I’m Still Making Changes

Hey everyone. I’m still making changes to the blog to make it easier. This will serve as a notice that this blog is always a work in progress and a test to see if the new sharing function is truly working. Peace…in Him.


The Legacy of Clark Pinnock

            I learned today of the death of a great, but controversial theologian, particularly those of us from a Southern Baptist background.  Christianity Today announced it this way, “Clark H. Pinnock’s life journey is over. The influential and often controversial evangelical theologian died unexpectedly August 15 of a heart attack. He was 73. In March, the long-time professor of systematic theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, had announced he was withdrawing from public life and revealed that he was battling Alzheimer’s disease.”  The article goes on to describe some of Pinnock’s contributions: “Pinnock came to the United States in 1965 and taught at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he became an influential figure in the Southern Baptist Convention’s battles over biblical inerrancy. From 1969-1974 he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and from 1974-1977 at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.”

            The article elaborates further on what Pinnock became primarily known for:  “The trajectory of his thinking also took him from a Reformed to a neo-Arminian view of salvation. Early on he had maintained ‘that Calvinism was just scriptural evangelicalism in its purest expression.’ But by the late 1990s theologians like R.C. Sproul and J.I. Packer were denouncing him. Pinnock kept pushing the envelope, championing the concept of ‘open theism,’ which emphasizes God’s self-limitation in dealing with humans, including his vulnerability. He argued that God could be surprised by events and persuaded to change a decision.

“This positioning was anathema to many in the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), who insisted God knows and has even planned the entire future, and that open theism undermines confidence in God. The controversy bubbled along for nearly a decade, and came to a head in 2002 when Pinnock was nearly expelled from the ETS. His membership situation was satisfactorily resolved a year later. Even his opponents acknowledged that Pinnock considered the Bible the primary source for theology, and that his arguments were anchored in Scripture.”

I remember when Open Theism was the big hot topic right around my senior year at William Tyndale College.  I also remember being very much appalled by it.  At the time, I openly (no pun intended) called it heresy.  I was much more dogmatic in my theology back then.  I take a bit more lenient view now and try to temper my arguments with love and grace in response to my own weird spiritual journey, but I can say at this point, that I do not embrace this theology.  Perhaps I will write more on that later.

Although I was aware of Pinnock’s beliefs on open theism, I was sadly not aware of his contributions earlier on during the inerrancy debates of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  Even though in his later years, Pinnock moved away from some of his inerrancy positions, he was a major contributor in favor of biblical inerrancy.  Russell Moore says this about Pinnock: “A list of his former students during that time is amazing to anyone with any grasp of the history of Southern Baptists and the inerrancy controversy: Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, Adrian Rogers, and on and on. I cannot think of a single figure of crucial importance in the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention who is more than two steps away from Pinnock’s direct influence.” I have had the privilege of hearing all the men listed above preach in person.  The influence that he had on Southern Baptists is immense.

I trace my own salvation back to an autumn day in 1994 when I drove off of the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia and up Candler’s Mountain Road to smoke a cigarette.  I popped a tape in that my mother had sent me of Evangelist Bailey Smith, a one-time President of the SBC.  As I pulled back into the gravel pit parking lot at Liberty, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart and I bowed my head and gave my life to Christ.   If there ever is a Southern Baptist Hall of Fame, you would put Bailey Smith’s name in there.  My point is that if you can trace Pinnock’s influence to the men listed above, and surely those men have influenced their contemporaries like Smith, then I have Clark Pinnock to partially thank for leading me to Christ. 

It is strange indeed that a man that so many on the far right consider a heretic had such a major influence on fundamental and evangelical theology.   Christianity Today acknowledges this theological slide and the vitriol that surrounded it, but still places him among a school of theologians that left an indelible mark on theology today.  Pinnock’s unique look at this is worth of note.  According to the article, he is quoted as saying, “Not only am I often not listened to, I am also made to feel stranded theologically: being too much of a free thinker to be accepted by the evangelical establishment and too much of a conservative to be accepted by the liberal mainline.”  I can relate as I have often described myself as too conservative for my evangelical friends and too liberal for my fundamentalist friends.  It’s a tough line to walk.

