Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Compare. Discuss.

N.B. -- Please do not take this (necessarily) as a criticism of contemporary worship music, except in the broadest sense of the word "criticism" -- i.e., evaluation. What is good about each? What could use improving? Why? Is there a drawback to the complexity in the older songs? Also, stole the first comparison from John Dekker.

Two Songs With the Same Title But Very Different Purposes...

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

– Charles Wesley, 1740.

Jesus, lover of my soul.
Jesus, I will never let You go.
You've taken me from the miry clay,
Set my feet upon a rock, and now I know.

I love You, I need You.
Though my world may fall,
I'll never let You go.
My Savior, my closest friend,
I will worship You until the very end

– John Ezzy, Daniel Grul & Steve McPherson, 1992.

And Two Songs With Different Titles But the Same Purpose (Love Songs For Jesus)...

Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Savior's brow
His head with radiant glories crowned
His lips with grace o'erflow

No mortal can with Him compare
Among the sons of men
Fairer is He than all the fair
Who fill the heavenly train

He saw me plunged in deep distress
And flew to my relief
For me he bore the shameful cross
And carried all my grief

To him I owe my life and breath
And all the joys I have
He makes me triumph over death
And saves me from the grave

- Samuel Stennett

Your Love Is Extravagant
Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, (mm-mm) intimate
I find I'm moving to the rhythms of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place
Your love is extravagant

Spread wide in the arms of Christ
Is a love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known
You considered me a friend
Capture my heart again

- Darrell Evans

What a Friend I've Found
What a friend I've found
Closer than a brother
I have felt your touch
More intimate than lovers
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, friend forever

What a hope I've found
More faithful than a mother
It would break my heart
To ever lose each other
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, friend forever

- Martin Smith


GloryandGrace said...

I appreciate the observation of the songs in your post! Back in the days of my youth (because they were so long ago), I absolutely loved singing the contemporary "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." However, it doesn't seem to go anywhere...there's no real weight to the song. My personal critique. There's a depth that seems to have been missed in some contemporary music. Don't hear me say ALL because there are definitely some incredible new ones, but there's a very good reason why I have been drawn to such musicians as those like Indelible Grace. The adoration for Jesus Christ, lyrics that demonstrate awareness of both indwelling sin and His matchless grace, seem to have either faded into the background or become nonexistent altogether and a large portion of contemporary worship music.

What do you think of the songs you posted--comparisons and contrasts considered.

Laura said...

I have to admit a bias against the last two songs -- love for Christ should never be put in the language of erotic or romantic love. If a man has to "get over" a general feeling of yickiness to be able to sing a song of love to the Lord... well, it's not much wonder to me that men are fleeing the church in droves! That might be overstating it a little bit, but seriously: passionately worshiping Christ should focus on His glory, His amazing attributes, not on how much he's better than a lover. Besides, I hate that word.

Laura said...


H, you know who you are. Stop lurking and comment or I'm calling Jared!

Bobby said...

A few things:
I don't want to get too boring with technical considerations, but the structure of old hymns will hold a lot of theology -- the structure of pop songs has a harder time doing that. Think of it like this: theology is weighty. If you have something that weighs a lot, you must place it on a structure that can support it.

Wesley's hymn, for instance, is in 77.77D meter (four lines of 7 syllables per line, doubled) with plenty of verses. He has room. And the trocaic lines are excellent for invoking because they start off with an accented syllable. It's emphatic.

The pop song -- for one thing, many, if not most pop writers start writing with a guitar in hand, playing some cool riffs and chord changes and then adding lyrics as they feel moved by the music. So they're creating a structure that is catchy, but it usually doesn't allow them to really dig into a subject.

Now, this isn't always bad. It's shallow -- and shallow isn't inherently wrong. I think the Church needs simple praise choruses AND grand hymns. My complaint is that the modern Church leans too much toward shallow choruses to the exclusion of hymns.

A hymn is not a praise song -- it's an instruction in praise, an effort at spiritual formation. Even those hymns that address God directly are also teaching us, the singers, HOW to praise God and WHY to praise God.

It's perfectly fitting, in between these kinds of songs, to have an occasional simple love song to Jesus (however, I too am against the "Jesus As My Boyfriend" trend in modern worship writing). It's a matter of balance.

