Social class or the Gospel: pick only one (part 1)...

(Tim: This article originally appeared in ClearNote Fellowship's newsletter. If you'd like to be added to our mailing list, please send us an e-mail.)

Each time we sat under the ministry of our much-loved Iain Murray at the old Banner of Truth conferences, the Bayly brothers could predict at some point during the Q & A sessions Murray would strike a plaintive note, asking, “Why is there no evangelism in Reformed churches?” After a while, we realized it wasn’t a question, but a lament.

No one ever suggested he was wrong. The question brought on a guilty silence.

But if Reformed congregations don’t have new births, why aren’t our churches dying? Some pollsters even say the Reformed slice of the conservative Christian pie is growing. Doesn’t this prove Reformed men have changed their priorities and are giving themselves to evangelism--that we're all missional, today?

Sadly not. Our converts have simply moved up the social register. To keep our pews filled, we depend upon men and women raised in Christian homes getting their graduate degree and trading in their parents’ Arminian church for a more respectable Reformed congregation...

The Wesleyan or Southern Baptist moves up to Presbyterian. And there in his new Presbyterian church, our convert finds the accoutrements of his new social class wonderfully reassuring. It’s the church’s zip code, the minister’s Genevan gown or collar, the frequent repetition of those peaceful words ‘providence’ and ‘sovereignty,’ the high priority placed on the education of the congregation’s Covenant children, the preacher’s thoughtful message and splendid vocabulary, and of course the high classical style of music.

There's a quote I'm fond of that does a good job of summarizing that genre of books and articles that argues these matters of taste aren't taste at all, but doctrinal orthodoxy: "All an Englishman's preferences are a matter of principle." The quote is best pulled off with a fist hitting the table to emphasize that word 'principle.'

So are there any preferences in Reformed preaching and worship, or is it all principle?

Thinking class-wise, Reformed church culture is easily understood through the lens of the aversion to risk characteristic of the upper-middle class. Our converts don’t take pride in the foolishness of the Cross so much as the wisdom of Calvin and their senior pastor’s earned doctorate from somewhere across the pond.

But this is to flip on its head the focus of the Reformers who, recalling the Apostles were “uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13), boldly returned the text of Scripture and the liturgy of worship to the vernacular—what was then called “the vulgar tongue.”

How have we arrived at this place so far removed from the repudiation of highbrow culture and the utter lack of pretension that characterized the preaching and worship of the Apostles and sixteenth century Reformers?

Speaking specifically of the music of our worship, Reformed pastors would do well to consider whether it isn't time to stop despising the musical vernacular of our own day. There may be some congregations where musical archaisms have put down such deep roots that it would split the church to turn the clock forward, embracing the musical vernacular. But I'm betting use of the amplified instruments, tunes, and vocabulary of the common man in worship won't happen in most of our Reformed churches for the same reason preaching against the heresy of egalitarian feminism doesn't happen. Elisabeth Elliot put it well some years back when she said the problem with the church today is that "it's filled with emasculated men who can't bring themselves to say 'no' to a woman."

Thus, when we set the musical forms and instrumentation of our other six days a week beside the musical forms and instrumentation of our Sunday worship, we find our Sunday worship to be cloyingly feminine, an historic specimen best suited to be trotted out by the curator for occasional museum exhibits.

Rest assured, though: I'm not saying this of any person or any particular church. I hope no one will take anything I’ve said personally. I’m only offering a thought; making a few suggestions; quoting Elisabeth Elliot.

Really, I love everybody.

But because I love you, brothers, please listen: We must stop trying to kill two birds with one stone. Either we seek to make men into disciples of this Jesus Who chose tax collectors and fishermen to be His Apostles, or we make men into disciples of these archaic liturgies and exquisite musical forms that have evolved across centuries of Western culture. Yes, they're true and good and beautiful. But what is the cost of making them the focus of our churches' culture?

We can be evangelists for a social class, or for the Kingdom of God—one or the other. But not both.

If Reformed churches are to recover Gospel evangelism, Gospel worship, Gospel preaching and discipleship, we’ll have to leave Jerusalem for Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.

We can't cling to dietary restrictions when we enter the household of Cornelius.

Christ has declared all things clean and the Holy Spirit inspired His Word to be written in Koine Greek, the common language of the street.

