At the risk of being labeled a musical snob, I venture a comment or two on one of the twentieth century's greatest composers, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this year--Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975). He is to music what Alexander Solzhenitsyn is to Soviet literature. Finding early success with an internationally received symphony (No. 1) at 19, his career fell foul of accepted standards ten years later when Pravda severely criticized his opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Thereby began twenty years of artistry aimed ostensibly at pacifying the communist regime and Stalin in particular, but now understood as filled with subtlety and irony. The War Symphonies"--Symphonies Four through Nine (he wrote fifteen in all) delve into the harrowing subject of Stalin's bloody purge on Russia and Shostakovich's musical counterattack. The fourth had to wait twenty-five years for it to be played fearing that its form would bring further criticism.
These symphonies, written between 1936 and 1945, are the composer's weapons against Stalin's rampant bloodletting. Shostakovich called them, his "tombstones." Of these six symphonies, the Fifth is the best known and the most easily accessible. I heard a live performance of it when I was a teenager. My physics teacher, who introduced me to the twentieth century music of Sibelius, Mahler and Shostakovich, gave me tickets to hear the Halle orchestra play in the Great Hall in Aberystwyth, Wales. The breathtaking ending of the symphony, a sustained pulsing energy rising to a climactic finish is guaranteed to excite even the near-comatose!
The Year 1905
The seventh is epic in proportion describing the siege of Leningrad. It is the eighth that is the most harrowing--the most graphic musical depiction of war that I know. Nothing can be compared to the metallic sound Shostakovich creates. My favorite Shostakovich symphony is the eleventh, describing another memorable year in Soviet history, "The Year 1905." It begins quietly and hauntingly mesmeric and ends in a blaze of mechanical intensity. In between come some of the most vividly brutal passages of music I know, music that evokes the horrors of war and death, of political regimes that bully artists into an arbitrary mold.
What makes great art is difficult to define at the best of times.
We might be forgiven after a quick reading of the New Testament to conclude that Paul was culturally grey! Paul's concern for unity and equality in Christ--the Galatians 3:28 point-of-view of there being neither Jew nor Greek...for we are all one in Christ--seems to be a cultural bulldozer, leveling all considerations of ethnic, civilizing distinctiveness so beloved by novelists, the BBC and cultural aficionados.
Paul and culture
One might think Paul was as content to eat porridge as haut cuisine. The gospel is the great leveler. It shows no interest at all in whether I'm "Essex man" or a son of Glyndwr, of whether I studied at a comprehensive in Lampeter or Eton college, or if I have an identifiable accent that is redolent of sophistication or conjures up thoughts of plebeian roots. But, as these exchanges show all too clearly, being a Christian does not erase all identity markers (English, Welsh, Laplander) any more that Paul's insistence that there is "neither male nor female" reduce us all to androgynous beings (despite a clearly discernible trend to do just that in our modern world). Vive la difference.
Paul can, however, discern what is true and honorable and lovely and excellent (Phil. 4:8) which makes one think that it is right to speak of arts and fine arts. We recognize them instinctively and put greater value (lasting value) on the poetry of Dante, Donne, Spenser, Herbert, Milton, Hopkins, Eliot, and the music of Palestrina, Bach, Handel, Bruckner, or the writings of Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Defoe, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien and Williams. But what we have done is singled out artists with Christian leanings one way or another and there's nothing (or so it seems to me) that suggests that good art only comes from the minds and emotions of Christians.
On the contrary Christians are capable of appallingly bad judgments and poorly expressed artistic productions. Deliver us from the tyranny that suggests "Christian" art is good, "Non-Christian" art is bad. Who knows what we mean when we apply such labels. For good or ill (and it is often more ill than good), the doctrine of common grace frees us into perceiving "the good" (the noble, the enduring) in Mozart or Debussy, John Lennon, or Eric Clapton. It always catches me off-guard when I read Kuyper's tirade against the music of Claude Debussy (in the "Lectures on Calvinism"), as though impressionism were redolent of all that is wrong with the modern world! It is easy so why someone might make that case (the lack of clarity suggesting moral uncertainty, or something of the kind). But it is breathtakingly naïve. I remember listening to a lecture/sermon once given by a renowned twentieth century preacher (now deceased) in which he argued that the music of Johann Sebastian Bach was "Christian" on the basis that it contained no discord. The idea of harmony suggested gospel creation as it should be, as God intended, and elements of discord suggested sin. The nonsense of such an analysis need not detain us now, but something of the same finds its way into many a Christian discussion where arbitrary factors suggest more or less Christian ideas.