I think it is sad that while we cannot ignore the teachings of Pinnock that we disagree with, some people will insist on reviling him.  One of the comments on Moore’s blog said (and I have not edited any of the typos):

It is nonsense like this that explain the decrepit condition of modern American Christianity. True Christians have NOTHING to be thankful for regarding this false teacher.

By Biblical standards, Clark Pinnock was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an idotalter. He spat in the face of the God of the Bible, and endeavored to create his own pathetic “god” out of the imaginiations of his depraved heart. And then he did everythign he could to pullute the church with his vile teachings.

There are people burning in hell today because they forsook the Word of God to follow the Satan-inspired nonsense of Clark Pinnock. And now he has received his just due reserved for all of those of such ilk.

It is blatant ignorance on this responder’s part not to recognize that he could not take the stand that he does on the inerrancy of the Word of God if it was not for Pinnock.  Thankfully, someone reminded this anonymous blogger named Tom (he cowardly left out his last name) about David’s response when he heard of the death of Saul:

Dr. Moore’s article reminds me of David’s lament for Saul (and Jonathan) in 2 Samuel 1. I am sure many in David’s army thought that David’s words about Saul were nonsense. Saul’s disobedience was serious; so serious, God rejected him as King. Yet, when David learned that Saul had died, he wrote his gracious lament that the mighty had fallen and focused on the good that Saul had done. A lesser man than David (or a man of lesser faith than David) could not have written that lament. I don’t know Dr. Moore, but it seems to me that the gracious faith that moved David so long ago helped Dr. Moore write this article yesterday.

Below is that lament from the New International Version and I think it is appropriate to remember the legacy of Pinnock this way.  He was a great theologian that I did not always agree with, but I believe he was simply a believer trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.  Some vilified him for it and some praised him for it, but he was left stuck in the middle.  Theology may just be the most overlooked and dangerous profession of them all.

“Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.
       How the mighty have fallen!

  “Tell it not in Gath,
       proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
       lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
       lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

  “O mountains of Gilboa,
       may you have neither dew nor rain,
       nor fields that yield offerings of grain .
       For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
       the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

  “From the blood of the slain,
       from the flesh of the mighty,
       the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
       the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.

  “Saul and Jonathan—
       in life they were loved and gracious,
       and in death they were not parted.
       They were swifter than eagles,
       they were stronger than lions.

  “O daughters of Israel,
       weep for Saul,
       who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
       who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

  “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
       Jonathan lies slain on your heights.

  “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
       you were very dear to me.
       Your love for me was wonderful,
       more wonderful than that of women.

  “How the mighty have fallen!
       The weapons of war have perished!”

Why I Read

Now that I am no longer participating in a major online group, I thought I would try and turn my attention once again to putting up more blogs. Since I graduated from seminary, I can now read what I want. Left to my own devices, I would probably just read fiction and escape into a world that doesn’t offer as much stress, but I have found that I need to read non-fiction also and keep up with my own intellectual growth. What works for me is to rotate fiction and non-fiction. Today, I would like to introduce to you a tool that I have been using for a while now that helps me keep track of the books that I want to read. I have posted a new link on my blog will take you to Google Books. The link is under “Blogroll” (although I might move it later) and says “”My Google Library.” Google Books has allowed me to stay more organized in regards to books that I hear about and want to check out. Here is the problem for me: I only have so much time and I am quite convinced that if I read every book recommended to me that I would not have enough time left in the rest of my life, even if I quit my job. I always have people tell me, “You need to read this; it’s a good book!” Well, there are lots of good books and I am not interested in reading good books. I am interested in reading the best books.  That’s really all the time that I have.

