Schilder and the Sentimentalising of Suffering

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It's no secret that I don't like much classic hymnody and even less many of the contemporary Christian praise songs.  One reason: too sentimental by half.  In that light, I was struck by the following comments made by the late Dutch theologian, Klaas Schilder, on medieval attempts to make Jesus' words from the cross into some kind of poetic high point in his ministry:

`We may as well say outright what must be said of this.  Such poetry does injustice to the content and to the holiness of the Gospel of the Passion.  We simply may not metamorphose the brutal outlines of Christ's wrenched body and forsaken soul into the lush sweetness of a nightingale whose pulse-beats are regulated by life and love and by these alone.  For, although love and the will to live caused the Holy Heart of Jesus to beat faster -- the finger of God's justie made it stop.  Under the threat of that finger Jesus suffered terribly.  That finger made His body writhe in pain, His soul bend to breaking.  His utterances were not those of natural love gratified by the situation; they were those of justice, of the strenuous achieving of grace which would attain peace on the cross by passing through awful struggle.'

So Schilder.  The note that is missing from so much contemporary piety, be it sung, written, spoken, or practised, is surely the awe which should be induced by the terror of seeing God's grace mysteriously revealed by being utterly hidden in the darkness of the cross.  In the shadow of such a cross, of such a God, cheap sentiment is nothing more than the reduction of the divine to the meagre dimensions of fallen humanity.

Posted September 19, 2007 @ 10:55 AM by Carl Trueman
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