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Thoughts on Music not Being a Controversy When It Really is

Several days ago, I watched a posted video of a previously streamed chapel service at an independent Baptist school located in the deep woods of Wisconsin. (The video from this chapel seems to have since been removed.) The chapel opened with a word from the president of that school. After a few pleasantries, he proceeded to apologize to some of the students for what apparently had offended them in the then recent past.

Although he did not clearly state the crux of the offense, this leader alluded to the problem being one of the music recently played at that institution. Again, for someone with very little knowledge of what goes on that institution, it is hard to make out exactly what happened from what the administrator said. I deduced (perhaps wrongly) that some students had left the service.

The focus of my post today is something that this administrator said that I found puzzling. Among his comments was something along the lines of:

“Music is not going to be a controversy at [this institution] in the future. We are not going to let it be. We are not going to fight over that.”

I find this statement nearly incomprehensible.

What I am going to say has nothing to do with what side of the music debate anyone is on. It is impossible for someone responsible for making decisions about the music used in corporate worship, who is both (1) progressive in his preference for the songs and “style” used in corporate worship, and (2) determined to force those preferences upon those more conservative, to say something like “Music is not going to be a controversy here.”

You see, the principle is simple. The more conservative Christian looks at progressive music (Pm on the chart) as irreverent. For the sake of my discussion, it does not matter if the conservative believer has good reasons or bad reasons. It does not matter if he is right or wrong. The point is that he has concluded that progressive music actually dishonors God. He favors traditional music (Tm on the chart). When someone decides to force progressive music on him, he is forced with an unhappy dilemma: either to offer to the Lord what he deems blasphemous and untrue, or to somehow distance himself from the “congregation” (I use the word loosely) of which he is a part.
Music Chart 2

READ
Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort

Now, it is possible that the person with more progressive tastes in music (Pm) is making the right decisions about which songs to include in corporate worship. But that fact, if true, is beside the point. By choosing what another believer finds irreverent, he is, by definition, making music an issue. There is no escaping this. One cannot simply wish it away.

Sometimes leaders think that they can, as it were, perform a “Jedi-mind trick” on those who follow them. Sometimes they believe that they can remove issues by saying they are not issues. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” they say. That is the way this administrator’s statement appears to me; it is no more than an unconvincing attempt at mind control.

Of course, for leaders who are progressive in their attitude toward music, they can, in fact, ensure that music is not an issue. How so? By choosing what they and their more conservative followers agree to be suitable and reverent hymns or by playing those hymns in a manner that both consider suitable and reverent (NIm). This would provide no stumbling for either the more progressive or the more traditional. No one would find music an issue, for music is at that moment good in the minds of both parties, despite their divergent philosophies.

Let me illustrate it this way. If a fellow walked up to me at Walmart, and said something like “You must now curse Christ’s name or I’m going to hurt you,” I would object, and for good reason. For me to curse Christ would be tantamount to my denying the faith. The sanctity of Christ’s name should be more important to me than bodily harm. Even if I could find reasons to justify my curse, those reasons should not be sufficient for me to yield to his threat. But, I ask you, how ridiculous and outrageous would it be for this base fellow then to say to me, “Listen, you’re going to curse, but this is not going to be an issue. What’s the big deal anyway? We’re not going to fight about it.” Of course we must. For my potential attacker, cursing Christ is obviously a matter of no consequence. He is forcing me to do something I have determined not to do. Whether or not the administration of this Wisconsin college is forcing people to curse is subject to debate. But the more obvious issue is the foolish way of denying that it is going to be a controversy when they ask people to sing to the Lord in a manner they consider to be irreverent.

Some may respond to my point here by noting that the students are welcome to leave the “worship” setting when they regard the music to be blasphemous. Of course, this is true. But this does not make music any less of a controversy. If anything, it heightens the controversy. The administration is asking those who object to distance themselves publicly and outwardly from the rest of the students and faculty. If this isn’t making a controversy out of music, I’m not sure what is.

READ
Fashion is arbitrary

By deliberately choosing irreverent songs or by playing otherwise reverent songs in an irreverent manner, the progressives force music to be an issue. They force a fight. They may be right to do so, but it is (if I may be so bold to say it) far better for leaders to be honest about what they are trying to do rather than wishing issues away by verbal fiat.

This is a call, if anything, for Christian leaders who are more progressive both to be honest about what they are doing and, if they are intent not to make a controversy out of music, to think once again about the consciences of those whom they lead. Genuine Christian love might, in some cases, move them genuinely to not make a controversy out of music.

Ryan Martin

About Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Granite Falls, Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as the associate pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He is on the board of directors of Religious Affections Ministries. Ryan received his undergraduate degree at Northland Baptist Bible College, and has received further training from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, Minn. (M.Div., 2004; Ph.D., 2013). He was ordained in 2009 at Bible Baptist Church of Elk River, Minn. (now Otsego, Minn.). He has a wife and children too. Ryan is the associate editor of Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). He also contributed to the Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans, 2017).

106 Responses to Thoughts on Music not Being a Controversy When It Really is

  1. Precisely. Those who hold to traditional views are often called divisive, but it is uncharitable and divisive to use anything but that NI category. They will say things like "the majority rules" and "they can go find another church," but that is divisive.

    I've called it "gluten-free music" because we have had a lady in our church who has coeliac's. We make gluten-free communion bread so she can take part. It would be uncharitable and divisive to use communion bread that she cannot take, if we have an option.

    Likewise, we should use "gluten-free music" that everyone can sing.

  2. Ryan,

    I feel sorry that you have to write such a post. This is so patently obvious, it's like a coach having to start with "This is a basketball" or training his players to tie their shoes. If I walked up to you and slapped you, and you said, "I don't like that," and then I said, "I'm sorry if you're offended, but we're not going to be divisive about this," i.e., you're going to keep getting slapped by me, and say nothing and do nothing. I would say it's the equivalent, except the music issue is worse.

  3. Well some glitch just ate my comment, so I'll try to reproduce it.

    Ryan: I think most of the parties in this spate are actually just different versions of PM. So when you draw circles for TM and PM, most of the argument about this school are between different decades of PM. I believe it's a problem that people who are actually PM think they're in the TM circle with you. From your perspective, I would think this controversy isn't about irreverence. It's about which kind of irreverence the various parties have a taste for. Obviously, you'd be able to argue that everyone but a couple (few?) dozen people are embracing irreverence of one form or another.

    Do you think it's ever possible that the same manifestation of music could foster a reverent response in one person and an irreverent response in another, simultaneously?

  4. Ben, your larger point is likely correct.

    Should I answer your question? Is reverence a matter of a response or is something in itself reverent or irreverent without respect to the person's response? Or perhaps a bit of both?

    These are difficult but important questions. But we ought to agree on that question before we can answer the others. I really don't have time to even begin the discussion today. Maybe in the future. :)

  5. What is acceptable music is debatable and therefore as you state, Christian love calls for an attempt to honor the conscience of other believers. Instead their convictions are not only ignored, but they are subject to ad hominem attacks for having such convictions.

  6. I find it interesting that no matter how you say it (i.e. comments about the new direction at the WI school) that it will never be said without someone finding some angle of your thoughts that isn't just "right". The basic premise is that the school administration Has changed their philosophy on music; they continually state that they have NOT changed, and most of us would at least like to see honesty on their part. I applaud your forth-rightness in stating that it is an issue, even though they insist that it is not.

  7. This is a bit problematic, though, because you end up always catering to the most easily offended person. Some people believe that any other Bible than the KJV is blasphemous, so according to your logic, the organization can't move on to any of the other excellent translations available, for example.

    Besides that is the fact that NIU is not a church, and so divisiveness is not necessarily as big an issue as you make it. For them to say, music is not going to be an issue, is to position themselves within a broad spectrum of orthodox Christianity. Stricter fundamentalists are welcome to go somewhere else. No one is being forced to act against their conscience. And since it is not a church, issues of covenant community are largely irrelevant.

    Frankly, some of us Northland grads are excited about what is happening. As an elder at an Acts29 church (gasp!), I'm glad NIU is moving past some of these issues that I think plague fundamentalism. I would almost consider encouraging my kids to go there, except for the whole Northern WI thing.

  8. But isn't this post not about who is correct, but rather how we handle differences of opinion in an area that is difficult to prove with a great degree of certainty? Even in the Bible versions area, I sometimes wonder if continuing to use the KJV in corporate worship might have been a wiser course – but then I'm in my sixties and grew up with it.

  9. Mark, with respect, you are entirely missing the point of the article. The article only offers commentary on the direction only tangentially at best. Neither do I argue that a college is a church.

    Just to be very clear, my argument is that, if any college's administration does, in fact, believe that it should move on the music issue, then that administration (be it NIU or anywhere else), needs to stop staying that "music is not going to be a controversy."

    As far as your other comments, you need to get out more if you really believe that music is not an issue "within a broad spectrum of orthodox Christianity." With that statement you both exclude deceased saints, and ignore many conservative evangelicals, Presbyterians, and evangelical Lutherans (worldwide), not to mention Anglicans and Anabaptist groups with a continental heritage. I could point to many pockets within all these groups where individuals are actively trying to resist the entertainment liturgy of popular evangelicalism.

    But, again, that's a totally different point. :) My point is about saying something that's not true ("Music is not going to be a controversy"), especially for that particular college (as evidenced by the fact that people were upset…ergo the apology). Frankly, that's the point I'd rather interact with.

  10. Whether or not one agrees with the leader of "the institution" (why hide the name when mentioning the location earlier all but gives it away?), the meaning of his statement is nowhere near incomprehensible. He obviously means that the institution is not going to allow those whose NIm category is smaller than that of the institution's leadership to set the agenda at the institution. That is what leaders do, they determine what will be on the agenda.

    Of course, if one applies an overly literal hermeneutic to the statement, one would conclude that it is false and impossible to implement. But, it is not really that hard to understand what the leader meant, and what he meant can be implemented.

  11. Keith, your interpretation of the administrator has some plausibility, but I don't think it carries the day. Again, the very fact that he had to apologize tells us that it is a controversy. Even if he's simply leading (like a bulldozer) over the consciences of these other students, the statement becomes even more bewildering. Of course it's a controversy. Of course they're fighting over it.

  12. It seems like maybe we're missing each other's points here. I meant that NIU, with their view of music, is still within the broad stream of orthodoxy. In other words, they did not leave orthodoxy when they took this view of music.

    Saying music is not going to be a controversy is essentially saying you are not going to argue over it, or cater to those who want to. Yes, in NIU's instance there will be people who will find it controversial, but NIU is just trying to move past that. The people who are truly offended will leave and NIU will cater to a different demographic (moving closer to the circles of Christianity I run in).

