Monday, January 30, 2006

It's Pat!


Labels: ,

Saturday, January 28, 2006

On Common Grace and Icelandic Post-Rock

The Nothing Song
Originally uploaded by ahansen54.
(To understand better, play this song while reading this post. Or, better yet, download this song (it's legal!), listen to it with headphones, and then read this post.)

Lately I've been thinking about why the music of Sigur Ros moves me so much. Perhaps it's on my mind because I've been listening to them more lately than usual. Or perhaps because I just purchased tickets to their concert in a month.

Whatever the reason for my musings, I've decided that their music is particularly evocative for me because I instinctively attach their music to the most beautiful landscapes I've experienced. Part of this happens naturally for me, as I think their music conveys a majesty that is completely absent from most modern "rock" music. Part of it, though, is conditioning. Several times I've sat down on the summit of a peak and pulled out my iPod (yes, I know...not very "natural," etc.) and put on the music of Sigur Ros to help me aurally process the spectacular views I'm seeing. I've found that their "()" album for whatever reason (the slow pacing of the songs, the shimmering tone and long delay of the guitars) fits an untouched winter landscape mountain landscape perfectly.

One such experience was the hike out of Medicine Bow range last spring break. It was a morning in late March and the sun was just beginning to burn off the clouds and break through the trees. It had snowed the night before so we hiked out through about a foot of fresh, trackless powder. I lingered toward the back of our line, taking pictures (including the one above), listening to Sigur Ros, and basically just trying to absorb as much of the experience as humanly possible. Now when I think of pure beauty, pure joy, pure contentment, those are some of the images that immediately come to mind, and Sigur Ros' "Njosnavelin" (the linked track above and the masterpiece at the center of "()") is the soundtrack to them. It's quite possibly one of the most vivid foretastes I've had of the intense beauty of the restored creation in the new heavens and new earth, when God's own beauty and majesty will be reflected in perfect creation.

Perhaps I'm placing more weight on some Icelandic ambient music than it's meant to bear. However, it serves as a reminder to me that through common grace, God can use a band who gives little (if any) thought to God in the production of their music to powerfully communicate God's beauty to me, simply because we all experience it.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Elderly Gang Warfare on the Streets of Reykjavík

A brilliant video for a beautiful song. All the reasons why Sigur Ros is one of my favorite bands.

(Here's the video in WindowsMedia player if the RealPlayer link doesn't work.)


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bill Gates Runs Like A Girl

He really does.


Monday, January 23, 2006

The Best 23 Seconds on Television



Saturday, January 14, 2006

In Spite of That, We Call This Friday Good

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood -
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

-from "The Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot


One thing that I appreciate about T.S. Eliot is that, after his conversion to Christianity, his poetry doesn't suck. While I say that tongue-in-cheek, I mean it as well; his post-conversion poetry remains equally challenging (if not more) than his pre-conversion work. He didn't decide, "Since the Bible has given me all the answers, I can now repackage what it says in a largely unoriginal way, quoting a few verses here and there and using a lot of cliches to talk about how much I love God." This is what much of "Christian art" (and by that, I mostly mean music) seems to do these days, and it infuriates me. To think that because we're Christians means that we should suddenly stop asking deep questions and not bother finding original (and sometimes difficult) ways to express ourselves is entirely backward. Because God is a creative God and we are made in his image, we have the freedom, and even the responsibility, to find original ways to express truth in all its ugliness and glory.