Sarcasm and grotesquery
Listening to Shostakovich's symphonies is not easy to do, wrapped as his music is in emotional baggage that can quite literally drain the life away. As one reviewer said following a series of concerts given recently in commemoration of Shostakovich's centenary in which all his symphonies were played: "he wrote works in which sarcasm and grotesquery are hard to separate from nobility and pathos, base materials difficult to tell from the sublime; and the more keenly he felt political pressure -- Stalin's dirty thumb -- the more assiduously he doubled his meanings, put in jokes and let irony engulf all. His harmonies can be absurdly pert, his rhythms merely capricious and his melodies are more like deceptive simulacrums of a tune than the thing itself. One can feel it is only the architectonic aspect of composing that for him is not debased" (Paul Driver, "Maddened in Manchester" The Sunday Times, February 19, 2006).
Not all of Shostakovich's music is good. It can occasionally sound quite banal. Nor should we think of him as a hero of the dissident movement against socialist realism. He was a loyal patriot and Presidium member during the Brezhnev era. His struggles are just as much with himself as with Stalin's oppressive regime. He writes a mea culpato Stalin in the Tenth Symphony. And he dies wearing all his State medals. Following Stalin's death in 1953, Shostakovich went on to create one of his most important works - Symphony No. 13, Babi-Yar, for bass, bass chorus and orchestra. Written in 1962, this devastating critique of the Soviet system is based on poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It was the Khrushchev era and many had envisioned a different era had arrived rather than the Cold War which ensued.
Something essentially biblical and puritan emerges in Shostakovich: a sense of the brutality of this world. There is nothing saccharin about Shostakovich. Socialist realism was not an issue to trifle with. Life is hard and unrelentingly hostile to those whose point of view differs from the establishment. Like the puritans whose conscience forbade them the luxury of conformity, Shostakovich (while seeming to comply) wrote in irony much the same way as one imagines John did in writing the Apocalypse.
Out of the most brutal circumstance extraordinary good can emerge. Great literature, great art, great music! And therein lies a great lesson that the Bible reinforces again and again. That spiritual growth and vitality--the best things we ever do and say, emerge from the crucible of suffering and trial. The puritans knew this lesson well and often preached and wrote about it. Wrote John Geree, a seventeenth century English puritan, in his tract "The Character of an Old English Puritane or Noncomformist (1646)": "His whole life he accounted a warfare, wherein Christ was his captain, his arms, praiers and tears. The Crosse his Banner and his word [motto] Vincit qui patitur[he who suffers conquers]."
"Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice" C. S. Lewis wrote, and Christians of the past were not afraid to be reminded of it so long as it drew to live out-and-out for God as a consequence. I've no idea where Shostakovich stood spiritually, but his music reminds me of the frailty of this life and the need to live for Christ in a brutal, fallen world.
North American Christianity anesthetizes itself with promises of ease and comfort for the faithful. Too much Christianity is concerned with personal pleasure where soothing syrup from preachers mollycoddles over-indulged Christians to expect the wrong things. Instead of preparing them for battle against the world, the flesh and evil, they are hoodwinked into the belief that pain and deprivation are the greatest obstacles to Christian vitality and growth. Nothing could be further from the truth: God tries us "in the furnace of affliction" (Isa. 48:10).
James MacMillan, one of today's leading Scottish composers, said back in the year 2000 (at a twenty-fifth commemoration of Shostakovich's death) referred to Shostakovich as "the public atheist who provides us with a scorching vision of the human soul." Pointing to the composer's "extraordinary double vision," MacMillan outlined a music that simultaneously embraces "the lyric and the grotesque, joy and irony, hope and despair; a music which holds a mirror up to the human condition" (See, Michael Tumelty, "At last, the score is settled" in Glasgow Herald October 30, 2000). Like the music of Shostakovich, some truths can only be heard in minor keys.
*This post was originally published at Ref21 in September of 2005.