Although our beautiful wives and loving mothers are wise in many things, they must not be allowed to set choose our pulpit, to dress our preacher and pick his words and illustrations, to choose the color of the sanctuary and sew beautiful icons on banners, to push our sons and daughters forward for a command recital on their violin during the offering; they must not be allowed to choose the church's musical style and instrumentation.

For the love of Jesus, we must bust our churches loose from the natural aversion to risk that marks the effeminate.

In the house of God, men who make their living with their hands rather than their mouths; men who have served in the military, who burp and have gas to pass and want to stay home and bale hay Lord's Day morning because rain is coming; those men need to be pursued. And pursuing those men will require us to silence some of the weaker and less sanctified women and the husbands who follow them three steps behind.

There's no better place to start than our preaching and music each Lord's Day. Think about manhood and follow this advice my Dad gave me when I was ordained back in 1983: "Go for the men and the women will follow."

He's right. It's the voice of experience speaking. But also, the voice of the Word of God.

Comments

Tim,

I hear you, but why do we assume it's the women who want the church to be "feminine?" I find, at least here, that the women are the ones who like the rock-ribbed, no-nonsense, and challenging messages, and, if anyone objects, it is likely to be a man in mid-life crisis who wants to hear that God wants him to be happy and have lots of stuff.

thoughts?

Tim, were your ears burning? I cited your proverb about Englishmen on the Green Baggins blog just a few days ago. (I wish I could find the original citation for it, too!) I agree as well with your observations about the need to update church music, a program we have in progress at my own church. One can be too aggressive about such things, but also too passive.

"The Wesleyan or Southern Baptist moves up to Presbyterian."

In these parts it used to be said that Baptists were Methodists who wore shoes, and Presbyterians were Baptists who could read. Episcopalians, I think, were Presbyterians who drank and smoked.

Related gag, from my part of the world:

"The Anglicans were all doctors and lawyers. The Presbyterians were accountants and engineers. The Baptists were all office workers and the Pentecostals were factory or farm workers!"

Will comment later on the evangelism issues.

"...Southern Baptist moves up to Presbyterian." Well brother that could sound a little arrogant. One might assume that the SBC is good at evangelism, but not discipling. On-the-other hand, maybe the SBC expected too much of them (like sharing their faith with others, caring for the widow and orphans, or feeding the hungry) so they're hiding out in the Presbyterian churches??

I think I would understand your point better if you could give some specific examples of both these antiquated "feminine" orders of worship and the "rock-ribbed" masculine worship that you seem to be advocating. I go to a church that sounds a lot like the one in the first part of your post. Our senior pastor has a doctorate from across the pond. Kids from church play instruments in worship every now and again. And we have a very conservative, old-fashioned musical worship where we sing hymns with an organ and that's about it, save for the occasional contemporary band (no mics) in the evenings. But I don't go to my church because it makes me feel nice and upper-middle class, though that's unquestionably a social mold I fit into. I go there because on a weekly basis I am exhorted to repent, rebuked for my sin, sloth, and self-righteousness, and preached to about the grace of God and the importance of reading, and standing for and in, his Word.

The vernacular is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you're quite right to point out that the gospel was spread by common men to common men in the common tongue. On the other hand- I recently visited New York City and attended Redeemer PCA, mostly because after reading the constant Keller-bashing on the blog, I wanted to sample him for myself. I went to the evening "jazz" service, and while I found the sermon to be unobjectionable (doctrinally) the casual, "knowing" feel of the worship leader, the blaring of the praise band so loud that singing was moot, all these things made the worship seem so disrespectful- so like everything else we have in our culture. While the gospel must be preached in the vernacular, and we must sing in the vernacular, there's 23 hours in the day and 6 days in the week where people can hear rock music and casual speech, and there is something to be said for a church that is unafraid to stand by its traditions and its sober worship. I do think there is a way to worship soberly and with great reverence for the Lord in contemporary forms, but why on earth would we want to make our worship like everything else?! Maybe we should make the musical forms of the other six days more like the ones we use on the Lord's day. What on earth is "effeminate" about singing the strong hymns of Luther, Cowper, and Watts to the tunes our fathers and grandfathers sung?! What on earth is gained by singing a mighty fortress with a rock band!?