    This negates one of your two main original premises, specifically that they are forcing their opinions on someone. That is what I was getting at with the statements about NIU not being a church. They can take a position, and those who find it blasphemous (really, blasphemous?) can choose to go to a college that has the same view of music. If it were a church, it would be more problematic, because of the issues of being a covenant community. If your second premise falls, then so does your argument.

  13. Truly, a college is a voluntary institution. No one has to go to a certain college. But are you arguing that all forms of Christian decency and charity are void in parachurch orgs?

    Still, you concede my point when you say, "Yes, . . . there will be people who will find it controversial."

    That's exactly it. If it is controversial, then why say it's not? If they are fighting over it (a walkout? an apology?), then why say they are not going to fight over it?

    Let's call it what it is.

    Why doesn't the president just get up and say: "See you later, you conservative believers." That's what you're saying he's saying. On your reading of him, he is apparently saying that these conservative students (whom he led to believe that the institution was not changing) should just go (and we all know how easy it is to transfer colleges, let alone a semester). "Music is not an issue here: in order words, your kind isn't welcome around here."

    And I do object, even in a college setting, of this manner of leadership, this way of saying, "We're not fighting over this, so you need to leave" (assuming your reading of him is correct).

    For believers, we are capable of better than this, even if we're not a church.

    Again, these statements assume that your reading of the president is correct, i.e., that "music is not a controversy" means "conservative students: see you later."

  14. So, Mark, effectively you are saying that the administrator was telling those who disagree to just shut up, we aren't going to have controversy.

    "I'm sorry (for whatever it was), now be quiet because controversy isn't allowed."

    I don't think this helps the case….

  15. >By deliberately choosing irreverent songs or by playing >otherwise reverent songs in an irreverent manner, the >progressives force music to be an issue. They force a fight. >They may be right to do so, but it is (if I may be so bold to say >it) far better for leaders to be honest about what they are >trying to do rather than wishing issues away by verbal fiat.

    Ryan,

    You seem to be arguing that 'progressive' Christians must be held hostage (and I use that term deliberately) to those who demand a more traditional style. Then you accuse them of forcing the issue.

    So…who is forcing the issue? The person that says that we're going to accept a broader style of music or the person that writes a blogpost and accuses them of being 'irreverant'? The person who yields on their preferences for another's music standards, or the person who demands their position be followed?

    Did Matt come out and say "We are not going to play conservative music anymore"? I think I missed that memo. The Kings' Brass was at NIU a couple of days ago, and it wasn't THAT long ago that Dan Forrest was there to speak, teach, and perform.

    Think about it.

  16. Jay said, "You seem to be arguing that ‘progressive’ Christians must be held hostage (and I use that term deliberately) to those who demand a more traditional style."

    Jay, no, that is not what I am arguing. Take a moment and read the article again.

    I am arguing that is a problem to say there is no controversy when there is a controversy. Look at all that I said there. The leaders should be honest about where they are, I said.

    My article is about leadership more than it is about the way people worship God.

    I have not attacked any particular institution in this piece. Where did I accuse them of being irreverent? In the paragraph you cited, I, picking up on the many instances I had already stressed that the more progressive music is perceived to be irreverent my more traditional Christians, used shorthand to simplify my argument. This is not an argument about their music being irreverent. Several times, I removed the rightness or the wrongness of music decisions itself from being a live question.

    Again, this is a article about saying something is not a controversy while it is obviously a controversy.

  17. Well, as little as I know it seems ill-advised to SAY that a school has not changed it's position/practice when it's clear that they have. Other schools did this too and it has come back to bite them to some degree. However, the sad thing to me is that it doesn't seem that there's a "teachableness" on both sides to the other position. Only sort of a stand-off. Some may not feel that Romans 14-15 apply here, but we did work through that text when we "changed" music style at our church. We didn't throw out the hymns and we were scrupulous with the newer songs we did use–and the congregation knew we were making those efforts. So those who liked "hymns-only" seemed to gradually appreciate the newer songs (not 100%, of course–and when does that ever happen in any church over anything??!!) and those who preferred the newer songs (with the praise band) came to enjoy and even deeply love the hymns we used. I often felt that the hymn-lovers were in love with the nostalgia of the songs more than the message of the songs–all choked up when we hit the chorus of "How Great Thou Art", but without the (gasp!) raising of hands at that point. I do hope folk concerned about this school, or any other, will be loving and teachable. I kinda don't like the circles because it seems to promote an inflexibility on the two positions, when there is a very complex spectrum involved. Our church, for example, had BOTH types of music.

  18. Of course I'm not arguing that all forms of decency are void in parachurch organizations. I'm saying that a parachurch organization can take a stand on an issue without necessarily worrying about people leaving as much as a church would.

    And you're taking an extreme view of what he's saying. He's not asking anyone to leave. In fact, I think, if he's like me, he probably desires them to stay and be able to enjoy a broader musical experience than their narrowly conservative view allows. You act like he's being incredibly harsh, but those of us who are past this issue don't see it that way.

    At some point, on issues that you believe are not worth arguing over, you just have to stop arguing. That's what I feel like Olson's saying. I do wish he would admit that it is a change. I'm on this side of the issue and even I see it as a change.

  19. "Do you think it’s ever possible that the same manifestation of music could foster a reverent response in one person and an irreverent response in another, simultaneously?"

    Absolutely! The same could be said for preaching. One person may be moved by a message via the Spirit, while another person hearing the exact same message, but with a different heart and attitude, may be more in tune with wondering what's for lunch and wondering if the quarterback will have a better game this week. But getting back to music specifically, one person could be greatly moved by the music and engage in wonderful worship in spirit and in truth in their heart, while another person could be greatly offended by the exact same music because one of the women making the music is wearing pants and you know she admitted to you once that she secretly listens to Keith Green albums, and the music is accompanied by snare drums. A different person could find any number of reasons to be offended by the same exact music and completely drown out any attempts of the Spirit to use it edifyingly.

  20. Thanks, Mark for the interaction.

    I appreciate your agreement on the key point.

    I honestly don't think that any one is saying "You conservatives need to go." Frankly, that seemed to be your portrayal of the administrator's position. Again, I think it is more inconsistent than that.

    Thanks again.

  21. I think we're viewing it from different sides of the argument. When Olson says "It's not going to be a controversy" he is saying he desires not to be a part of the controversy anymore. By doing that, yes, he is creating controversy in the short term, but the long-term effect is that NIU will no longer be known as a musically conservative institution anymore (which some of us view as a really good thing). I don't think it's inconsistent, just that you're focusing on only the short term effect of his statement.

  22. (Oops…..hit "enter" too soon)…………………I think it could go BOTH ways. For example, one person may be moved by the Spirit by traditional music that "only"has an organ as a musical instrument. They could let themselves be so off-put by the fact that the music is "boring" without drums and accompaniment by guitars and other instruments, that they let the silly concerns of their own blot out any edifying the music could do if they let it.

  23. Ryan:

    A friend just linked me to your article. Well done with grace and charity. I appreciate your perspective.

    You wrote, "…some students had left the service."

    That is correct, and some faculty/staff also walked out of the worship time during the Day of Prayer event. As I noted from my blog- I've never heard of any believer walking out of a worship/prayer service when a hymn such as "Sweet Hour of Prayer" was being sung.

    Btw, from my observations it is routine for recorded chapel videos to go down from the site after a designated period of time. I think I recall that that video with Matt Olson's remarks was scheduled to go away on April 2. What I mean to say is that the school's admin, in this specific case, did not try to bury something.

    LM

  24. Excellent article. The true controversy really isn't about music. While I disagree in total with the new "Redeemed" rock band and the new associations that will soon come with this new & improved(??) attitude at NIU, the issue goes much, much deeper than that.

    You are correct, this entire issue comes down to leadership. As someone else described NIU being willing to poke their historical constituency in the eye ("Thank you for all the money and support you gave us over the past many, many years to build our program and buildings. Now we are going to play with Big Daddy Weave. If you don't like it that is YOUR problem!"). With that, the apology (for what???), etc., etc., it is easy for many on both sides of this controversy to wonder who is driving the ship.

    There is A LOT of bad arguments, logic, and usage of the Bible out there about this issue. Many want to dance around the issue and not call a spade a spade. Many on the progressive side of the isse look down their noses at FundyLand and whip out comments that show a condescending attitude while claiming how their church or mindset is more authentic than those obsolete fundies. Fundamentalists do themselves no favors either with their often self-righteous attitude as well.

    You almost get the feeling that NIU is using the same high-end PR folks that advised LeBron James with his "Taking his talents to South Beach" announcement.

  25. Part of the problem is that NIU never was a "musically conservative institution. I don't think Ryan or others like him came to their positions because of Northland, but in spite of it. Though that is an entirely different discussion.

  26. Well done, Ryan.

    The same thing is happening in other institutions as well. I begin to wonder if these bulldozer progressives ever stopped to consider that conservatism in many cases may be a token of the sanctifying work of the Spirit rather than an affinity for the familiar.

    Graciousness is not a progressive virtue in my experience.

  27. Ryan,

    You are right when you point out that the president of your alma mater could have avoided this musical controversy by continuing to cater to the demands of traditional Christians.

    First, I would point out that your visual illustration should probably show the smaller circle (Trad) fully inside of the (Prog) circle. I don't think the any progressive Christian would consider that any part of the traditional Christians' repertoire was "irreverent". Also, there aren't just two circles. Since traditional Christians can't agree on where the lines are to be drawn, there are probably an infinite amount of progressively smaller circles.

    Second, I would also suggest that if another larger institution with historic ties to the institution you allude to was able to insist for decades that baptism would not be a controversy and welcome credo and paedo Baptists, maybe others can be forgiven for believing they could similarly wish controversy away.

    Third, you make note of those "determined to force" their preferences "upon those more conservative". Those that formulate music policy that will inevitably alienate some in their constituency, but the phrase "determined to force" strikes me as excessive in its judgment. Can you believe that progressive Christians at your alma matter felt that the musical preferences of Traditional christians were forced upon them by the administration?

    Finally, what if this logic were applied to the Bible translation controversy? Do you believe that an institution such as the one in question should exclusively use the KJV in order to avoid offending a large segment of traditional Christians? Could they be forgiven for allowing cautious use of other translations and then insisting that they won't let it become an issue?

    I sense your frustration and would agree that at least part of the statement seems (from my uninformed vantage point) naive. We are both convinced that things have changed at this school despite claims to the contrary. We would probably both agree that some institutional transparency would be most welcomed.

