[@] Dueling diagrams (5)

We’re not really talking about the diagram directly right now, are we? OK – it’s a rabbit trail. I promise to be back about the diagram by the end of this post.

Now here’s the thing everyone can relate to: Music. If you don’t own any CDs, have never owned any CDs, do not use an MP3 player of some kind, and never turn on the radio, just skip this post and go back to your Amish farmhouse. The rest of you just think about the whole issue of music for a minute with me, ‘k?

When I was in college, I owned (this is not an exaggeration) about 1000 LPs and about 500 45s, and I was starting to convert over to the “dark side” of CD – so I had about 150 CDs. I say the “dark side” because the truth is that analog is better than digital, and many of you were born way too late to know the real love it takes to care for a vinyl LP and to maintain an analog turntable, selecting the right stylus and preamp to produce what can only be called the “real thing”.

See: all of you born after 1977 think of LPs as scratch-ridden disposable junk that couldn’t possibly sound like anything but either DJ scratch or grainy trash that makes one think of the 1930’s. That’s what you get for being born too late. You have never lived until you have heard “Houses of the Holy” or “Who’s Next” or Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” or Muddy Waters’ “I’m Ready” on spotless vinyl played with a brand new stylus using a Technics receiver and headphones big enough to make your head feel to heavy to hold upright. And then cleaning the vinyl when you’re done with a soft dust brush to preserve the experience, using static free inner liners to keep the dust off in the first place and buying plastic sheathes for your LPs to keep the jackets in mint condition.

The lie is that we have it better now, and you are welcome to believe that lie. Your eternal salvation is not at stake. However, what you hear today in your iPods and CD players and whatever is flat, cold sound. A lot gets lost between the 1’s and the 0’s.

Anyway, I had a TON of music. The Clash, Rod Stewart (the old stuff, not that 80’s trash), the Yardbirds, U2 before they figured out that you can make more money pretending to a moral standard, the Smiths (hey: everybody owned a copy of “the Queen is Dead” – don’t look at me like that), Peter Gabriel (until he sold out with “So”, that punk), Genesis (up to “Trick of the Tail”, which was the precursor to them becoming Phil Collins’ backup band), oh I dunno. You want me to list 1000 LP titles? The point is that I wasn’t just some guy with a tray of tapes in his car. I owned a LOT of LPs.

So when Mark Driscoll starts in on the “myth” of “garbage in, garbage out”, I happen to have some experience with the subject of secular music and whether it can make an impact in your life for good or ill.

Pastor Driscoll covers a lot of ground in his books deciding to dump all his secular music for Christian music only to have his truck broken into by “teenage pothead miscreants” and having all his tapes – which he says “I did not like but tried to enjoy”. Here’s his punch line from that incident:
After much prayer, I decided that God loved me and allowed my music to be stolen so that I could buy back the old albums that I enjoyed.
Now before we go one step further, let me remind everyone of this:
    Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Another way to say that is “all truth is God’s truth,” amen? So if we find music that is lovely and/or pure, writing that is true and/or honorable, actions that are just or excellent or worthy of praise, Paul gives us a big green light to “think about these things”.

Without getting all ancient Greek on everyone here, he’s saying to mull these things over, to take them to (rational) heart, to take them into full account. In short, Paul’s saying (in the context of Phil 4) to enjoy the truly good things in this world rather than to be anxious about what is and is to come. The entire passage reads (ESV):
    4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
He is exorting us to be a people of true joy and not people who fear for no reason or fret over details which only God can ultimately control. So in that, there is nothing wrong with music, or art, or literature, or drama, or whatever you might have there as long as it falls within the bounds of hearts guarded toward the end of Christ Jesus in the same example Paul set for the Philippians himself.