A soul is a soul and a sinner is a sinner. There is nothing intrinsically better about a hay-baling nascar-loving blue-collar soul than the soul of some white collar guy, like a Pastor, who earns his living with his mouth and not his hands. Maybe I'm the only one, maybe I'm taking it too personally, but I found your descriptions up there incredibly demeaning to the many conscientious men who lead their families who do not fit into your red-state blue collar stereotype of manliness. Apparently those guys are better than those of us who are weak, and led around by the nose by our less-sanctified wives who ask us not to burp.

My church is very "archaic" in its worship practice. But I know several people who came to Christ for the very first time through its doors and its worship style, not those who had moved up from the Methodists next door.

Brother Tim,

Knowing that you've consistently trumpeted this theme, I've been waiting for you to get back to it so I could ask this question...

Is music that doesn't use amplification or isn't in the current vernacular inherently feminine? Men have been singing masculine songs for centuries; granted that many songs today are pathetic in many ways - is singing Old 124th, the battle hymn of the Scottish reformation, inherently feminine - or would it be the mode?

This isn't meant to be cheeky, but to me, the most masculine music is martial music or college football fight songs. I know many men who sing the fight song lustily and practically weep during the alma mater at college football games. No amplification or vernacular in either but plenty of testosterone. Of course, residing in Bloomington as you do, this could be because IU lacks the cohones on the field of battle whereas our local state institution, Ohio State, has it in abundance?

Kidding aside - why does masculine music have to have an electric guitar?

Regarding the comment that Baptists like me sometimes don't disciple people well--too often true. Too often, we don't evangelize very well, either, but praise Him, we have an office worker leading kids from the mobile home park in children's church where I am.

One thought that also comes to mind is that if and when we use modern music styles, we need to do it WELL. We can't simply get any old electric guitar (like abyssmal 1980s "Christian metal" ugh) and think that because we have a Fender, we've mastered the genre.

And regarding Episcopalians; where there are four, there is a fifth, was the joke I heard. (I grew up in the Methodist Episcopal church)

>> I find, at least here, that the women are the ones who like the rock-ribbed, no-nonsense, and challenging messages...

Yup. Note I said "some of the weaker and less sanctified women." And concerning men in mid-life sin, don't you find that, often, there's a woman in mid-life sin complicit in her husband's unbelief?

>>I found your descriptions up there incredibly demeaning to the many conscientious men who lead their families who do not fit into your red-state blue collar stereotype of manliness.

Any bifurcation is anathema to the postmodern because, almost above all else, the pomo hates distinctions. And that hatred starts with that most blurred of all distinctions that God places at the beginning of life, dividing human life into man and woman. So writing about man/woman in preaching and worship is as stupid as red state/blue state in politics. They're both stereotypes, and we've all learned that stereotypes are stupid and the people who use them reprehensible.

All of them except the Apostle Paul who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote confirming the stereotype about Cretans that was pervasive across the Ancient World: "This testimony is true."

>>Is music that doesn't use amplification or isn't in the current vernacular inherently feminine?

No. Some of the most man-friendly singing I've done and heard was a capella.

>>Kidding aside - why does masculine music have to have an electric guitar?

It doesn't. I've not said it does. Rather, what I'm saying is that our repudiation of such instrumentation often (and in my experience, usually) has more to do with safefy and snobbery than faith and courage and humility.

>>maybe the SBC expected too much of them (like sharing their faith with others, caring for the widow and orphans, or feeding the hungry) so they're hiding out in the Presbyterian churches??

Could well be, dear brother.

Love,

I'm astonished, Tim, that you think modern music is manly. It seems to me that the feminized church is full of it. And as feminism is a declension away from orthodoxy, it seems to me the modern music trends are part and parcel of the same thing. The arrival of modern music has not made the church more holy, or all that much more effective in reaching the world, it seems.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jeremiah 33.3

For what it's worth (for many, not much):

‎"Any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole state, and ought to be prohibited . . . when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them." (Aristotle, The Politics)

I agree with Don Johnson.

