Sabbatarianism & the Rod

Since I’ve stirred the pot, I”ll keep up the  ἐρεθίζω (stirring up of Col. 3:21) that we are forbidden to do with children, but may do for the use of edification (I hope) in the blogosphere! ;-)

I’m getting ready for a conference and so I will merely insert this as a comment and question:

How is it that the very same arguments that anti-sabbatarians muster to repudiate the legalistic keeping of First Day Sabbath fail to impress them when they are applied to challenge the fact that the Bible commands parents to use the rod?

Non-sabbatarians defend honoring Sunday and some even refer to it as the “Lord’s Day.” But they stop short of saying that it is commanded that they observe the Sabbath in a legalistic rigidity proposed by many Puritans. Yet so many of these very same non-Sabbatarians cry anathemas on the same kind of action taken toward the “rod” passages of the Proverbs. And the “rod” passages are not even a part of the Decalogue!

Go figure.


Warning: Unleashed Snobbery & Hoity-toity Pretentiousness (but I’m right).

I listened to Mozart’s Mass in C minor on my headset this week. One of the items on my to-do list before I die was to hear it live. I did. Two years ago. A birthday gift. And here is what I wrote.

It was great! I’d gladly pay the $57 per ticket to hear it all over again. We sat three rows from the front, almost too close. Close enough to count the moles on the concert violinist’s forearm. But she only played 17 minutes. She regaled us with her mastery of Knussen’s Violin Concerto, Op. 30, a modern piece written in 2002. Jennie and I attended the pre-concert conversation and enjoyed hearing Knussen explain his work and tell us what to listen for. It definitely made the 17 minutes much more enjoyable. Then we heard Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. CIMG4056.JPGI had heard a not-so-great symphony and chorus perform this piece many years ago so I ended up being more impressed this time than I expected after hearing the the CSO and Chorus show us how it was to be done. This time, however, I was much more pensive and reflective as I listened to Stravinsky’s treatment of the Psalms. I listened as a Christian, a pastor, a lover of theology. I had many rich thoughts and contemplations (to me anyway) that I would like to share in a future post if time permits. This post serves basically as my journal of events.

Good music all of it, but just the warm-up gig so to speak. The crowd bait was the incomparable Mozart and his amazing work, Mass in C minor. I was disappointed that the scheduled soprano had taken ill and we were going to have to hear a soloist that I had never heard of (and I tend to be somewhat familiar with musicians in the classical and operatic musical world). The soprano has the bulk of the work load in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and it is a notoriously difficult piece. The hastily printed profile of the understudy said that she was a native of Huntsville, Alabama and my self-styled haute culture snobbery that I presumptuously assume as soon as I drop $57. per ticket for anything instinctively snorted, “Can anything good musically come from the South?”

I dreaded the prospects of hearing Latin with a Southern drawl.

They should never have said that Susanna Phillips was from Huntsville, Alabama in the first line. And the name Susanna Phillips is so next-door-girl. Why not something Italian or Russian or Polish? But Susanna Phillips?!

Being a snob is very enjoyable, but because in the Bob and Jennie Bixby financial parlance $57.00 times 2 is a very large sum of money (therefore precluding the opportunity to be a snob with any sort of frequency), I sometimes rush to snobbish conclusions before I read the third and fourth lines; the quintessential illustration of high-brow parvenuism. The profile went on to say that though most of us had never heard of her (that was actually in between the lines) she had nonetheless won four of the world’s most prestigious voice contests and was a regular at the Santa Fe Opera. Ok, capturing four major awards is indeed impressive. But where in the world is Santa Fe? (snort, snort). The US has five of the top ten opera venues in the world. Santa Fe is not one of them.

We got the picture taken during the intermission. No flash. Very discreet. On Jennie’s head is the concertmaster. We heard him do a violin concerto once. The gracious patron made the picture blurry. Oh, well… I thought I’d just add that parenthetically.

Meanwhile way back over in the holler, seems like the folk of Birmingham, Alabama knew this would be a big night for their gal. “Cancellations can often lead to discoveries of rising stars, and although Susanna Phillips has had several early successes, she will get a boost tonight (Jan. 25) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” So ya’ll think of her tonight.

Well, she deserves the boost she got. We heard musicians say afterwards that she had not practiced with the orchestra or chorus or other soloists and, said one, “we were praying for her all night.” I don’t know how much that one musician knew, but if she did not practice with the other mezzo-soprano for the best two and a half minutes of two high voices singing something in Latin, the Gloria Domine Deus, then I tip my hat.

