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Two pieces that complement each other. Carl Trueman is spot-on about Christians trying to fit into today’s world, and well, my dad is also spot-on about “the new normal” we find ourselves living in. Same point, well-made from two different angles.

This paragraph is brilliant from Trueman:

You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.

My dad:

What we desperately need is not a “new normal.”  We need an unashamed return to the biblical values that helped to shape this country long ago.  We need a return to God as Redeemer – the God who can take a renegade, broken-down culture and heal it, put it back together, and restore a God-designed normalcy.  We need a return to the truth that actually sets people free – free from the tyranny of sin whether that sin is pride, selfishness, greed or homosexuality.

Amen and amen.

Avoiding Convenience

This post the other day by Fernando Ortega about modern hymnwriting scratched me where I itch. Money quote:

It took some real thought to craft those lines. They’re timeless. They set a standard for all of us who write music for the church … Be specific when you write songs about God. Avoid cliché. Avoid convenience. Avoid an obsession with the consumer. Avoid the temptation to make commercial success your central goal. Write with intelligence, employing all the craft, skill, and experience with which God has endowed you.

 Too many worship songs today suffer from convenience — they’re cheap and easy and won’t last. Ortega came up with a quick modern example of what he calls “convenient” songwriting — “God, you are a holy God/I need your grace to see me through/I need your mercy to make me new/Let me live each day for you” and then  points to an old hymn as an example of how to do it right (plus you get to hear him sing it — score!).

Posted the link on Facebook and got a lot of agreement, but a little discussion saying old isn’t always good and new isn’t always bad, etc.

Agreed, but I don’ think that was the main point.  As I said there, I don’t think something has to be old and hard to understand to mean something. I think Ortega is arguing for modern hymnwriting, but in a way that actually means something.

People like the Gettys and Stuart Townend do a good job — with modern language and music — of what he’s talking about in the post. But doing that is a lot harder than the more “convenient” type of songwriting, so it’s more rare, which means that in the name of modernity and relevance, we end up with a lot of stuff that isn’t wrong or sinful, but also isn’t really that good and leaves you unsatisfied.

We still sing the old songs that we sing precisely because they’re good and have stood the test of time. I’m sure there’s a lot of 1600s-era hymns that they sang back in the day that haven’t survived.

To use a modern example, I’d bet $100 that in 100 years, our great-great grandkids are a lot more likely to be singing “In Christ Alone” than “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” But maybe that’s just me.