew up worshiping with modern worship music. Guitars, drums, three singers. They had harmony, but most of the audience sang along with the lead.

I also grew up listening to CCM. However, that was mostly because my parents and friends desired music that was definably 'clean'. Not too much in the way of drugs/sex/partying.

Now, I tend to listen to two kinds of music: Country music (home to vengeful relatives, sad loners, wild party-guys, and saved sinners) and worship music. Sometimes I switch to jazz/swing, or classical. Does my lack of CCM listening make me wiser or more foolish than I was as a youth?

My parents had Bible verses posted on the walls of the house, not Jesus figurines. One was a nice wood-cut with one line from 1 Cor. 13, another was a cross-stitch of a line from the Lord's Prayer.

Mom did that cross-stitch herself; does that raise or lower the spiritual value of the work?

We also had a picture meant to be a depiction of this scene. It was mostly decoration, but it does serve as a reminder that even in Jesus' day, not everyone knew when He was around for a chat.

We could be accused of being Modern Christian Lifestyle, I suppose...but what does the accusation mean?

The caricature you present of the Lifestyle replacing salvation itself feels false. I've heard dozens of conversion-stories; many of them were adult-conversions. Most involved the afore-mentioned repentance and baptism as primary component. Some testimonies were given while the person stood in the baptismal.

While there was unconscious pressure to join the lifestyle, that lifestyle (as practiced in the church I knew) was mostly study of Scripture and fellowship with believers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karde, sorry for not answering your comment before.

How could baptisms be necessary? There are cases when baptism is physically impossible. "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void" (1Cor 1:17)

I've never really understood the Acts 2:38 you linked to very well. Jesus already redeemed our sins, what is there to repent? Was Peter just speaking out on his own prerogative, sans divine inspiration? (I know that sounds heretical, but the apostles didn't have any more special status as children of God than, say, Assistant Village Idiot does)

I think that it is important to cement in our minds our faith in our salvation. The scripture verses your family hung up, the paintings, the lifestyle, traditions, ceremonies, etc., can serve to this end (but none are necessary in and of themselves).

What I'm upset with about CCM etc. is that it creates an artificial barrier between the unsaved and salvation: someone who could be saved might not, because they assume "being saved" is synonymous with "becoming Ned Flanders". And if these religious icons are waved around too blatantly, there is the risk that we fall into the trap of using them for worldly rewards-- cultivating that Ned Flanders image-- rather than for cementing our faith in our own minds, which is the point.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't think it's a strawman at all. I think it's exactly what you are saying. You are claiming that a sentence or two sums it all up. Why then an entire set of Scriptures? Jesus could just have left a one-pager at the Temple, died and risen again and everything would still work.

You are so worried that people are going to overcomplicate that you are falling out the other side of the boat. I can't stress enough that all of us here are very familiar with the version that you preach. We have grown up with it, read it in a hundred books, heard it at revivals and camp meeting. Many of us said much as you do at some point in our Christian careers. But bringing up children, teaching adult classes, encountering Christians from other countries or reading those of different eras puts into sharp relief: Believe and Receive is a mostly modern, mostly American (South and Midwest), mostly independent church doctrine. It is more culture-bound than the doctrines they reject from the state churches of Europe.

I'm saying it's not biblical. It leaves too much unexplained, as you note about Acts 2.

And I still don't get the music connection. People may put too much weight on the spiritual value of musics they just happen to be moved by, and that's annoying when they puff themselves up over having had a great worship experience when it's just personal preference, but people do that with other music forms as well.

GraniteDad said...

I see where Anon is coming from on this, though I'm not on board with it all. Think of the "Days of Elijah" song- it's all stories and phrases from the Bible, but doesn't really explain anything. It reminds people who already believe about stories from the Bible.

Kind of like when people say you "need to be washed in the blood." Oh yeah, that won't sound creepy to a visitor at all.

Anonymous said...