Bobby said...

There are so many gems in Wesley's writings. Look at this verse from Jesus, Lover Of My Soul:

Just and holy is Thy Name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.

It's a perfect chiasmus, a poetic device often found in the Bible. The first and last lines are related, and the middle lines are related.

Look at what Wesley has done here. The first and last lines say "You, God, are holy and true." The middle lines say "I am unrighteous and false." So we have, in the positioning of these lines, our sinful, helpless souls, surrounded and encapsulated within the God of justice and grace.

Laura said...

Bobby, you frickin' rock. Can you please write a book, because that was so fascinating! I had never thought about song structure as a contributing factor to theological depth or shallowness.

And I agree with you about using both simple and complex songs in worship. A simple love song to our savior is great occasionally -- it's like a donut, or like champagne. But if all we ate was donuts or all we drank was champagne, we would be undernourished, right? (And possibly obese and hammered.) Those songs are sweet and easy to sing, but they shouldn't make up the majority of our worship diet.

We should all be warned by the observation (variously attributed to Luther, Gordon Fee, and Graham Kendrick): "Sing me your songs and I'll tell you your theology."

And isn't it trochaic? Because its a trochee, right? Man, my analytical brain LOVES that stuff about emphasis and everything.

Bobby is officially my favorite person of the moment.

Bobby said...

Thanks! And yeah, it's "trochaic." Because it's a trochee.

Actually one of my goals is to write a hymn-writing book. But I have to write more hymns and get them in more churches first.

I want to write a book on hymn-writing that is very accessible and written for worship leaders and writers who don't have a background in hymns or in metered poetry. Something that won't intimidate them, and that will get them to think of this kind of writing as a style that is still relevant and still needed.

I'd use examples from Watts, Wesley, Newton, and the like, but also modern metrical writers like Keith Getty, as well as examples of secular songs that have strict meters, from artists like Dylan and the Stones.

The Edge said...

Great topics here, and be assured Bono was well regarded.

Laura said...

Welcome, "The."

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

Rabby said...

An I'll say this. Jesus ain't nobody's boyfriend. Specially no feller.

An also, it don't get better than:

Have you been to Jesus fer the cleansing power,
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
Are you fully trusting in his grace this hour,
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Yessir, that does it fer me. It shore does. An also Bringing In The Sheaves an Blessed Assurance an There's Power, power, wonder-workin' power in the precious blood of the lamb.

An that's how it goes where I come from, an it goes on an on an we're just singing an happy all the day an boasting in Christ an him crucified, not of ourselves.

Laura said...

Awww, welcome back, Rabby! I've missed you! It's such a joy to read your analysis.

Heath said...

I have enjoyed reading your blogs. The last one is especially relevant to my current situation as a church planter. I continually wrestle with whether or not to incorporate more contemporary for the sake of having a contemporary style that is easy to learn. Should I keep only traditional hymns that only I (and a few others in the congregation) can sing well? It is not easy to teach hymns to a generation who is so entrenched in contemporary worship. The funny thing is that most of my younger people actually like the hymns and do not want to be more "seeker-friendly" by having a lot of contemporary music. I encourage them to think theologically about the content, not simply the style. I agree with Bobby's comment concerning style conveying truth and theology, but what do you do with a bunch of television junkies who can barely read because their minds have been rotted by poor education (both schools and churches)? As ministers of the gospel (what every Christian really is) how do we evaluate music in light of doing all things for the sake of the gospel? We certainly do not want to water down truth for the sake of an easy to learn "good beat," but neglecting the learning levels and abilities of our people is also unthoughtful (and ungracious). Any reflection on these things would be appreciated. Thanks again for the thoughtful insights and concern for God's kingdom that is so evident in your writing (even for those folks who are delightfully not-so-baptist)!! :)

Bobby said...

Heath, are you familiar with the work of people like Keith and Kristyn Getty (, Bob Kauflin (, and the Indelible Grace team ( to write new hymns (and in the case of Indelible Grace, to come up with new modern folk arrangements and melodies for old hymns)?

There are a lot of good things coming out of the modern hymn movement -- songs that teach without being inaccessible to those who aren't as Biblically literate or poetically astute as past generations.

