Shall We Project?

Among progressives, there is a prevailing mentality that if a trend is headed in a particular direction, it ought to be followed. The closer to the front of the line one is, the more advantages await him. Those at the front of the line, it is said, are those who write the history for future generations. While at times alluring, this progressive ideology is at the basis of much of fallacious thinking today.

One such trend is the trend to project words on a screen for singing and Scripture reading. This might seem like a peripheral matter, but in the following essay, I will demonstrate that it is a very unhealthy practice with the effects on future generations becoming increasingly worse.

In its defense, words projected onto a screen can have some advantages. Many churches have parishioners who use various translations. If Scripture reading is done responsively, it becomes necessary to read out of a single translation. A powerpoint presentation may give this opportunity. Furthermore, many songs never make it into hymnals or may be in various other hymnals. It is unpractical to have a stack of different hymnals for each person. Therefore to avoid confusion, powerpoint is used. Besides this it is common to have elderly people in the church who cannot read the small typeface of the hymnal. For these people, the powerpoint is a welcome relief. Finally, in the defense of powerpoint, it gets people to unbury their noses from their hymnals and look up. This makes them sing better and boosts the quality of singing for the congregation.

The first and most obvious loss of projecting words on a screen is the loss of part-singing. Most congregants do not know their part well enough to sing it from memory. Only a few are well-trained enough to harmonize with watersheding technique. (The term comes from barbershop groups who harmonize as they go. The lead singer starts and the other parts fall in around the lead.) Therefore, projecting words on a screen virtually eliminates the ability of the people to sing parts.

You might wonder why this is a loss. First, it is a historical loss. There is a rich tradition going back more than a half-millennium of part singing in church. Rather than wrestling through the departure from a historical tradition, the tradition is simply dismissed without research, understanding, or discussing what might be lost. This view of tradition is much like clearing out your grandparents estate and tossing everything into a dumpster instead of researching the worth and having a proper estate sale.

The loss is more than just a departure from tradition, it is also a loss of variety. God created people’s voices with different vocal ranges. Some men sing bass, some tenor, and a few fortunate souls even sing countertenor. Some women sing alto, some soprano, and some mezzo-soprano. Children often sing soprano, but can often learn to sing alto. Singing in parts gives each person a place to fit in with the congregation. If words are projected on a screen, everyone will sing melody, meaning the basses, altos, and tenors are not having a chance to sing something that fits their range well. There is no opportunity for a bass to sing deep resonant notes that support the congregation. There is not a chance for the tenors and altos to sing the passionate inner voices to give a precise rendering of the emotive context of the piece. It is all tossed out the window when the lyrics are projected on a screen.

These things are obvious losses from the very beginning. There are yet others which are more subversive and more harmful. I will now write of these.

The hymnal is a sieve. Christianity over the centuries has produced thousands of songs and hymns. Not all of them were worth singing. Most of them have fallen out of memory. Generations have decided which ones were important to pass on to their children and they compiled these into a hymnal. At times, better songs have been written. At times, the disvalue of other songs was recognized and thus hymnals have changed over time. Some songs, such as Cantatas were not meant to be sung by congregations, but by choirs. These have often not made it into hymnals. The value of a hymnal lies in its ability to condense the vast array of songs down to a few hundred that a congregation is likely to sing in its lifetime. This allows the poor quality songs to be sifted out and forgotten.

Unfortunately, with the availability of cheaper paper, hymnals have had a tendency to be produced in a more cost-effective manner, meaning that the hymnals have not needed as much consideration to be reproduced. This has led to lower-quality compilations in the past century with the availability of mass-printing. Computers are yet another turn in the road, since it costs virtually nothing but 5 minutes of typing to get lyrics projected on a screen. There is no peer-review necessary and no cooperation between churches required. Thus, the songs being passed on to the next generation are not filtered. It is like drinking coffee made without a filter. You may or may not have good coffee, but you have to use your own teeth to filter out the grounds. A heavy diet of songs from a projector will make a person accustomed to unfiltered and, if confronted with the real thing, he will not know how to handle it.