As far as fiction goes, I have on order the ninth book in the eleven-book Timeline 191 series by Harry Turtledove. According to the Wikipedia article, “Timeline-191 is a fan name given to a series of Harry Turtledove alternate history novels, including How Few Remain as well as the Great War, American Empire, and Settling Accounts series. The name is derived from Robert E. Lee’s Special Order 191, which detailed the Army of Northern Virginia’s invasion of the Union in September 1862 during the American Civil War. The divergence occurs when Union forces do not find a copy of Special Order 191, on September 10, 1862. The novels detail the consequences of this up until 1944 in the alternate world.” The ninth book in the series is the second book in the tetralogy, Settling Accounts and it is entitled, Settling Accounts: Drive To The East. After I finish my current read, I will be delving into this book and hope to have the entire series finished by the end of the year. I have been reading this series since 2007! As I said, seminary never really let me read what I wanted to so while I was in class, so I stopped reading fiction and pretty much only read assigned books with a few exceptions. After I finish the “191” series, I hope to read the two books that I have not read yet by John Grisham, who is, without a doubt, my favorite author. The two I have not yet read are Ford County, which is a collection of short stories, and his new upcoming book, The Confession.

As far as non-fiction goes, I have two loves/interests. The first, of course, is theology. I want to keep up my interest and keep myself informed and balanced on this subject. This is the book I am currently reading called The Christian Atheist. It was given to me by a friend for graduation. So far it is very good. I also have on order Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs which was also recommended to me by a friend. This book would fall into one those “exception” categories I was talking about. Every now and then, a book comes along that I just want to read more than what my system will allow. Because of the nature of this book being in short chapters, I will probably read it on the side while I am reading other books. Generally, I only read one book at a time, unless they are two very distinctly different books. I once tried reading two fiction books at the same time and ended up getting the stories crossed.

The other love/interest is history, particularly American history. Because of this, I have set a goal of reading a book on each of the Presidents of the United States…yes, even the bad ones! I have currently read one on Washington, Adams, and Jefferson and will be reading one on James Madison after I finish Drive To The East.

As you can see, my reading list keeps me quite busy. I am hoping that, at some point in my life, I will enjoy reading more than television, but that has not happened…yet. I would encourage all of you to be veracious readers, most importantly, of God’s Word, but also, of other books as well. I have met Christians who will not read anything other than Christian non-fiction. Not to be critical, but generally speaking, these have been some of the most unimaginative people I have ever met. Reading fiction really keeps my imagination in the right place and it also helps me escape to a world that is unfamiliar and engaging. Like I said, fiction is my favorite. Another thing that I would suggest is to read books that you know you will probably disagree with. If you click on the link, you will see that one of the books on my list is Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger Olson. I heard Olson interviewed on “Converse With Scholars” a while back and was very impressed with his knowledge of this subject and made a point to read him, even though I know I will probably not agree with him. How else can I engage in a conversation with someone of a more-Arminian persuasion if I do not know anything about the subject? Reading something you disagree with also fires up your own imagination and helps you to continue to think critically. So check out my Google Books library and let me know what you think.

Biblical Lessons from Lebron and Lindsay

            So all of Ohio is buzzing about Lebron James’ decision to not return to the Cavaliers.  Dan Gilbert has posted an online letter blasting Lebron which just seems to show a severe lack of professionalism.  It really is just symptomatic of what truly is the issue here.  On my way out to lunch a couple of days ago, I caught the opening of Rush Limbaugh when he said with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek that no one seemed to be reporting that Lindsay Lohan had obscenities written on her fingernails during her recent court appearance where she was sentenced to 90 days in jail.  Of course, Limbaugh was being facetious.  It seems that the news has been buzzing non-stop about Lebron and Lindsay.

            Why are we so shocked as a nation when our heroes let us down?  We lift them up like demi-gods and expect them to do no wrong and when they eventually screw up, we chastise them for their behavior.  Our expectations are so high when it comes to the cult of celebrity in our culture that when their shiny façade is shattered, so is our trust in all of humanity.  It’s time for a gut check here, people.  The only good inside of us is the good that God placed there. We cannot be flabbergasted when unbelievers do sinful things.  It’s in their nature.  For that matter, we cannot be shocked when believers do sinful things.  We will, of course, be more disappointed when one of our own fumbles, but we are still only human and we will all eventually do some really stupid and sinful things that we are ashamed of.  It might not be as public and humiliating as, say Ted Haggard for instance, but at some point in our life and even some point in our Christian life, we will let somebody down.