Coming from a non-denominational, charismatic background that had nothing BUT modern music and a congregation full of effeminate men doing the "sacred swoon" every Sunday, I don't see the connection between "archaic music" and the churches that use it for worship being "effeminate." In fact, when I first started coming to CGS (pre-praise band days), I found it to be refreshingly masculine. The men and the leadership and how they worshiped seemed strong and DECISIVE. After spending years and years in churches with electric guitars and "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs, I was relieved to find church "other-ly" instead of just like the rest of the world.

Oh, and something else: If we think that copying the "vernacular" as far as music goes (and calling it "masculine")...have you ever seen who is in that vernacular scene today? First, mostly women. Secondly, the "rock stars" of today that are men are hardly that (men, that is.) Mostly, they're are men that have yet to grow up and strive to keep a juvenile image to appeal to the younger crowds and not seem so "out of touch."

Okay, one more and I'll crawl back into the choir that has only heard Anglican chant for the past few centuries ...

For Really Contemporary music for the Church of What's-Happenin', why not try covers of classic Christian hymns done on the vuvuzela?

If you're having trouble wrapping your imaginary ears around that, here's some help in another musical genre:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTFKjJaV15I

>>I'm astonished, Tim, that you think modern music is manly.

Not what I said, but I never consider I've hit my mark unless I get a rebound.

And Rebecca, your description of CGS men is perfect: "they're men that have yet to grow up and strive to keep a juvenile image to appeal to the younger crowds and not seem so 'out of touch.'"

Especially our musicians. Wimps every one of them, with extreme jealousy when they catch a glimpse of an organist, or Sting.

But you and I know opera singers are the real men--especially the altos.

Love,

Tim,

OUCH.

I obviously wasn't talking about the men at CGS when referring to those who sing modern music, but my reference was aimed at those who are in the secular, Hollywood scene. In saying that, my point was to ask why we would seek to find masculinity by looking to that particular industry for suggestions as to what should be brought into the church.

And I never referred to opera singers (or opera, for that matter)as being masculine. As an alum from the SoM at IU, you'll never hear me make that statement, especially the regarding the altos:)

Love,
Rebecca

>>why we would seek to find masculinity by looking to that particular industry for suggestions as to what should be brought into the church

Not what I'm proposing, nor what the musicians of CGS have done.

Always loving you,

>Not what I'm proposing, nor what the musicians of CGS have done.

I never said that is what they did. I do think that churches are in danger of doing that (and DO that presently - I attended several in my youth). I was making a valid point regarding churches as a whole; it wasn't particular to CGS.

Opera singers can be quite manly. The music director at my church is both an opera singer and a former worshipper at CGS! :)

Tim, perhaps I am but a "pomo," but I think distinctions only matter if they are Godly distinctions. I do not think Jesus Christ distinguishes between the blue and the white collar when he looks at the sin on our hands and in our hearts. Men and Women in worship is another matter entirely, because it's right there in scripture.

Love,

Roger

It's true that Arminians "graduate" to conservative Presbyterian churches, even my pastor agreed. Perhaps it's due to the lack of earnest pleading that you'd hear from Spurgeon, or the lack of calling for a decision as John Stott did. Stott's biography is fascinating. He wasn't Arminian, but he believed that people need to be pressed to come to Christ. The NT does present it as an urgent matter--Today--is the day of salvation. And Francis "honest answers to honest questions" Schaeffer. He just loved people like Jesus did--knowing their faults and foibles and stuck to the Bible. What a man!

Roger,

Agreed. But there is a difference between "can" and "usually aren't." :)

>>I do not think Jesus Christ distinguishes between the blue and the white collar...

Dear Roger,

Again, I can't make the point frequently enough among my fellow Presbyterians, Jesus did make a distinction between blue and white collar in his choice of birthplace, birthparents, and disciples ("unschooled, ordinary men" was their reputation according to Luke). Also in the Holy Spirit's choice of beauty and sophistication of tongue when He inspired the New Testament. Also in His condemnation of Michal for her condemnation of David in his unseemly, unPresbyterian worship.

In other words, the opposite of the vast majority of those in the pews of your church and mine.

Love,

BTW, Dan and Holly were a happy presence at ClearNote Indy last Lord's Day, encouraging my son, Joseph, and the congregation.

To build on our host's comment, God also made clear in the OT what happened when people adopted the habits of the rich--like collecting gold, horses, and women. Plenty of rich role models, not too many who adopted the habits of the rich and didn't pay a huge price.