Singing from a  hymnal should be a motivation for the singer to memorize his part and his lyrics so that he no longer depends on it. It is like a crutch for the mind to memorize the songs which should be sung throughout the week. This is the ideal for when an elderly person has sung all his life, he can sing from memory when he can no longer see the page. In a case where a person is converted later in life, it would be possible to print out the lyrics in a large font for him to sing when he can no longer read the type in the hymnal. With cyber hymnals, it is very easy to find the lyrics to songs and hymns from most hymnals.

Singing ought to be practiced and prepared for. It is very difficult for a person to sing a song worshipfully while he is still learning the words. If the words are projected on the screen, it is virtually impossible to practice worship, since the powerpoint of the lyrics is often not public domain and not allowed to be passed on to each member. Some members may not have computers to practice, and if they do, they might be in places in the home that are not suitable for singing, such as a closet. Not to mention that experience shows people do not practice songs at home when they appear on the projector screen for the service.

Finally, it is probably foolish to think that the supply of fuel and electricity for the world will last forever. If our Christianity is to last for longer than a few generations should the Lord tarry, we need to be independent of technology in our worship. Even if a hurricane struck the town, the worship of a church that is dependent upon electronics would be limited. Having hymnals and knowing them well makes it possible for churches to worship no matter where they are in the world and no matter what happens to the electricity. (The same would go for speakers and audio-visual equipment as well. If your pastor cannot project his voice loud enough in your auditorium without a speaker system, you are dependent upon technology. You might need to move to a smaller building.)

If we are serious about preserving Christianity, we must pass on what we received, not what we made up. This means that technology is contrary to conservatism–at least in worship. This also means that this blog post is worth discarding if the power goes out.

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How Not to Sing

Not everyone understands what music is for. Besides this, some people misunderstand how it fits in with a worship service. It is how music fits into a worship service that will concern us in this post. I will begin to explain a wrong view and then contrast it to the proper view.

Mood Music

The wrong way to use music in a worship service is to pump up the audience. While this may seem ridiculous to you or far-fetched, I have been in churches where the song leader was a sort of cheerleader. The job of a cheer leader is to raise the level of excitement and energy in the crowd. These song leaders like songs with a lot of momentum and a lot of melodic motion. As far as they are concerned, the faster the song, the more pumped up and excited the people will become. Therefore, one wrong way of using music is to use it to set a mood.

When you begin to use music to set moods, there is one mood that seems to triumph over all the others. This rule has been true from Ira Sankey to present. Naturally, there are exceptions to the mood of happy, but most of the songs are designed to make people happy, rather than sad or tired or weary. While this may seem to make good sense, let us remember that there is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to weep as well as a time to laugh.

The most significant doctrine of the Christian faith is the Gospel. The gospel speaks of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. While awe-inspiring and with many positive aspects, the death and burial of anyone is a tragedy. It is because of the curse of sin that man dies. The death of Christ is the most tragic death of any human, because Jesus was the only person who did not sin, yet he took on himself the punishment for sin. While Jesus substitutionary death is a cause for our rejoicing, it is also a cause for reflection not he deep grief of Christ. We are called to bear his cross with its shame, not to forget the cross and live happily.

The world uses music to set moods. It would be a rare shopping center to visit in the United States will play Bach’s Mass in B Minor or Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem. This has a purpose. Shoppers enjoy being happy and music that makes them happy changes their disposition so that they will be more prone to buy. You will find music in the background of any film. If you watch a movie and imagine what it would look like without the music, you will be very surprised to find out how much of the mood of the movie is set by the background music.