The next Sojourn music CD will have several modern hymns. I'll have around two (but possibly as many as four) cuts on it, and there is a new hymn by Brooks Ritter and Rebecca Bales that I'm sure will be on it as well, and possibly some songs with strong hymnic qualities by Mike Cosper, Lorie King, and others.

You can hear many of my demos at My goal, and the goal of many others, is to lead present generations into deeper communion with Christ through music, while remembering that many of them have not had the benefits of good classical education or theological instruction.

Other good writers include Carl P. Daw, Jr, Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, and Fred Pratt Green.

Laura said...

I agree that to start by incorporating a few modern hymns and/or hymn arrangements is the way to go. My home church in Colorado has done a few of their own hymn arrangements, which the congregation has received with appreciation, and which stand up well alongside all the Getty/Townend hymns the church loves.

If you fear that some of the vocabulary might be over folks' heads -- don't change anything that expresses the truth of the Gospel, but swap out the "thous."

Incidentally, I feel the same way about Bible translations that dumb down words like "propitiation." That's Gospel Vocabulary 101 for any believer. Don't let the church's intelligence devolve, but don't talk over their heads, thereby leaving folks in the dark, either. Educate the congregation! Preach using words like propitiation and atonement and explain what they mean!

Maybe this deserves another post, because I'm starting to get fired up. We'll see...

GloryandGrace said...

Are you still a fan of Derek Webb even though he sings the theme of Lover and Beloved throughout "She Must and Shall Go Free"?

Lorie said...

I think it's important to consider a couple of things.

1. A love note is just as valid an expression of love as a poem written in the person's honor. A person may say thank you for something by giving an elaborate speech or by just screaming out a big ol' "THANK YOU" and blowing a kiss. Both are valid expressions of awe and appreciation. They are, however, different forms of expression.

2. One must consider that worship should be a personal response to God's revelation of himself. Because it is a personal response (and "personal" here goes beyond the individual to include particular groups of people---ie. each expression of the church, women, men, the highly intellectual, children), it should be in the language of the worshipper. For example, it would be meaningless for me to try and sing a worship song in Welsh because it is not my language of expression. I would just be saying the words, but they wouldn't register as anything natural to me. Similarly, I think there is a double burden on the church to both educate and expose people to well-expressed forms of hymnody from our long tradition and create new forms of music that sound like the "voice" of the church in this day and age. Both are necessary for growth and true worship.

3. Not every song should be didactic. Every song should be grounded in truth, but the Scriptures exhort us to speak to one another in a variety of song styles, of varying degrees of depth and complexity.

Those are some thoughts...

Laura said...

Thanks, Lorie! Good observations. I agree especially that our worship needs to be in our own "vernacular," so to speak -- which is why I love that sojourn musicians and songwriters are responsible for a lot of the music we sing on Sundays!

Regarding "She Must and Shall Go Free" -- most, if not all, of the songs on the album are at least in part sung as though God were singing them. Given that fact, and given the highly metaphorical and complex language of the songs, I would say that most of them are not appropriate for corporate worship. That being said, I have no problem with the songs themselves -- I find them very beautiful and thought-provoking, and Derek Webb's study of the faithlessness of the Church and of individual believers certainly rings true to me!!

Also, I don't think it's inappropriate to use language in our worship songs that Scripture uses in discussing Israel, for instance -- which is why I don't have a problem with Webb's use of the word "whore." But the songs on the album aren't worship songs, and don't particularly strike me as erotic or romantic.

Heath said...

Thanks so much to all for the excellent suggestions on music. I am familiar with a few, but some are very new to me and your passion and knowledge of the subject is greatly appreciated! Theological truth of the gospel must be central. The artists suggested seem to be very cross-driven and talented. It's nice that you do not have to have one at the exclusion of the other. It's also extremely nice having a congregation that is very willing to follow leadership and try new things for the sake of the gospel. Teaching them theology seems to be easier than teaching them music (ha, ha). Still, your prayers would be greatly appreciated for a music minister who is better equipped to do this job at our church plant(the singing part). Thanks again.

Laura's mom said...

