The Emperor is not Naked

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After a depressing afternoon hearing about the upfront speaker-fee schedules of men with well-paying day jobs, along with the need to pay for their personal assistants/wives/whatever to travel with them when away from home for a couple of nights, it was good to go back home, feel appropriately dirtied by it all and then think about the Psalms.  If I ruled the world (a most unlikely prospect, I admit) I would make sure that no man with a fee schedule or a minimum attendance requirement ever spoke in any church or Christian gathering anywhere; only those who never raise the issue of 'How much?' or "How many?' (distinctly un-Pauline concerns, I would suggest) are worth listening to.  There are well-known men like that.  But not as many as there should be.  The Emperor is not naked but actually has clothes: tailor made silk suits from Savile Row.

That the aesthetics of power have moved from the televangelists of the 80s to the orthodox evangelical Ubermenschen of the present day is most depressing.  It is also perhaps the greatest example of postmodern irony, given how oddly and obviously deconstructive it is: at least the televangelists preached an upfront message of worldly aspirations in an idiom which was only in the vaguest sense Christian.  We use the aesthetics of power to preach the theology of the cross.

The only refuge for praise -- and indeed sanity -- at such times is the Psalter.   There the message of the cross and the aesthetics of weakness are perfectly matched, perhaps never more so than in the unaccompanied singing of the same.  The frailty of the human voice combined with the simplicity of the old tunes and the fragility of life expressed in the words of the Psalms surely form a combination rarely matched anywhere in church culture.  One might say that such possesses a raw Christian power which no organ, praise band or orchestra can ever match.

And, on the subject of the Psalms, I might recommend Gordon Wenham's new book The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms.  The chapters on the psalms in praise and prayer, and on the imprecatory psalms, are worth the price.
Posted May 3, 2013 @ 9:35 AM by Carl Trueman
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