  28. Mark, this "short-term problem" is a huge one for students who can't in good conscience go with the new approach. All of a sudden they have to walk out of chapel, etc?

    Many thousands of dollars have been spent on an education, maybe they are in their third year, and boom. It's going to set them back significantly if they transfer.

    It's unethical to make these kinds of changes rapidly. The only ethical way to do it for a four year school is to give several years' notice.

  29. Politely to Sheila: Is it legitimate to say that someone who is convicted that a certain music piece is irreverent, (and thus participating in singing that song would be sin for them) is "drown[ing] out any attempts of the Spirit to use it edifyingly?" Amazingly, some of the people who are more conservative in their musical approach are actively looking for the Spirit to help them worship. They simply do not find some music to be fit to help them do so. Is the example of the secretive KG listener a fair representation of those who are more conservative, or is it just a convenient logical fallacy (straw man perhaps?) To have this discussion, the claims regarding one's opponents should be grounded in the notion that their concerns are real, and likely conscience-based, not springing from hypocrisy–which is how it seems you have couched your argument. If I have misunderstood you, then clarification is needed.

    Sam Hendrickson

  30. Honestly, Jon, from what I'd been hearing from NIU, this isn't much of a surprise. Secondly, I think there's a problem if you actually think this is sin and need to walk out as opposed to just not participate. To me, that is a much more extreme view of music that very few people at NIU were likely to hold. At some point, organizations change. That may cause an upheaval, but I think some of these concerns are overblown. I don't think NIU has been as conservative as some of us remember it being.

  31. "Should I answer your question? Is reverence a matter of a response or is something in itself reverent or irreverent without respect to the person’s response? Or perhaps a bit of both?"

    It's both. Ask any artist who is overtly anti-Christian and/or anti-religious who wants to state that fact. They know what they are doing and can purposefully make an irreverent piece of art that leaves absolutely no room for interpretation. On the other hand, they may make a piece of art that one person finds reverent and beautiful, while another person is going may find something about it that makes it irreverent for them: For example, maybe the artist makes a beautiful drawing of a nature scene in Germany. One person may find it reverent and a picture of God's creation, while another person may find it horrible and irreverent because they equate all things German to Hitler.

  32. indeed…. this is personal preference…. grew up in traditional flat non expressive mouth the words with no feeling church…. tho traditional this did not honor our God…. it's what is in the heart of the believer and one needs to have the freedom to express their worship in their own way…

    God is honored with different cultures and their worship, who are we to say what God likes in the American circle? What matters is what is in your heart as you worship your God….

  33. Mark, it would be easier to go with your "this isn't much of a surprise" if there hadn't been definitive "we are not changing" statements every year for the past four years….

  34. Sam, I read it that Ryan purposely labeled it Tm because the nature of true Cm is another argument altogether, and this article isn't really about that.

  35. Jon,

    Fair enough. I haven't been around NIU or fundamentalism recently, but I'd heard from some old friends about changes to the way they handled music. I think they should just come out with a change of position statement so students can decide if they want to stay or not. They're in a transitional period now and, while I might concede that the leadership could have handled it better, I think this is the right direction and I'm glad they're moving along this trajectory. Like Olson said, there is a significant number of alumni that are already way ahead and are glad to hear of these changes. While it's unfortunate that people will be affected, I think that segment of fundamentalism is rightly dwindling.

  36. Do you mean to imply that it is a traditionalist virtue? I am in favor of conservative (properly defined) music in liturgy, but I can't say that I've seen the anti CCM preachers exuding grace all these years.

  37. The principles of Biblical Sanctification (Eph 4-5 et. al.) must not be merely platitudes written on paper, but must also be manifested in one's practical lifestyle (beliefs –> behavior). Music is just one glaring and inescapable manifestation of one's true philosophy (contextualize to/infiltrate the world OR antithesis to the world). For example, if you really respect the Puritans, don't just quote their platitudes; live a life that reflects their concern for sanctification.

    The way I would sum up the current situation from the perspective of many (some?) conservatives: saddened by betrayal.

    NIU had a historical track record not only of certain principles/beliefs but also of practical applications of those principles/behavior promoted in its student body. Its historic stance was distinction from the world (the historical Fundamentalist stance) rather than infiltration of the world (the historical New Evangelical stance). SOME practical indicators of this stance can be most easily SEEN in external standards (e.g. music…); most would agree that true sanctification goes far beyond standards of course (but true sanctification WILL work itself out in applications/the real world = standards regarding issues). NIU had a clear stance on these issues at one time. Parents (and students) believed that they should send their children to (attend) that particular university because of a supposed shared philosophy/worldview (in addition to doctrinal stances) regarding what distinction from the world looks like.

    As the author of this article has repeatedly said, the argument AT THIS POINT is NOT about who has the right philosophy (many books have been written on the subject: Promise Unfulfilled, The Tragedy of Compromise, Measuring the Music….). I don't think anyone is even suggesting that NIU be held "hostage" by conservatives if the majority of the student body, staff, leadership wants to go another direction.

    The problem is that parents entrusted their children to an institution that supposedly stood for something that it manifestly does not stand for now. People THOUGHT that they agreed with NIU and now find out that they don't (that's what I mean by betrayal – you send your kids to be taught a philosophy and find out it's the opposite; you choose to attend a university with your philosophy and find out it's the opposite).

    How did that happen? It seems like purposeful ambiguity (this is how many so-called Fundy churches are operating today = Fundy in politics, networks, historical background, friendships, platitudes on paper, but not in the express manifestations of ministry philosophy, real-life behavior.). This is also why NIU can get away with it – many/most kids from SO-CALLED Fundy churches are already thoroughly New Evangelical in practice/philosophy.

  38. So, the progressive music of the late 1800s is ok — and even with words approved of by a Congregationalist (non-Baptist, Calvinist) minister?

  39. Andrew, you said, "the phrase “determined to force” strikes me as excessive in its judgment"

    I would like to address that. The whole attitude of Dr. Olson and NIU towards their historical base and a large number of alumni – the same base they used to build their program and buildings for thirty + years is, "This is the direction we are going to go, too bad for you if you don't like it." I have personally talked to someone who wrote Dr. Olson expressing his concerns and the response was basically thanks, but no thanks. Others have said similar. Also, the fact that this new "Redeemed" rock band is so – far – removed from what Dr. Ollila and even Dr. Olson taught for decades is as someone else put it, a good poke in the eye – without so much an apology for that matter. Further, Dr. Olson made a non-apology "apology" to those who were offended by the Day of Prayer activity, but then continued to say that if you aren't comfortable with something in a service to feel free to go off by yourself and pray (or something like that. Yes, I did see the video of him saying that). When you add all of that up it is no stretch to say this new direction is being forced upon the conservatives. It is so abrupt, so sudden, so dramatic, so over-the-top, and as I said without apology. To use the words "determined to force" is reasonable.

  40. "The way I would sum up the current situation from the perspective of many (some?) conservatives: saddened by betrayal."

    Bingo!!

  41. Martin,

    Thank you for your measured response. I have not interacted with the president–I have never even met him. I would, however, want my assessment of his attitude to be based on personal interaction with him. I am very hesitant to evaluate his attitude based on the interaction of others.

    I will readily confess that I was extremely surprised to view the "Redeemed" video. (I was actually convinced that it was another one of those April Fool's spoof videos.)

    The changes are remarkably abrupt, but "Determined to force" suggests an agenda with questionable intent. The changes themselves will be rightly evaluated by current and prospective students, parents and churches, but I would caution against judging the administration's motives. I would certainly not attribute to them a desire to offend.

  42. I mean to imply only what I said, Keith. I've been a charismatic, an evangelical, a BIG "B" Baptist, and whatever I am now, and I've never seen or heard of progressivism introduced graciously. That's all.

    I will certainly concede your counterpoint concerning the anti-CCM hose-headedness that has transpired over the years. Coming from where I came from, I experienced lots of that as well.

    Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I don't anticipate the ugliness I saw when it was time for the evangelical church I was in to become Purpose Driven back in the '90's.

  43. I have to wonder aloud whether there were too many conservatives who were genuinely surprised by this development however. The closet door was not exactly shut tightly when I was a student there.

  44. Thanks. I think we agree mostly. I've seen tyrannical "contemporary" folks and I've seen tyrannical "traditional" folks.

    However, I've also seen gracious folks of both stripes. Or, maybe more accurately, folks that don't really fit in either group — even though the partisans of the groups act as if there are only two groups.

    I'm just not sure saying — even if colloquially and inelegantly — that an institution is not going to get bogged down debating a certain issue is tyrannical. It's no doubt frustrating to those who want to debate it, and it may even be a totally wrong position to take, but it's not necessarily tyrannical.

  45. You may well be right, and I'll accept your testimonial to those observations. However, those gracious folks aren't usually the ones in charge.

    The matter at hand isn't whether NIU is getting bogged down in details, it is the fact that a position they repudiated when I was a student there is now being advanced as God's will for everyone on that compound's life.

    Change away, NIU! Just do it honest-like and we can part company with mutual respect.

  46. Jon and Ryan,

    I think after reading through some of these comments I understand better what you're saying, Ryan. Being out of fundamentalism for several years, it's easy to forget how seriously they took this issue. To those of us out of fundamentalism, the argument over this stuff seems strange. But I can see how some of you would view it as betrayal. I suppose this is a good lesson in change management. Honestly, I'm thrilled with the move, but I understand what you're saying in that it could have been handled better.

    Always had lots of respect for you Ryan. God bless.

  47. I find it interesting that those on the far right often don't take into account that people who do take part in Modern Worship are doing so out of their own conviction…

  48. Thanks for the interaction, Mark. One more question for you, then I'll leave it.

    Why are you thrilled with the move? Why do you think institutions (schools, churches) have to move that way? It isn't as if there is a shortage of churches and schools using contemporary music. People who want a church or school with a "progressive" approach can find them all over the place.

    Few traditional / conservative people infiltrate progressive schools or churches to try to change their standards. They simply want to continue to have a place (church or school) where they can go / which they can recommend, which fits with their standards. But progressives infiltrate and change those institutions….

    Wouldn't it be ok for those of us with "stricter" (insert word of your choice) standards to have churches and institutions with those standards? Why are you thrilled to see an institution which has been receiving support from conservatives with the understanding that it upheld our values decide it is going to be like everyone else?

  49. Sam, I loved this article precisely because of that.

    I'm no music expert. I don't totally get the music philosophy espoused on this site. I'm pretty sure we use some music Ryan and others here wouldn't use.

    This article didn't get into that. It dealt with Scriptural principles of leadership, charity towards brethren with stricter standards, etc, that I can preach and teach as a pastor.