Just to pick up on Eliza's comments above. You wrote:

//Perhaps it's due to the lack of earnest pleading that you'd hear from Spurgeon, or the lack of calling for a decision as John Stott did. Stott's biography is fascinating. He wasn't Arminian, but he believed that people need to be pressed to come to Christ//.

I'm not quite sure what point you are trying to make. I grew up in what most people would call an Arminian church (specifically, Pentecostal). But in that church, I heard *plenty* of earnest preaching for the sake of the Gospel, and people were pressed to come to Christ. And people responded, too. What's stopping you guys?

It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a class thing either. The churches where I live are nearly all middle-class - only the Pentecostals have much of a foothold at the other end of the social market - but I can assure you that those churches do put in a lot of effort to evangelise, and in a variety of ways.

Tim- I knew you could only have had one opera singer turned church music director in your flock up there! May God send many more musicians into your doors- IU is such a great music school and it is certainly a field badly in need of the gospel.

As to the Blue and the White collar thing- yes, he was born to a family that would be "blue-collar" today. He chose the language of the streets to make his Word known. He chose "ordinary, unschooled men" to be his disciples. I don't think that all adds up to distinction in terms of spiritual worth. While Paul worked with his hands, he was also a scholar of the Old Testament. Luke himself was a physician--admittedly a more hands on field at the time but still, Luke would have been a learned man. We get little tidbits as to the members of the first churches and we see a very wide group of people- like Erastus, the city treasurer of Corinth, definitely a white-collar job. Philemon, wealthy enough to own slaves. I think the overarching theme to be drawn from it all is this- by his choice- such an inadequate word- of "blue-collar" surroundings, Jesus declares that the wisdom of the cross is folly to those wise in this world- that understanding him and his teaching does not rely on, and in fact could possibly be hurt by, being the most learned scholar in the Torah, or the most educated Roman, because the reality of His incarnation, call to repentance, suffering, death, and resurrection, are so far from the achievements of the world- as Paul teaches, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God- and in such a hierarchic society, this notion of equality in the face of the law was hard to stomach- harder if you were one of the privileged.

In our day and age, "blue-collar" and "average and unschooled" are not the same thing. We might just as easily lump in a worker in a call center, a clothing salesperson, an office secretary, or even someone with just a bachelor's degree who is a businessperson, nurse, librarian, whatever, as average- perhaps not "unschooled" but also not what today would be exceptionally educated. All of these people work honestly for their wages and most take home an average man's paycheck. I have no objection to stereotypes that are accurate, but I still don't think the burping hay-baler is.

I think you're saying one thing and I'm hearing another- would I be correct in assuming that your main point is that we as a church are not reaching out to the very sort of people Jesus lived and walked among? And that we often make idols out of the liturgies and traditions of worship that we have? I agree with you there wholeheartedly. Even as I finish writing this "recalibration" of average and unschooled, I'd say that you are absolutely right- the average parishioner at my church is probably pulling down 6 figures and has a graduate level education. But those people are also sinners, and those people also need the gospel!

I realize I often post only in disagreement- very unbrotherly of me, and for that I apologize! I have been tremendously edified and built up by this blog and encouraged by your ministry and sermons- since Dan himself first turned me on to it!

Blessings,

Roger

commenting on Ross' comments...........
I wonder if it's the redemptive historical model that's being used (humanly speaking)that inhibits earnest call. The Reformed churches do not tend to talk much about conversion, turning to Christ, except for preachers like Joel Beeke. (Wow, did I oversimplify that one, sorry).

Someone must have done a study on it! I think some churches are more willing than others to accept people (who are repentant sinners, of course) without a lot of theological knowledge. And some churches, intentionally or not, do not.

>>I knew you could only have had one opera singer turned church music director in your flock up there!

Currently, at least four PCA congregations have music directors who have been a part of our congregation while getting graduate degrees at IU's School of Music.

And faithful are the wounds of a friend.

Love,

Seeing how the musical vernacular of our time has turned "YMCA" by the Village People into a regular between-inning interlude at most baseball games for the hetero and family crowds to stand and dance/sign the letters, I might think the Baylys would be a tad more counter-cultural.

How do I usually end up agreeing with Dr. Hart here and disagreeing with him on his own blog?