            Psalm 9:9-10 says, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  If you trusted in Lindsay Lohan’s squeaky-clean childhood image to get her through life, you have been severely disappointed. If Ohioans put their trust in Lebron to stay in Ohio, they were severely disappointed last night.  Gilbert went so far as to say that Lebron “deserted” the Cavaliers.[1]  Here is a blessed and biblical truth: God will never desert you. He will never forsake you.  He will never leave you.  He is the only one…let me write it again ‘cause I’m getting excited and wish I could shout this from a pulpit right now…He is the only One who we can always trust and will never let us down!

            So put down your People, your US Weekly, and any other celebrity-worshipping magazine and pick up your Bible and read the words of a God who will always do what He says, no matter what.  He’s proven it in the past and you can read all about it.  He will do it again and you can read all about that, too.  He’s the God who is loyal to the end, regardless of the circumstances and he won’t leave you for a better contract or the chance to win a championship.  He’s already won!

[1] http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/gilberts_letter_to_fans_james.html

Why I Am No Longer Charismatic

Yesterday, I posted a blog about why I am no longer reformed.  Today, I want to talk about something else I am not.  I am no longer charismatic.  I need to take a moment here and define these terms so that you know what I am saying. 

At one point in my life, I used to consider myself a Pentecostal.  I had an experience in 1999 where I professed to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.  Pentecostals, historically and theologically coming out of the Methodist/Holiness movement, believe that all believers can have this second blessing and that if you have this blessing, you will speak in tongues.  For Pentecostals, this is a staple in their theology.  Theologically, speaking in tongues, for the Pentecostal, is not an option; it is a command for all believers to pursue.  Like I said, I used to define myself as a Pentecostal, but I do not think that I ever fully believed this.  I had to categorize my experience and at the time, that is where I chose to categorize it.  Later on, I moved into what is now traditionally known as charismatic theology.  I believed that certain believers were given the gift of tongues, but others were not.  Historically speaking, charismatic believers rose out of mainline denominations in the 50’s and 60’s during what is known as the Charismatic Renewal.  For the majority of the last decade, this was my stance on this issue. 

There is another category, mostly for historic purposes, called the Third Wave.  If you wanted to pigeon-hole me, I would be the closest to this category, but what I have found is that as my beliefs have evolved, my emphasis has become less on having one particular manifestation of a gift on a person and more on generally allowing the Holy Spirit to move the way that He wills.  Because of this, I now believe that tongues will manifest themselves at the Spirit’s enablement and I do not really get into people seeking after them.  I believe that believers need to know that all gifts are relevant today, but per Corinthians, I would much rather see people excel in gifts that build up the church.  As such, I de-emphasize tongues to make it even with the other gifts and as such, I do not believe that I could be called a charismatic.  Perhaps I am wrong about that, but while at one point in my life, I would have major issues belonging to a church that did not “practice the gifts,” I no longer have those qualms.  My concern is that people have a general openness to whatever the Holy Spirit wants to do in their lives.

The beauty of about growing theologically is that it is like an onion; you just keep peeling off layers and layers until you get underneath all of it.  My opinions on being charismatic may change again, but right now, this is where I’m at and I’m very grateful to be here.

Why I Am No Longer Reformed

For a while now, I have been considering making a major theological change.  Really, it is more of a recognition of something that has been on my heart for awhile.  Since 2003, I have been a member of a group online defining itself as being both reformed and charismatic.  I joined the group in early 2003 after leaving the Assemblies of God church that I was a member of because of the discovery that I was a Calvinist.  But much has happened in the last seven years and just moments ago, after having been called names and accused of some rather vicious things, I made the decision to leave the group, no longer being able to tolerate the growing divisive attitude in the group.  Some of you think, “Big deal…it’s just an online group,” but it was much more that to me.  They were very intregal in helping to shape my theology and many people on the board are great people.  I just realized that the terms “reformed” and “charismatic” were terms that I was hiding behind and I also believe that many in that group and in the reformed camp are guilty of the same thing.