"Why then an entire set of Scriptures?"

THAT is a fantastic question! Jesus himself never endorsed any written Christian canon, and what we call the New Testament is a lot of letters which were not addressed to us. Tie me up and burn me at the stake, but this blog has just as much endorsement from Jesus as any of Paul's letters-- and it's actually addressed to us!

Texan99 said...

I'm with AVI about the danger of lurching to the other side of the boat. Can all kinds of worship become empty forms if we go about it with the wrong heart? Sure, and that's the Pharisee's prayer problem. Does that mean the best thing is to avoid all social forms of worship? Not for most people, who need them to stay focused. I know many people who don't attend church and explain that they're closer to God out in their fishing boats, but they're fooling themselves. That's not what they're paying attention to out there.

C.S. Lewis talks about high-church-low-church controversies as the need to find a balance between idolatry and irreverence. Too much ritual, and you get lost in the forms and forget the substance. Too little ritual, and you're no more focused on God and worship than if you were in the checkout line at the supermarket reading chewing gum ads. Most of us lack the gift to maintain a connection to Christ without a community of believers and a lot of tradition, obedience, and discipline.

But yes, mindlessly enjoying a catchy Gospel tune is not the same thing as either prayer or virtue, and it's possible to get way too wrapped up in questions about whether baptism is crucial for babies, or exactly how the Trinity should be described.

GraniteDad said...

"Tie me up and burn me at the stake, but this blog has just as much endorsement from Jesus as any of Paul's letters-- and it's actually addressed to us!"

I'm gonna speak on behalf of Jesus here and say that he liked Paul's letters better than AVI's blog. It's a well known fact that Jesus hated ABBA, and AVI keeps putting them up.

karrde said...

@AVI, @Anon

There was a much earlier attempt to reduce the Gospel as taught by Jesus into a simple, memorable capsule.

However, it isn't a one-liner. It's the statement that is often referred to as the Apostle's Creed.

That creed contains a bunch of specific items:
--God, and His status as Ruler/Creator
--Jesus, His relationship to God and status as Lord
--Jesus life, conception/birth/suffering/crucifixion/death/burial/descent-to-Hell/resurrection/ascent-to-Heaven/current-status-in-Heaven
--The Holy Spirit
--The Church
--Communion of the saints
--forgiveness of sins
--resurrection of believers
--Eternal life with God

Note that Lord and Savior do appear in there, roughly at the beginning and end. So the single sentence about Jesus as "Lord and Savior" does agree with this creed...but it doesn't express all of the Creed.

@Anon, you've lost me when you say Jesus already redeemed our sins, what is there to repent?

A person who doesn't repent (admit to themselves and God that they are sinners, and need the redemption of Christ) doesn't have much reason to ask for the redemption of Christ to be applied to them. They have no need for Him to assume special status (as Lord and Savior) in their life.

The discussion about baptism can lead to a long digression. I'd love to discuss that; it may be better to do that over email.

This is a comment thread that started talking about styles of music.

If you call something identical to the Pharisee's prayer, I assume you mean that it is equivalent to this?

I disagree. I invite you to explain to me why I'm wrong.

However, if it rambles on too long, that may also be better over email.

You do have a skill for mentioning related subjects in a way that generates long digressions...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sorry for making this comment thread go on so long. You guys are all very knowledgeable and I've learned a lot from this discussion (especially from everyone who backed their claims up with new testament).
See you next time AVI posts something controversial, probably! ;)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Feel welcomed back. We like having a go at explanations and clarification. And if your style is to launch into the storm and then hang on for dear life, that's fine, too.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

@Jonathan "I'm gonna speak on behalf of Jesus here and say that he liked Paul's letters better than AVI's blog. It's a well known fact that Jesus hated ABBA, and AVI keeps putting them up."

I agree. Somewhere in scripture it states: "Can any good come from ABBA?"

Texan99 said...

But He liked meercats, right?