If Paul’s point is that we have the liberty to rejoice in the Lord always, then what Driscoll says in his exhortation about the music thing is simply wrong. He writes:
First, there is no such thing as a pure culture untainted by sin and sinners, including Christian entertainment, which has had its share of scandalous behavior.
That seems so reasonable on the surface – but it is unfortunate that this is not what he is actually advocating. Certainly there’s no one who would say, “hey man, the Christian music industry is pure and holy, ready to be the bride of Christ”, and I would say the #1 reason is that the Christian music industry is frankly disconnected from the church. Name one record label that produces music intended to conform to a doctrinal statement. There’s not one. And there is also not a single record label that will pull an artist or a CD proactively. Think of POD or Evanescence for a second: those bands didn’t get pulled from “Christian” channels until Christian retailers (don’t get me started) complained that the content in the CDs were outside the bounds of what their customers would stomach.

But Driscoll’s argument that because no “pure” Christian entertainment culture exists we have the liberty or obligation to take any ol’ culture on as a stepchild or hobby in order to use it to spread the Gospel makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a complete non sequitur. Another way to apply this rationale is to say: “because there is no pure Christian church culture – because all churches are full of scandalous behavior – then we should use other social constructs to take the place of this imperfect vehicle.”

Now even the supporters of pastor Driscoll, one will hope, would have the sense to say, “Look: the Bible commands us to be in church in the local sense and in the global sense, so the argument is moot”. But that exact same retort is the one which turns Driscoll’s lecture on the impurity of the Christian music industry on its head: the Bible tells us to always be on guard for human failings when we are implementing the Gospel culture, and commands us to preach the word to every living thing in spite of our human failings – not to somehow think that because some Christian method can’t fill up MSG 4 nights in a row we have to allow secular bands with secular messages and motives into our churches for the sake of hopefully baiting some non-believers to co-opt us some “cool” mystique.

So what happened to my albums? I dropped them off at the Salvation Army, and I never looked back. After I was baptized, I realized that while there was something appealing about the Soup Dragons and the Cure and INXS and the Cult and Jefferson Airplane and etc., the appeal was not to the new man. I'm not saying it was easy, but I did it.

I am certain some of my friends reading this blog entry will disagree with me, but I am equally certain they are wrong. I am not saying all secular music is bad, but I am saying that of the 1000 LPs I had, not one had any redeeming quality as defined by Phil 4.

And let’s be honest: I wouldn’t give you a dollar for 95% of all “Christian music” today, and it took me almost 10 years to find a dozen Christian CDs that I liked. I am NOT saying that if you like Rock and Roll you are going to find a lot of great stuff inside the walls of your local CBA store. Even the Pop music is, in the best case, knock-off stuff. But that’s not an excuse to still fill your head and your heart with the junk that passes for pop culture. And it is IN NO WAY an excuse to have secular concerts in your church, which is supposed to be the pillar and support of the truth. Which leads me to this statement by Driscoll:
Third, “garbage in, garbage out” theology assumes that if Christians see and hear sin up close, they will want to participate in it. But the fact is the sin only looks good from a distance; the closer you get to it, the more clearly your see it, the more sickening it becomes.
That’s funny because what the Bible actually teaches is not, “stand right up close to sin and you can see how disgusting it is”, but “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26), “lead us not into temptation” (Lk 11), “Flee immorality” (1Cor 6), “flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”(1Tim 6), etc.

Being a witness among those who are perishing, being a minister of the Gospel, does not ever include accepting some ungodliness for the sake of hopefully getting the Gospel in endwise. In fact, Driscoll himself admits that many ministers he knows personally have taken on worldliness and have disgraced themselves because of it. But Driscoll seems to think that their mistake was (in his own words) “undertaking reformission without a wise understanding of worldliness”. Translation: if they had been a little smarter, they would have been able to fend off the “worldliness” of culture by being ready for a “spiritual” war.

Pastor Driscoll: the first strategic law of war is that you do not allow the enemy to camp inside your gates.

Now some of you are saying, “Cent: you gave us Driscoll’s ‘first’ and ‘third’ point. You missed the ‘second’ point.”

No I didn’t. I’m saving it for Monday. Have a nice weekend.
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 intro


Charles Sebold said...

All I can say is, amen. I am glad to hear somebody say it (particularly somebody in the Reformed world, where most people seem to be too enlightened to understand why I just couldn't keep my Pink Floyd LPs anymore, even that Mobile Fidelity pressing of Dark Side of the Moon...).