So let’s just get this out in the open: I am no longer reformed, but let me tell you what I mean by that.  The fact is, I may never have been.  One pastor on that board posted a definition of “reformed” that included being a member of a reformed denomination.   I do not agree fully with this person’s position, but will grant him the point that since I have never been a member of a denomination that is reformed, you could make that case.  The church that I grew up in was Southern Baptist.  I attended a Pentecostal Baptist church (yes, I wrote that right) while in undergrad before we joined the Assemblies of God Church.  The church that I became affiliated with while in seminary was the Evangelical Free Church.  It takes no official position on Calvinism or Arminianism.  Our membership is currently at The Chapel in North Canton, Ohio and while it does not take an official position, the doctrine that is taught is primarily of a Baptist flavor and most likely a hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism.  As I said, if that is your definition of reformed, then I have never been reformed.  However, I have tentatively embraced all five points of Calvinism.  I have described myself though as a “questioning Calvinist.”  I have a lot of questions particularly in regards to the doctrine of Limited Atonement.  I firmly now believe that Jesus died for all of humanity, not just the elect.  The best explanation of this is Driscoll’s explanation of “unlimited limited atonement,” but that isn’t the only question that I have.  The others seem rather minor compared to that one.  Anyway, my point is that since I embrace all five points of Calvinism, I did consider myself reformed.  The reason that I no longer consider myself reformed is that it seems that those who want or desire to be labeled as “reformed” seem to think that the Reformation stopped around the 16th century.  No, it continues today.  We are to be “ever reforming” in the best sense of the reformers.  We are to be on offense, not always on defense, defending the fortress of Calvinism.  I have observed that the current state of the reformed camp places more emphasis on defending the fort, than advancing onto new ground.  My desire is to bring people to Jesus, not necessarily to some academic agreement to a particular theology.  I’ll still teach and preach that God is sovereign in all things, but I’ll let the Holy Spirit deal with the specifics in each individual believer’s heart.  I still believe that theology is important; indeed, I believe it is everything, but I’m not here to shove it down their throats and I will not break fellowship with those who believe differently that I do on that issue.  I do not believe that Calvinism or “being reformed” is the gospel.  The gospel is John 3:16.

So there you have it.  I’m not even sure if I was ever reformed, but you know what?  I don’t really care anymore.  I just want to love and serve Jesus.  At the end of my life, I am not going to be asked whether or not I am a reformed or a Calvinist.  What matters is what I do with Jesus.  That means everything.

The Future of Christian Rock

I’m reading a fascinating book called Body Piercing Saved My Life. It is a look inside the world of Christian Rock from an outsider’s point of view.  The author is a writer for Spin magazine.  This book came out in 2006 and I’m not quite sure how I missed it.  My best guess is that it didn’t make much of a splash in seminary academia and since it seems like that was all I was consumed with at the time that is probably why I just missed it. 

            Anyway, just like, in a previous post, I mentioned that the show Madhouse had got me thinking about my geographical heritage, this book has got me thinking about my musical heritage.  I cut my teeth listening to country music.  And I’m not just talking about the pop country you hear today on the radio.  My parents probably owned every Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn album that ever came out on vinyl.  My parents listened to what is today considered classic country: George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Eddie Rabbit, Guy Clark, Exile, Alabama, etc.  But my favorite singer growing up was Barbara Mandrell.  First of all, she was very pretty.  Even being only 5 years old, I knew that.  Second, she could sing.  I remember watching her show Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters when I was very little and singing along to her songs as a kid.  Third, she did a gospel album.  In 1982, my parents purchased for me He Set My Life To Music.  It became one of the more formative albums for me, believe it or not.  Years later, I was able to purchase it on cassette tape and wore it out until it broke, just like I wore out the original record.  Another formative album for me was Amazing Grace by B.J. Thomas.  I remember listening to the songs “I Believe” and “Unclouded Day” and just loving it. 