    Calvin said of innovation (and unless we believe the silliness that there is no change, this is innovation), "Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe."

    A good principle. And authoritatively making changes which are contrary to the honest convictions of some violates it, even if one believes it is a good change. Adding on top of it the "no controversy" statement makes it worse, because it is either dishonest or it is saying that those who disagree can't even express their disagreement. Again, that's not letting love be our guide.

  50. Biola. Wheaton. Multnomah. Moody. Liberty. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    I suspect those who are convinced they should take part in "progressive" worship can find a school to attend. Are you willing to leave "non-progressives" any schools at all where they can attend chapel without violating their convictions, or must all the schools change?

    If it is really a conviction that "traditional worship" is not acceptable and there must be "modern worship," it is unethical to go to a church / school that has a contrary conviction and seek to change it. There are plenty of schools and churches that cater to that conviction.

  51. I'm puzzled. You imply that the school administrator has acted unethically by seeking to change the convictions of an institution. I don't understand how questioning his moral principles is acceptable to those that are committed to entreating a brother?

    These changes obviously pain you and perhaps I misunderstand.

  52. Thank you as well, Jon. Your interaction has been thoughtful and cordial and I appreciate that.

    As to your question, I think your viewing music in isolation and viewing it as a much more important issue than I am and maybe that's where our primary difference lies.

    In my view, fundamentalism as a whole is flawed (I know, that's a much bigger argument that I don't want to have here). Music is one small component of that and a lot of times is a first step in moving away from fundamentalism, which I view as a good thing. I'm not really considering the fact that conservative fundies need schools, I'm really thinking about what I view is a Biblical understanding of sanctification and worldliness. I am one of those alumni that Olson is trying to catch up to.

    Also, I don't think your view that progressives are infiltrating traditionalist organizations. I think fundamentalists are influencing fundamentalists. It's not outsiders coming in to change you, it's insiders saying they want change.

    If a school like Wheaton were to come out tomorrow and say, after studying Scripture and working with alumni, they feel that as a school they must embrace a conservative, traditionalist view of music as well as move to the center (or even far left) of fundamentalism, would you be pleased and encouraged?

    That's how I view NIU's move. I just wish they would admit that it is a move.

  53. Your perspective is all wrong. I'm guessing that very few people on my side of this issue even consider that they are "taking your schools or your churches" as though it is territory to be conquered. These are people who, for the most part, are acting on their own convictions. They truly are entering into worship with their Creator as they see best. It's not about you or any other group of people – it's about Him.

    Your second paragraph starts with a straw man argument. No one is saying that traditional worship is not acceptable.

    I also disagree that it is unethical to see to change someone (or some institution) with a contrary opinion. If it is, is everyone on this blog engaging in unethical behavior? Of course not. You may consider it a waste of time or a lost cause, but unethical is a stretch. It is only unethical if someone is dishonest in the way they do it or does it without grace, etc.

    Having addressed your comments, let me put two thoughts out there in regard to why it is a conviction for me:

    First, I commune with God better with modern worship. This is not the time to debate the reasons behind that, but that is the bottom line for me. If I commune with God markedly better with a certain kind of music or in a certain kind of environment, it is right for me to do that. It is not that I cannot find value in traditional worship, because I can, but, for me, the communion with God does not compare. Therefore it is my conviction.

    Second, the stakes are high. My home church has grown from 1100 people to well over 4000 in the last 2.5 years. This is includes hundreds of new believers and many hundreds of 'returners'. The modern worship is a big part of that (though the preaching is a bigger part). It is very worshipful (not a show) and very relevant. Part of that is due to an unbeliever watching us take part in meaningful worship. Part of it is due to removing an unnecessary barrier that sits between that person and the cross. In trying to reach people, if I can remove all distractions of the message – including music that is at best not relevant and at worst actively distracting – and if I can replace that with music that at worst not distracting and at best it is actively pulling them toward the cross, I'll make that choice every day of the week. It would be different if it were not for my first stated conviction. Now, let me clearly say that I do not pretend to think that modern worship (done in a worshipful way) accomplishes this for every person or every demographic. But it is tough to argue that it does not apply to the vast majority of the current American demographic.

    So, given the fact that it is my true personal conviction, coupled with the fact that it is also my belief that I will reach more of my friends and neighbors, I unapologetically choose modern worship, and I don't begrudge any individual or institution following suit. On the flip side, I do not fault any believer who feels similarly about traditional worship as they probably have a similar personal conviction.

  54. Andrew, thank you for asking. I don't think Matt Olson had different convictions but went to NIU intending to change it. It seems evident his views have changed. That part of my answer was not applicable to this particular case. I should have made that clear. I apologise for the confusion.

    There are things about how this has been done that might struggle to bear ethical scrutiny, but that's another topic.

    As a general principle, it is not unbrotherly to note unethical behaviour in public matters. I Timothy 5:20 refers to elders, but the principle would seem generally applicable to administrators of other Christian institutions. As someone I like better than I ought to has said, "Disagree, correct, reprove, rebuke, exhort. Do so strongly, where necessary. But do it right." I do think it can be done right, and that there is a major difference between describing certain behaviour as "unethical" and impugning motives or some of the analogies we see flying around sometimes.

    Thank you for reading my article. :) Also for handling my apparent inconsistency by asking. Blessings to you.

  55. I realize that this is not the main point of the article, but, I believe, at the heart of this issue is who is the music for. It is not for me and how I feel I commune better, nor is it for the "demographics". It is for God. Until recently, these were the only arguments that I heard used in favor of the progressive music–I like it and it brings people in. It is only in the last few years that I have begun to hear a few people trying to say that they use it because God is glorified by it. When I realized that worship music isn't about my feelings or about the people's tastes (Ex. 32:22), a lot of this former rock music lover's questions were answered.

    At one time I was in a contemporary church and invited my unsaved father to come. I was floored that he would even come to the church. A few weeks later I was trying to share the gospel with him (which was not preached at the church that day, BTW), he stopped me and said, "If I wanted to hear that kind of music that you have at your church, I would just go to the bar." Ouch! I realized that day that even that argument (attract the people) didn't always work even if it wasn't flawed.

  56. Somewhat true.

    However, I am not from NIU so am a distant observer.

    I heard people bashing Northland over the yrs and never paid much attention to them b/c they bashed them for silly things normally or things that I agree with:

    – the name change from NBBC to NIU didn't bother me

    – the grace based discipline system is well-intentioned and has a lot of good aspects/improvements (though, as a teacher, I believe you need a both/and approach regarding the demerit system)

    – I'm not "only KJV" or "KJV-only" so I wasn't bothered by the translation change

    – I'm moderately Calvinistic and don't believe in easy-believism (some people would call what I believe "Lordship Salvation")

    One of the things that frustrates me is that those on the "other side" of Fundamentalism lumps all of these issues together as if Calvinism…leads to worldliness.

    They obviously have not examined the Puritans lives nor understand that strong conservative separatists can also be moderately Calvinistic (e.g. Mike Harding, Mark Minnick, Peter Masters et. al.)

    My philosophy for fellowship can be seen in pictorial form at this google doc link https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BykCHkiq29eRYzBrd

    It used to be that circles of fellowship were built off of an understanding of the same Gospel (personal Christian fellowship), an understanding of separation (cooperation at liberal arts universities, bible conferences…), AND THEN Doctrinal distinctives (like Calvinism, dispensationalism… formed smaller circles of fellowship at the local church level). Now the orbits have been reversed: doctrinal distinctives unite first (to some Calvinism has become more important than separation) AND THEN the philosophical and doctrinal belief in Biblical separation comes second (if at all). This is why one commenter couldn't understand why some would be upset with NIU now while another "large university in Greenville" could allow for Presbyterians for so many yrs.

  57. Out of curiosity, is anyone familiar with the makeup of the NIU board of trustees? Has it shifted in makeup recently? Have its members shifted their theological/philosophical convictions?

  58. "Your second paragraph starts with a straw man argument. No one is saying that traditional worship is not acceptable."

    Mike, if you are telling us that, by conviction, you aren't willing to keep joint worship within that NI segment from the diagram above, then it isn't a straw man. Believers with a traditional/conservative view are willing to do that. You aren't.

    You are correct that it is not unethical if you are upfront about what you are doing. Still somewhat dubious if there are perfectly legitimate alternatives that fit your views better.

    Overheard at the back of our church, between two relatives who just started attending: "Brilliant preaching, but we need to sort out the music." I'm glad they liked my preaching, I guess. Perhaps I should have just told them to leave then, might have saved some trouble a few months down the road. It's not as if there aren't CCM-loving churches around.

    Question for you, Mike, might seem off the wall, are you a Calvinist?

  59. I don't think Calvinism is particularly relevant to this discussion. There are lots of conervative Calvinists.

  60. Hi, David. In fact, there are possibly more conservative Calvinists than conservative non-Calvinists. That's not why I asked the question. But Mike doesn't have to answer if he doesn't want to, obviously.

  61. Thanks, Mark. A few thoughts.

    1. I've personally experienced infiltration. It really happens, and it's ugly. But I'm sure you are right that a lot of the changes are internal from what I'd call drift and you'd call positive change.

    2. Interesting that you call this a move away from fundamentalism. There's a lot of "fundies" who will militantly disagree. :) I suspect you like them softening on separation from charismatics, too.

    3. In saying you aren't considering that conservative fundies need schools, it seems you think they are the weaker brothers of Romans 14 but you won't extend the charity that Romans 14 requires. You think music is meat sacrificed to idols, but you don't care if they have to attend institutions that force-feed it to them. Something to think about.

    Finally, Wheaton. Part of me would be glad, and part squeamish, because of the huge support they've had from "progressives." Ultimately, I'd rather conservatives go elsewhere, and leave Wheaton to the evangelicals who have invested in it.. Neither the buildings nor the name nor the "influence" are worth the angst.

    Thanks again. Real life ministry has blown up on me, so I may not get back to see this thread for several days. Blessings to you.

  62. There are some one this blog and many commenting on other blogs & sites, including the "Redeemed" youtube video, who are expressing their opinions with a condescending attitude towards conservative, traditional beliefs regarding worship and music.

    Bob Hayton recently said in his blog, "fundamentalists as a whole eschew a gospel-centered unity in favor of a separation-centric modus operandi" He then posed the question if it was unfair to say funfamentalism is separation-centered. This is grossly false, misleading, provacative, and intellectually lazy. That is just as wrong as it would be for me to say all of evangelicalism is completely filled with heresy because they will not separate from anything.