Let us now return to the subject of using music to pump up the audience. Pumping up the audience is itself not without purpose. In fact, it has very much to do with the stated purpose of the church in many cases. The simple, happy tunes are the most easily palatable. It is much like a child’s enjoyment of icing on a birthday cake. Compared to the sweet icing on a cake, a piece of dark chocolate is a world of difference. Children do not usually enjoy the bitter-sweet taste of a good dark chocolate. So it is with the church in many cases. The joy of songs like Jerusalem the Golden is vastly different from that of I’m so happy and here’s the Reason why. Singing Jerusalem the Golden is an acquired taste. Most Christians are too impatient to acquire a taste for the good hymnody and prefer the nearly pure sugar of the petty ditties. Proverbs 25:16 has a word of wisdom. We ought to have only enough honey when we have found it, lest we loathe the same.

Good hymns require some effort to acquire a taste for them. Pop music does not require any acquiring of taste. It appeals to our senses like candy. Candy can give a person energy so that he can stay awake for class. But after long exposure to sugar, the sugar stops having an effect and he must have something else. Thus, there is an initial burst of energy in the church where popular music is introduced. It generates a lot of excitement initially, but within a few years, the excitement is worn off until the next pop music is introduced. In the mean time, people have been feasting on candy and soft drinks instead of learning to enjoy bittersweet chocolate with coffee and a hearty meal.

Part of the reason song leaders like to pump up the audience is to make them ready to listen to the sermon. In other words, the songs are the slave to the sermon.

The Proper Use of Music in the Church

Music in the church ought to be for the right purpose. It ought never to be used as a means to get people hyped for a preaching message so that the preacher has energy to feed off of the congregation. Rather, music is itself worship. This is clear from Ephesians 5, where singing and making melody in one’s heart is for the Lord. Furthermore, music is for the edification of the body of Christ, since we are commanded to sing to one another. Thus, music should be used in ways that focus on mutual exhortation and admonishment. The admonishment from our hymns, Psalms, and spiritual songs is for the Lord, not for the preacher, nor for the sake of the mood of the service.

Having said this, a mood is an unavoidable side-effect of the music. Singing A Mighty Fortress will create a different mood than Fairest Lord Jesus. We ought to be conscious of what kind of mood is being created when choosing hymns for singing, because not all hymns are appropriate for all kinds of services. Yet all of our worship is to be sober. Sobriety is incompatible with giddy songs. Therefore, none of our moods ought to be giddy. Sobriety demands from us that we have a serious tone to all of our songs. Even joyful songs ought to be sung with a sense of weight to them. The Christian’s joy is not like meringue, but like a hearty steak. The Christian’s joy is always mingled with the sorrow of longing for the return of our Savior. Therefore, our range of moods must be constrained to those moods which can be characterized by sobriety and seriousness. They must also include deep sorrow. I seriously doubt that most Christians know how to express deep spiritual sorrow in a worship service. Most Christians sorrow extends to Man of Sorrows and no further. (A good hymn, by the way!) Our depth of sorrow must extend to the cries of Jesus: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Mt. 26:38)

But let our music be considered as a means of worshipping Jehovah, rather than a music to set a mood for a service. Music has too long served an ignoble purpose in the church. Music must be a direct servant to God, not a servant to the preacher.

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Second Premise Arguments

Logic is an essential duty of Christians in order to draw out the implications of Scripture for Christian living. Allow me in the following treatise to explain what I mean.

By Logic, I mean that exercise of drawing conclusions from premises. Logical deductions are, in essence, syllogistic. This means that an argument consists of three parts: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. The major premise is an assertion which can be either affirmed or denied. The major premise is also the more important of the two premises. The major premise cannot stand on its own, however, because it is a bare assertion. The minor premise is less significant, but still essential. The conclusion then, must make an assertion which follows from the premises.

Before you can talk logic, however, you must recognize that in order to think, you must think in categories. All men do talk in categories. When I say that sheep are white, I am speaking of two categories: sheep, and white. I am also making an assertion that there is some kind of overlap between the two categories. The category of sheep has overlap with the category of whiteness. In a sense, every term is its own category. Even the word “category” is a categorical term. (Logic categories are analogous to mathematical variables, such as x or y which can contain any variety of values. In the same way, the category of sheep can include any number or kind of sheep.)