I know some of Mozart’s religious works so well that I can shut my eyes and mouth the Latin sans Southern drawl. Granted, it helps that there is so much repetition and melismata six miles long, but nonetheless I am as familiar with some of Mozart’s religious music as the average Baptist in Alabama is of “I’ll Fly Away.” It’s always best to hear great musicians perform music you already know and love. And as much as I would love to be a critic for pay I could never do the job because my emotions get in the way. My hoity-toity opining and self-congratulating pretensions of actually knowing what I’m talking about when it comes to music instantly dissipate as soon as the conductor lifts his baton. Especially at the CSO. So going to hear some of the world’s best perform some of the world’s best music (thereby checking off a simple item on my to-do-before-I-die list) was destined to be a great time.

Plus it was a date. With Jennie. The love of my life. (She sometimes reads my blog).

The baritone-bass, Eric Owen,. was exceptional even though, as you all know, the baritone has only one very small role in the entire 55 minutes. The choir was powerful, the orchestra as always was perfect, and the entire evening was something my wife and I have been re-living over and over again in our conversations.

Mozart’s music is superior. Period. People who don’t like classical music are simply ignorant. And people who think that all classical music is the same are almost equally as ignorant. Now, there is nothing necessarily ungodly about being ignorant. It is not even illegal. In this country you can pay $57 to go see a gyrating teenager scream obscenities or, worse, actually dupe yourself into thinking that some contemporary Christian musicians are “artists.” The Mozart Effect may be disputed, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that no person in their right mind is going to suggest that listening to anything “Christian” these days will make you smarter.

(Not that I’m saying that “make you smarter” is a criterion for Christian music, but why can’t we at least settle for music that doesn’t “make you dumber”? But I digress. That is for a later post. Here I wish simply to recount my evening.)

Several years ago I stood at the very back of the eternally long Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome pressed on every side by smelly Italians as we listened in complete silence to Mozart’s Requiem. I couldn’t help but thinking as I inhaled the body odor of the construction worker on my right, the store clerk on my left, and the hundreds of working-class plain people who politely and quietly stood – stood! – for the entire concert that somehow God’s people are among the most ignorant of the world, the most unsophisticated, and culturally banal. I couldn’t think why.

Last Friday as I listened to more than six score musicians powerfully and musically deliver the Mass’ Credo (I believe), the humbling explanation hit me. As Jennie and I drove home that night we talked about it. (And perhaps I can share part of that conversation on a later post even though I’m quite sure it will not garner universal agreement.)

Carrying sleeping children to their beds after having picked them up at our friends’ house, I thanked God that as starved as I am here on earth for good music at least every bit that I enjoy is merely a faint foretaste of eternal enjoyment reserved for me in heaven. For too many of the world’s best musicians music will soon be eternally silenced. Hell will be music-less.

Biggest “Duh” Moment of the Day

First Things has this shocking revelation: culture wars are entering the cinema. And another good blogger emphasizes it.

Christopher Benson notes at the First Things blog that the culture wars have entered the American cinema.

I’m in such shock right now because this revelation is going to seriously affect my movie watching. Apparently, I’m going to have to exercise discernment and be alert to the very real possibility that movie makers may try to foist their worldview on me. I don’t want to be all whacked on you, folks, and come across as a conspiracy theorist, but these guys are reputable thinkers! If they are saying that the culture wars are entering cinema there has to be some truth to it. Scary. Scary. Scary.

Airport Numbness

I’m going to the National Leadership Conference hosted by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. Stuck in the airport. Sanctification being sorely tested. Our 1 PM flight was canceled. Of course, we did not find this out until we were on the bus and near the airport. The only flight we could get on was at 8:40 which puts us in to Philly at some ungodly hour. We were chipper, upbeat, courageous and submitted to Sovereignty with happy spirits. Then we found out that our plane has been delayed again. It’s not leaving until 10:00. What this means is that I could have been home all day long, but here I sit wrestling with my bad attitude toward Chicago politics, the ATA, and the price-gouging highway robbery that is respectfully called vending. A bottle of water for your parched lips? Only $3.

Jess seems to be handling this like a true saint. But what else would you expect from a representative of SGA?

I was going to buy a coffee, but my wife reminded my of my commitment not to spend one cent on coffee this month. Why did I answer the phone? So, unless Jess buys me some coffee, I’m going to have to be Pharisaical (as I already have been) and buy myself a $3 Coke. Ah! So typical of the self-righteous I am… I flaunt my freedom from one vice, but award myself a substitute vice. At least it wasn’t coffee.

And Starbucks is closing today at 5PM. It doesn’t matter, however, to self-denying Baptist Lent observers like me. Doesn’t matter at all. In fact, I wish they’d close for the whole month. Although I have to give them kudos for a brilliant publicity stunt. The free advertising they’re getting out of this has got to be amazing. As if they’re going to teach the average Starbucks worker to be a better barista in three hours. Please. Some are brilliant (they’re my relatives), but others – my! – I wonder if they can learn anything in three hours!