    In my life I have seen many of my friends leave their fundamental baptist heritage and go to a evangelical church. I have often personally seen and read comments of people ridiculing fundamentalism. Quite often the transition was not done quietly in any way that could be described as graceful and with humility.

    I have a family member that attends a new evangelical church. When some people in that world find out my family member transitioned from fundamentalism they sometimes as if my relative is a recovering fundy. I respect my relative for saying that is not the case, and if the other person has an issue with fundamentalism then that is their problem.

    Most often they feel fundamentalism is stuffy, stale, dead, is more interested in separation than sanctification, not "relevant," unloving, etc, etc. and they make regular comments in a snide-kind of way. In other words, they dislike something they feel is harsh, judemental, and filled with lazy people holding onto old traditions. But, they regularly express that opinion in a harsh, judgemental ,& lazy (lumping ALL IFB into one pot) kind of way. They point their bony finger to the right side of the isle and complain about how the IFB hurts the gospel with all of their judgementalism – but they express that thought in a judgemental way.

    So, tell me again why I should leave something that you say is all harsh, judgemental, and filled with lazy group-think . . . . and go to your group that is harsh, judgemental and filled with lazy group-think????

    You almost never, ever see people saying they left fundamentalism for evangelicalism because they truly, honestly knew it was what the Lord wanted them to do.

    A word of wisdom to the anti-fundy crowd, yes, fundamentalism has its issues, but so do you – alot of issues in fact.

    Both sides need to correctly practice the gospel they preach.

  63. Mat, I'm not saying that the choice is made because of "demographics" as though I am willing to compromise in order to reach people.. It is made out of my own deeply thought out convictions.

    Worship has a lot to do with feelings. Feelings that God created and feelings that bring Him great glory as our Creator and King and Father. Feelings and emotions are an outward expression of what is in my heart. It brings God great glory for me to be overwhelmed by joy and reverence as we sang this Sunday that He nailed my sins to the cross so that I bear it no more! I don't know how the next line of 'Praise The Lord, Praise The Lord oh my soul' is not sung with great feeling and emotion. God basks in the glory of the emotion filled singing – to a modern worship version of an old hymn.

  64. "If it is really a conviction that “traditional worship” is not acceptable and there must be “modern worship,” — that is a straw man. Maybe I misunderstood you, it is not my view that traditional worship is not acceptable nor am I insisting on modern worship for everyone.

  65. "Mike, if you are telling us that, by conviction, you aren’t willing to keep joint worship within that NI segment from the diagram above, then it isn’t a straw man. Believers with a traditional/conservative view are willing to do that. You aren’t."

    I am saying I am not willing to exclude my worship to fit in that intersection, and I make no apologies for that. Those two points that I mentioned are simply more valuable to me than keeping every Christian happy. My personal worship with God is more meaningful with modern worship and more people find new life in Christ as a result. Those two things trump my desire to avoid "controversy" with other believers.

    I'll expand the frame… I am not going to accommodate someone who holds to a KJV-only view. They are very sincere in what they believe. But I don't believe they have any logical footing to stand on. I'll still be their friend (I have several who hold to this), but we're going to just have to practice that old baptist principle of soul liberty and live in peace while agreeing to disagree. I won't stop reading my ESV simply because it is his conviction, and I certainly won't place the barrier of needing to read and understand Shakespearean english in between a seeker and the cross – I don't care how strong his conviction is.

    In a similar fashion, I don't read anything in the Bible that would shake my conviction about modern worship, and I have yet to hear a compelling argument from the Bible that would change my view. Without a compelling biblical argument to the contrary, I'm not willing to exclude this modern worship which provides much good.

    Now, I don't rub my brother's nose in it. But I'll say it again, my personal worship with God is more meaningful and more people find new life in Christ. Those two things trump my desire to avoid "controversy" with other believers when there is no compelling biblical reason to do so.

  66. BTW, there are many definitions of 'Calvinist'. Those 5 points mean different things to different people. What specifically are you asking.

  67. I think there is a compelling Biblical reason to avoid controversy – to preserve unity. Shouldn't both parties in a dispute be willing to seek a point of consensus that does not violate their convictions? It may not work out given the complexities of the issue, but it certainly is Biblical to have that kind of mindset.

  68. >Bob Hayton recently said in his blog, “fundamentalists as a >whole eschew a gospel-centered unity in favor of a >separation-centric modus operandi” He then posed the >question if it was unfair to say fundamentalism is >separation-centered. This is grossly false, misleading, >provocative, and intellectually lazy.

    Martin,

    It should be noted that Mike Durning, Scott Aniol, and (I believe) Don Johnson of the FBFI, among others on SharperIron have come out and said that **they** are the ones that make this a separation issue. Not those of us who are 'pro-CCM'.

    If you don't believe me, look at this post by Mike Durning at SharperIron (http://sharperiron.org/comment/54931#comment-54931). If you read any one of the multiple threads that are going on music, you'll clearly see that the 'traditionalists' (I don't like the term, but it fits) are the ones that are forcing separation on this. I would not make it a separation issue, personally – and I like the traditional music as well as the 'CCM'!

    If Bob is wrong to argue that Fundamentalism (whatever that is or whatever is left of it) is 'separation oriented', then please explain this to me, because it's the 'traditionalists' that are screaming for separation from NIU. And separation from the pro-CCMers. And separation from Calvinists (Pastor Sweatt's 2009 rant at the FBFI meeting at the Wilds). And separation from Mark Dever. And separation from John Piper. And separation from John MacArthur.

    Do I need to go on, or is that enough examples?

  69. I think that's right. You should not seek consensus on biblically prescribed commands. Those are cut and dry. But in the areas where there is no direct prescription, you have to make a personal determination based your understanding of the Bible and its principles. Those are the things where you should strive to have unity and peace by agreeing to disagree. We should do this because we are no longer dealing with infallible truth – we are dealing with my finite, sinful mind trying to make a determination based on what I know about Truth – and I make mistakes. I misunderstand things. I have my own personal prejudices and baggage. And so do you. Given these resulting fallible convictions, we should try to find unity.

    BUT, there are scenarios where this is impossible or it becomes secondary. What if I am with 5 friends and there is no common ground amongst all 5 of us? Well, in that case you try to accommodate the weaker brother as has been mentioned in this forum. That does not mean that I stop my modern worship, but it does mean that I may forgo it while we are together. What if those 5 people included two of my lost friends? They become the weaker members in that scenario (and more important) so that if we open the Bible, I will still open my ESV even if you happen to have a KJV only conviction because I don't want to put the unnecessary barrier of needing to struggle to concentrate on the meaning of the old english words when I would rather my lost friend be concentrating on the message.

    What I don't have patience for is those who demand that everyone else must always accommodate them. Just because I am the more conservative does not mean that my less conservative friends always must accommodate me. I am a conservative evangelical. My IBF family members are well to the right of me, but I am the conservative one in all my other circles so I find myself in both scenarios quite often. I don't allow myself to get offended no matter which group of friends I am with. I wish that the Fundamentalist community would stop being so easily offended. Being offended is like being bitter. You personally have to allow yourself to get offended. You must do it to yourself. No one does it to you.

    I think the people who walked out of this service and allowed themselves to be offended are trying to make a public point rather than live in unity. If they have an issue with the president, why not go to him personally as the Bible speaks about rather than try to create a public embarrassment for the president? It's easy to walk out in protest. It is hard to go to a brother in humbleness and love and hash out these issues. If they ultimately can't find agreement and you don't want to put yourself in the position where you constantly have to go through these scenarios – leave. Respect that God has placed him in leadership and leave. But leave in peace and grace.

    I have been in that scenario multiple times in both roles. I have left churches because they are too conservative for me. I have left churches because I was too conservative for the church. I respected the leadership and respectfully and graciously left in both cases. I have turned off my music before my mother gets in the car to preserve the peace. I also have not allowed myself to be offended by the Christian who is not as conservative as I am and therefore was doing things I wouldn't agree with. Too many people are looking for a fight as though there is something spiritual about it. We should practice grace from both sides.

    Jesus consistently practiced exactly that. We should too.

  70. The sheer volume of discussion here makes Ryan's point quite plainly indeed. Thanks for some good thoughts here, Ryan.

  71. "You almost never, ever see people saying they left fundamentalism for evangelicalism because they truly, honestly knew it was what the Lord wanted them to do."

    I couldn't disagree with this more.

  72. "I am saying I am not willing to exclude my worship to fit in that intersection, and I make no apologies for that."

    OK. So your convictions, as you state them, are directly in conflict with those with traditional / conservative convictions, right?

    You said that my second paragraph in my initial response to you was a straw man. It isn't. You have a conviction which is incompatible with mine. We can't even intersect. And so I stand by the rest of that paragraph, even though I opposed it. "It is unethical to go to a church / school that has a contrary conviction and seek to change it. There are plenty of schools and churches that cater to that conviction." If your convictions force you to push for something that is incompatible with those who are already there, go somewhere else.

    If your convictions don't force you to do that, then be charitable and stick with the NIm segment of the diagram.

    In which case, your assertion that you do Modern Worship by conviction is not relevant to this discussion. It would be entirely relevant if, as Mark suggested above, there were a traditional / conservative move on Wheaton. If you were at Wheaton and had the convictions you state, you would be well within your rights to say, "Wait a minute, you have to respect my convictions. I'm part of this institution." It's not relevant in the case at hand, because someone with your convictions should never have gone to a traditional institution in the first place.

  73. Mike,

    OK, fine. Just describing what I've seen in my personal experience. What I typically see is people arrogantly flaunting their new "freedom" while thumbing their nose at their heritage. NOT a blanket statement, just my experience.

  74. Again, I am not saying traditional music is not acceptable. See my earlier post. For me it is not as profitable and in certain scenarios it can be distracting. I personally enjoy it when it's done with excellence, but even then it is not as profitable to me.

    My statement about not willing to exclude my worship to fit in that intersection was made with respect to the larger view of my worship as a whole. It isn't pointed directly at joint worship. I should have 'sign-posted' better. That was easily misunderstood. See my post at the end of this blog about living in unity which does address that specifically.

    Here is a question, if these areas are not prescriptive in the Bible, which they clearly are not, why does the less conservative brother need to always be the one to graciously live in unity? What is keeping the more conservative brother from choosing not to be offended and making that choice rather than walking out in protest? See my post at the end of this blog.

  75. Jay,

    Fair points. I guess it is how you take Hayton's question, the context of it. Having said that, his post by itself and his question was not placed in that context which is unfortunate. Not sure I should have to read SI and blogs all day long to get the context of a comment.

    I stand by my comments.