            I think it is interesting when I look back on that phase of my life, that I never considered it odd that country artists were doing gospel albums.  As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until I began kindergarten at my Christian school that I learned that there were people who believed that such music was ungodly.  Despite the propaganda that was thrown at me for thirteen years of school, I never drank the Kool-Aid. 

            When I was around ten years old, there was one day when I just decided to start listening to “rock music.”  I remember the day very vividly.  I had brought my “boom box” with me on a shopping trip that my recently-widowed mother took with her Sunday School class.  I put my headphones on and turned over to the rock station.  The very first song that I heard was “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins.  Not too long after that, I heard George Harrison’s “I Got My Mind Set On You” (At ten years old, I had no idea that George Harrison was a Beatle).  I was hooked.  I began recording the radio using blank cassette tapes because I knew that my Mom couldn’t afford to really help me buy any music.  Around that time, I took a trip with my Godfather to a Gardner-Webb football game.  I can even remember who they were playing: Carson-Newman.  On the way back, I heard the pop station playing this song about heaven.  I finally figured out who sang it and went out and begged my Mom to buy the album Heaven On Earth by the beautiful and talented Belinda Carlisle.  She finally capitulated and it became the first ever “rock” album I ever owned. 

            Not long after that, I heard a song on the radio…something about sugar.  I recorded it off the radio and then took a pen and paper and listened and rewound the tape until I finally got all the lyrics to my very first hair metal song, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leopard. From that time on, my musical taste became harder and harder.  I loved the 80’s glam and hair metal bands and listened to a lot of Motley Crue, Poison, Warrant, Guns and Roses, and many more. 

            In 1990, there was a guy who went to my church named Kilroy.  Ok, that wasn’t his real name, but his call name.  He used to be a DJ at a local radio station and now he was working with the youth at my church.  I credit him for officially introducing me to Christian Rock.  The first album I ever fell in love with, and one that I still consider one of the greatest ever recorded, is Petra’s Beyond Belief.  Another favorite was Degarmo and Key’s The Pledge.  I was soon gobbling up all the Christian music I could get my hands on and thanks to Lemstone Books selling their old demo tapes for $3, it was much easier to talk my Mom into buying me albums.  About this time, I started getting an allowance, too, which made life just a little easier.  I bought the very first album by DC Talk (note that at that time they capitalized the first two letters) and despite people who want to be rather harsh to the album now, the follow-up to their debut, Nu Thang, was groundbreaking.  Of course, Free At Last became probably my favorite album of high school.  In 1995, when I lived in Michigan, I left class early to go purchase Jesus Freak the day it came out.  Jesus Freak is, in my humble opinion, the greatest Christian Rock album ever.

            Sometime in 1991, while watching MTV early in the morning, a band came on that just simply changed everything…again.  I still remember the first time I ever saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by the legendary Nirvana.  Shortly thereafter, I saw the video for this new group called the “Stone Temple Pilots” and things just evolved from there.  All of a sudden, there was a music that only fed my need to rock, but added some incredible and introspective lyrics (for the most part). 

            Some time around 1991 or 1992, I dated a girl named Amy.  I’ll spare you her last name in case I find her on Facebook or something.  Anyway, one night driving around, she pops this tape in of this band that I, of course, had heard of, but had never listened to any of their music.  The album was A Collection of Great Dance Songs by the legendary Pink Floyd.  If I would have known that music could be that good so long ago, I would have been listening for a long time.  One of my favorite songs then, and still today, was “Wish You Were Here.”  I remember that I really resonated with the lyrics, “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl…year after year…running over the same old ground….and how we found…the same old fear….wish you were here.”  It was at this point that I begin to physically change.  I began to dress, whenever I was not at school, in a fashion that was clearly in the grunge category.  I wore ripped up blue jeans, old t-shirts with “Baja’s” over them, and Birkenstocks.  I parted my hair in the middle and let it grow long during the summers when I could.  I think it was at this point that my music came full-circle.  I finally reached a point where I listened to music because I liked it, not because my friends were listening to it.  One of my favorite bands of all time is Creed.  They obtained massive commercial success, but most critics just didn’t like them.  However, I resonated with their lyrics and I still Mark Tremonti is one awesome guitar player.