I also am concerned about the "dumbing down" that happens in church as well as in school. The way to improve people's understanding is to constantly expose them to excellence. In school, I try to model curiosity, keeping a dictionary next to my lectern to attack words I do not fully understand. I model fluency in reading, and provide many opportunities for students to read aloud. It is not enough to simply say that students can't read aloud, or are not reading up to level. I must work with them to get them where they need to be. It is not often easy, but it is always rewarding.
Maybe it's time for "No Worshipper Left Behind". Let's put effort into getting every worshipper up to the level of proficiency God wants them to have. Let's give them opportunity to read aloud, in unison, the Scripture or responsive reading. Let's not be satisfied with being partially proficient in worship or in our lives.
(Can you tell that CSAPs are coming up?)

GloryandGrace said...

This is true, and I appreciate yours and Lorie's discussing further the difference between the two. The church I attended in college, unfortunately, became so immersed in the concept of delighting in the Lord, Him being our Lover and romancing us, etc. that they quickly lost focus of the DUTY of delight and "traded truth for false unity." This is why I appreciate your clarifying the difference in how Derek Webb, for instance, lays out the relationship between Christ and the Church distinct from so many contemporary worship songs that drip with lofty, ungrounded sweetness.

Grace and peace~

Laura said...

Heath, I would argue that a truly cross-centered musician is the most likely to strive to produce excellent work. If you really understand (as much as your finite mind will allow) the scope of Christ's work on the cross -- and the great grace of God and miraculous work of the Spirit in applying that work to your heart -- could you be satisfied with mediocre tunes and trite lyrics? I think not.

Furthermore, I would encourage you to view music as teaching theology, not as an auxiliary to teaching theology. Music is not proclamation, but it certainly teaches. If the whole community walks out of church singing "Laden with Guilt and Full of Fears," for example, and has that song in their hearts all week long, their minds are being saturated with truth about God's word!

Luther said: "I wish to see all arts, principally music, in the service of Him who gave and created them.... I am strongly persuaded that after theology, there is no art which can be placed on a level with music, for besides theology, music is the only art capable of affording peace and joy of heart. The devil flees at the sound of music almost as much as at the Word of God."

Chris Krycho said...

Another thing that's important to remember is that many hymns - especially those dating from the Reformation era - were the contemporary music of their time, the "pop" music, so to speak, of their days. I'm not going to say style is irrelevant, but honestly, it's pretty close (except insofar as it can be a stumbling block, particularly to the older generation). If you're looking for another good example of the sort of music that is very modern stylistically but very deep spiritually and theologically, Aaron Shust's song My Savior, My God is right there. As well, a lot of the stuff that Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Louie Giglio, etc. put out is very solid theologically as well as being very approachable.

It's important not to put hymns on a pedestal. Yes, they're good. But they're the cream of the crop: there has been time for the bad to be weeded out - and there were plenty of bad songs written in the hymn styles, even by good theologians and good musicians, in the past several hundred years. Take the good out of contemporary Christian music and simply remember that our time is no more prone than any other to forget where our focus ought to be.

Or do you think it coincidence that nearly every generation for many hundreds of years has debated whether the current style is "appropriate" for worship or not, only to have that style become the traditional one against which the next generation has its own arguments?

God desires that we worship Him in spirit and in truth, and is not so terribly concerned with the musical style as in the content and where our hearts are as we worship.

Just my two cents.

Laura - I dropped by after seeing several astute posts by you on the Boundless Line. I like the blog. I'll probably be back when I can manage it! Keep serving the Lord, and God bless!

Bobby said...

Chris brings up some good points. There are certainly plenty of bad hymns -- even by the masters. The ones that we remember and continue to move us are, so to speak, their "greatest hits." Wesley wrote literally thousands of hymns, many of which spiral out of control for 10, 15, 20 verses, and you can't figure out what all is going on, which perspective you're singing from, etc.

To me, since a hymn is a poem set to music, it's not about musical style. You can rock out to hymns, you can set hymns to bluegrass music, etc. A better word than "style" would be "structure." Hymns are structured differently than most modern pop songs, just as 200-year old folk ballads are structured differently. They are structured in such a way that a fuller story can be told.

Lorie said...

Good word. Those were some of the other things I thought of, but didn't get around to addressing.

Laura said...

You got me with "spiral out of control" -- first guffaw of the day.