    And I think a reasonable argument can be made that it isn't the "Traditionalists" forcing the separation, it could just as well be argued that the pro-CCMers are forcing it upon the "Traditionalists". This is part of the crux of Ryan's post above.

    And, it brings me around to the essence of my point, that both sides of this issue are pointing their finger at each other and neither side is entirely blameless.

  76. There are unfortunately people like that – on both sides. I would compare the 'flaunting' person as to person who makes a scene and walks out in order to make their point. Neither is living graciously.

    Thanks for the clarification, Martin.

  77. "My statement about not willing to exclude my worship to fit in that intersection was made with respect to the larger view of my worship as a whole. It isn’t pointed directly at joint worship."

    OK. I thought this whole discussion was about joint worship in a corporate / institutional context. Isn't it?

    "Here is a question, if these areas are not prescriptive in the Bible, which they clearly are not, why does the less conservative brother need to always be the one to graciously live in unity? What is keeping the more conservative brother from choosing not to be offended and making that choice rather than walking out in protest?"

    Well, Mike, this is partly complicated by the fact that some believe that certain music is simply sin. If they are right, then obviously that music should not be used, right? But if they are wrong, then as most "progressives" would say, this is a Romans 14 issue, right?

    If it is a Romans 14 issue, then your conservative brothers should not judge you, but verses 14-15 & 20-23, especially, are compelling. This thing which you know is neutral, your brother cannot do in faith. He esteems it to be unclean, so for him it is sin. We're not talking preference. He may even accept that you can do it without sin, but he can't. Avoiding sin is not a preference. You don't want your brother to sin by doing that which he cannot do in faith. So you practice only NIm when with him, and reserve the Pm for when you are apart.

    You don't lie to him that you don't practice Pm. But if he can't do it without sin, charity demands that you defer it for another time.

    And that's why pushing "progressive" practice in an institution that has been historically traditional / conservative is unacceptable. Some who use traditional / conservative views may do so out of preference or habit, but some do so out of conviction that to do otherwise is sin.

    I've been on the more "progressive" side multiple times. One case was with a brother who rejected Christmas. Our family did not stop celebrating Christmas, and he knew it, but we practiced in a way that protected his convictions. I would rather win my brother, and protect him. My kids learned a valuable lesson in it, and have seen good fruit that came from it.

    ***

    Why did I ask about Calvinism? Because I am amazed at how often people who say they hold to Calvinist soteriology will say some of the things you said.

    "…it is also my belief that I will reach more of my friends and neighbors,"

    ",..more people find new life in Christ as a result."

    One certainly doesn't have to be a Calvinist to absolutely reject these kinds of statements. But they are totally incompatible with a Calvinist view, yet it seems I hear it more from the "young Calvinists" these days than from anyone else. So I was just curious.

    I need to drop out here, Mike. I thank you for the discussion.

  78. I said I was talking about that statement, not the entire discussion. Having to re-emphasize what I actually said seems to be a recurring theme…

    —-

    I am very aware that some people see this as a sin. Among other things, I am trying to prod people to rethink that. There is absolutely no biblical evidence to come to that point of view. We are people of the Book, are we not? How does one hold so dogmatically to a view that cannot be supported by Scripture?

    If we do not have a prescription from Scripture, we must all determine in our own hearts where that line is or if there even is a line. But we should also hold these determinations somewhat loosely in comparison as we are all finite and sinful and very capable of being incorrect. And such scenarios where there is conflict about these personal determinations, we need grace – not just from one side.

    —-

    "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some."

    I guess you would "absolutely reject" these statements by Paul as those of a "young Calvinist"

    Thank you for the discussion. I hope some found it helpful.

  79. Mike,

    If you are saying that there is "absolutely no biblical evidence" for the conservative position, that is an overstatement. I can't let that pass. That's patently unfair and uncharitable as well. You may disagree with how we handle Scripture, but handle Scripture we do.

    If anything, that shows that still have yet to grapple seriously with what conservatives are arguing.

  80. Good point Ryan.

    Mike,

    This isn't directed at you per se, just a statement in general.

    What I see is the non-fundy side regularly abusing interpretation of the Bible – just like the Fundamentalists often do. In all of this brou-ha-ha over NIU and music there is an incredible amount of stupid logic and reasoning. Both sides have their guns drawn, neither truly seeing how often wrong or sideways they themselves are or even that maybe, just maybe the other side may have a point.

    Having said that, as my posts here have indicated I'm happy to remain in Fundyland because I can honestly say this is where the Lord would have me. In addition though the progressive side with their so often condescending attitude is a major turn-off. I know that attitude goes both ways, but this where I am at. As I said before, why would I want to trade what some see as judgemental and join something that is every bit as judgemental?

  81. Questions I like to ask progressives:

    Do you believe we were created in the image of God?

    Most answer YES

    What does the image of God include?

    Most agree it includes the mind, will, and emotions

    Dig a little deeper = the emotional aspect includes aesthetics/beauty as part of the image of God (God's character is objective – certain things objectively reflect it and certain things don't reflect it)

    Do you believe that God created us to reflect his image?

    Yes – then we better understand God's character and the principles that must guide our life so that we properly reflect his character (objective truth of who God is/what he is like –> objective guidelines for our emotional responses to Him)

    Do you believe in total depravity?

    Most would say yes – every aspect of the image of God has been affected – that would include our reflection of God's beauty/emotional responses = our emotions can be driven by vehicles of expression that promote goodness and beauty or that which is antithetical to God's objective image of goodness and beauty (my emotional responses are naturally driven by my sin nature and must be mortified/put to death – even after salvation the process of sanctification is to continue mortifying my fleshly desires)

    Which aspect of God's image/my depraved human nature does music communicate to (music/not the lyrics)?

    Music is a vehicle of expression (an expression that displays what is coming out of the emotions of one's heart/image of God). That objective vehicle of expression can match up to properly reflecting God's objective image and promote you to have the subjective emotions to reflect God's image or it can be flowing from an objectively depraved heart that twists God's objective image and subjectively cause you to improperly seek to reflect God in a skewed way.

    Can certain musical forms be inherently and objectively said to be aesthetically and morally destitute of properly reflecting God's beauty then?

    If you follow logic, you must say yes (whether you want to or not) Music is BOTH objective and subjective.

    Many are trying to respond to this issue as if music is all a matter of preference and taste (e.g. The least that Traditionalists could do is put up with/tolerate the Progressives; We progressives have no problem being in blended churches or listening to your traditional music…)

    The REASON Traditionalists can't and won't put up with Progressive musical styles is that we don't see music as neutral, preference, or taste. Some musical form ARE BAD (i.e. dishonors God, blasphemes him, wicked…). IF our presupposition is that certain music is bad (whether you agree with it or not), then how do you expect us to simply put up with it and live in a blended church, bible college…?

    Okay, now with the proper presuppositions we can START discussing the general musical forms (without talking past each other) and how they tend to communicate; Then we can start discussing the specific musical disagreements…

    Let me note, however, that the real problem with NIU is NOT music. Nor is the real problem the doctrine of Biblical Separation from worldliness or even charismatics. The root of the problem is with a skewed understanding of how God's holiness should be mirrored in a progressively sanctified life.

  82. It's certainly not a statement meant to be uncharitable. I'm sorry if it came off that way.

    Let me say it this way, there is no prescriptive biblical evidence for the conservative position on music. I would also say that I have not seen a compelling argument from scripture or otherwise to support what I would call the very conservative point of view. (I say 'very conservative' because I would say I'm conservative). There are certainly evangelicals and others who take Christian music to the extreme, but I am speaking of modern worship as a whole where the spirit is worshipful and sincere, the words are glorifying, but the music is modern and unacceptable to very conservative Christians.

    I certainly am not implying that those who don't agree with me are somehow not people of the Book. I have had many discussions about this topic with many of my more conservative friends and family who are wise and of great stature intellectually. I hold them in high regard as fellow believers, but I have yet to hear an argument that I find compelling.

    I'd be happy to be proven wrong. But I also realize that this is a bit of a rabbit hole and perhaps not the right forum. So let me reiterate that my comment was not meant to be uncharitable or to question the sincerity of anyone.

  83. "Well, Mike, this is partly complicated by the fact that some believe that certain music is simply sin. If they are right, then obviously that music should not be used, right? But if they are wrong, then as most “progressives” would say, this is a Romans 14 issue, right?

    If it is a Romans 14 issue, then your conservative brothers should not judge you, but verses 14-15 & 20-23, especially, are compelling. This thing which you know is neutral, your brother cannot do in faith. He esteems it to be unclean, so for him it is sin. We’re not talking preference. He may even accept that you can do it without sin, but he can’t. Avoiding sin is not a preference. You don’t want your brother to sin by doing that which he cannot do in faith. So you practice only NIm when with him, and reserve the Pm for when you are apart.

    You don’t lie to him that you don’t practice Pm. But if he can’t do it without sin, charity demands that you defer it for another time.

    And that’s why pushing “progressive” practice in an institution that has been historically traditional / conservative is unacceptable. Some who use traditional / conservative views may do so out of preference or habit, but some do so out of conviction that to do otherwise is sin."

    Well, Jon, it's not that simple.

    Romans 14 is kind of a "catch-22", chicken-or-egg, situation.

    You can't be both the weaker and the stronger brother at the same time. Which is the position you are taking for the "conservative". You can't both claim the concession of the weaker brother, and "invoke" Romans 14 as though you understand it and are practicing it yourself. I'm sorry, but that's Impossible.

    Paul is speaking to the stronger brother when he asks him to refrain from eating the meat in the presence of the weaker brother. And Paul has said that for him it is isn't sin. So, clearly, there is nothing inherent about the meat that makes it unacceptable to the Lord. Most people agree on that.

    Yet you are claiming the "weaker" position for the "conservative" and "demanding" that the "stronger" brother refrain from his music in your presence. This would imply that you know that what Mike has said is true — that there is nothing scripturally and inherently wrong with his choice. And yet you want to make it all about "convictions" and "my conviction makes it sin". That is the very point you want to stand on in your whole argument — "what if it is sinful?"

    Then to claim it is about "unity" and the progressive is "forcing the controversy" by not using a pool of music that is acceptable to both? This is immature, which OK, may be one mark of the weaker brother.

    So, we get back to Mike's question: why is that always so one sided, especially when the "conservatives" want to be such sticklers to the world and not capitulate to mere feelings?