A witness for Christ in any age--and certainly in this present age--requires a prayer-saturated, Christ-centered, Gospel-motivated, Bible-shaped, Spirit-filled and God-glorifying commitment to "speak the truth in love." But this essential command for effective Gospel ministry to both those not yet saved and those already saved is easier said than done. The prevailing tendency is to sacrifice "speaking the truth" in the name of love, or to thoughtlessly speak the truth without love. We cannot truly love without speaking truth truthfully; and we can't speak truth truthfully without loving intentionally and thoughtfully. You can "speak the truth" without loving but you can't "love" without "speaking the truth." To paraphrase a much more able Gospel minister from another age who confronted this issue with a clear, insightful and captivating observation: "Truth without love is barbarity, but love without truth is cruelty" (Bishop J. C. Ryle).
Because speaking the truth is central to an effective Gospel ministry, there is little doubt that Satan will devise as many reasons possible to discourage Christians from either speaking to those living in the death spiral of sin and idolatry; or to distract them from intentionally, thoughtfully and relentlessly loving sinners drowning in the brokenness of a sin-deceived life.
Furthermore, it is equally obvious that if Satan cannot silence the truth, he will attempt to trap us into speaking the truth without love. If he can't stop us from loving, he will entice us to quit speaking the truth. He does this in two ways. First, Satan tempts us to minimize truth with meaningless euphemisms that disguise the horrific consequences and the irrationality and blasphemy of sin. Second, and often even more effectively, he will culturally intimidate us into outright silence in the name of love. Our diminished truth speaking or silence actually reveals that we are more interested in people loving us than we are in them knowing truthfully the love of Christ and being brought into the life-changing blessing of loving the Christ who first loved them.
So Satan--with an insatiable desire to reduce love into deeds that are void of truth or to communicate truth through self-righteous arrogance--today employs five deceptive myths:
Five Deceptive Myths
What is the Result?
In the present age the influence of these myths (when they are individually and/or collectively embraced) are almost always initially revealed by "selective truth speaking"--all of which is done in the name of "sensitivity." The result is that many contemporary Christians following their leaders will sacrifice truth speaking in the name of love; yet, amazingly, they will boldly address the sins and prevailing issues that the culture agrees are undesirable. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with speaking to cultural sins (cultural sin and justice concerns must both be addressed, after all). However, though many boldly speak the truth on issues found on the list of "Culturally Approved Topics for Denunciation," there is an astonishing silence about other prevalent issues the Bible clearly identifies as heinous sins. Why the silence? First of all, those who the masses confront are confronted with permission by today's culture shapers. Many suppose that by speaking to these issues the cultural capital of the church will be enhanced. But in contrast, those sins--corporate, cultural, and individual--which are avoided, are the ones that have been declared off limits because they are on the "Cultural Approved Lifestyle List." Even more, those issues on the Culturally Approved Lifestyle List are not only declassified as sins but now are to be celebrated, perpetuated and propagated. This brings us to the crux of the question: is "selective truth speaking" an evidence of sensitivity or is it a lack of courage; is it compassion or is it cowardice?
Multitudes of ministers and leaders are imploring Christians to embrace this "selective truth speaking" as an exalted virtue. For example, the present culture expresses concern about refugees, sex trafficking, racism, and other heinous sins and injustices--and rightly so! Churches and pulpits join the culture's efforts by truth speaking affirming these practices as sins and lovingly instituting ministry initiatives to eradicate these acts of iniquity and minister to the victims. And so we should and must! But by doing so an unassailable fact emerges - leadership is speaking publicly with compassion, courage and conviction. In fact, when pastors speak publicly on these issues, in their sermons and on their podcasts or blogs, people praise them for the very fact that they are being leaders. They should be praised for this.
However, at the same time, many of the voices that speak boldly on these issues are silent in the same public square concerning the agenda of culturally normalizing unfettered sexual eroticism, marital anarchy, and the sanctity of life (among others). In addition to their deafening on these issues - which the culture is now promoting and celebrating - it is now considered unspiritual or unbecoming for the Christian and/or the church to participate in the messiness of bringing the blessings of common grace to the culture by promoting and debating public policies rooted in a Biblically informed public theology for human flourishing.