Man, I am listening to the amazing hymn "Come, ye sinners." It's one of those that I never get tired of singing -- it is just so PACKED with truth! Get this:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore.
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome!
God's free bounty glorify:
True belief and true repentance;
Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry 'til you're better,
You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden:
On the ground your Maker lies!
On the bloody tree, behold him:
Sinner, will this not suffice?
(THAT LINE RIGHT THERE! Sinner! Will the blood of Christ not cover even YOUR sins? Even MINE? This is great writing -- not just theoretical knowledge about Christ but pointed, personal application to the hearts of the singers!)

Lo! the incarnate God, ascended,
Pleads the merit of his blood.
Venture on him, venture wholly!
Let no other trust intrude!

THIS, boys and girls, is a cross-centered hymn.

Heath said...

Laura, What a great quote by Luther concerning music! Luther also had a healthy "fear" of music because of its ability to control the emotions. Music is certainly a powerful means of influencing people, whether for good or ill. It has been said that if you want to get someone angry, then speak bad about their mother. If you want to make them go so far as punch you, then speak bad about their music. Music is powerful and should be used for God's glory.

I agree music teaches and that cross-centered music should be excellent (the two are certainly not in opposition). At the same time we are careful to affirm that preaching is central to worship, not music. I love music and always will, but it grieves my soul to see so many people picking churches simply based on the music. At the same time it encourages my soul to see those who love good theology in and through good music. Some people strive for both of these "goods" in the church and in their personal lives. God has been most gracious to raise up such a generation, though these Christians are certainly not the majority.

What would one do if excellence was not possible in the presentation of the music? In other words, even if the content is excellent, what if no one is able to lead music well enough (for whatever reason) to be called "excellent" in its presentation in a worship service? Certainly there are churches full of people who have a deep love for the cross and are not trained to sing well (I think growing up in the south allowed me to visit more than a few of makes me sad). Is it better to have no music in the service of worship? Perhaps alternatives could be suggested to the people of God for enjoying and worshiping with music when a local church is unable to provide in that area? These problems are very real, especially in smaller churches or those getting started. Does one simply lower the standards of excellence in presentation of good songs with great content and substantive melodies? I believe the answer is a clear "no." The standards must be held high. Perhaps a little patience as the church practices to do music better is necessary? Still, the fact of the matter remains (and frustrates). Ideas?

Laura said...

Heath, I want to throw this to Christine and Mike, because they have discussed the topic at length. I'll see if I can get them over here.

When my family and I were vacationing in Ireland, my dad got a chance to preach at a very small Baptist church there. They were a delightful, tightly-knit body of believers, mostly Irish, with a few refugees as well. The Irish are stereotypically known for their strong singing voices, and, listening to them worship, I could certainly understand where the stereotype came from! That being said, nobody at the church had the instrumental skill to "lead" worship from a guitar or keyboard. Still, one woman plunked out melodies the best she could and the congregation sang their hearts out. Was it the highest-quality music? Not by a long shot. But it certainly seemed God-honoring to me.

Given that experience, Heath, my advice to you would be to simplify, simplify, simplify. Ask the congregation to let go of their desire for a 10-piece worship "band" and seek simply to worship the Lord. You can honor God with one decent, committed guitarist, one good, committed vocalist, and 30 great, carefully-selected songs. Think of it as a place to grow from as the Lord provides. Don't put a mediocre bassist up there just because you "need" a bass in the mix.

Also, ask a LOT of whatever worship team members you start with. Ask them to commit to 2 hours of practice as a team per week, and 2 hours of practice on their own. Ask them to commit to daily personal quiet times. Ask them to be there at least an hour before your congregation gathers to warm up, tune up, and pray. And frame all this with the Gospel -- Christ has redeemed us from sin and death, and in gratitude we offer Him our best.

Be willing to go without singing at your gatherings for awhile if necessary -- if there's no one at all who can (with four hours of preparation) sing or play guitar adequately. People should absolutely gather to hear the Word proclaimed, not because the music tickles their ears.

Laura said...

"Partially proficient" -- haha, mom, you're hilarious!

Bobby said...

"I love music and always will, but it grieves my soul to see so many people picking churches simply based on the music."