    ANYONE reading Romans 14 and attempting to practice it and grow in their Christian walk must regard THEMSELVES as the stronger brother and everyone else as the weaker. Don't invoke Romans 14 unless you are going to be the stronger brother…

    As the stronger brother, therefore, the conservative brother should say, OK, my progressive brethren are weak: for some reason, they seem to think that God prefers an offering, a sacrifice of worship and praise that involves his free expression of joy and wonder and entering into corporate worship with less inhibition than I would like. Maybe that is immature, but let's try and understand his conviction on that. For MY part: well, I am so mature and in tune with God's word that I know it is REALLY all about killing the flesh and suppressing anything that could be considered a base, indulgent or sinful emotion. For us, as such a mature Christian, we know it is all about a pure, acceptable offering and it doesn't matter how I feel or don't feel about it in the process; the act of careful sacrifice will start to build the correct response and feeling in me. Since that is the case, as the stronger brethren, we will not make the weaker brethren feel bad and guilty about their immature and uneducated choices; we will practice our "restraint" in private and enter into joyful fellowship with our brothers as much as possible even though we can't quite bring ourselves to concentrate on the words when everyone around us is joyfully and worshipfully raising their hands.

    Now, what is and what is not acceptable to God is of course debateable, and always will be. But that is the only way that the conversative can invoke Romans 14 and hope to practice it in this situation. God expects us ALL to BE the stronger brother, just as EVERYONE is our neighbour.

  84. EDIT: "So, we get back to Mike’s question: why is that always so one sided, especially when the “conservatives” want to be such sticklers to the world and not capitulate to mere feelings?"

    "world" should be "Word" (Scripture).

  85. I am going to have to follow up on my own long post and take it a step further. I was that convicted as I lay trying to fall asleep…

    You know, a lot seems to boil down to the "conservatives" acting like they are the "aggrieved weaker brother", but at the same time, when it gets right down to it act like CCM is the meat offered to idols (worldly), while conservative music is the "more acceptable" offering. It's true.

    The problem is: God doesn't have to accept ANYTHING! Paul counted everything as dung and as loss. He didn't put anything in the gain pile except Christ. NO sacrifice is good enough. Not mine, not yours.

    I'm sorry, but ultimately Wesley (and even Handel) may no more be in the "gain" pile than whatever this band called Redeemed are (I don't know them). It is we who make the distinctions.

    Yet God does accept the sacrifices of we who are redeemed. For some, this means they can praise God without worrying every second that they are doing it in just the right form according to "somebody". If we always only went for the "best" (Wesley over whatever), then the widow's penny would never be accepted over the prominent member's precisely calculated 10 percent; but sometimes God prefers that grubby penny, and most people have one to give if you let them.

    Let God ultimately make the distinctions about quality and whether there is some cut-off as to acceptability. Let's consider ourselves each the chief of sinners. This is something we all have to bless God for gratefully through all eternity.

  86. I wish there was a 'like' button on this blog.

    Unfortunately, this type of experience on both sides is more often than not the root of the problem. We really do need grace to abound.

  87. Thanks Kevin. This is a common line of defense and well thought out. The problem is that I disagree with your presupposition:

    "Dig a little deeper = the emotional aspect includes aesthetics/beauty as part of the image of God (God’s character is objective – certain things objectively reflect it and certain things don’t reflect it)"

    I don't think that things objectively don't reflect God's character. I believe all of His creation objectively reflects His character and is inherently good. When he gave free will to parts of His creation (humans and angels), they no longer objectively reflect His glory inherently, but rather they bring glory to Him (or not) with every decision they make. (We'll leave the discussion of angels being confirmed in righteousness for another day). And yes, after the fall, all mankind has that 'old man' inside pulling us toward evil. But it is still the free will of the individual with the help of the Spirit.

    Stepping outside the human realm, I do not think certain things are inherently evil (or non-reflective). Certain plants are not evil. Certain forests are not evil. Certain cars are not evil. Certain musical instruments are not evil. Things cannot be inherently evil. In fact, evil cannot exist without good. It is a perversion of what is good. Drugs are not good, but the abuse of drugs are evil. Sex is not evil, the perversion of sex as God intended it is evil. Etc. Etc.

    Without this presupposition, the argument falls apart.

    Perhaps you can give us an example of what you think would inherently be evil (or non-reflective) and why?

    —-

    Here are the cliff notes on my thoughts about music:

    I agree with you that music is a vehicle of expression. Music IS emotion if you will. To see this is true, watch any movie or TV show. The background music leads you to a certain emotion. Fear, sadness, grief, joy, celebration, love, etc. Music incites these emotions.

    I would also make the point that an emotional state is not evil in and of itself because they are a reflection of God. Fear is not evil – it is good to fear jumping off a cliff. Even anger is not evil – Jesus was angry in the temple and David was angry to hear Goliath curse God. But no emotion is evil in and of itself.

    Misdirected emotion can be evil. Fear when we should be trusting is wrong. Being happy in someone's pain is wrong just as grieving someone's success is wrong.

    Therefore, music is a good and powerful thing, but it can also be perverted into something sinful just as good medicine can be perverted into illicit drugs. If you drive an inappropriate emotion toward an inappropriate object, it becomes wrong. This is most easily seen with music that elicits anger because there are very few situations that appropriately call for anger. Words can obviously pervert otherwise good music.

    With this explanation, hopefully it become more clear why I say modern worship is better for me (and for many others including many who are lost). It certainly can be a distraction, and it certainly can misplace emotion, but if done well, it can lead me into joyful worship just as the music track of a movie during a victory scene can lead me to joy. This is true, of course, of traditional worship music as well.

    The emotion elicited very much depends on the personality of the hearer as well as their life experiences. There are few sounds as beautiful to me as the music of the 3 Tenors. I have an appreciation for classical music. To many however, it sounds awful. Based on where you grew up and what your personality and experiences are, different types of music elicit different emotions for each person.

    This is really what is behind the growth of modern worship. Today, this type of music is what most powerfully elicits emotion because it most closely connects with people's personality and experiences – much like a tuning fork. Couple that with words that drive you to the cross, and you have the powerful opportunity for much glory to be brought to Him as one passionately sings truth and surrender to Him. That is the essence of using God's creation (music) and our free will (words and the choice of music) to bring glory to Him.

  88. B Riley, you said…

    "You know, a lot seems to boil down to the “conservatives” … act like CCM is the meat offered to idols (worldly), while conservative music is the “more acceptable” offering. It’s true."

    and

    "God doesn’t have to accept ANYTHING! Paul counted everything as dung and as loss. He didn’t put anything in the gain pile except Christ. NO sacrifice is good enough. Not mine, not yours."

    My quick point is that the concept of a "sacrifice of praise" to God has been misunderstood by many on both sides of this issue. It doesn't have very much to do with a worship "experience" with or without music. Also, there ARE sacrifices that are acceptable to God. (Romans 12) And God DOES tell us in the Scriptures what that is. Here's a link to Dan Lucarini's lecture about this…because he says it better than I do…

    http://www.slideshare.net/danlucarini/its-not-abo

  89. Sorry, Brother Ripley, I've got almost no time.

    I'll try again, but this will be my last here. I'm sorry if this isn't clear enough. I'll really, really try to be clear.

    Two main possibilities:

    Possibility 1: Traditionalists / conservatives are right about music. If true, "progressive" music should not be used. I lean this way (but find it hard to demonstrate from Scripture except in broad lines).

    Possibility 2: "Progressives" are right. This is where Mike stands. I was speaking on his terms. Thus the following:

    "But if they are wrong, then as most “progressives” would say, this is a Romans 14 issue, right?

    If it is a Romans 14 issue…."

    Actually many comments appear to have an underlying assumption — it isn't a Romans 14 issue, but preference. So let's talk about that. If the "progressives" are right, there are two kinds of traditionalists:

    Person 2.a. Music is a preference. If preference is strong, charity demands we move slowly, but the traditionalist by preference would need to give some, too. That is what you were describing, and you are right. Romans 14 does not apply.

    Person 2.b. Music is a conviction, and we have a Romans 14 situation. The traditionalist is the weaker brother. The restrictions on the stronger brother of Romans 14 fully apply to corporate worship with the weaker brother. The weaker brother should never be expected to "give some" because for him it is sin.

    Mike said he wants to challenge people on whether their traditional/conservative view is well-grounded. That's entirely legitimate. Romans 14 does not preclude discussion / joint study of Scriptures on the matters at hand. It describes behaviour and attitudes towards brethren.

    I think you need to reevaluate some of what you said about Romans 14. It has some instructions for the weaker brother, too. It is very clear that BOTH approaches to the matters it discusses are acceptable in God's eyes. There are instructions for the person who is unable to do something, and for the person who is able to do something.

    I do not see ANY basis for seeing the conservative as the "stronger brother" regarding music in Romans 14. I don't know where you are taking that from, certainly not from me. I've never claimed that. If we are in Possibility 2, and this is a Romans 14 issue, the conservative is the weaker brother. If we aren't in Possibility 2, it isn't a Romans 14 stronger/weaker case, it's a discernment question.

    Perhaps you've conflated something I said with someone else with whom I might not agree at all.

    As being weak in another way, I'm going to unsuscribe from this thread now. :) If someone disagrees with something I wrote, I apologize for being unclear, because I'm sure we're all on the same page 100%, right? :)

  90. @jon

    Thanks for the reply. I will try to be more clear.

    The crux of my point lies here:

    "Person 2.b. Music is a conviction, and we have a Romans 14 situation. The traditionalist is the weaker brother. The restrictions on the stronger brother of Romans 14 fully apply to corporate worship with the weaker brother. The weaker brother should never be expected to “give some” because for him it is sin."

    I was not trying to deal with "mere preferences", but fully appreciate that conservatives hold many convictions in many areas. So, let's talk about 2.b.

    Now, I do apologize for possibly conflating anything you have said with anything you haven't. I am not trying to put words in your mouth or falsely accuse you of anything. Nor am I trying to go easy on the progressives. I am, in fact trying to follow in the vein of the article and not make a judgement about the actual music in question one way or the other. I am trying to look at principles and encourage open hones dealing with the issues, just as Ryan…

    Having said that, you brought up Romans 14 (maybe others did too). You seem to be saying that it is a Romans 14 issue, but that progressives would like for it not to be (that to them it is simply preference and taste). You seem to be saying that if it is a matter of conviction, as conservatives would say, then the onus is on the progressive to honor that and abstain from displaying in public their tastes (lack of convictions, as it were)?

    Well, that is exactly what I am attempting to address. And the "stronger" brother must honor the weaker, and the weaker is not expected to "give some"? Absolutely correct. I totally concur. So, we are 100% on the same page!