The second thing to consider in making a logical argument is not merely categories, but the extent of the overlap. When I say that sheep are white, I am not clear whether I mean that some sheep are white or that all sheep are white. There are, in fact, breeds of sheep which are not white. There are also some sheep that are speckled and spotted. (Just think of the story of Jacob and Laban.) I could also make the negative assertion that no sheep are white. With the negative assertion, I am saying that there is no overlap between the terms “white” and “sheep.”

So much for introduction. Let us now turn our attention to the matter of premises as used to relate Biblical truth. The practical outcome of this discussion is how to deal with matters, such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, musical style, and a host of other matters about which Scripture gives no direct command. I remember a youth pastor who taught that we must rely in these instances on Biblical principles to govern these matters. Others would say that Christian liberty must apply in these cases. Others yet dismiss the issues altogether, saying that the Bible has nothing to say about them. I will contend that in order to determine whether or not a Christian ought to partake in alcohol, tobacco, or a rock music concert, he must use a second-premise argument.

In fact, second premise arguments are unavoidable. Nowhere in the Bible can you find “Bob is a sinner.” But it is clearly written that “all have sinned”. Therefore, we can conclude that Bob is a sinner. But here, we are relying on information that is not specified in the Bible. This is what is called an enthymeme. Here’s how it goes:

  1. All men are sinners.
  2. Bob is a man.
  3. Therefore, Bob is a sinner.

We do not find the minor premise (Bob is a man) in the Bible. Yet it is essential to our argument. In fact, in order to apply virtually any passage of Scripture to life, we must use a stated or unstated minor premise. These minor premises rarely come from the text of Scripture, but in many instances, they are indisputable.

Let me give one example of a doctrine we teach which relies on minor premises which are found in the texts of Scripture themselves:

  1. There is only one true and living God.
  2. God the Father is God.
  3. Jesus is God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is God.
  5. Therefore, God must be one being in three persons.

The conclusion in this case is not directly stated in the pages of Scripture, but it is an undeniable truth, because all the premises are true. 

When it comes to an issue, such as alcohol, we rely on extra-Biblical data to make our argument, because Scripture nowhere says “all alcohol consumption is evil.” If one were to make a case against the use of alcohol as a beverage, he would rely on an argument such as one that follows:

  1. The believer must not be controlled with addicting substances.
  2. Alcohol is an addicting substance.
  3. Therefore, the believer should not be controlled by alcohol.

This is one of many arguments possible. One might argue that when wine is used in the Bible, it means grape juice when it is condoned and wine when it is being condemned. Psalm 104 makes this argument difficult, since it says about wine that it gladdens the heart of man. I have drunk much grape juice and I enjoy it, but it does not gladden my heart to drink it. Wine, when consumed in moderation, does gladden the heart. This is why Solomon commands wine to be given to him who is of a heavy heart. Therefore, we can conclude that a moderate consumption of alcohol is permissible by Scripture.

In order to make my argument that the Scriptures permit the moderate consumption of alcohol, I made this proposition: “Alcoholic wine and not grape juice gladdens the heart.” I supported this proposition with the command from Proverbs, but as a proposition, it does not come directly from Scripture. It is a second premise argument.

Lest someone think that I mean that it is wise for a person to drink, let me clarify that it is the moderate consumption of alcohol which is permitted. To get drunk is clearly sinful (Ephesians 5:18). Then moderation itself must rely on yet another second premise. It is possible to drink in moderation. This premise is often denied by abstentionists. An abstentionist would say that it is not possible to drink in moderation and therefore a Christian should avoid drinking at all. This argument is, however, a faulty argument.

It is a false argument, because the thing itself cannot be judged by its abuse. C. S. Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce speaks of how sin is (often) a good thing twisted out of proportion. Satan does not have creative power, but only the power to push things out of proportion. He could not create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but only tempt to eating it. Eating fruit was a good thing, but eating that fruit was a bad thing. When it comes to other sins, we find that excesses are often sin. Eating is a good thing, but eating too much is gluttony. Sex is a good thing inside of marriage, but sex with more women than one is a bad thing. We cannot judge that because sex is abused in the brothel it should not be enjoyed in marriage. Nor should we judge that because eating is abused by the obese that we should cease from eating.

