Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Must Read as Related to the Gospel, Culture, and Meaning

I commend this article at a blog called "Conservative Christianity. I'm interested in your thoughts as it relates to what the author is saying. I agree with him 100%. I believe that the kind of Christianity that he describes has become mainstream, especially evangelicalism. It has profaned God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[As an example of what "Conservative Christianity" is talking about---here---among many others from what is considered the most conservative of evangelicalism, people for whom many fundamentalists have deep admiration. Don't do a search on "dude" on that site, because you won't be able to read it all. 301 "dude" references.]


Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
Well, I have to say that I completely agree with the article on the "Conservative Christianity" blog. I have to say that C. S. Lewis made a very astute analysis. And I have to say that the writer of the blog accurately applied what C. S. Lewis wrote to "Dude". But I have to cringe & express my deep dismay at the use of any of C. S. Lewis' writings without a disclaimer stating that he was not a child of God & did not have saving faith. So, very good article, but I am still conflicted by the article.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for the C. S. Lewis disclaimer. That is a bit of a discussion. I think that by quoting C. S. Lewis, he was doing a bit of what Thomas did in quoting the Quran. He's respected by many of the "dudes," among others who let the "dudes" get by with it.

Joshua Allen said...

Hmm, I'd be really surprised if David agreed that Dan Phillips is a good example of what he's talking about in that post. David is talking about people who culturally "contextualize" Christ, he's not ranting about the word "dude". Dan's post is likewise ranting about people who culturally "contextualize" Christ.

Now, it's true that Dan is not very separatist regarding pop culture, but nobody could accuse him of failing to treat Christ as appropriately sovereign, which was the point of David's post. If David were truly ranting about the use of colloquialisms like "dude", you'd be right, of course :-)

Regarding the Lewis references, it seems pretty clear that David was quoting him as an authority on cultural criticism. If you've not read much Roger Scruton, you might miss that in "Conservative Christianity". David often makes the same points as Scruton. And since none of it is theology, but is instead cultural criticism, I don't think it makes sense to freak out about the soteriological status of the critics. Both Lewis and Scruton will quote Plato and Aristotle at times in arguing a various point about culture, but it's not as if they are claiming that those ancient Greeks were Christians. Just because someone is secular doesn't mean they cannot be right about some things.

Scruton's latest talks specifically about popular music; you might like it:

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for coming over.

First, I've read Scruton. I've read his Beauty most recently and before that The Aesthetics of Music, prior to which I read An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy. I've read a few of his essays as well. I appreciate the link. I will go and look at it.

Second, I agree with you that David wouldn't refer to Dan Phillips, even though he should. I believe that many of the lines in the essay refer exactly to Phillips and Pyro. But Pyro and Phillips shouldn't be ashamed of that, if they think they're right. I'm just pointing out the obvious. Listen, if you think you can worship God with pop and rock music, which they can, then they are as good as saying Jesus rocks. Worse. It shows a kind of lack of discernment that is commonplace in both evangelicalism and fundamentalism. I think that many who read here would think I have it out for the Pyros, but I really don't have anything unique for them. I just believe that I'm pointing out something that gets ignored because of their connection with John MacArthur.

I'll give more proof of this if you think that you need it, but thanks for the concern. And I mean that.

Jack Lamb said...

Preacherdude references aside, I have to admit the pyro article has a much needed message for many independent Baptists.

Joshua Allen said...

OK, if you've read Scruton's book on Music, this article won't be anything new for you.

Thanks for taking the time to respond and for humoring me here. I do think it's important, because I think there's a hugely important distinction between "Jesus rocks", and "rock pleases Jesus". Both are bad, but they're different, and it's dangerous to conflate the two.

You might be correct that David should write a post specifically against people who don't separate from worldly music. And maybe David will. But that's not what this post was about. The key quote from David's post is:

"If the object of Dude’s approval, which he calls Jesus, evokes the same affections as other forms of entertainment, it stands to reason that the object of Dude’s approval is another form of entertainment."

He's describing some "Dude", who starts with his own cultural fancies and calls them "Jesus". We're not talking about someone who knows the Jesus of the gospel and then stupidly brings rock into the church; we're talking about something really different. A guy who starts with something very different than Jesus, "which he calls Jesus".

To be clear, I have just as much a problem as you do with people who bring worldly "art" into the church to "praise God". If we say that "rock pleases Jesus", or "death metal pleases Jesus", where does it end? Will we soon see strippers and body piercing artists in our churches, plying their own unique "talents" in service of God worship?

