Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Say It Ain't So

Christianity Today recaps the Gospel Music Association Awards show. This is "gospel and Christian music's version of the Grammys" (their words, not mine). What in the name of Christ is this about? I have some pretty strong views on music (too strong for some and not strong enough for others) but I try to grant liberty of conscience to those who disagree with me.

However, I cannot find any reason for a GMA or a GMA version of the Grammys. Isn't the Grammys all about the celebration of depravity manifested in music? Why do we need to do something like this? Why would these performers allow themselves to be held up in such a fashion? To accept a trophy for the best vocalist or best group or whatever else certainly seems to be about something other than the glory of God.

The article itself reads like a parody someone wrote out of mockery. It reminds me of a little parody I saw a couple of weeks ago about a "testimony bee." Very funny stuff. Unfortunately, this article in CT isn't a parody. It is, however, a indication of the great problems in Christian music ... too many idols, too much imitation, too little local church accountability and ministry, too little theology, and too little God.

If it's really all about God, then let Him go get the award. If not, then go get it yourself.

Of course, it probably isn't all the different than preaching contests at high school festivals and Bible college commencement activities. So just take my comments above and plug them into that topic too. It reminds me of my systematic theology professor for whom I have a great deal of respect and to whom I owe a deep debt for his wisdom and knowledge passed on to us. He used to liken preaching contests to praying contests. His wit early in the morning brought a great start to the day even at 7:30 a.m. And brought praying contests to the forefront of my mind this morning.

Speaking of praying contests, I have been working up a prayer for this summer's "prayer meet" in hopes that I might move up the rankings some. I have been pretty stagnant the last few tournaments. I am sending it to some friends for their evaluation and input. I am hoping Dr. McCune might take a look at it to see if he see some glaring mistakes I can eliminate. I am just hoping when they call my name, I can remember to thank all the right people and most of all give all the glory to God for it. And then I have to move the preaching contest trophies around to make room for the prayer trophy.

On a brighter note, here is a couple of interesting links from the Reformation 21 blog. This one gives maps of religious practice across the US. It is interesting to see the breakdowns. This one is John Piper' Challenge to Women about the ministry of womanhood. It's short but worth your time.


Wendy said...

I have a totally different take on this. I think there should be no separate Christian music awards show. Instead, Christians should be taking over and dominating the Grammy's. Now that would be salt and light. Our work should be the best, most compelling out there. Bono has done this somewhat. And there are a crop of worthy Christian artists starting to make a dent. They are actually GOOD and can compete musically without the usual sex and violence laden lyrics. Switchfoot is a good one that gets lots of secular air time.

Patrick Berryman said...

Great post Larry. Are you sleeping through the night yet?

I'm still sorting out my views on music. Much of what passes for "Christian" music is trite and even insulting to God. I've been in some churches where, literally, God's name was inserted into a country song and passed off as a worship song. How sad.

Still, I'm thinking, if Christians sanctify everything that the world does by putting a spiritual spin on it, perhaps I can win a literary award for the new book I'm working on: Your Best Purpose Driven Prayer of Jabez.

Larry said...


I thought you might have a different take, and I appreciate you expressing it. I was talking to a friend on Wednesday morning about this blog entry (he hadn't seen it yet). He brought up your name. I said, "I imagine she will be along today to comment on it." So how do you like being predictable?

But here's my question: On what basis should we expect the world to pass judgment on the worth and beauty of Christian expression?

I think we agree in principle on the matter of man's total depravity, that every area of man (including his aesthetic judgment) has been tainted by sin so that he cannot judge it rightly. In fact, the arts are near the top of Spiers ladder of common grace/manifestation of depravity. How can an unbelieving audience judge that Christian expression is worthy of honor? And why would we want them to, particulary in an arena like the grammys? Do we really want the name of Christ being held as equal to the stuff that the Grammys celebrate? How would we avoid it?

I do think Christians are too devoid of cultural influence, but I am not sure that your method is going about it the right way.

I agree that there should be no separate awards shows for believers. I don't think Bono has been a great shining example of Christian virtue. I think his statement that I blogged on some time last year was great, but I can't see that he lives it out. So if Christian musicians are going to get awards, let them do it at the Grammy's, but perhaps the fact that the Grammys would honor them says more than some think it does.

In your theology, how does a verse like Luke 6:26 fit in: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

I don't think we need to go around making enemies and being rude and tasteless and tactless. But if the world, with its values, appreciates and honors our Christian expression, is that good? Someone has said, "You can know a lot about a man by his enemies."

And I always like MacArthur's quote: "Sometimes we don't preach the gospel clearly enough for the non-elect to reject it." I fear that much of modern Christian music doesn't have enough substantive and distinctive theology in it for the non-elect to reject it, and therefore, we aren't making many enemies over it.

Larry said...


I have been sleeping fair, but I have been doing that for a while, so I can't blame it on the baby. I usually don't even hear him, although I am told that I am asking Jan some wierd questions in the night like "Do you have him?"

I like the idea of your book. Perhaps you could add my name as a co-author and we could split the royalties on it. I need a bigger house and a bigger boat. You could do all the work of copying them, and then demonstrate your generosity by allowing me to mooch off of you. That way I could just fish and play golf.

Wendy said...

Larry, I guess I have to temper Luke 6:26 with Proverbs 16:7. "When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." In the workplace for instance, it would be foolish of us to expect either whole-hearted accolades or whole-hearted condemnation. Different facets of Christianity expect one or the other exclusively(prosperity gospel expects all of the good aspects, fundamentalists seem to expect only the worst). I'm generalizing--BJU's magazine for instance spends the first few pages of every issue detailing the secular accolades received by its students and faculty.

