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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good Music...Bad Theology

It was between the services that I entered into a lively conversation between our worship team about whether we should sing the lyrics of the new song. The song "Outside the City" by Pam and Greg Fadness has a compelling harmony as it speaks about the sacrifice Jesus made outside the walls of the city. The refrain is "Jesus I come to you, outside the walls, to the place of shame, where you paid it all. And this world means nothing to this heart of mine. Jesus, I come to you. Outside the city, outside the city."
The question is: does this world mean nothing? Is this gnostic dualism. Are we encased spirits in shells of flesh that we seek to shed and become spiritual beings? When we say that this world means nothing, does that mean we do not care about the environment, the economy, justice, racism, war, abortion, human rights, our own families?
So we had this lively discussion nuancing the words and their interpretation, wondering if we could edit and qualify the words to "the things of this world" or "the idols of this world"? Then in the evening I though; that's why I like the hymnal. The Covenant Hymnal has gone through an editing and vetting process where a team of pastors and theologians nuance what does and what does not belong in our worship vocabulary. Every denominational hymnal condenses its approved theology at the time of publication for its member congregations.
Hymnals are all but gone. With the fast rate of music production and distribution over the web, there is no vetting mechanism to approve or warn us about theological hand grenades. Keith and Krisitin Getty, marvelous hymn writers and musicians (not to mention sweet spirited persons) write music with a clearly substitutionary atonement perspective, where Jesus' death turns away God's wrath. Is that Covenant theology? I would hope the new Ministerium Facebook or someplace like the WorshipConnect site could help edit some of the music for us in the local church.

6 Comments:

At 12:08 PM , Blogger Rick said...

Those are great insights. There's a song that's been used here a number of times that puts it slightly differently: The song "Rescue" says "This world has nothing for me". The context of that remark is set in these ideas:

You are the source of life
I can't be left behind
No one else will do
I will take hold of you...I will follow you...

Do you think that avoids the error you percieve in the song your church did?

 
At 4:16 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Yes that helps. But I think that there needs to be a collaborative and shared effort to think through the lyrics of much of the new music, not so much to police it as to make sure it is consistent with what we believe.

 
At 9:14 AM , Anonymous Rick said...

My tendency is to agree with you, and in fact we edit lyrics and write whole new verses here all the time. But it's a tightrope, isn't it? The two things I don't want to see is a committee that tells us what we can't and can do - which exists in the national body of the church I am serving in and it's not a good thing - nor the proliferation of what euphemistically call themselves "discernment ministries", which are in reality watch blogs that throw very large rocks at anyone that doesn't two the line that they draw in the sand. I won't publish the URLs, but if you want to write privately I could direct you to some websites that purport to be Christian and yet viciously attack other churches and leaders including the ECC, in the name of Christ.

 
At 4:16 PM , Blogger Dan said...

we read scripture in community, certainly we could/should do hymnody/poetry for use in our corporate speaking and enactment of the Gospel.

Not knowing the thinking of the poets who composed the lyrics to "Outside the City" my first response is to think of the Hebrews use of the law for the sin offering in connection with Jesus being crucified outside the city: Hebrews 13:10-12; Leviticus 4.

The second image that comes to mind is from Revelation 18:4-5 where we hear the Angel shout, "...come out of her my people..."

Of course in the context of Scripture there is no dualism in any of these texts. Especially the way Hebrews interprets teh liturgy of the sin offering and connects it to Christ is quite astounding to me. If I want to follow Jesus, I most meet him where he is... outside the camp. Now the question is what does the camp represent for us? Ah, well, now this can go in several ways and the song gets lost perhaps.

Perhaps all of this was part of your conversation on Sunday. and i certainly understand your point of whether this is world negating or not. And of course your point here isn't necessarily this song but perhaps whether there is a way to set up what we could perhaps call "dynamic vetting" so as not to squelch the creativity of the community of Christ alive in the Spirit and 'commanded' to sing unto the Lord a new song.

 
At 8:23 PM , Blogger Doug P. Baker said...

My impression is that it is not so prevelant in the Covenant, but in the denomination that I currently fellowship with there is a great divide (in the common mind, if not in explicit theology) between normal life and Christian life. Not only appreciation for the earth, but normal work, cleaning the house and visiting with friends are all thought of as less than Christian. These are all thought of as getting in the way of what is 'really important,' which is prayer, bible study and fellowship. (Don't ask me how they draw the distinction between 'fellowship' and 'visiting,' but they seem to do it.)

Yes, it is gnostic. Yes, it is dualistic. It denies (at least implicitly) that God gave all things to us to enjoy, for our good, and for us to care for.

A couple months ago the Covenant Companion had a set of excellent articles on meeting God in the wilderness. These might help clarify the disastrous implications of that lyric to your song leaders.

 
At 8:56 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

rick and dan raise good points about doing this theology in community among discerning friends. I don't want a hierarchy imposing, but wise brothers and sisters reading text with me, pointing out truths I might not have seen.

 

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