Archive for May 13, 2009

May 13

Trueman on the Rubbish of Kenny-G Worship

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Quote,Recommended Link

Once again, Carl Trueman writes a prophetic, edgy, and spot-on piece for Ref21, this time analyzing the hopeless inconsistency of conservative-but-light, empty, trivial, contemporary Christian worship. You can read the whole article here, but let me note the quote-worthy parts for you:

The service ended, not with a benediction or even a prayer, but with another chance to meditate, this time not to waves crashing on a beach but to a recording of Kenny G playing `Amazing Grace.’

The service was, in many ways, a multifaceted microcosm of a lot that is wrong with the church at large today. I remember sitting in the room and looking around at the earnest faces as they concentrated on the crashing waves, or empathized with the linguistic struggles of the spontaneous inclusive language guy, or were carried heavenward by the mellifluous tone of Mr G’s saxophone.

Ironically, not all conservative services are much better than their liberal equivalents.  Now, the difference is that liberal theology should inevitably lead to liturgical nonsense in a way that orthodoxy should not.  After all, orthodox theology grew out of the worship and liturgy of the ancient church, so it should be no surprise that the collapse of that theology connects to the collapse of worship and liturgy. After all, it is hard to see the musical genius of Kenny G giving birth to the Nicene Creed, or, for that matter, providing an atmosphere in which the same might be sustained.

What are surprising, therefore, are accounts of services where the theology is supposedly orthodox but the content is sheer trivia.  If God is awesome, sovereign and holy; if human beings are small, sinful, and lost; if Christ died and rose again by a most miraculous and costly act of grace, then this should impact the way things happen in church.

A church service involving clowns or fancy dress or skits or stand-up comedy does not reflect the seriousness of the gospel; and those who take the gospel seriously should know better. Frankly, it is more appropriate to liberal theology which does not take the gospel, or the God of the gospel, seriously. Serious things demand serious idioms.  I heard recently of a church service involving dressing up in costume and music taken from a Tom Cruise movie.  Now, if I go for my annual prostate examination, and the doctor comes into the consulting room dressed as Coco the Clown, with `Take my breath away’ from Top Gun playing in the background, guess what?  I’m going to take the doctor out with a left hook, flee the surgery, and probably file a complaint with the appropriate professional body.  This is serious business; and if he looks like a twit and acts like a twit, then I can only conclude that he is a twit.

You can tell a lot about someone’s theology from what they do in church.  Involve Kenny G’s music in your worship service, and I can tell not only that you have no taste in music but also that you have nothing to offer theologically to those who come through the church doors; indeed, what you do have can probably be found better elsewhere.

May 13

New Calvinism: Not New, Not about Calvin

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Quote,Recommended Link

I’ve made reference on this blog before to the so-called “New Calvinism” movement.

Kevin DeYoung — a young (i.e., younger than me!) pastor in East Lansing, MI and author of this and this and this — has just written a wonderfully wise, clarifying analysis of the New Calvinism for the Christian Research Journal. Here are some highlights of Kevin’s article:

Here are the two most important things you need to know about the rise of the New Calvinism: it’s not new and it’s not about Calvin. Of course, some of the conferences are new. The John Piper packed iPods are new. The neo-reformed blog blitz is new. The ideas, however, are not.  “Please God, don’t let the young, restless, and reformed movement be another historically ignorant, self-absorbed, cooler-than-thou fad.”

And while I’m praying: “Please God, don’t let the New Calvinism ever, ever be about the New Calvinism. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid to be called a Calvinist. I’ve read the Institutes multiple times, most of Calvin’s commentaries, and was voted “Calvin Clone” by my peers at seminary. I thank God for Calvin. But if the New Calvinism is to continue as a work of God, which I think it has been, it must continue to be about God. Young Christians have been drawn to Calvinism not because they were looking for Calvin or an “-ism” but because they were drawn to a vision of a massive, glorious, fall-down-before-Him-as-though-dead kind of God who loves us because He wants to.

The influence of Calvinism is growing because its God is transcendent and its theology is true. In a day when “be better” moralism passes for preaching, self-help banality passes for counseling, and “Jesus is my boyfriend” music passes for worship in some churches, more and more people are finding comfort in a God who is anything but comfortable. The paradox of Calvinism is that we feel better by feeling worse about ourselves, we do more for God by seeing how He’s done everything for us, and we give love away more freely when we discover that we have been saved by free grace. …

What draws people to Reformed theology is the belief that God is the center of the universe and we are not, that we are worse sinners than we imagine and God is a greater Savior than we ever thought possible, that the Lord is our righteousness and the Lord alone is our boast.

The attraction of the New Calvinism is not Calvin, but the God Calvin saw, not some new fad, but something old with new life blowing through it from the Spirit of God.

HT: Andy Naselli