I argue that when it comes to things, such as drinking alcohol in moderation, smoking (pipes and cigars) in moderation, and other such activities, we cannot judge the use of them by their abuse. Whether we use things God created in moderation or whether we do not, we must be fair with our arguments. This means that we cannot judge the use by its abuse. Alcohol has often been abused, but it can be used properly.

One final note on smoking pipes and cigars, lest you think I’m crazy. Most Christians will make this argument against tobacco:

  1. Your Body is the Temple of God.
  2. Tobacco-smoking is a defilement of your body.
  3. Therefore, tobacco smoking is forbidden.

The problem is that the second premise does not come from Scripture itself. It comes from medical studies. Some of these studies accurately describe the effects of smoking, but most of these studies (and I have read a number of them recently) are reflective of cigarette smoking and not pipes or cigars. The difference is that most cigarette smokers do tend to smoke excessively. Some studies have also been conducted and shown that less than a pack per day of cigarettes may not have an impact on one’s health. When it comes to pipe smoking, one study even says that pipe smoking increases the average lifespan by three years. The difference is apparently in whether or not the smoke is inhaled into the lungs. Most pipe and cigar smokers do not inhale. This is the reason that Charles Spurgeon could justify smoking cigars and J. S. Bach wrote a poem about his pipe.

I therefore conclude that regardless of what you think of these matters, you should be fair in your arguments for or against them. Don’t judge the use of a thing by its abuse. Don’t neglect to be thankful for the things in which you partake. And watch out for excesses in your life, because too much of a good thing can be a sin.

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Three Thoughts from Richard Weaver

I just finished my third annual reading of Ideas Have Consequences, by Richard Weaver. For those of you who have not yet read the book, start reading it now, and hopefully you’ll understand it better each time you read it. Men much smarter than I have tried and failed.

I’m jumping in right towards the conclusion of his book, so for those who haven’t read it, you will probably not properly understand what I am trying to convey unless you first read the book.

After portraying what a system of conservatism would look like with things, such as piety, virtue, hard work, chivalry, distinction (between gender roles as well as societal order) and hierarchy, Weaver delves into a few areas where he thinks there is an opportunity to restore a conservative society.

The first is what he calls “the last metaphysical right” which is the right to property. Property rights are the last vestige which Weaver believes to be a remnant of conservatism left in American society towards the second half of the 1940’s. From property rights flow the other portions of his solution. They provide, for example, a path to teach hard labor, because it is only through work that a person can earn and deserve. Government handouts, stock markets, and other get-rich-quick schemes do not teach a work ethic. Hard work also helps to build values in the community, such as chivalry, which recognizes the right to existence not only of inferiors, but also of enemies.

This intends not to be a full treatise of Weaver, but only a summary of his conclusions. Therefore, I will cut short some of the details in the interest of breadth.

Part of the path towards restoration involves education. Specifically language provides a mystery to be solved. Whereas Weaver introduces at the beginning of his book the downfall of society since Occam’s nominalsim, Weaver shows how language cannot be understood under the modern semantic notions, because definitions are circular and therefore not a source for knowledge. Knowledge therefore is gained by impressions and analogies to things already known. It is by sentiments.

In language, both Greek and Latin need to be part of the educational system, because the translation of these languages rendered in English forces precision with words, which is the foundation of understanding.

Besides language, the implicit assumption that Weaver makes is that a study in the classics must be had. Weaver makes a multitude of references to literature which he assumes his readers know. I have personally much study to do with cultural references, such as the sin of Prometheus and other quotes from Nietzsche among many others.

Besides language, history is of utmost importance, because an appreciation of history is foundational to understanding one’s own position therein.

