26 August, 2005

A Whore's Wedding Dress

I am not a person that is generally ministered to by popular Christian music. Generally speaking, I am a person that is ministered to by the written word of Christian literature of bygone eras.

Occasionally there comes along a new CD that will catch my eye due to a combination of lyrical content and artistic quality. This YEAR there has been two such CDs. The first was the new Jars of Clay Redemption Songs that does covers (if you can call them that) of Psalms and hymns. This CD is rich is content and it also has new tunes and spins on old tunes that cause the listener to focus on the words. The CD also has a version of Psalm 51 taken from the United Presbyterian Psalter of 1912. This is by far the best song on the CD...it's inspired.

The second CD that has been ministering to me is Derek Webb's She Must and Shall Go Free. This CD is reflections on the Church of Christ and, in Caedmon's Call style, is littered with illusions to Reformed Theology.

The song entitled, Wedding Dress, is one that speaks of the Church and her lack of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ despite his care for her. The song takes the husband and wife illustration and questions the consequences of infidelity in the marriage. The Church's flippancy towards her corporal sanctification is another theme in the song. This theme should be a thought on all Christians' minds as well as seen in the Church's actions.






Wedding Dress

If you could love me as a wife
and for my wedding gift, your life
Should that be all I’d ever need
or is there more I’m looking for

and should I read between the lines
and look for blessings in disguise
To make me handsome, rich, and wise
Is that really what you want

I am a whore I do confess
But I put you on just like a wedding dress
and I run down the aisle
and I run down the aisle
I’m a prodigal with no way home
but I put you on just like a ring of gold
and I run down the aisle to you

So could you love this bastard child
Though I don’t trust you to provide
With one hand in a pot of gold
and with the other in your side
I am so easily satisfied
by the call of lovers so less wild
That I would take a little cash
Over your very flesh and blood

Because money cannot buy
a husband’s jealous eye
When you have knowingly deceived his wife.

Discussion Points:

-The power of music on the heart and mind

-The Church's call to be a holy and spotless bride

-Why (most) Christian music is neither excellent in asthetics nor in content

-Reasons why modern (or postmodern) Christians are ministered to through music more so than literature.

36 comments:

Droll Flood said...

I would readily state that I'm much more well-served ("ministered to") by reading than by song ...however song has its place. 'let him sing a psalm...' -the RPW's know the texts (I'm not distinguishing myself from them). Song tends to be summaritive in nature (not exhaustively though). Reading is what brings songs to life.
In regards to aesthetics, ...hmmm. I must admit I haven't come down to any conclusions on that one. I really despise later 1800's hymnody; e.g.'Great hymns of the faith' (that to which I've been exposed). It tends to be swooning in nature and devoid of content or hyper-obsessed with Christian experience (I'm not attacking experience outright, but the point of it).
I believe the ideal is to have Christocentric preaching holding the place of primacy in the Christian life ...our reading, and song ought to be subservient to this.

notliberal said...

Music is nothing more than the cocaine of emotional guttersnipes. It causes far more emotion that intellectual thought and for that reason it ought to be either avoided or given a minor place in ones life.

Durwood is dead on, reading and comprehension is what's important. He twaddles on about the aesthetics of music and that's the biggest problem with it. We subjectively blabber on about how pretty (or ugly as is the case with 99.99999% of music) and completely ignore the content. We have these kids running around listening to this Coldplay nonsense because they think (incorrectly) that the music is good while avoiding the unscriptural content of the songs.

We, as Christians, should be very interested in the content of music and far less interested in how it sounds. Though off key and pitchy music will be duly noted and frowned upon.

Mark said...

My Mom has that Jars of Clay CD, it's quite good. I've also heard good things about the Derek Webb CD, I'll have to look into that one of these days.

As for Droll's comments, I was just reading a bit by Doug Wilson today on 19th century hymns. They represent a more feminine side of Christianity, which is fine for half the population but leaves the other half lost.

Finally, music is fine in its place. I'd disagree that Coldplay is devoid of value, some of their songs are quite good both musically and lyrically.

The style of the music really does matter - how many of the Psalms of rejoicing do we sing like durges? The music should complement the lyrics. Both literature and music have their place, we oughtn't emphasize either over the other.

Nate said...

