Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Reading 2011 (Part 2)

Though my life is a bit busier in the midst of summer than it was right after I moved home, I am still finding time for a few books of my choosing. Here are some thoughts on the latest picks.

C.S. Lewis: Perelandra (1943)

I came across a C.S. Lewis anthology at my local library earlier this month, and have been browsing through it for a few weeks. It contains the complete text of Perelandra, and since it has been some time since I have read any of the space trilogy (at least five years, probably more), I decided to reread it.
Perelandra is the second volume, both in terms of publication and internal chronology, in Lewis’ space trilogy. Dr. Elwin Ransom, the protagonist of both this novel and its predecessor, Out of the Silent Planet, travels to Perelandra (the planet Venus). He finds an unfallen world and meets that world’s equivalent of Eve. Ransom is instrumental in preventing the Perelandran equivalent of the Fall. Through the narrative, Lewis offers some of his characteristically unique insights into major topics such as evil and its source, the nature of God and His relationship to creation, and the role humans play in redemptive history. It is a very deep work, though – I shall need more than one re-reading to fully grasp all of its ideas.

Tim Pawlenty: Courage to Stand (2010)

Tim Pawlenty was Governor of Minnesota from 2003-2011 and, as of last month, is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States in the upcoming election. I had heard some good things about him from Minnesota friends at Wheaton, and decided to learn about him myself.
Courage to Stand is, for all practical purposes, an autobiography written in the author’s midlife. Pawlenty outlines his family’s history before chronicling with some detail his childhood, focusing primarily on the close relationships he enjoyed with his parents and the plethora of lessons he learned from them. The middle third of the book covers his college and law school years, his marriage and children, and the beginnings of his career in public service as a stage legislator. The final third is devoted to his governorship and the many challenges and successes of his two terms.
Pawlenty is a politician, and thus skilled in the art of self-presentation, but I could not detect any overt self-marketing in this book. He seemed to simply be relating the story of his life and work, and giving the credit for it to Jesus. He seems a pragmatic yet committed and quietly visionary leader. And he seems to have a solid biblical understanding of the relationship between God, the state, and the individual. The national stage has unfortunately been a bit rough on him over the last month, but after reading this book I can tell that he is a genuine, godly man. I highly recommend Courage to Stand for anyone interested in learning more about Tim Pawlenty.


What is on your reading list these days? Please share any recommendations.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Bad Diet

A few days ago, a Christian organization (that shall remain unnamed) proposed something called a “thirty-day worship diet.” People who took the challenge were to listen to only “worship music” for thirty days and “see how God speaks to you.” I have serious objections to both this idea and its implications.

First is the idea that God speaks through worship music (which I will broadly define as music based in contemporary popular styles with explicitly Christian lyrics) more directly and profoundly than through other genres. Such a claim, to be blunt, is theologically unfounded.

There are two types of revelation, general and special. General revelation is what David refers to in Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and what Paul refers to in Romans 1: “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” General revelation is, in short, the evidence of God’s presence and God’s work in the natural world. The list of what encompasses general revelation is virtually endless. Not so with special revelation. Special revelation refers to (and only to) the logos – the Word of God, Jesus Christ. No human-crafted art, even if it employs the mechanism of human language to explicitly refer to Christ, can speak to the human heart like Christ Himself can and does in His Word.

Thus, it is theologically inaccurate – biblically mistaken, in fact – to elevate worship music to the level of special revelation. It is a mistake to elevate any form of music to the level of special revelation, from Wesley’s hymns to Handel’s choruses to David Crowder’s praise tunes, no matter how much in alludes to or even quotes the Bible. Only the Scriptures themselves carry the power of special revelation – any music the text may be set to adds nothing of spiritual consequence, biblically speaking.

I do not mean, of course, that music has no value (having just spent four years in a Conservatory, I feel very qualified to assert that music does indeed have value) to the church. For the beginnings of a discussion on the value of music in the church, I recommend Harold Best’s Unceasing Worship, Phil Ryken’s Art for God’s Sake, and Steve Turner’s Imagine. It is not sacramental, however, or inspired, as the Scriptures are.

My second concern is that the challenge to listen only to worship music for thirty days, while it may seem like spiritual advice, is unfounded in Scripture. There are such Scriptural commands like Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” But this organization provided no support for their implied claim that other forms of music are untrue, dishonorable, and so forth. I, of course, do not believe such support exists because the claim is false. After all, it is not what goes into someone that makes him or her unclean, but what comes out (Matthew 15). It is how we react to our surroundings that determines whether they are honorable, commendable, and the rest.

Our entertainment choices, in my opinion, should be based primarily on whether or not they honor God by what they put into our minds. Put a different way, one should ask whether the entertainment draws one toward or away from Christ. A second criterion should be artistic and intellectual merit. I can think of many praise and worship songs that so honor God and are of immense artistic and intellectual merit, and I can also think of some works in this genre that do not meet those standards. Concerning other genres of music and types of entertainment, I can think of many works that draw one toward Christ and have artistic and intellectual value, and many that do not. (See my profile for some of my entertainment choices.)

I have written before about my belief that God values leisure, and by extension the use of entertainment. But as in all things, the process of discipleship involves careful consideration of our interaction with the world, and this includes our entertainment choices.

This is Rubio, over and out.