Which brings me to a second rant: balance in Christian art means that it must express both Fall and Redemption. To tell half the story is not to tell the whole truth. I'm not suggesting that every artist has to give both aspects with equal time; some artists may express one far more than the other. (Pedro the Lion comes to mind.) But Christian art as a whole should add up to a balance between these two parts. However, turn on K-LOV and the story of Fall and Redemption is not what you hear. Yes, we must get to the Redemption and Hope which is "positive and encouraging," but without the context of a fallen world and broken humanity, there's nothing terribly positive about grace and nothing all that encouraging about the gospel. This is yet another thing I appreciate about T.S. Eliot. His pre-Christian work (such as "The Hollow Men" and "The Wasteland") dealt with the fragmentation and alienation of fallen society. His later Christian work (such as "The Four Quartets") doesn't lose sight of these ugly effects of the Fall and their sad reality in our world. The Fall is not the final word (and he gets there in his poetry), but it can't be ignored or glossed over either.

When I get a chance, I may post some thoughts about the conflict between my love for Eliot's (representative of poetry and literature as whole) concrete yet imprecise beauty, depth, and vision, and my other passion for logical, consistent, precisely-stated truth.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Purpose Driven Preaching (Or, the Purpose of Preaching)

Keith Ghormley writes:
People don't remember sermons. I think that's not as bad as it sounds....But the sermon is not just a delivery of content and theology. It is about the obedience of faith. As I listen, I'm not supposed be tucking the knowledge bits into my brain for reference, I'm supposed to be listening to Jesus calling his church to follow him and saying "amen" from the heart.
I heartily agree with him on this, but I come to the conclusion from a slightly different angle, so I thought I would post my thoughts. In my mind, the world is a constantly teaching classroom. It unceasingly instructs us to do things contrary to how God would have us do them. Every time we walk out the door, the world tries to sell us something; when we watch television in our own homes, the world tries to teach us its perverted system of morality; and even if we are by ourselves in a forest or something, our flesh kicks in and tries to drift our thoughts away from God.

Preaching, then, isn't something where we are taught things once and for all, but a place where our minds, hearts, and souls get to listen to God's teaching. It isn't so much exactly what is said that is important, but the long-term effect of sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to how he approaches problems, issues, questions, and even the good things in our lives.

To put it another way, our sin has encoded the universe's true nature--that is, our sin puts a barrier between our being able to perceive of the universe as something made to "declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). The Bible gives us the key to decode the world, and preaching is intended to reveal to us the reality that was scrambled by our sin. For example, we learn that our suffering actually produces character and godliness, that servanthood is the actual path to greatness, and that humility is the real source of power--we learn all this from the Bible, even though the world and our own flesh screams out against such ideas, encouraging us to seek the exact opposite paths. So, the more time we spend listening to the Scriptures and listening to people who correctly teach us from the Scriptures, the more we learn to see past the code to the reality beyond.

Two final points: (1) none of this can happen apart from the enlightening of God's Holy Spirit; (2) incorrectly teaching the Scriptures causes people, over time, to think incorrectly about how to relate to God, and is therefore terribly destructive (this is the reason James comments that teachers will be judged according to a stricter standard--James 3:1). I am doing quite a bit of preaching this semester, and I intend for preaching to be my life's work (Lord willing, of course), so please pray for me as well as for everyone else who preaches that Paul's words might be true of us--this is sobering stuff:

1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

--2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Album Purchases

I received a whole lot of iTunes money for Christmas, and here's a list of the albums I purchased with it:

"Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis
In an attempt to expand my musical taste to jazz, I purchased this album after hearing that it is not only one of the greatest albums of all time, but also one of the most accessible to inexperienced jazz listeners. I'll confirm both of these statements. Excellent, mellow and melodic late-night studying music.

"Blue Train" by John Coltrane
My second forray into the jazz world. Not quite as accessible as "Kind of Blue," but (from what I hear) much more accessible than Coltrane's later work. My initial reactions are that it's less melodic than "Kind of Blue," but also very good.

"The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" by Explosions in the Sky
Instrumental soundscapes similar to Sigur Ros, only simpler instrumentation, with two guitars, a bass, and drums. Very much like Hammock. I like it, but I prefer Sigur Ros for originality.