I'm not convinced the arts are more dominated by the effects of our depravity than other fields. Today's science is consumed with the worst aspects of the fall--the cloning of humans, the use of human embryos to cure disease, the explanation of creation in terms of anything but God, and so forth. And yet, we still seek to influence there.

Back to music, I don't think a song has to necessarily fit the Christian genre to be honoring to Christ. So a song that never mentions Christ or a verse can still be honoring to God and recognized by the secular music structure for its worth. This happens in classical music alot.

Robert Nutzhorn said...

I am new to this blog, but I am going through withdrawal from Sharperiron right now. I do not care for the award shows for Christian music, but I also must ask what the difference between a music award show and musical, speech, and preaching contests held by most Christian colleges, universities, and even Christian High schools. I refused to participate in these when I was in school because it seemed to me to be empty of purpose and seeking the praise of men. The argument I heard from others was that it was still giving God the glory for the talents He had given us, and people would be challenged by the messages, speeched, and music. So what it the difference between those and GMA's?

Larry said...


I think the Proverbs verse and the Luke verse are different contexts and different genres. I also agree with your workplace comment (and would apply it to a number of areas). Furthermore, I don't think fundamentalists expect the worst all the time (see your BJU reset for example). But the specific issue here is not common civil good or decency or human civility, but specifically Christian expression of theology or affection. That is why the GMA's are purportedly about.

If a song doesn't have Christian content, it may stil be consistent with a Christian worldview, but again that is outside the scope of what we are talking about here. The grammys typically don't honor classical musicians. The GMA doesn't either. They are both directed at a specific genre characterized by specific things.

As for manifestation of depravity, the arts by virtue of their emotional elements are more affected by depravity. The most wicked sinner understands that 2+2=4. He rejects the belief in Christ. These two propositions are equally objective in their content, and equally true, but are received differently because of the noetic affects of sin. In the realm of science and math, the effects of depravity are limited moreso. Cloning and the like is more of an ethical issue, which on Spiers list is higher up the chart toward pistical and aesthetic.

As a matter of fact, let me reproduce Spiers list here.


The closer you get to the top, the more depravity affects it and is manifested.

Bob, Welcome aboard from the Orange River shipwreck. I commented on those contests in my post above. I have no problem with musical contests, speech contests, athletic contests, and the like. I tend to draw the line at spiritual endeavors like preaching, and even in sacred music. I don't see the point of it. IN all cases, awards must be received with humility. I tend to think we need to be more careful.

Undercover Youth Pastor said...

My take is this:

If you are selling it as "worship" you should disqualify yourself for awards.

If you are honest and it's about making a buck, or presenting your product, or art... take the award, but don't try to walk both sides of that line.

Wendy said...

Maybe you can do another post on Spier's hierarchy. My first response is that it's a man-made system for defining something beyond which Scripture is clear, and I'm always suspicious of those. At least, I'm not ready to debunk the importance of Christians influencing the arts on the basis of his analysis.

Of course I differ with you on the kingdom. I line up with Grudem on this one, and I think THAT more than anything probably affects the difference in how we approach this.

Larry said...

Sorry for the delay. Busy weekend, and my laptop is having problems.

With respect to "man made systems," I think that there is a risk of a reverse kind of legalism that argues if something is not specifically addressed in Scripture, it is okay, or at least not binding. I think that is every bit as dangerous as the "normal" kind of legalism. God has given us minds and expects us to use them (as I am sure you agree). I think some have taken this to extremes on both ends. Some who insist their particular cultural expressions are as good as revelation and everyone else is in sin, and those who insist that no cultural expression is out of bounds for the believer because "God didn't say so."

Isn't Spiers heirarchy common sense? What unbeliever argues that 2+2=5? Everyone recognizes that is wrong, and people fail engineering schools because of it. (Unfortunately they rarely fail first grade because of it). No one argues that such an equation is "just a matter of taste." We know better. Depravity does not affect math like it does aesthetics. Yet we have unbelievers arguing that crosses submerged in urine is "beautiful art," or that pornography is acceptable. (I had one guy tell me that he looked at porn just to enjoy the beauty of God's creation.) That is a aesthetic and ethical issue where depravity manifests itself more openly.

Isn't that a clear issue? I don't think arguing against Spiers basic structure (whether we agree with the specifics or not) is going to help the case here.

With respect to the kingdom, this is a major issue to be sure, but I don't think it is as decisive as you might think. First Grudem's system is not incompatible with what I am saying (though I think some of it is incompatible with Scripture). When he talks of the already/not yet structure, the "already" does not allow unbelievers to render right judgment on Christian expression, which is the issue here. Depravity still reigns in the hearts of unbelievers. And how can a person who is unsaved rightly judge Christian expression?

The bigger issue with Grudem's description of the kingdom now is that trying to shoehorn the kingdom into what he describes (I read it again this morning several times) really does injustice to the biblical description of hte kingdom. It's like promising a Caribbean vacation at a five star resort and telling someone who walks across the street for an ice cream cone that they are "already" on the vacation and the "not yet" part will come soon. I don't think that does justice to the biblical description of the kingdom.

Wendy said...

But isn't that exactly what God has done for us in our salvation? We have the "firstfruits" of the Spirit but groan as we wait for the final adoption, the redemption of our bodies? We are definitely here on earth God's children but do not yet have full access to the complete blessings that provides for us in eternity. And that's the same with the kingdom.