Not Liberal
I disagree with the comment on not caring what it sounds like. As Christians we need to reflect the character of God in all that we do...that means having music that is creative, pleasing to the ear, organized, orderly,etc.
The OT is filled with music that the people of God used in worship as well as for the mutual edification and even entertainment of the people.

Wycliffe who was RPW all the way..Psalms only, no instruments in the worship of God was a classically trained musician. The Reformed Churches have always placed a high view on music and its value. (In and out of the worship service...with different roles of course!)

But you are right that we are not to let the emotions "get in the way" of the content. But if you will look through the scriptures there IS a place for "feelings" towards God. The Puritans called them "religious affections".

notliberal said...

Well, it should be orderly and sound nice. The problem is that today a couple of morons playing guitars as loud as possible is considered deep and moving music. This is what I'm commenting on.

And yes, Coldplay is utter garbage. JWS forced me to listen to that band on the way to Detroit last week and it was horrible. I can't believe people think that's good music, all the songs sounded exactly alike. Loud guitars and vulgar lyrics.

KElizabeth said...

What has me concerned about some of the new Christian music that is coming out is that is now being sung is churches as worship music. The words are theologically weak. Unfortunately, this goes along with the weak theology that is coming from the pulpit. I've never been exposed to Psalm singing, but I must say that if we really want to worship God in our song at church, there is no better way than signing scripture.
As far as my favorite type of music to listen to, country, I must say since the songs tell a story, they are usually pretty thought out. Plus the muscicans are talented. Check out my blog on Why I Like Contry Music.

Droll Flood said...

KElizabeth,
My heat here is directed at the music, not at you:
'The Devil went down to Georgia'...sure, that's a good story. Also, "Save a horse, ride a cowboy." Good stories, for sure.
"I can't swig that sweet champagne, I'd rather drink beer all night..."
Country music just needs to go fall off the planet or something and all its inbred and cornfed nonsense. I'm not big on the 'twang hillbilly thang'
Not necessarily you, but a lot of people amongst reformed circles naively listen to that stuff, it appealing to sentimentality 'yeah, that's the good stuff.'
I really don't care for country music ...'but I love this bar'... NOT.

shawn said...

Hey all, interesting dialogue.

My 2 cents:

To say that "Music is nothing more than the cocaine of emotional guttersnipes." is to trash something that God highly values.

Sure, there are abuses of it, as there is with all things that the LORD has given to man to enjoy. But more importantly ,and I know you agree with me on this notliberal, God has chosen to make music an element of worship equal to prayer or reading of Scripture.

But I'm not willing to argue with you on this point since I recognize that you were mainly speaking to the contemporary abuses of it. I would just remind you that the LORD chose to attach the beauty of melody to the content of His praise. And that in the days of Israel, the nation was attached to its melodic praise so much that the Babylonians choses to use it as a mockery to them and Jehovah (Ps 137).

The Church today should be known for its melodic praise, but I doubt that we will be mocked for such any time soon.

-shawn

shawn said...

2 more cents...

Wondering if any have considered the Vocative nature of contemporary "Christian" music?

Vocative case means speaking to God, or calling upon Him. The dilemma as I see it goes like this.

1) You do not have warrant to sing man-made songs to God.

2) Most of these songs are man-made songs directed to God, in other words they seek to have a praise element involved.

3) One may say that when they sing the song, they are not singing to God the way the author intends to.

4) At that point I see it then as using God's name in a vain way - to call upon God and to not intend to call upon God.

5) Plus the fact that the guy singing the original song DOES intend to sing to God which is sinful, so buy purchasing the music, or countenancing the listening of it, do you put yourself in a position of approving of this man or group's sins?

6) This does not take up other issues such as false doctrine in the music, blantant changing of Scripture, etc. And the argument assumes that one presupposes the Regulative Principle of Worship and Exclusive Psalmody.

So what do you all think?

ps I personally enjoy listening to Derek Webb, Jars of Clay, Caedmons Call, Waterdeep, etc.

But I am introducing the lawfulness or unlawfulness of it. There are more things to consider, but I don't want to bombard you with all the points until you consider the argument at hand.

looking forward to your comments.
-shawn

Julio said...

As an aside after Shawn's wonderful comments, "Droll" and others of like opinion should read Veith and Wilmeth's Honky-Tonk Gospel: The Story of Sin and Salvation in Country Music so as to be able to arrive at actually informed judgments.