A Crucial Theological Fact
Often, in all of this, one important theological fact is forgotten. We live in a world that, emphatically, does not desire the love of Christ or the truth of the Gospel. It never has and, apart from the moving of the Holy Spirit; and, it never will. Neither did I, until the grace of God changed my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, who brought me from death unto life. What did He use? He used believers who spoke the truth in love to me. They did so with varying degrees of sophistication, but praise the Lord they were willing to speak the truth and love me. Now I, as a beneficiary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their courageous compassion, must also speak the truth--lovingly--to those who need me to do so (even if they do not approve me doing so - even if they do not want me to do so)--we still must do so as others did so for me and you.
We must seek to speak the truth thoughtfully, timely and with words carefully chosen--even while we create an environment of love for effective communication. If a doctor knows you have a terminal condition and loves you he will not be silent. He will thoughtfully tell you the truth. He will likely take you aside in a private room providing an appropriate environment. Then he will tell you the truth in love and he will love you with the truth. Ministers are physicians for the soul. We know sin brings death and we know God's grace has provided the solution to sin's guilt and power. We also know that God has commissioned us to speak the truth in an environment of love. We cannot be silent about the truth they need to hear in the name of love any more than the doctor could. Nor would we tell them the truth about sin and God's grace in Christ without creating a thoughtful environment of love.
Those who have not yet come to Christ need to hear the truth of His Word spoken from those who will love them sacrificially and intentionally. And those who know Christ but have faltered in their walk for Him need us to love them enough to speak the truth. Those around us need us to deliver truth with a love that demonstrates the astonishing and unstoppable love of Christ and Him crucified.
In a world that has grown increasingly hostile to the truth of the Gospel, it would be easy to fall prey to perhaps right-hearted but wrong-headed statements like the one famously attributed to the renowned St. Francis of Assisi: "preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words." Instead, we must preach the Gospel and we must use words because they are necessary. Why? Because God's word tells us that "faith comes by hearing." In a word, we must speak the truth.
Love is essential because it opens the door for truth, affirms the truth and authenticates the truth; but, it is the truth that will "set you free." We are all born with a desire to be approved. But for believers our approval rating does not come from the world. "Do your best to present yourself unto God...handling accurately the Word of Truth."
Dr. Harry L. Reeder, III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL. Harry completed his doctoral dissertation on "The Biblical Paradigm of Church Revitalization" and received a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina (where he serves as adjunct faculty member). He is the author of From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, as well as a number of other published works.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true sun.
MA: What Christianity traditionally teaches about nature (creation, human dominion, etc.) has led to the great injustice of the current ecological crisis.PA: To make any progress in addressing the ecological crisis we must overthrow those particular influential Christian beliefs that prevent effective action.
MA: What Christianity traditionally teaches about X has led to the current social injustice.PA: To make any progress in addressing this systemic cultural problem we must overthrow those particular beliefs that prevent effective action.
In a recent blog post I urged the biblical basis for the spirituality of the church. One of the points I made is that while the church does not meddle in civil government, it most certainly may speak against social evils. Christians and pastors can and should speak out on evils such as racism, government sponsored torture, or, in this case, socialism.
I bring up socialism because I have noticed that it is becoming fashionable for Christians to denounce capitalism and laud socialism as a more biblical alternative. I get how this happens. Under capitalism, sin wreaks its usual havoc and the system is blamed for the injustice common to fallen human society. There are biblical principles that seem to push back against capitalism - such as concern for the well-being of others - which really should be addressed to how people use the system rather than the system itself. To be sure, capitalism itself provides no tonic for the disease of sin. Moreover, Christians should be discerning enough to scorn the adolescent egotism of Ayn Rand-style capitalism and realize the need for government intervention against capitalistic abuses. But in reacting against these, Christians should also have enough discernment not to endorse a system so inherently evil as socialism.
So, biblically speaking, why is socialism evil? Let me suggest three reasons:
1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing;
2. Because socialism is an anti-work system; and
3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil.
Let's look at each of these briefly:
1. Because socialism is a system based on stealing. The whole point of socialism is for the government to seize control of private property, mainly involving the proceeds of peoples' work, in order to give it to others. (Note the compulsory aspect of socialism, which so differs from voluntary forms of communalism.) This activity is the very thing pronounced as evil by the 8th Commandment: "You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15). Throughout the Bible it is assumed that individuals have responsibility and authority over the property in their possession. For instance, even when Peter was accusing Ananias of being greedy and dishonest, the apostle admitted the man's right to dispose of his personal property (Acts 5:4). While there is a legitimate basis for government taxation, the simple taking of one's possessions in order to give them to others is not one of them. Socialism is evil because it inherently involves stealing.