Amen, Heath. There is a guy named Harold Best who writes a lot about worship theology and the intersection of Christianity with the arts. He has two great books, "Unceasing Worship" and "Music Through The Eyes Of Faith." He talks a great deal about the peculiar role of music, and about how so many modern Christians make music, and even worship music, into an idol.

Doug Davis said...

Hey Laura!

I've enjoyed this blog very much and everyone's feedback is really fun to read through. I'm still not sure how to respond. I don't think my theologically handicapped mind has wrapped around it completely yet.

Anyway, I'd like to know what you and/or some of your theology friends know/think about the 7th Day Adventist church. I'm looking for some general information. Jess's dad and stepmom are in town and have recently converted, and they're right and everyone else is wrong. So, I get their information on the religion, and then I get feedback from other people that it's a cult. Let me know what you and your friends know or think about it. Thanks!

ckjolly said...

Church planter, Mark Driscoll, recounts this trying period in Mars Hill's history when their weekly attendance was running between 75-100:

"In a tense confrontational meeting immediately after church, [the church musicians] droned on and on about how we needed to start having other religiious leaders teach at our church in addition to me so that our church could embrace many religions and be true to our postmodern culture of pluralism. Because these musicians were not teachable, I kicked them out that night, and we went more than a month without any worship music in services. Some of the folks who had tried out as worship leaders during the core phase volunteered but were pretty horrible, so I decided to go without music until we sorted things out because silence is better than painful music.

"One of our core values was beauty, and we had built much of our church identity on being cool and having good music, but suddenly we had nothing. So our church services were reduced to me preaching for about an hour, taking prayer requests, and closing in prayer. It was a brutal time. I decided that being cool, having good music, understanding postmodern epistemology, and welcoming all kinds of strange people into the church is essentially worthless if at the bedrock of the church anything other than rigorous Jesus-centered biblical theology guides the mission of hte church."

Laura said...

Hey, Doug.

Here's what I can gather from their website and a few others. 70% of their doctrinal statement is good (like their position on the atonement, which is very strong), but 30% of it is total whack-job insanity/heresy. Examples (taken from the "Fundamental Beliefs" page on the SDA website:

"There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent."

WHAT?!? In 1844? Um, no.

"One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White . As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. "

This one is from their "Values Statement," October 2004:

"Our sense of identity and calling grows from an understanding of Bible prophecies, especially those concerning the time immediately preceding the return of Jesus."

Contrast this with with Jesus' instructions to the apostles in Acts, when he tells them that it is not for them to know the times that the Father has set up for the last things to occur (Acts 1:6-11), and with Paul's teaching to the Thessalonians: "For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, There is peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." (I Th. 5:1) Basically, what I get from the Bible is that we're not supposed to obsess about the end times, but to be ready for them -- but their "sense of identity" comes from the prophecies about the end times? Zoinks.

Their obsession with their founder, "prophetess" Ellen White, in addition to some clearly unbiblical doctrines (including a very human-centered view of salvation history, a fixation on works-righteousness, and their historic link to groups that deny the full deity of Christ), marks them, in my mind, as a cult.

Other thoughts?

Laura said...

Thanks, Christine!!

GloryandGrace said...


I agree with one of your previous comments in regarding to simple being better usually... with that said, what do you think of the worship leader's responsibility in music choice? Yes (as someone who is on the stage every Sunday) I like it when we introduce a new song to the congregation, but I also think it's important to introduce one that's going to encourage them to sing--not one that's going to be so challenging that it distracts them from worship.

(Somewhat off where the topic has been going, but it was on my mind as I was catching up on the comments here nonetheless)

AbrahamKonda said...

some other info about sda can be found at

Laura said...

Sorry I flaked out on this last question.

I remember being on the praise team at my home church and being exhausted with singing the same 40 songs over and over and over and over and over... I've often heard that church musicians love novelty, but congregations love the familiar -- and if you rush them to do lots of new music, you'll lose them. It's true that the average pew-person seems to have a hard time worshiping when they're learning the words to a brand new song. But the solution isn't to keep doing "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" until the worship team wants to tear their own faces off with frustration. The solution is to teach the congregation that worship starts with God -- it's our response to Him, and it's about encouraging one another to glorify Him. It's NOT about an "experience" that we have to chase -- that worship "high" that happens sometimes, and people walk out saying, "Wow, that worship was so great today!"