Droll Flood said...

Julio,
Thanks for the book recommendation...
"...so as to be able to arrive at actually informed judgments."
-I actually do analyze what I'm hearing. Please don't insinuate that I have an uninformed position. I have to listen to b93 and country thunder (94.7fm?) at work. I don't just put a boot in a music category's rear end without honestly analyzing the content. Good grief...
Just for fun: the root of the word 'pagan' comes from the latin word for 'rustic'. heh,heh,heh...

Droll Flood said...

Shawn,
Concerning the second pair of your two cents: Are you advocating that songs made outside of the Psalms are sinful...that is, even those which are designated for use outside of formal congregational worship?

Droll Flood said...

Shawn,
"ps I personally enjoy listening to Derek Webb, Jars of Clay, Caedmons Call, Waterdeep, etc.
But I am introducing the lawfulness or unlawfulness of it."

If your contending what it sounds like you are, you're slitting your arguements throat. If not, explain please.

Mark said...

Modern country music is mostly either vulgar (Gretchen Wilson, Toby Keith) or setimental slop (Alan Jackson) with a few good songs thrown in. Older country music is far better. Both of Johnny Cash's prison albums include songs about the Christian faith in some aspect or another.

And besides, the devil got whooped in "Devil Went Down to Georgia".

Droll Flood said...

Notliberal,
Durwood? Who's that?

Droll Flood said...

the devil got whooped in "Devil Went Down to Georgia".
...don't worry though, he has a good insurance policy to get himself another golden fiddle.
historical sidenote: my first exposure to this song was through the band: "Primus"
Johnny Cash was a gross adulturer. If I'm not mistaken both he and his 2nd(?) wife cut out on their 1st spouses each ...yeah, I'd say love's a ring of fire...
I did enjoy listening to J.C.'s voice...
Y'all come back now, yah heyah!

KElizabeth said...

Droll flood
I realize that your comments were not an attack on me personally. you actually gave me something to think about. Maybe i should think twice about the musice I listen to. Sometimes I sing a long to a song because it has a catchy tune without listening to the words. Thanks

Mark said...

That Cash made a lot of mistakes throughout his life is undeniable, at the same time were he here today I think he'd be the first to admit it. Not to make excuses or anything, but David was a gross adulterer as well.

shawn said...

Droll said, "Shawn, Concerning the second pair of your two cents: Are you advocating that songs made outside of the Psalms are sinful...that is, even those which are designated for use outside of formal congregational worship?"

Not exactly. I grant that there are many lawful songs that can be sung outside of worship. I am only asking about those that are vocative, or those that directly call upon God. (example look at the song Nathan posted by Derek Webb - it is the Church or an individual personalizing the lyrics and singing to God)

Droll said, "Shawn, If your contending what it sounds like you are, you're slitting your arguements throat. If not, explain please."

All I meant by saying I like listening to those groups is that asthetically they are entertaining and at times thought provoking. BUT that does not mean that I advocate listening to all of their songs. I question if it is lawful or not to listen to their vocative songs (and very heavily lean towards "not" - as I hear the fence cracking)

Does that make things clearer?

Maybe the more fundamental issues would revolve around establishing the Regulative Principle of Worship first?

Droll Flood said...

Not to make excuses or anything, but David was a gross adulterer as well.
Escatologically speaking, we'll all have to answer for our sins, admitting them. The 'crux' of the matter is upon whom did God have mercy...
God granted David repentance...that contingent upon Christ's life, death, and resurrection... the grace of God.I don't think I have ever heard anything of Johnny Cash's repentance...

Droll Flood said...

Shawn,
Your calling into question the calling upon God in songs that are uninspired (i.e. not the Psalms) outside of corporate/ congregational worship?
RPW:who dictates the rules of worship...even the pagan has an RPW: man's own arbitrary will, etc. Try to get him to deviate from self-governance and you'll have WWIII on your hands.
a triviality:
'Aesthetic or 'esthetic,' not 'asthetic'

Droll Flood said...

kelizabeth:
Remember: edification's the principle not moderation. Moderation is a selfish tyrant that doesn't moderate itself. Edification seeks to build up the whole body of Christ...

Droll Flood said...