2. Because socialism is an anti-work system. Socialism promises to give a blessed life for free. Today, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders promises to give free education, free health care, and free vacation time, etc. (Of course, since government does not create wealth, these things are only free as the money to give them is taken from others.) As I listen to Senator Sanders, I wonder what incentive there would be to work hard. Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business endeavors, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it? In contrast to the ethos of socialism, the Bible is explicitly pro-work. Paul writes: "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need" (Eph. 4:28). Here, the apostle not only urges selflessness with one's possession, but explicitly denounces the socialist ethos. "Work!" the Bible says (2 Thess. 3:10). And on the basis of your own work you should provide for your needs and you should voluntary support the church and others in need.
3. Because socialism concentrates the power to do evil. The Bible's concern about human sinfulness (and its general approach of de-centralizing power) argues strongly against socialism. Under capitalism, the individual has discretion to dispose of his or her wealth, which in some cases involves vast resources. This may be done virtuously or sinfully depending on the character of the individual owner. Under socialism, however, a small number of government masters has control over almost all of the resources of the entire society. Unless one believes that politicians are inherently more virtuous than private citizens (and where one would get such an idea is a mystery to me), then this concentration of power is certain to work extraordinary amounts of evil. Under capitalism, access to scarce resources is determined by how much money one has, and one's money generally reflects the market's value on his or her work contributions. This will sometimes seem unfair, depending on one's perspective. But under socialism, access to scarce resources is based on government favor. This structure virtually reduces the society to slavery, eventually impoverishes everyone, and unfailingly promotes a culture of corruption.
For these biblically-based reasons, I would urge Christians to refrain from giving praise (and political support) to socialism and candidates who promote it. Alongside the Bible are the lessons of history. To students of such arcane history as the 20th Century, the prospect of socialism is chilling. There is a reason why some Americans want to erect a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, whereas socialist countries have built their walls to keep people in. Socialism is a nightmare to those who actually experience it, whereas capitalism is deemed a paradise - without Christ, a false, materialistic paradise, to be sure - to those trying to get in.
Capitalism does not offer salvation: only Jesus can deliver us from our sins. Socialism, on the other hand, is a manifestly evil system from which we should pray to be delivered.
The movement [The Moral Majority] also had its downside, because it tended to detract from a Christian's primary responsibility of telling people the "good news" that redemption comes only through Jesus Christ. At times, this central message seemed to be replaced by one suggesting that a shortcut to moral renewal might come through Washington and the Republican Party.
When I listen to men battling away around Europe (and the states) in well off areas, it makes me break out in a cold sweat.He went on to sing the praises of the straightforward, straight-speaking Schemer, the noble savage of the Edinburgh wilds, a square-jawed all-round good egg (come on, Mez, rise to the bait), open of heart and hearth.
How the heck do you evangelize in an area where everybody has a decent paid job, a nice place to live and possibly a car (or two) on the drive?
How do you break through the intellectual pride of a worldview that thinks religion is beneath them and that science has all the answers?
How do you witness in an area where the average house price is over £250k? How do you talk to a guy who feels no need for Christ because he is distracted by his materialism?
How do you make it work in an area filled with nice, law abiding citizens, who don't cheat on their wives, beat their kids and spend their days stoned on the sofa watching reality TV?
Now that's hard.
That's more than hard. That, my friends, is brutal.
Hard is trying to build authentic community among a scattered congregation. Hard is trying to foster meaningful relationships in a diarised culture. Hard is trying to engage in spiritual conversations with disinterested individuals. Hard is not having the freedom to pop into your friends house uninvited because it might not be polite.So, how do you evangelize? Exactly the same way as you do anywhere else: you go to the people around you, you speak to the people in front of you, you seek to communicate to them in an intelligent and intelligible way the reality of man's ruin through sin and redemption through Christ, relying on the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the blind to the truth as it is in Jesus.