I wonder if the guy who's had a terrible week, chooses to worship anyway out of response to God's grace, and leaves still feeling rotten is honoring God more than the person who comes in determined to milk the moment for all its worth and cries with his hands in the air the whole time.

I can't overemphasize the importance of teaching a congregation that worship is not meant to be an "experience," like some cathartic emotional exercise that we do every week to really get us amped about serving the Lord. That is flagrant idolatry!

mike said...

Woot for Driscoll
Why not have no music at church...?


Laura said...

Mike --

Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:9, Psalm 149:3, 1 Chronicles 16:9 and 23, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 33:1, Psalm 95:1.

For starters.

mike said...

None of those verses say "in church you must sing" nor do they talk about how often... just playing the devils advocate here.

Laura said...

Fair enough, you devil, I mean devil's advocate.

When you're gathered with other believers you must encourage one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. If you want to do it at Macca's you can, but I'll do it at church where we have musicians to accompany. We haven't got a ten-stringed lyre, but a guitar is close.

mike said...

aren't guitars and drums satanic?

Philip Miller said...

I've found this thread absolutely fascinating. Enough so that I've bookmarked your blog!!

Laura said...

Yes, yes. Guitars and drums are satanic, since they are made from the very skin of the devil, i.e. Mike.

Bobby said...

Actually, I wouldn't put it past our worship pastor to get ahold of a ten-stringed lyre someday, learn it, and bust it out at church.

I had a meeting with him not long ago that was interupted by a postal delivery -- his brand new sitar had come. It's partly made out of a pumpkin, I believe. One of these days, Sojourners ... you shall hear the sitar.

Laura said...

Jiminy crickets. When I hear a sitar I think of two things: Moulin Rouge ("The pennileth thitar pwayer!") and the acid-trip post-guru Beatles albums. If they start handing out little rainbow and smiley-face stamps with the sermon notes, I am SO changing churches.

Lorie said...

One thing I'm a little concerned with in this discussion is an equation of beauty/excellence with a good "performance" of songs by a team of skilled musicians. I think there is definitely Scriptural evidence in the New Testament that God specifically gifted and called certain people to lead the Israelites in worship. In the New Testament, however, there is never this same emphasis given to this particular aspect of worship. Rather, as has been mentioned, we are called to sing with and to one another so as to be reminded, encouraged, and built up in the truth of God.

It seems to me, then, that any and every gathering of the church should be engaged in singing songs of the faith---whether or not they have a skilled musician or worship leader to lead them. Our generation has WAY over-emphasized the idea of "excellence" and performance to the detriment of teaching people to appreciate the act of singing praises as a personal sacrifice of worship and contribution to the body of Christ.

What is excellent and pleasing to God is a song sung out of a pure heart and in a spirit of praise or faith, no matter how right each and every note is or how steady the voice. Some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard has been sung by old, tired, off-key voices. Rather what we have done (and continue to do) is teach people that only those who have the most beautiful voices and are best able to give an acceptable offering in song should be singing. And then we complain that people in the church don't engage in worship!

Robert said...

Sorry, gotta disagree. The contemporary songs that you suggest have the same purpose as the hymns, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, and Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned don't even come close to having the same richness and depth of insight.

The first, by Charles Wesley, is considered by many hymnologists to be one of the finest hymns in the English language. And the doctrinal richness of the second, by Samuel Stennett, is worthy of some careful study.

Yes, I know that the English language has changed a bit since the hymns were written (269 and 222 years ago, respectively). But that just means we need to take a bit more effort to get a handle on them. (We would lose a lot if we tossed out Shakespeare and Dickens simply because some of the language isn't current.)

Different strokes for different folks, I guess. But let's not lose the heritage that has been passed on to us in our hymns.

Laura said...

Hi Robert. I think you've misunderstood me. Did you read the other comments? I'm actually agreeing with you that it would be a shame to lose songs with such depth and beauty.

I'll leave it at that and you can sort out my opinion by reading through the comments and checking out the other parts of my blog where I discuss Christian hymnology, if you care to.