AHHH!!! ENOUGH BLOGGING!

KElizabeth said...

I do listen to music carefully. This is one thing I learned from my parents. They did not ban me from listening to secular music when I was a kid. But taught me how to listen to it. I learned at an early age what not to listen to.

shawn said...

Droll said, "Shawn, Your calling into question the calling upon God in songs that are uninspired (i.e. not the Psalms) outside of corporate/ congregational worship?

Shawn: yep.

Droll said, "RPW:who dictates the rules of worship...even the pagan has an RPW: man's own arbitrary will, etc. Try to get him to deviate from self-governance and you'll have WWIII on your hands.

Shawn: oh-kay. I prefer the definition - We are to be careful in how we approach the True and Living God, AND that which God has not explicitly commanded concerning our approaching Him, we are forbidden to introduce into our approach.

Droll said, " a triviality: 'Aesthetic or 'esthetic,' not 'asthetic'

Shawn: Thanks, buddy

Droll Flood said...

Droll said, "Shawn, Your calling into question the calling upon God in songs that are uninspired (i.e. not the Psalms) outside of corporate/ congregational worship?

Shawn said: yep.

Droll says: Read Exodus 15 or Habbakuk 3 what's going on here in these texts? Are they/he breaking the above proposed rule or the in-corporate worship RPW (nothing other than inspired psalms to be sung), or is there a third option here? (Yes, I am as well taking into consideration here the fulfillement of OT law in regards to instruments...)

shawn said...

Droll says: Read Exodus 15 or Habbakuk 3 what's going on here in these texts? Are they/he breaking the above proposed rule or the in-corporate worship RPW (nothing other than inspired psalms to be sung), or is there a third option here? (Yes, I am as well taking into consideration here the fulfillement of OT law in regards to instruments...)

Shawn: Well good question, which I have looked at. I would have to say that prior to the Canon of the Psalter (the book of Psalms) there were many Spiritual Psalms, Hymns and Songs given to Israel to sing in praise to God. We don't have a list of all the Psalms that the Levites sung in Temple Worship. In fact the Psalter is not composed chronologically (in other words - not in the order in which they were given to the Church).

So Ex 15 - It is an inspired song. It not only contains the praise of God presently, but also (as many other Psalms) prophetic utterance (vs 14-18). I doubt one in the Reformed and Presbyterian camp would argue that the Holy Spirit still gives Spiritual Psalms, Hymns and Songs today. The Psalter Canon is closed. And this is in clear agreement of the RPW.

Hab 3 - Here is an example of one of those inspired Psalms that didn't make it into the Canon of the Psalter (though obviously it did make it into the larger Canon). This again I see in no violation of the RPW.

That being said it might lead one to believe that there is another purpose or intention of the compiler (the Holy Spirit as well as its human compiler) for the arrangement of the Psalter.

Just to anticipate more of your questions let me also say that there appears to be some songs that take up as its content national redemption by Jehovah. I would note a couple of possible explanations:

1) They don't take up vocative praise to Jehovah.

-or-

2) They are inspired songs, prior to the Canon of the Psalter.

There may be other explanations, I'm just looking at what will defeat my conclusions.

Thanks for taking up the dialogue Droll. Any others, feel free to jump in. After all this is your blog, Nate.

Nate said...

It seems as though some songs are giving thanks to God in areas that are not worship.
Ie: the song of Moses and Miriam were not in corporate worship, but were praising God for deliverance in a vocative and spontaneous way. (So it seems).

The Dordt fathers understood this as a problem in that they held to exclusive psalm singing but could not find their way around the fact that there other songs in scripture that are inspired. (Since they are in the canon.)

This leads to a few conclusions:
1. We can sing vocative song to God outside of formal worship.
2. These songs were sin to the singers.
3. These songs were exceptions in the old economy.
4. We can sing other inspired songs in corporate worship.

I tend to fall in the category of 1 and 3.

shawn said...

N: It seems as though some songs are giving thanks to God in areas that are not worship. Ie: the song of Moses and Miriam were not in corporate worship, but were praising God for deliverance in a vocative and spontaneous way. (So it seems).