    Now, for the conservatives who "invoke" Romans 14: my encouragement/exhortation, is for those who purportedly have the higher view of scripture, the carefulness, the inside track on what Paul is saying, the tradition of good training and exposition in the scriptures, all that… to stop playing the weaker brother. To stop glibly saying, "well, I guess I am just the weaker brother in this situation, I guess you will have to indulge me."

    Yes, there are instructions for both the person able to do something, and the person unable to do something. For the person unable to do something: don't ask where the meat came from. Don't ask the musician where he learned his craft.

    But, we must ALL strive to be the stronger brother, every time! That is what I was attempting to say.

    If you truly believe your convictions are correct then get with Paul and be the stronger brother. Don't cop out and say, I am the weaker brother and my conviction is "just as acceptable" as the "stronger brothers", when you don't really think the progressive's "conviction" IS acceptable due to your more mature handling of scripture. The attitude of the conservative is usually that he is the weaker brother, and yet at the same time he thinks that were a progressive to really think it through and and study and grow and come to know God better and have the more "mature" approach that is indicated by guarding against any possible charms of wordliness, then he would inevitably come to the same convictions about music.

    Either they (meat in the example) are both acceptable or not. Either you are striving with Paul to be the stronger brother, or you are not. You can't have it both ways, that's all I am saying.

    No, the progressive is just as much the weaker brother: he believes his music and worship must "come from the heart" and that the talents and gifts he has, as unhoned and undisciplined as they may be, are just as pleasing to God even if they were misused by the world. While the conservative as the stronger brother can say, hey, I know that "feels good", but sometimes it is "better" to "suppress" our natural tendencies and abstain from any possible connotation with the world's music; God is pleased with my discipline in this area; but I won't let that stop the progressive element and the guy off the street from worshipping God "from their hearts" in the only way they know how.

    Great, then we can all look out for each other. That's the idea. Glad we are on the same page.

  91. @jon [I misplaced this comment above and an inconsistent screen name got inserted, sorry for that. I hope this comment now inserts in the correct place]

    Thanks for the reply. I will try to be more clear.

    The crux of my point lies here:

    "Person 2.b. Music is a conviction, and we have a Romans 14 situation. The traditionalist is the weaker brother. The restrictions on the stronger brother of Romans 14 fully apply to corporate worship with the weaker brother. The weaker brother should never be expected to “give some” because for him it is sin."

    I was not trying to deal with "mere preferences", but fully appreciate that conservatives hold many convictions in many areas. So, let's talk about 2.b.

    Now, I do apologize for possibly conflating anything you have said with anything you haven't. I am not trying to put words in your mouth or falsely accuse you of anything. Nor am I trying to go easy on the progressives. I am, in fact trying to follow in the vein of the article and not make a judgement about the actual music in question one way or the other. I am trying to look at principles and encourage open hones dealing with the issues, just as Ryan…

    Having said that, you brought up Romans 14 (maybe others did too). You seem to be saying that it is a Romans 14 issue, but that progressives would like for it not to be (that to them it is simply preference and taste). You seem to be saying that if it is a matter of conviction, as conservatives would say, then the onus is on the progressive to honor that and abstain from displaying in public their tastes (lack of convictions, as it were)?

    Well, that is exactly what I am attempting to address. And the "stronger" brother must honor the weaker, and the weaker is not expected to "give some"? Absolutely correct. I totally concur. So, we are 100% on the same page!

    Now, for the conservatives who "invoke" Romans 14: my encouragement/exhortation, is for those who purportedly have the higher view of scripture, the carefulness, the inside track on what Paul is saying, the tradition of good training and exposition in the scriptures, all that… to stop playing the weaker brother. To stop glibly saying, "well, I guess I am just the weaker brother in this situation, I guess you will have to indulge me."

    Yes, there are instructions for both the person able to do something, and the person unable to do something. For the person unable to do something: don't ask where the meat came from. Don't ask the musician where he learned his craft.

    But, we must ALL strive to be the stronger brother, every time! That is what I was attempting to say.

    If you truly believe your convictions are correct then get with Paul and be the stronger brother. Don't cop out and say, I am the weaker brother and my conviction is "just as acceptable" as the "stronger brothers", when you don't really think the progressive's "conviction" IS acceptable due to your more mature handling of scripture. The attitude of the conservative is usually that he is the weaker brother, and yet at the same time he thinks that were a progressive to really think it through and and study and grow and come to know God better and have the more "mature" approach that is indicated by guarding against any possible charms of wordliness, then he would inevitably come to the same convictions about music.

    Either they (meat in the example) are both acceptable or not. Either you are striving with Paul to be the stronger brother, or you are not. You can't have it both ways, that's all I am saying.

    No, the progressive is just as much the weaker brother: he believes his music and worship must "come from the heart" and that the talents and gifts he has, as unhoned and undisciplined as they may be, are just as pleasing to God even if they were misused by the world. While the conservative as the stronger brother can say, hey, I know that "feels good", but sometimes it is "better" to "suppress" our natural tendencies and abstain from any possible connotation with the world's music; God is pleased with my discipline in this area; but I won't let that stop the progressive element and the guy off the street from worshipping God "from their hearts" in the only way they know how.

    Great, then we can all look out for each other. That's the idea. Glad we are on the same page.

  92. Why is it that the conservative side has to prove its case directly from scripture while the progressive side does not? Where is the scriptural proof for the progressive position?

  93. Hi Paul. As I have stated in some of my other posts, I am **not** saying the more conservative side must only use Scripture. One of my points though, is that there clearly isn't any prescriptive scripture that addresses this issue, and therefore since my finite and sinful mind must get involved as I come to my own conviction, I should be more gracious and understanding of differing positions including the occasional deferment to the other side in order to preserve unity. Basically, since it's not prescriptive, I need to hold to that conviction with a looser grip.

    Since there is no prescriptive passage in Scripture, we must apply the principles of Scripture to come to our convictions.

    However, what I do reject and what I often see as an argument from the fundamental side, is relying on the argument that you just need to be 'mature enough' or something of the like. Often times, and several times in this discussion, it has been implied that I (or my side if I'm not to take it personally) am just not mature enough or sensitive enough to the things of God. We don't really know how to handle Scripture or we haven't seriously grappled with the conservative argument yet. Those arguments reek of arrogance.

    In determining a conviction, you have to start with Scripture, obviously. If there is no prescriptive answer, you look for principles you can draw from and apply discernment and logic. But in that case your convictions need to hold logical water. Just implying that a believer who is mature enough or one who is 'truly sensitive' would come to a certain conclusion is not enough. On what basis? By what reason? Someone mentioned in these posts about a desensitized conscience toward the music of Strauss. Clearly, one can sear the conscience. Paul states as much. But you will also find many examples in Scripture of people who have let the pendulum swing the other direction and fabricate convictions where there is no Scripture or valid logic to stand on. Romans 14 is a perfect example as B Ripley has stated. One can EASILY create an overly sensitive conscience.

    Now, there are scenarios where I need to make a determination based on how I believe the Spirit leads me. But those are things I hold as preferences and should not be so bold as to insist that other follow my preference.

    It is a large logical leap to go from "God tells us to love holiness and purity to that music is unholy and impure". Why? Just because you think it is or that you feel uncomfortable? How do I know you don't struggle with legalism and that you haven't manufactured an overly sensitive conscience? How do I know you don't feel uncomfortable because of your personal baggage? I sometimes chuckle when my more conservative brother harps on someone more progressive about his talk of feelings in worship when in reality the more conservative one has come to his conviction with no biblical basis, a weak logical argument, and his 'feelings' about what is unholy or what is not.

    "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." God wants us to know truth. He is not in the business of keeping secrets from us or hiding the better truth for those who are 'really mature'. He will make His truth plain to anyone who seeks. If your argument cannot find definitive help in Scripture, has logical holes, and is left with resorting to saying that you must be mature enough or sensitive enough to the Spirit in order to see this secret truth that only a few can see, I think you have a preference at best and you should hold it loosely.

    ——

    Thank you all for indulging me on your blog. Thank you for letting the outsider give his opinion. I truly say none of this with contempt. I have been where you are. I went to a Bob Jones high school in CO. I went to a fundamentalist bible college before going to seminary elsewhere. I just ask you to really think through your position on music. Consider that perhaps you have manufactured an overly sensitive conscience in your sincere desire to follow our Lord. That's what I did. What are your logical arguments besides feeling guilty? Don't only discuss this with people who agree with you. The arguments from the far right are wrought with straw men. I was amazed to find out how different the actual arguments were of these supposed liberals than what I was told their beliefs were. Seek out another biblical scholar who disagrees and have a series of real, honest, and charitable discussions. If you are right, then you have nothing to fear. Finally, be sure to give your brothers and sisters who disagree the benefit of the doubt. We are not simply compromising or taking the easy road or trying to get a bigger church. We are following God just like you are.

    Thanks again for indulging me in 'your space'. God bless all of you.

  94. I didn't say anything in God's creation was inherently evil. God created all things for us to enjoy. However, things in God's creation can be twisted so that in its twisted state it is now in and of itself OBJECTIVELY evil. One can't say, well I don't subjectively see the twisted state as being evil so I guess I can glorify God b/c it after all was originally created by God.

    e.g. emotions/musical notes are not inherently evil just as letters of the alphabet or not inherently evil – put them together into a form of communication with objective interpretation attached and THAT communication can possibly be in and of itself evil.

  95. By the way, the question about whether one believes in total depravity is to drive home the point that there MUST be a possibility of a form of communication in music that can possibly reflect depravity since music is simply an outflow of expression from one's possibly depraved heart seeking to express itself.

    A twisted form is objectively POSSIBLE and identifiable.

    With that presupposition, then the guiding principles can be set forth (which I don't intend to do here on the blog b/c many books have been written on the subject: Sound Worship, Measuring the Music…).

    Now, one can disagree with those guidelines of course. Hence, the title of this article = music IS going to be a controversy no matter what. But we can't pretend that it's not or that it SHOULDN'T be. Good vs. Evil is at stake.

    The way the aforementioned Bible College handled it's changing application of its principles was to marginalize those who think that this IS a vital philosophical issue that allows them to stay or leave – not something that can simply be changed without consequence.

  96. Pastor Ryan,

    I’m reading your original post for the first time. I’m not sure what to think when you introduce what seems to be some sort of comparison of a man cursing at you inside a Walmart store. I wonder whether that is some sort of confusing of categories, because I have yet to observe any cursing within modern worship music. Walmart isn’t the church. The Walmart store isn’t a Baptist church, nor a reformed church, nor any church. In fact, my understanding is that Walmart sells many music CD titles where we are likely to find on the cover of the CD a “Parental Advisory, Explicit Content” warning. Thus, since Walmart is not the church, I don’t understand the comparison.

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