            I’ve had a few phases since then.  Most of them are small phases, maybe a few weeks at the most, where I listen to a lot of one artist because they really speak to me.  At any given time, I have been into Sixpence None the Richer, Jars of Clay, the Kry, The Waiting, P.O.D., Project 86, etc.  My longest phase was probably around 1996 when I got really into club and house music.  And pretty much as soon as I got into it, I got out of it.  It was a complete fad for me. 

            Currently, there are a few artists that I just seem to go back to, for whatever reason.  Some of them include Johnny Cash, the Cars, Styx, Kansas, INXS (Primarily Kick), Jeremy Camp, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Project 86, Skillet, dc Talk, Petra, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, B.B. King, Evanescence, Linkin Park, Caedmon’s Call, Derek Webb, and numerous inde bands.  And I still think the most perfect song ever written is “My Girl.”  That’s right, I’m talking about “My Girl…”

            What is interesting to me is, as I said before, I never found anything unusual about “secular” singers making “gospel” albums.  And, despite the well-meaning people who proposed that Christian Rock could replace Secular Rock for all those Christians who still wanted to rock, it never happened for me.  As a matter of fact, I don’t know one person who stopped listening to “secular” music just because they listened to Christian music.  So here is what I think and here is where I think we are.  I think that there is no such thing as “Christian music.”  Christian should be a noun, not an adjective.  Music is music.  What makes music different is what it is made for.  Music that is made for church is either a hymn or a worship song.  Anything else that is not set apart for worship is simply music created for another purpose, most of the time for entertainment.  The acceptance of a separate genre for Christian Rock (the only genre, by the way, that is distinct because of lyrical content only) is the acceptance that our lives can somehow be divided between the secular and the sacred.  I think this is a false division.  The pastor who is called by God to stand behind the pulpit every week to proclaim the Word of God is just as called as the plumber who shows up to fix my toilet.  They both can or cannot be done to the glory of God. 

            I believe that musicians are also just as called by God.  Does there music necessarily have to give a direct presentation of the gospel in every song?  I don’t think so.  Music can be about love, hate, anger, depression, suicide, sex, drugs, you name it, and still be written by a Christian.  One such singer that I mentioned above, Derek Webb, comes to mind.  He writes love songs, songs about gay people, songs about the church…just songs.  To be a Christian does not mean that we stop being human or facing some of the common things that almost all humans go through.  Very few people, Christian or non-Christian, have not had their hearts broken in a relationship, be it romantic or otherwise.  To gloss over that pain with a trite message just to make the song “Christian” and acceptable to a certain market is not only being disingenuous, it could be sin.  On the other hand, there is a common joy that can be shared with another person over the birth of a child, the taste of a cheeseburger, the feel of wind in your hair as you drive 65 mph down the highway on a beautiful day.  These are all gifts of God and do not need our religious stamp of approval.  I am very grateful that many so-called Christian Rock artists have noticed this and have stepped up their game and started writing songs about life in general.  And I’m completely cool with that.  And there have been so-called “secular” artists who are Christians who have found creative ways to insert God into their music without it sounding trite or preachy and while maintaining their artistic integrity.  And I am also completely cool with that.

            So that is what I think, but what is the state of Christian Rock?  My opinion is that just like the housing bubble, there was a Christian Rock bubble that formed and at some point in the late ‘90’s or early 00’s, the bubble began to leak.  The genre of Christian Rock, as we have known it for the past 30 years or so, is slipping away.  Within 10 years or so, the scene will be dramatically different.  As the old guard continues to fade away, the new guard, with its emphasis on holistic music rather than a segregated “secular vs. sacred” mindset, will take over and Christian music will look very different.  I think that we will always have some form of “Christian Rock,” but its numbers will dramatically decline.  As long as there is a church, there will be music for it.  And as long as there are people who still believe that music can be Christian, there will be Christian Rock.  But with the coming ages, Christian artists are replacing Christian music and only time will truly tell what the music industry will look like for Christians.