S: Well it depends on how you define "corporate worship". I mean it most likely was not on the Sabbath, but it appears that they corporately sang to the LORD which would constitute worship. As to spontaneaty, Moses and Israel sang, so it must have been lined out for the congregation to participate which would be then some form of corporate worship. (Some AP argument I once saw) (just teasing)

Could you clarify for me if you believe or not that the RPW applies to Public, Private and Family Worship? or simply Corporate Worship.

N: The Dordt fathers understood this as a problem in that they held to exclusive psalm singing but could not find their way around the fact that there other songs in scripture that are inspired. (Since they are in the canon.)

S: Sure, but those other songs are not part of the Psalter. Since this is the Hymn Book of the Church, why go outside of this. In other words, if the Apostle Paul says sing Spiritual Psalms, Hymn and Songs, then how do we understand that? Any Psalm, Hymn, or Song in the OT (or NT for that matter?) or sing from the Psalter of the OT?

N: This leads to a few conclusions:
1. We can sing vocative song to God outside of formal worship.


S: 1. Inspired or uninspired or both?

2. These songs were sin to the singers.

S: 2. I don't see how that is a conclusion

3. These songs were exceptions in the old economy.

S: 3. I think I agree with you, except I would not use the word "exception". It sounds like they didn't really belong, but were permitted. Rather they were given to the Church for her temporal edification/sanctification until the Canon of the Psalter, and would therefore be considered "Temporary"
I will agree that there is a "progressiveness" in revelation and therefore practice. Pre-Temple is going to be more loose, and yet the principle is always there. It is not the Principle (God alone dictates the elements/attitudes of Worship) that changes, but rather the elements themselves that change per God's revelation.

4. We can sing other inspired songs in corporate worship.
I tend to fall in the category of 1 and 3.


S: 4. See above - We are permitted to sing from the Psalter. According to the RPW, the burden lies on he who wants to add these songs to the content of Worship.

Just some thoughts, not sure if it helps.

Nate said...

Sin to the singers as in they were not permitted nor allowed, yet they did it anyway. Ie, singing unispired hymns. (That is the conclusion.)

I agree that the RPW is for all of worship (corporate, family, private).

Whether they were/are permitted in worship, I too will stick with the Psalter.

As far as lining goes....no thanks!
AP or RP, no thanks.

shawn said...

As far as lining goes....no thanks! AP or RP, no thanks.

First, what if Anna or Owen could sing to the LORD by lining, but not yet read?

Second, Yeah, it's not preferable, but then again we do have a Directory for Public Worship.

-Shawn

Good Old Music said...

Foundation

P.S. This isn't spam.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked my cd. Do you think I'll ever get it back?

shawn said...

So basically the position I am putting forward is going unchallenged?

-shawn

Nate said...

I am not leaving the position unchallenged per se, it is just that I do not believe that the position is as clear for non-worship settings.

I have given citations where it is unclear and our Dutch divine forefathers found it to be unclear as well although they went too far with article 60-something in the Dordt articles.

shawn said...

N: I am not leaving the position unchallenged per se, it is just that I do not believe that the position is as clear for non-worship settings.

s: But my point is that if you do call upon God's name is it not for worship? However, if you say I personally am not worshipping, then are you nor using God's name in a vain manner? Because you speak as though you intend one thing, but in reality you intend another. It is like saying a prayer, and then saying, oh, I wasnt really praying, I was just...

For now, I am convinced of one context that this would be permissable: Education. If the intention is to memorize the Psalm then you have to repititiously recite it, and your heart is given to the exercise, not to worship (that would also extend to learning a new tune).

N: I have given citations where it is unclear and our Dutch divine forefathers found it to be unclear as well although they went too far with article 60-something in the Dordt articles.

s: First I would say that those passages still don't get to the heart of the issue. I still don't see how the context of corporate vs. noncorporate worship deals with the issue of inspired vs. noninspired song?

Second, Westminster, by God's grace, was able to stand upon the shoulders of that Synod, and reach a higher watermark.

You bring up a point I meant to bring up earlier. Just because the Reformers were able to move in a certain direction re: Worship does not mean that there are no more areas of worship to consider, including Psalmody. This is one of many questions that a General Assembly or Presbytery would need to deal with, in a more settled state of course. Dordt didn't arrive. I know you know that, but it is a healthy reminder that we are to be reforming toward something more faithful, not returning back to abandon greater light, or worse to stay in the stagnant, decaying waters of New Orleans.