As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Rom 3.10-19)Those are the facts. All the world is guilty before God; all the world needs the gospel. All are in darkness, and all need the light. That is the reality, wherever you are labouring. Every preacher engaging with the lost could tell you the same. As Mez sez,
please, let's not compare our ministries on who has it toughest.However, Mez has already conceded the high ground. It is clear who are the real tough guys. What we do, we warriors of the up-class urbs and the beatific burbs, is "more than hard . . . [it] is brutal." We don't even have the glamour of being applauded because people (apart from Mez) think it's hard. So, if you want a really hard ministry, come and visit us here in Crawley. There is always more work; there are not so many workers.
I promise not to if you don't. Let's just get behind one another in concerted prayer and support. Let's get rid of this spiritual one up-manship and face the facts that it's all a privilege anyway.
I thought I would add yet another postscript to the "sky is falling over American evangelicalism" conversation. I think what Phil ends his post with is worth saying again. So I will, just adding a bit.
Fundamentally, American evangelicals can learn from global evangelicals that being winsome is better than being reactionary, that following Christ's agenda trumps any political agenda (Sean was great on this point), and that evangelicalism (yes, despite all the faults it has) is fundamentally about the good news of new life in Christ not about all things baseball, apple pie, and America.
As for the first part, not being reactionary, Rodney Clapp said something interesting over at Christian Century (be warned, don't go read the first part, you likely won't like it). I thought the ending to be perceptive:
"It is in deep trouble because it faces a significant cultural and generational shift. Identifying itself with the wedge tactics of the political right, which is now falling (at least for a time) out of power, the movement cannot easily shake the image of being primarily negative and destructive. Indicators show that it is losing attractiveness not only among unconverted fellow Americans, but among its own young.
More significantly, evangelicalism is in deep trouble because the gospel really is good news, and reactionaries are animated by bad news, by that which they stand against. Undoubtedly Jesus Christ faced and even provoked conflict. But he embraced conflict as a path or means to the health and liberation--the salvation--of the world. And he hoped for salvation even, perhaps especially, for his enemies. If evangelicalism is innately reactionary, then it can follow Christ only by being born again."
Sean already said the second point, succumbing to the siren call of a political agenda, better than I ever could.
As for the third point, Horton's latest, Christless Christianity, gets at it pretty well, not to mention everything David Wells has been telling us for the last twenty years.
One final point, looks like Darryl Hart, known to his readers as the mysterious D. G., was a prophet when he wrote Deconstructing Evangelicalism, after all.
Maybe it's time for a new book, however: Reconstructing Evangelicalism (dibs on the title and, being a good American, I do know some good lawyers).
Writing in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, David Wells explains what our church and our culture need:
"The renewal of which we stand in need, I believe, is of both the understanding of truth and of our knowledge of the God of that truth. It is not one or the other but it is the one and the other. This written Word, this Word of dignity, accosts us because it is true in and of itself and because, as true, it is the vehicle through which we are summoned to stand before the God of that truth. It is by this Word that he, in fact, intrudes upon us, invades our private space, demands that our choices conform with his, and commands that we stand out as those who belong to another age and time, one which is eternal. It is this hearing, in fact, which will reintroduce the very unconventionality which is so conspicuous by its absence in our culturally conventional kind of believing today."
It was surreal moment: Steve, country boy from Lancaster, PA meeting his blues-idol, B. B. King, from Indianola, Mississippi. The blues singer happened to be in Jackson this week and Steve "dragged" me to "get some culture." The evening was a lesson in so many things, but will we ever team up again? In the words of the King himself, "The Thrill is Gone!"
With apologies to Isaiah and Dick Cheney, I have emerged from my undisclosed location to offer my first post. Unlike my companions on this website, I am an utter novice at this. I read Wendell Berry, live next to Amish, and even drink milk from glass bottles. All of which is to say that the world of technology has passed me by. But I now consider myself a chastened, nay reformed, Luddite. Here's why:
Chris is a former student of mine who now serves as a missionary in the jungles of Peru. It's not that convenient for Chris to go to a bookstore or go to a library to stock up on books. He does, however, have the internet. Chris told me in an email, after he saw that I'm joining this blog, that he finds reformation21 edifying. Trueman, edifying? I'll let Chris's momentary lapse of judgment slide for now, but I will think of Chris as I post. I won't be all serious edification, in a didactic sense. After all, isn't the kingdom of God thinking, worshiping, eating and drinking, and even laughing together whether we're in the jungles of Peru or in undisclosed locations somewhere in Lancaster?