Science is one area which he thinks quite overrated. Science in its best form is classification and so the learning of names for objects is valuable, but knowing the intricacies of a leech’s brain is not a valuable factoid. Categories are, however, not useless.

Which brings me to the final conclusion (not in sequence as Weaver puts them, but in my treatise here.) Dialectic, by which he means that of Plato, must be part of a conservative curriculum. Learning to think in categories and discern truth by means of comparing categories is the work of the mind which rewards with understanding the world in which we live. Therefore, let us learn logic and learn to think in categories. Let us learn Latin and Greek and History. But let us recognize the minimal importance of science for our system of conservatism.

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A Pennies’ Worth of Paradigm Shift

This article will trace the ideological shift based upon the changes in American coinage from its beginning to the present.

The first American coins were made in 1793, featuring a woman with flowing hair. This is important for two reasons. First, it is a picture of a woman. Women were not prominent on coinage through much of history before this time. In the Roman Empire, it was Ceasar who was featured on their coins. Men, and specifically the rulers of the nation were a constant reminder to the users of coins who their ruler was. Each person who bought or sold, knew that the king ruled even their coinage.

The second reason that the woman with flowing hair is important, is because of what she symbolizes: liberty. Liberty has been depicted as a female throughout history. Thus, the American coinage with lady liberty, symbolized the freedom which made America unique. While England yet featured their monarch, America featured an ideal of liberty.

Lady liberty, as engraved on American coins, was designed no fewer than five times within the first half-century, resulting in some variety as to what she would have looked like. None of these designs, however, depict the slender figure of a nearly anemic 20th century supermodel. No, they are all rather plump ladies, indicating their good health. (The paradigm shift on what makes a woman attractive is worth of its own article.)

In the mid 1850’s, there were some attempts at different kinds of coinage, none of which lasted very long. By 1859, the US Cent no longer featured the lady of liberty, but a head of an American Indian.

A major shift in coinage began in 1909 with the introduction of the Lincoln Cent, where, for the first time on an American coin, a president’s head was pictured on an American coin. No longer was the ideal of liberty the thing symbolized on the American coinage, but a concrete person. 1909 was 100 years after the birth of one of the nation’s most famous presidents. It was the smallest of coins, being on the US Cent. Yet the meaning was significant.

I think the significance bears two directions. First, the transition was one away from an abstract ideal, such as liberty, to a concrete, such as Abe Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln himself symbolized things like Emancipation and Honesty. He certainly deserves respect for maintaining the unity of the country during the nation’s only civil war. The second direction is the transition from a lack of the government’s presence on a coin to the presence of a governmental figure on a coin. Even as Caesar’s image was on the coin and belonged to him, so the image of Abraham Lincoln on a coin meant that it belonged to the government. Americans have an important difference, which makes this a tolerable addition. Never in American history has a current ruler been depicted on a piece of currency.

The paradigm shift, which is probably most important to keep in mind is the transition from the abstract to the concrete. This represents a shift in the metaphysical dream of the average American. This means that by 1909, when a concrete figure was portrayed on a coin for the first time, a majority of Americans had already undergone a shift from a pre-modern worldview to a modernist worldview. It takes paradigm shifts a while before they filter down from thoughts to actions.

The most important neglect of the modern metaphysical dream, is that it denies the transcendent order which all previous generations of humanity believed in. In some cases, this transcendent order was a complex system of many gods or a unity of the created order with the divine power. However, modernism was a true change where the transcendent was cast off as unnecessary.

If the transcendent order is unnecessary, neither are ideals. It is therefore important to understand what an ideal is. An ideal is more than an idea, although it is an idea. Christians believe that the invisible world is more real than the visible world. Thus, Christians have an incorruptible inheritance in the world that is invisible to us. God is more real than his creation. God is more real than Adam, who is but an image of God.

By the same token, there is an absolute truth by which all alleged truths are measured. This truth is never seen perfectly in any person other than Jesus Christ. Furthermore, there is an absolute beauty. A lady may be very beautiful, but there is no single person alive who we could claim is perfect in beauty. There is always a small flaw if one were to look closely. Yet these judgments of truth and beauty are possible, because there is an ideal that functions as a point of reference.

