God’s people are a missionary people, and this is not true only of the New Testament church. God called Abraham to bless the Gentiles through him, and one of Israel’s recurring sins was her failure to carry out this mission. Israel was supposed to evoke praise from the Gentiles, but instead , er idolatries and sins caused the Lord’s name to be blasphemed. (more…)
In this episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast Jarrod Richey and Derek Hale discuss music making in our culture.
The Desert of Musical Literacy
Jarrod begins with the observation, “Everybody in the world has music around them all the time, and yet, no one can make it. Everybody has a device, everybody has access to the world’s greatest music (and the world’s worst music) at the touch of a button or the click of an app. And yet, very few people have formal music training, have the ability to make music, or to be what we would call literate in music.” (more…)
Originally recorded in 2015, this interview is focused on the nature of Biblical interpretation espoused by the Biblical Horizons and the Theopolis groups led by James B. Jordan and Peter Leithart.
The lectures offered at the 24th Biblical Horizons Conference, 2015, can be found and purchased at wordmp3.com. The 2015 Conference featured talks from Peter J. Leithart on Revelation, James B. Jordan (4 talks) on Joshua, Jeff Meyers (3 talks) on Wealth in Luke and Acts, Rich Bledsoe (2 talks) on Psychotherapy and Drugs, and Uri Brito (1 talk) on Christian Counseling from Jay Adams to David Powlison, and some psalmody/services and interviews.
On this podcast, Jordan addresses the question of the appropriateness of music in worship, the use of chant in the Protestant tradition, and musical instruments.
Jordan makes the argument that “worship shouldn’t sound like the rest of the week.” He acknowledges that this often makes modern worshippers uncomfortable, but points to John Calvin’s example of teaching the Genevan Psalter, then strange and unfamiliar to the adults, to children. “Do you want you children growing up not knowing the psalms?” asks Jordan. “Or are you willing to set aside what makes you feel good for the sake of your kids?”
Demystifying chant, Jordan points out that part of the problem is the English language itself. He explains that “other languages don’t have two different words for sing and chant.” Jordan surveys the various Protestant uses of chant and explains the surprisingly recent history of what we think chanting sounds like.
Finally, James B. Jordan offers practical wisdom for pastors and worship leaders on how to develop music in their local congregations. “Don’t do anything that calls attention to yourself,” says Jordan, who prefers to see the leaders in worship as servants, not performers. On the issue of instruments in Worship, Jordan playfully tackles to the controversy of guitars and explains how the pipe organ most fully respects the orchestral dignity of the worship service.
About James B. Jordan
His father was a professor of French Literature and his mother a piano teacher and a poetess. Jordan graduated from the University of Georgia in 1971 with a degree in Comparative Literature and studies in music and political philosophy. He finished his master’s degree in systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia and was awarded the D. Litt. degree from the Central School of Religion, England, in 1993.
Jordan is the author of several books, including The Sociology of the Church (1986); Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (1988); Creation in Six Days (1999); and several books of Bible exposition, worship, and liturgy.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, I would like to offer some thoughts on the implications of Sola Scriptura in the Christian experience. In these two short articles, I’d like to elaborate on at least three consequences of this doctrine:
First, Sola Scriptura is the Church’s language. Second, Sola Scriptura is God’s language. And finally, Sola Scriptura unites our language.
The Church’s Language
In the late medieval era, Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry of this new movement called the Reformation. The Reformers, led by Luther and Calvin and many others, expressed their gratitude to the God who made the heavens and the earth for His revealed word. The Apostle Paul says in I Thessalonians 2:13:
We thank God continually for this, that when you received the message of God from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe.
The Church of our Lord has since its early days feasted on the richness of God’s word. As Van Til once wrote: “The Bible is God’s love letter to his bride.” This love letter, through the body of Christ, has saved orphans, built hospitals, adopted, and contributed for the good of society because the Church believed what God commanded. The city of Geneva where Calvin pastored and where the Scriptures were taught faithfully was known all over the world for its generosity to the poor and needy. It is true that Christians have ignored biblical truth leading to some damaging practices, but the vast majority of the Christian population led by the authority of the Bible and the ministry of the Church has served this world in beautiful ways since the Early Church. Paul says that this word which you have received and welcomed is truly the Word of God. These are not the words of uninspired men, but the very words of God working in men and women in the Church to change and transform not only themselves but their surroundings.
The Roots of Sola Scriptura
In the Reformation, the Scriptures returned to their proper place, shaping the language, liturgy, and life of the Church. The classical and historical Christian worship found in many Reformed churches today reminds us weekly from where our language comes. It originated from an early church that believed in the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.
The authority of the Bible causes the church to develop habits of gratitude. One way the liturgical church makes this clear is that at the end of every Scripture reading the people respond together by saying, “Thanks be to God.” This is our way of expressing thanks for Sola Scriptura. When our children are nurtured in this environment each Sunday, they have no other option but to contemplate the Bible. The Church’s language ought to be scriptural language. It’s precisely when we abandon the church’s language that the Church abandons the authority of the Bible.
One of the most important studies on why people return to church after years of being away from church was done by Dr. Tom Rhainer. He observed that the main reason people once unchurched came back to church and stayed in the church was not primarily for the music—which by the way, out of the ten reasons, music was #8—but because churches taught the Bible. The second reason people come back to church after not being in church for many years is when churches hold firmly to their convictions. This explains the phenomenon of why mainline churches—that is, historic denominations that no longer believe in the authority of the Bible– are declining rapidly in the last two decades. The Church must proclaim in Word and Sacrament the authority of the Bible. Sola Scriptura must form our language.
Spurgeon once expressed marvel at a pastor who was saturated in the Bible and said:
“Why, this man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him.”
Similarly, the Church needs to be bibline; living and singing God’s revelation as a demonstration of submission to God’s inspired Word.
I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon.a The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week. I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.
I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.
Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.
Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.
Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocateb–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners. (more…)
Post by Uri Brito and Dustin Messer
In a recent sermon, Andy Stanley made the staggering observation:
When I hear adults say, ‘Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,’ I say, ‘You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids…anybody else’s kids.’ You’re like, ‘What’s up?’ I’m saying if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.
Stanley has since apologized in the way modern preachers apologize: via twitter.
While we take him at his word (or tweet, as the case may be), this was not simply a slip of the tongue. While he may be sorry for the way in which he communicated the message—even sorry for a specific sentiment in the message—one can’t fake the sort of passion exhibited by Stanley as he described his antipathy for small churches. Again, we believe he’s genuinely sorry we’re offended, but Stanley clearly has heartfelt feelings about non-megachurches (microchurches?) that didn’t begin or end with the sermon in question. Below are three reasons we feel such a sentiment is harmful: (more…)