"F# A# (infinity)" by Godspeed! You Black Emperor
Definitely the strangest album I've purchased in a while. (And that says a lot coming from me.) It's composed of three tracks, each which contain about three or four "movements." Yes, this is Canadian orchestral apocalyptic post-rock. Think Sigur Ros meets the apocalypticism of Radiohead. It's very theatrical and incorporates spoken word segments into the music. I haven't sat down and listened to it all the way through with headphones, which I know I need to do in order to appreciate it fully. It still needs more time to grow on me.

"The Name of This Band is Talking Heads" by Talking Heads
This one is currently my favorite of the new albums. It's a two-disc live album which spans most of the Talking Heads career. While I had heard much about the Talking Heads, I had heard very little of their music. I now understand why people always list them as influences. Lots of funk, but with it's own unique new wave stylings. I can hear their influence in much of current indie music (The Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Wolf Parade) and especially the influence of David Byrne's vocals (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Modest Mouse).

"Mockingbird" by Derek Webb
This was the only one of the albums which I'd been planning to buy for a while. My inital impressions are that, musically, it's very strong. Lyrically, I think Derek can do better. Some of his earlier songs like "Center Aisle" and "Wedding Dress" are more poetic than his latest, IMO. The album focuses on issues of politics and social justice, and I think its message to evangelical Christianity in America needs to be heard. However, I have a few questions/disagreements with Derek's apparent pacifist leanings.

So, my recommendations: "Kind of Blue" for being simply a legendary album, and "The Name of This Band is Talking Heads" for an extremely influential band that seems (to me) underappreciated by current indie fans.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why I'm Not A Dispensationalist

Among other reasons: Pat Robertson

If only he were as worried about dividing the Word of God as he is about dividing the land of Israel.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Why I'm Now a Credobaptist

As some of you may know, I have been thinking deeply for about a year on whether infant or believer baptism was the correct implementation of Jesus' Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Over this break, I have had significant time to think, study, and pray about the subject, and I have (finally!) decided that, in my opinion, believer baptism is the most biblical position. I certainly respect the beliefs of paedobaptists (especially because I know how confusing the issue is and because I know how persuasive a case paedobaptists have), but I am ultimately persuaded by the arguments on behalf of credobaptism. I would like to spell out my reasons for this decision, for my own sake (at the very least), but hopefully to help those of you who might still be thinking about the issue. So, forgive the size of this post (it's kind of a big issue), and I am very interested in any questions or challenges to what I am going to write.

First, you should know that I am approaching the issue from a Reformed, Covenant Theology perspective. From this, my main question is: Is there a covenant community in the new covenant containing both the regenerate and the unregenerate, as there was in the old covenant? I believe that the Bible does not reflect such a community under the new covenant.

Here is a rough line of argumentation for what I have come to believe:

  1. The old covenant was given to all those living within the physical, literal nation of Israel, all males of whom were to bear the sign of the covenant in circumcision, which was to be administered in their infancy.
  2. The old covenant was conditional in a way that if those under the covenant obeyed the laws of God, they would live; if not, they would be destroyed.
  3. Furthermore, some within the nation of Israel under the old covenant would have been regenerate and would have obeyed God, while others under the old covenant at the same time would not have been regenerate; nevertheless, regenerate and unregenerate alike under the old covenant were supposed to bear the sign of the covenant because the covenant was made with all of Israel.
  4. Jeremiah 31:31-34 promises that the new covenant would be formed with all the house of Israel and the house of Judah (in this case, the spiritual Israel, or the Church of Jesus Christ); Jesus commands that all within the new covenant are to bear the sign of the covenant, baptism.
  5. Jeremiah 31:31-34 predicts that the new covenant will be of a nature that it will be unbreakable, and that all its adherents would (1) have God's law written on their hearts; (2) know God personally; (3) have their sin forgiven.
  6. Because only those who have true faith in Christ are genuine members of the new covenant, only those who can give evidence to the reality of their faith should bear the sign of the covenant (baptism).
This is generally the argument for Reformed, covenant theology credobaptism, but Dr. Richard Pratt makes a good case against this argument here. Dr. Pratt makes the case that, while the new covenant when it is fully realized at Christ's return will indeed be unbreakable, be fully internalized, and distribute salvation to all of its participants. Now, however, Dr. Pratt argues that the new covenant is breakable, is not fully internalized, and will not distribute salvation to all participants (i.e., the unregenerate who are merely part of the covenant community). This was the toughest argument I saw against credobaptism, but I think that it ultimately proves to be incorrect biblically.

