Intellect, Worship, and the Irreducible Complexity of the Christian Life

(This is an article I wrote a couple years ago in a different context. The specific target audience at that time was Christian scholars, and I’m developing the point that the Christian life must be motivated by adoration of Christ. But the point of the article is that the principle at hand applies to all Christians, not just intellectuals. So I offer it for your edification here on PS23.)

kyrie eleisonWhat does it mean to adore someone? We romanticize adoration: “I just adore her. She’s such a wonderful person!” Or we trivialize it: “What an adorable puppy!” Now these are normal developments in word usage, so I’m not complaining, but it does present the possibility that when we come to the idea of adoring the Son of God our understanding of adoration may be somewhat diluted.… Continue reading

Singing the Unbearable Weight of Holiness

I seem to have gotten stuck in a pattern of writing about worship music. Someday I will write about something else. “But,” as Aragorn said, “it is not this day.”

prayer-bowed-headAs I noted recently, worship music helps us meditate on truth, and that is one of the ways we learn through worship singing. But music can also cause us to gloss over the profound without thinking much. This danger is not attached to any particular musical style or form for the simple reason that it’s primarily a problem with the singer not the song. If you’re a lover of traditional hymns (as I am), you’ll have to admit you can sing an entire hymn while admiring the orchestral accompaniment and barely noticing the words.… Continue reading

Does Worship Music Teach Us?

singing-churchA while back I wrote a little article on songs that ask the Holy Spirit to fall on us. That gave rise to a few other questions regarding worship music, and I’m going to begin addressing these in a few more articles, starting with this one.

When discussing the choice of music for worship services, we often mention the “teaching function” of music—that is, songs teach us much like a teacher or preacher does, therefore we must choose songs with deep theological lyrics. While firmly agreeing that our worship music must have solid biblical content, I’d like to offer an adjustment to this understanding of the teaching role of worship music.… Continue reading

Three Truths We Failed to Live During the Election

unknownAs we all let out a big sigh of exhaustion (not relief) following the presidential election, it’s important for the evangelical church of Jesus Christ to do some serious self-evaluation. We are now seen as the people who substantially helped to elect a racist, homophobic, misogynist xenophobe to the highest office in the land because we ourselves tend toward being racist, misogynist, homophobic xenophobes. Whether we like it or not, that’s how non-Christians and even many fellow Christians perceive it. But rather than argue about that perception, we urgently need to get to work on living up to its opposite as followers of Jesus Christ.… Continue reading

Why Does the Holy Spirit Keep Falling Down?

antique-hymn-book-page-i-know-that-my-redeemer-lives1While listening to worship music recently I was struck again with the particular category of songs asking the Holy Spirit to “fall on us,” “come down,” or something similar. I can say just from my own experience that there have been a steady trickle of such songs at least since the Jesus music of the 1970s. I’ve always held these more or less at arm’s length, not hating or loving them, thinking they’re too Pentecostal or—something. But when I realized how relatively unformed my criticisms of these songs were, I decided to think it through a bit more.

First, two important concessions for the sake of all the faithful worship leaders out there: it’s important to 1) allow worship songs to be art, which means giving plenty of slack for poetic language and the imprecision that often goes with it, and 2) not demand too much of any single worship song—no single song can say or be everything that songs can say or be.… Continue reading