But I digress...

I ditto all those above that have experienced "Praise Band" modern music and those who play it to be light years more "effeminate" than older hymns.

Secondly what does music style have to do with Social Class? I am about as blue-collar as they come (I grew up in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia, what choice did I have...) and still live a tad above the poverty line, yet abhor "Praise Band" amplified worship* as nauseating and distracting.

*- This also goes for Organs that cause heart palpitations because of their loudness.

We invest so much in the style of our worship that we have nothing left when it comes to the character of our worship. It's as though by carefully choosing our staid, faux-RPW style we erect big jersey barriers all along the road keeping us from the ravines on either side. But once the barriers are up we sit in our cars admiring the jersey-barriered view stretching into the distance, never bothering to turn the ignition key because our car doesn't have an engine.

Ben, having lived our early lives entirely within the kind of worship context you're seeking, Tim and I can speak with some authority of its issues. I often suspect that those who most ardently argue for dry, barely-there music are those who, like reformed drinkers, grew up doing otherwise and upon conversion became scourges of the position they once held because they've invested a preferential choice with moral weight.

We, on the other hand, began where you've arrived and just as you claim authority from your background, so too do we. We're not dismissing the validity of a variety of musical types in worship. We are dismissive of the blinkered preference for classical and understated music that typifies the formerly Baptist and Pentecostal upwardly-mobile convert to Reformed theology and worship.

Love in Christ,

David

I'm still trying to reconcile myself to the fact that I agree with Dr. Hart on this one...give me a minute. I'm ok now. Aesthetic sensibilities do not operate within a cultural vacuum. As Henry Van Til noted:"Culture is religion externalized". Given the presuppositions that undergird contemporary popular culture it behooves us to be prudent in appropriating the musical forms that this culture has given rise to.

I'm with Don Johnson, Rebecca and others. People have talked about effeminate, but what about the juvenile aspect of so much of it? Making loud electronic noises alone doesn't qualify as masculine -- I hope. Even less does it automatically equate to "evangelistic." Nothing manly about giving people their favorite drug. If my kids prefer junk food or music, it is my job to change their tastes, not reinvent my home to suit them, for the sake of "reaching" then.

> As Henry Van Til noted: "Culture is religion externalized".

Amen, Don Alexander. The church used to permeate the culture as salt and light. Now the culture permeates the church, and we are told it is manly to allow it for evangelism's sake. I can't stand contemporary Christian music. Or contemporary secular music.

> For the love of Jesus, we must bust our churches loose from the natural aversion to risk that marks the effeminate.

We must take the risk of dumbing down worship to the world's standards? I'd say going with the flow is more effeminate, wanting to get along with everybody.

> Reformed pastors would do well to consider whether it isn't time to stop despising the musical vernacular of our own day.

We need to get in touch with our inner adolescent? And why is the musical vernacular so doctrinally shallow and sappy? I don't understand how all this applies to "evangelism," or is anything other than Seeker-Friendly 101, Week One.

> Think about manhood and follow this advice my Dad gave me when I was ordained back in 1983: "Go for the men and the women will follow."

I like that! But put in a rock band, and my wife will follow me right out the door.

> recalling the Apostles were “uneducated and untrained men”

...why do we hire staff with all these highbrow, upper-class degrees, including Ministers of Music?

> the Reformers... boldly returned the text of Scripture and the liturgy of worship to the vernacular—what was then called “the vulgar tongue.”

Sheesh -- let's hear it for “the vulgar tongue” Bible translations, then, which incorporate contemporary thinking of all sorts, "evangelistically" reaching people where they are, not excluding anyone from a place at the table.

How do you "know" what I am seeking?

By the way what I am seeking is a congregation lifting up in unison praise to God (and hymns of lament, hymns of prayer, all 150 Psalms, even the "icky" ones) without being drowned out by the noise of some guy wailing away on his Gibson and banging on his Pearls or Grandma leaving the damper off the Organ.

Another thing we forget is that classic music was once vernacular. A shepherd-boy played the harp. Violins are fiddles. I'm no defender of orchestras in church, but when we are admonished to be brave, take risks and embrace rap, I must be a classic whimp. Am I to tolerate in worship what I won't in my own home?