I have been able to get a lot done. And I speak of my attitude hyperbolically. I just don’t want you to think that I’m completely victorious. Such a high estimation of me would only reactivate my latent incurable pride which has been for some time in recession due to my remarkable self-denial at the coffee stores. Being waylaid has its advantages, and I have seized them. I’ve been able to read a sizable chunk of Simon Schama’s monstrous work “Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.” I read it twelve years ago. Decided to read it again. Not sure why.

I’ve also listened to one of our men preach a great message from Galatians, written several letters, pontificated with a friend about the ins and outs of 1 Corinthians, advanced the NIU Sympathy project, pigged out on airport food, valiantly and stubbornly defended the one and only outlet (so it seems) in the entire O’hare airport, withstood the temptation to give the guy with the horrific b.o. a nasty glare (the stinker had to sit near the only outlet so I was stuck. And I’m not talking about Jess! SGA requires deodorant.), and blogged total incoherence. All in all, the time has not been wasted.

I can’t expect a bed of roses. The Apostle Paul had hardship in his ministry. Travel was not easy for him. So I’m in good company. The arms on these chairs do not go up so if I stretch out over them it will be a little lumpy. My shirt will probably be very wrinkled by the time I get to Pennsylvania. I have had to endure some hostility, but so did the Apostles. When people look at me with a you’ve-been-at-the-outlet-for-six-hours look I’ve maintained my composure and have had real peace. I know that my work is so much more important than theirs. It’s been a little tough because I have to strain to see the TV. Oh, well…

Well, Jess has persuaded me that we ought to go expose ourselves to airport robbery lest we famish. It means that we have to relinquish the outlet, a price I’m not sure we ought to pay for something as trivial and ephemeral as food. But what else can you expect from a guy who – gasp! – buys coffee!

(And don’t tell me I’m getting my reward down here. I know.)

The Wisconsin Tribe

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Revival Tonight on ABC!

Revival! Tonight!

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Help! Cinematic Counter-Evangelism!

It is consistent, I suppose, of American Evangelicals to get their underwear all in a wad over the latest movie to hit the American public with a distinctly anti-God agenda since they put so much stock in the supposedly “Christian” movies with the “Gospel message” that have been the banner and hope of American evangelism these past few years.

American Evangelicals are wringing their hands over the cinematic counter-punch from the Secular Left, the Golden Compass, to what they thought was a KO blow from the theologically-laden, Gospel-generated powerhouse “The Chronicles of Narnia”. They are stunned. There is a palpable tension in the Evangelical dream, a cringing disbelief. The Kingdom of the Eternal Son of God had been so advanced by the strong and invincible arm of entertainment and the glorious achievements of evangelistic works like Facing the Giants and, of course, “The Passion” that they thought revival was in the air! Yes, some even thought that The Passion would be the greatest evangelist since the times of the Apostles! And now, brothers and sisters, all hell has been unleashed and every good thing that has been done for the glory of God through the mighty instrumentation of the silver screen is being threatened by the appearance of — gasp! — a movie!

We are undone. Tell it not in Gath.

Enter Reason and Disgust

I’ve always said phooey to the giddy celebration of cinematic triumphs and I basically say phooey to the Golden Compass as well. I have the outdated notion that faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God, and “how shall they hear without a preacher?” Yet (as I already stated), the Evangelical American is obligated to panic. It would be bizarre to put one’s confidence in horses and chariots and then be unmoved when one is attacked by horses and chariots. You should be afraid of what you trust in if what you trust in is being used against you.

I choose to trust in the Living God who is quite clear, I think, that His best work is done not by might, nor by power, but exclusively by His Spirit. Since I never had the least amount of hope that movies would be evangelistically useful, never did a victory dance when a Christian-friendly movie made the big screen, and have never believed that the Gospel could actually be preached via unconverted actors and money-motivated purveyors of feel-good stories packaged as “Gospel,” I think I am just as consistent to respond to the Golden Compass with a bored ho-hum.

Unfortunately, however, I’m in the minority. It is a big deal, apparently, and since I have a missionary-like intuition to contextualize, I would like to offer up some help to all those among the Evangelical Tribe who are tearing their clothes in despair. Here is a sane, more sensitive analysis of the crisis at hand by Dr. Albert Mohler. This should bolster up their faith even as they look for the glorious appearing of Prince Caspian (The countdown timer is here.)

Oh, pray, pray, pray! Brothers and Sisters, we may endure until May 16, 2008 if we can only persevere with the re-runs until then. Be of good cheer! Millions of dollars are even at this very moment being invested in “Christian-friendly” movies that will deliver on their promise to entertain everyone and deliver the gospel in such a way that no one even knows they are getting it. Yes! This is the victory we long for: a non-confrontational one-upping of the secular left with the hated Gospel message packaged in such a way that they don’t even recognize they swallowed it! Truly, as one great movie has declared, “a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down!”

Until then, O Church of God, be strong in the Lord and go watch “Chariots of Fire.”


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