Modernist ideology has cast off its belief in a transcendent order, which includes ideals, such as truth, liberty, and beauty. It has put in its place a relative system. Because old habits die hard, the effects of modernism were not at first realized.

I would submit to you that the change in the US coinage from lady liberty, who was a generic form, also marks the shift in ideology from a pre-modern to a modern paradigm. What do you think?

Here are some of the dates of design changes which mark numismatic history.
1859 – Indian Head Cent
1909 – Lincoln Cent
1913 – Buffalo Nickel
1932 – Washington Quarter
1938 – Jefferson Nickel
1946 – Roosevelt Dime
1948 – Benjamin Franklin Half Dollar
1964 – Kennedy Half Dollar
1971 – Eisenhower Dollar
1979 – Susan B. Anthony Dollar
1999 – Statehood Quarter
2000 – Sacagawea Dollar
2006 – Westward Journey Nickel
2010 – Lincoln Shield Cent

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Personal Testimony

The story of my salvation begins before I can remember. Long ago, while I was yet a thought in the mind of God, He predestinated me to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He chose me for His own child.

You might ask me: “How do you know that you are God’s child?” Some people would answer, “I remember when I was a child, I made a decision to ask Jesus into my heart and save me.” I do remember a time as a child when I prayed such a prayer. However, I was so young then, that I cannot say for certain that that was the moment at which I was saved. I had just turned 5 years old and when I had finished praying, my parents asked me what I did. I told them “I got saved.”

I tend not to place much weight on that experience, because I cannot remember if I understood that I was a sinner, and I do not remember confessing any specific sins. I do not remember being terrified of Hell. I was baptized, however, shortly afterwards. I do not remember much about the conversation with the pastor and deacons.

Because my memory is not very good, I have not been able to rely too strongly on my experience. If it was a prayer or event that saved me, my memory is too weak for me to rely upon it. I do remember later on asking God to save me if he had not already done so, just to make sure I was saved.

I think that I had missed the main point of my salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved for good works. According to James 2:14, faith without works is dead. It cannot save. The way that I know if I am saved is if I am believing RIGHT NOW. The way I know if I am believing right now is if I am manifesting good works. Right now, I am believing Jesus Christ. I love the believers as those for whom Christ died.

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With Tears

One of the things that this blog intends to accomplish is to evaluate the atmosphere of church culture and to critique it. I cannot critique everything, for not everything requires critique. Some things, the church gets right. I rarely see serious doctrinal errors in the church. I may disagree with some doctrines taught, but they do not generally affect the core of the Gospel. Some things, the church does not get right. I cannot critique everything, because on the other hand, there are too many particulars so that I could rant for a lifetime about each one. Therefore, I choose to discuss those issues which have importance to the preservation of the church.

While I do not intend to critique everything, I do wish to address the matter of sobriety. The church, in my experience, is lacking in sobriety. It would probably be a reasonable assumption that if the church members are serious, it is quite often being serious about having fun. Many believers feel that their greatest responsibility is to have the “Joy of the Lord” but to be grave is often felt to be sinful. The net result is levity. George MacDonald humorously addresses the problem of gravity in his book The Light Princess. It is worth your time to read his short fairy tale. I do not deem it necessary to convince people that they are happy. What I will attempt to do is to show that there is a time for being grave.

Solomon says that there is a time for everything. Included in that list is a time to mourn. The first activity that comes to one’s mind ought to be a funeral. A funeral is a very appropriate place for mourning. Recently, a good friend of mine lost his father. His father did not evidence the fruit of repentance, although he professed to be a believer. It is appropriate for all Christians to mourn for those who have died. Besides being proper and fitting, mourning helps the soul to mend the pain of loss. I have witnessed many Christians at funerals who cannot mourn at a funeral. Many Christians ignore the feeling of pain and hurt, telling themselves that it is wrong for them not to be cheerful, because the fruit of the Spirit is joy.