When I finish building my archaic hurdy-gurdy, I hope to be able to play it in church. Hopefully, the loud, bagpipe-like sound will be manly enough. And I can't read music, so I'll qualify as "unschooled"!

This is a vernacular instrument from the Middle Ages played by gypsies and beggars, but also played in church, and even found in church carvings in cathedrals. Of course, the aristocracy thought it was quaint and egalitarian to imitate the peasantry, and took up the lowly hurdy-gurdy. They nearly succeeded in making it a highbrow instrument for emasculated men who can't bring themselves to say 'no' to a woman. Luckily, the hurdy-gurdy was rescued from that fate, and so still qualifies as something masculine that can be played in church, without amplification.

> [I] have experienced "Praise Band" modern music and those who play it to be light years more "effeminate" than older hymns.

Yes, yes. And so have we, plenty of times. But it's not sufficient to argue from experience here. It's true that effeminacy and "modern music" are often found to go hand in hand, but this does not mean they do so of necessity. Just because you ain't ever had it, that don't make it necessarily so.

I invite you to visit us at CGS where you will finally "experience" what up to now you've thought impossible--manly sons of Asaph commanding their congregation using common everyday instruments in offering up an acceptable service to to God with reverence and awe.

More reverence and more awe than you've ever dreamed possible.

For instance, here are words we sang this past Lord's Day (and the soaring electric guitar over-top haunting F11 chords made us all feal the heat of them, "preparing" us for a time of confession of sin):

Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created:
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated;
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare my soul to meet Him!

The dead in Christ shall first arise
At that last trumpet’s sounding,
Caught up to meet Him in the skies,
With joy their Lord surrounding;
No gloomy fears their souls dismay;
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him!

The ungodly, filled with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath prevailing;
For they shall rise and find their tears
And sighs are unavailing:
The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling they stand before His throne,
All unprepared to meet Him!

Great Judge, to Thee our prayers we pour,
In deep abasement bending;
O shield us through that last dread hour,
Thy wondrous love extending.
May we, in this our trial day,
With faithful hearts Thy word obey,
And thus prepare to meet Thee.

Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created:
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated;
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare my soul— to meet Him!

Well that tune fileld with Thee's, Thou's, and Thy's is not really in the vulagr vernacular is it?

I am sure your worship is fun and all but I'll take my poor, small country church filled with old folks and old tunes.

Having read, now, yet another thread on this topic on this blog, I discern the following template for them all:

Bayly Brother(s): Protest preach protest, critique, protest, critique, preach, critique, etc. etc.

Commenters: But what about this? And what about that?? Why do you say this other stuff? Yikes, for crying out loud!!

Bayly Brother(s): I (or we) didn't say this, and we didn't say that either. Instead we said some other stuff, like this ... etc. etc. etc.

Commenter: But, but, but, etc. etc.

Bayly Brother(s): See? You're squawking! We hit a nerve, right?

Commenters: But, but, but ...

[Repeat all the above for as long as one needs to cover all the comments]

If everyone is talking past one another, perhaps it's because some unspecified, maybe some unperceived, distinctions are buried beneath the discourse. Perhaps there is a wholely unwarranted assumption that everyone agrees on fundamental aethetics and notions of culture.

For example:

1. Aesthetic judgment. Do it reduce to personal taste? Or is an aesthetic judgment the same kind of thing as a moral judgment, or a scientific judgment? In other words, are there objective standards for beauty -- whether musicical, or literary, or graphical, or what have you -- objective in the sense that such judgments are not dependent on subjective "tastes"?

2. Culture. Van Til is correct, but that snippet from him leaves a world of things unsaid. For starters, what is the difference between folk culture, pop culture, and high culture? To suppose they're all the same is like supposing that all fungi in the field are the same. Failure to discriminate leads to poisoning and death.

Unraveling these issues is far beyond this thread, even this blog. Others have spilled oceans of ink exploring them.

But, because these issues lurk unexamined and unresolved beneath so much of this kind of discussion, the discussion itself cannot be other than muddy.

>>I am sure your worship is fun and all...

Yes, Benjamin; loads of fun. Just like Disneyworld. You're quite perceptive.

>>these issues lurk unexamined and unresolved...

Not at all, dear brother. On to the next post.

Love,