But there is a completely different issue, which in my opinion is much worse -- the issue of people defining Christ in terms of their own impoverished cultural fancies. These are very different issues. On the one hand, you have someone saying "rock pleases Jesus". On the other, you have people saying that "Jesus rocks". The former may be bad, but the latter are worse, and these latter are the subject of David's post.

My objection to conflating the two is that it sets up a sort of idolatry. In David's post, "Dude" is an idolator who has created his own God from his impoverished fancies, and wants to legitimize his idol to us by calling it "Jesus". If we then say that church worship leaders who bring rock to Church are equivalent to "Dude", then we're essentially committing the same idolatry as "Dude" when we insist on using Bach in our Churches. As much as I love Bach (and I do), Bach is just music, and can never compare to God's glory. Saying "Jesus Bachs" is just as idolatrous and wrong as saying "Jesus rocks".

If we insist on Bach in our churches, it must only be because, in our best judgement, Bach comes closer to being appropriate to God's glory than rock is. That's a completely different issue from the guy who says "Jesus rocks". Jesus doesn't rock, and He doesn't Bach.

In any case, the post from Phillips that you used was a pretty bad example, IMO, regardless of which point you wanted to drive home. I mean, you linked to a post where Phillips rails against worship that lacks proper respect for God's sovereignty and against worship that uses worldly techniques to be more pleasing. He sounds almost like you, in that post. As far as I can tell, you reacted to the word "dude" in the post and didn't bother to look much further. I'm sure we both could find better examples to support the point you wanted to make.

d4v34x said...

Rabbit Trail Alert: Question for Josh or Bro B. or both: How do we discern what type of art is worldly? Is the film medium inherently worldly? Can free verse poetry be used to praise God or must it be metered and rhyming?

Frankly, I have a hard time finding biblical support for a inherent, "genetic" flaw in rock music. I have a much easier time finding biblical support for placing rock (and its many variants- grunge, country-rock, pop, etc) out of bounds because of its primary uses (to promote immorality and violence) in our culture.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm going to concede to you and others that the "preacherdude" article of Phillips is not point-on to the article at Conservative Christianity (CC). You are right. In my time of reading Pyro, I have noticed a philsophical similarity to what is confronted at CC. They take scriptural, godly topics and illustrate it with their comic book "art," trendy decoration, and then the regular "dude" language. I use the article with "dude" in the very title to point out a difference that these "conservative" evangelicals have with scriptural worship.

Consider Phillips and Pyro and these sentences in the CC post.

"Is Dude’s statement merely a contemporary translation of the idea of a Christian loving Christ, or is it a transformation of Christian worship into something entirely different?"

"Dude sees worship as something to be consumed."

" In fact, he might find that Dude-language itself has become inadequate to express the affections he experiences when admiring an object far loftier, and more demanding, than what his culture had exposed him to up to that point."

"This is what the gospel has done to every culture it has penetrated: opened blind eyes, transformed the inner man, and transformed the cultural forms (including language, art and music) that were hostile to the gospel."

The Pyros and MacArthur would be those who would be said to be defending the gospel more than any other, and, yet, I believe their syncretism does as much damage as the attack on the content of the gospel itself. It is more subtle, I believe, and, therefore, more dangerous.

I agree with your Bach commentary.

I believe that "rock for Jesus" and "Jesus rocks" are little different. I wouldn't think that Pyro has a problem with either of them.

Thanks Joshua.


Rock does not gather its meaning from only association. It has the affect it does because of what it inherently is. This is a new movement, to empty meaning from obvious meaning. God isn't playing that game. I'll be writing more about this soon.

d4v34x said...

Bro. B., from an experiental standpoint, I have to agree with you one hundred percent. Our bodies seem to recognize exactly what rock "means". But it's much easer to make the empirical case that the case from revelation, or so it seems to me.

Joshua Allen said...

@d4 - I think that's right. We have to be careful, though, since music is just a tool that an artist uses to express something. It becomes idolatry if we say that one type of music is inherently good, and another evil. Classical musicians could certainly employ all of Bach's instruments and musical idioms to call to mind less holy objects, and Plato and Scruton explain that classical music forms were used throughout history to express more belligerent and warlike modes.

It would be wrong to say that Rock music is inherently wicked and therefore unsuitable for worship, but it would be equally wrong to say that all forms of music are equally suitable for worship. Rather than saying either (both of which are stupid), we should just say that Rock is a very poor medium for expressing worship and a very good medium for expressing things that are less holy. This is just pragmatic and realistic, and proven by usage.

German classical music is better for worship than for war, which is proven by the fact that we still use it for worship and not for war. There is a reason that our troops in Afghanistan or Iraq listen to songs like "Bombs over Baghdad" or "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" rather than rousing marches these days. We know what kind of things this music is good for, and it's not worship.