Although I cannot go into every aspect of Dr. Pratt's article (although I would be willing to go into more detail if asked specifically about different parts of his article), I will give brief reasons why I disagree with it:

  • Dr. Pratt argues that the new covenant is currently breakable. He cites Heb. 10:28-31, but if we want to interpret this passage as talking about someone who does not get salvation after having been sanctified by Christ's blood (phrases from the passage), how does that possibly fit into the doctrine of Definite Atonement (i.e., that Christ definitely paid for only his elect, who would be saved) or the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (i.e., that God will ensure the ultimate salvation of those whom he has saved by his grace)? I don't particularly know what the Hebrews passage means, and I wouldn't feel qualified to comment on it without knowing the Greek, but, if it means what Dr. Pratt suggests it does, then the passage does violence to two very important doctrines which are much more easily demonstrable by Scripture. Dr. Pratt gives no more evidence to support his argument that the new covenant can be broken (indeed, the passages regarding Perseverance of the Saints seems to assert the exact opposite), so I see no further reason to believe that the new covenant can be broken.
  • Dr. Pratt argues that the new covenant is not fully internalized right now. First, he points out that we believers, though the law has been internalized, are not able to speak authoritatively, but must submit to Scripture; only at Christ's return will covenant's internalization be ultimately realized in our lives. Second, he points to the 1 Cor. 7:14 verse, about unbelieving spouses and children being sanctified by their believing spouse/parent. I will grant his first point, but not the second. First, Paul also writes that unbelievers in no way are able to understand the things of God, because they do not have the mind of Christ as we have (1 Cor. 2:6-16). If this is the case, then is the new covenant internalized at any level in unbelievers? I would that it is not. As for the 1 Cor 7:14 verse, I would point out that paedobaptists do not believe that unbelieving spouses of believers are to be baptized. Therefore, I think that, because the new covenant does not become internalized at all in the lives of unbelievers, they should not be baptized.
  • Finally, Dr. Pratt argues that the new covenant right now does not distribute salvation to all its participants partially from the Heb. 10 passage, but also from the parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents in Matt. 25:1-30. I would argue that these parables do not talk about those within the new covenant community who are ultimately unregenerate, but about those who think that they are in the new covenant as believers in Christ, but in actuality are not. Notice how the bridgegroom responds to the virgins who are left outside: "'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you'" (v. 12). This is an interesting comment, since the Jeremiah prophecy about the new covenant states that all, from the greatest to the least members of the new covenant would know God (Jer. 31:34).
Certainly, for believers, the new covenant has not been manifested in its entirety; however, the new covenant is not true at all of the unregenerate right now. Accordingly, the sign of the new covenant should not be administered to the unregenerate or to those who are unable to demonstrate that they are regenerated. So, to answer my main question, I think that the new covenant is a spiritual covenant community of believers in Jesus Christ.

Since this is already a long enough post, I will not give any more arguments. I would, however, note that I am not the best theologian, biblical scholar, or anything else of that sort. If you have more questions on this subject, I would refer you (for starters) to a great series of sermons freely available on the internet in mp3s that you can get here (the series is the "2005 SBC Founders Conference Southwest"). In fact, the sermon entitled "Hermeneutics of Baptist Covenant Theology" devotes ten minutes to Dr. Pratt's article, which I briefly considered above, in a much more learned fashion than I did. I highly recommend the series.

Labels: , ,