Christians through the ages have commonly suffered immense pain for their faith. Some have died at the edge of the sword. Others have been burnt at the stake. Yet others have been drowned for believing in baptism by immersion. These enormous sacrifices are all appropriately met with mourning, because pain demand mourning. Mourning is the proper and fitting feeling that goes with pain. It is so natural that a child even understands to cry when it suffers pain. It is natural so that a mother who sees her child suffering often cries in empathy for the agony of her child. It is contrary to the way God created human nature for a person to respond to pain with frolicking.

Now let us turn to the biblical reason for the discussion of tears. I will show that there are some times in which all people ought to weep. First, the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus wept. Although it is the shortest verse in the Bible, it is not, however, the only instance in which Jesus shed tears. Even Jesus, who could have consoled himself with the fact that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, chose to suffer the agony of the people who mourned with him. Notice that when Jesus wept, Lazarus had been dead already for three days. This implies that the people had been mourning his death for some time already, for they were still distraught when he arrived. Hebrews tells us that Christ was tempted in every way. He was not unaffected. He suffered the same kinds of affliction that every man suffered, in order that he might empathize with our hurts. Now if a Christian claims not to suffer hurt, how can a Christ who suffered hurt empathize with him? No. We must admit that we do suffer hurt. It might not be the hurt of martyrdom, but everyone at some time in his life experiences the death of a loved one. This death ought to be a time for us to mourn, because mourning brings us into fellowship with the Christ who mourned at the death of his beloved friend Lazarus.

I think that the example of Jesus weeping for Lazarus illustrates my point. I will make it yet clearer. Christ was asked (Matt. 9:14) why his disciples did not fast. Jesus’ answer is enlightening. He says that they do not fast, because the bridegroom is with them. However, he will be taken away and then they will fast. Fasting and mourning go together. To fast without mourning is silly. The deep part of grief demands fasting. If you have ever suffered true grief, you do not feel like eating. Jesus’ assumption is that when he would be taken away, that the disciples would fast. This implies that they would mourn. The principle applies to us today. The church, which is the bride of Christ, is without her bridegroom. Sure, she has communion with Jesus by faith. The normal state for any relationship, however, is that physical beings are united with other physical beings. The church ought to mourn regularly, because the church is without her bridegroom until his return.

If the necessity of mourning is not yet clear enough, Romans 8:19-23 will be crystal clear. Paul argues in this passage that all of creation longs for the redemption of the body. It is comparable to the pains of childbirth. Childbirth is probably the greatest physical pain that a woman can suffer. For many hours, her own body endures a horrendous pain. Most women feel like quitting when they are in labor, because of the suffering of their bodies. Paul argues that believers are awaiting adoption as sons, which is the redemption of our bodies. In short, we groan for the resurrection when we will be finally loosed from our sinful flesh and clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We do wait for the return of Christ. We wait for the redemption of our bodies. We wait for release from our sinful nature. In this time of waiting, our state of joy must not forget the present suffering.

One Question remains yet unanswered. When is it appropriate for a believer to mourn? I submit that the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is a perfect time for us to remember the grief of our Lord and our partaking in his sufferings. No one has yet resisted unto blood as Jesus has. His own disciples fell asleep while he was in tears “even unto death.” His sorrow was greater in the garden than he had ever suffered before. He endured a severance in his fellowship with his Father so that we might have fellowship with him. This is what we celebrate when we celebrate the Lord’s Table. It is a celebration which demands as deep a sobriety as a funeral. It demands a remembrance of what it is that draws us to Christ.

The hymn writer wrote:

Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Christians must endure suffering. Suffering is a good thing. Suffering cannot be met with a sense of humor. It cannot be met with the numbness of the media. It cannot be met with frivolity. It must be met with deep grief. Grief is what draws us into fellowship with the Jesus who suffered more than any man. All of us have varying degrees of grief. We must embrace that grief and use it as an opportunity to be drawn to the suffering Christ.

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