Monday, 31 March 2014

Some Christian artists you really should hear.

It's confession time. I really really do not like Christian music, at least 95% of it. It all just has THAT sound, you know, the one that makes it sound Christian. Without judging the hearts or motives of all the bands out there, most of it both lyrically and musically, just sounds formulaic and devoid of any real heart to me. It's weird I know but I can listen to a secular artist like Justin Townes Earle and relate so much more to it. I can just get caught up in his world because he writes from such a personal, honest place and he does such a fantastic job of conveying his thoughts and feelings through his lyrics and music. But lest I sound too critical, there are a few bands out there though which have managed to break out of that template. Here are some of my recommendations from a wide variety of genres.

1 - Everett

Everett is made up of just 2 guys who both share a passion for beautiful instrumental music. Dallas Taylor and Patrick Copeland have come up with something far removed from what you would expect from them based on their other projects. It's a little bit like Sigur Ros and Mogwai but with a more hopeful feel to it and best of all, you can download both of their EP's for free over here and here.

2 - Gungor

Gungor is another breath of fresh air, they have classified themselves as “liturgical post rock”. I'm not sure what that means, perhaps it's French for acoustic awesomeness? But seriously, the lyrics are good, the vocals, keys and cello are beautiful and it's pretty intricate too without getting bogged down in unnecessary complexity. And best of all, my four year old old loves the song and its taught him so many great things that many adults are still struggling to understand.

3 - Anathallo

Anathallo are great to watch just to see a sea of people running around on stage from instrument to instrument. But my favorite album is one comprised of just a few old hymns and does not really sound like anything else that they ever did, I love the old hymns and they do a really good job on them. You can download all the songs on the Hymns album for free over here .

4 - The Dad Horse Experience

The worlds only Keller-Gospel (basement gospel) band! You have never heard anything quite like the Dad Horse Experience before. A one man band which features a thick German accent, banjo, bass pedal and kazoo. Yeah you are just going to have to go and listen to it. He is a bit of a controversial entry to this list because he sometimes says some naughty words. I don't know if it's because English is clearly not his first language or because his past was just super dodgy (it was) and there is still some rough edges on this diamond to smooth out. His album "Dead dog on a highway" is brilliant although this song off the first album is great as well.

5 - Dustin Kensrue

Formerly of the band Thrice, Kensrue's solo work is a lot more toned down. He has just released a new worship album called the Water and the Blood which apart from one or two songs is a bit too churchy for me. But his 2007 release Please come Home was an absolute masterpiece. He managed to convey that honesty that I was speaking about in Justin Townes Earles music and its just a great album to sit down and really really listen to.

Some other artists worth a mention would be Showbread, Sons of Korah, Theocracy and The Frozen Ocean. Go check them out and maybe you find something that you can enjoy.

PS - Does anyone else feel similarly about mainstream CCM music or is there just something wrong with me?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

On having a contentious spirit.

But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. – 1 Corinthians 11:16

Although I do not see any problem in identifying one’s own viewpoints being from within a certain framework of belief, it is clear from the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21 and the rebuke by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 that the church was never meant to divide into denominations over minor differences or through following the teachings of certain men. And we certainly are not supposed to be fighting with one another.

I have grown wary of negative blogs, Facebook updates and conversations which are continually aimed at Mark Driscoll, the Pope, Ken Ham, John MacArthur and so on (1). It can be useful at times to point out error for the purpose of teaching others and defending what is true. And it is even profitable and fun having those conversations within a respectful and loving environment. But those who take on the task of finding fault with everyone else are unbeknownst to themselves assuming the role of the Pharisee.

The Pharisees were expert fault finders; they took exception with Jesus’ disciples for eating food without first washing their hands and on another occasion for them plucking corn on the Sabbath. They took exception when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath and when he cast out devils and forgave a man of his sins. Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 2:23 to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife”. He goes on to say in verses 24 and 25 that a servant of the Lord “...must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition.”


As Christians, we are to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3); the reality though is that many of us, much like the Pharisees of old, consider ourselves to be the guardians and exclusive holders of all truth (John 7:47-49). Certainly there are times to take a harder stance with people, the kind of people that are saying outright dangerous things, causing divisions and preaching a different Jesus. Scripture tells us that this false gospel inevitably leads to rotten fruits and so these people and teachings are normally fairly easy to identify. Let us be discerning enough though to recognize what is tolerable and what is not. Let us be very careful not to reject those who Christ accepts. Let me finish this with a quote from Iain Murray.

Doctrinal differences between believers should never lead to personal antagonism. Error must be opposed even when held by fellow members of Christ, but if that opposition cannot co-exist with a true love for all saints and a longing for their spiritual prosperity then it does not glorify God nor promote the edification of the Church.


1 - Note that some of the blogs about these men are very good and helpful, I am referring here to those that are just plain arrogant and abusive.

Friday, 7 March 2014

On Biblical inspiration, interpretation and inerrancy.

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months...2 Kings 24:8

Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days...2 Chronicles 36:9

In my previous post I addressed a concern that I have with the bible replacing Jesus in the hearts of some people. I also mentioned that I would like to discuss what Paul meant regarding the inspiration of scripture and what we should do with some of the contradictions that we find within the Old and New Testaments.

Perhaps I should first mention something here that will help me to lay the foundation for where I am going with this. If you have read some of my previous posts, you may have noticed that I refrain from referring to the bible as God's word and usually use terms like “scripture” or “God's book” instead. I don’t think that it’s technically wrong to call it God's word as the bible itself uses the word “word” to refer to scripture as well as Jesus or a message from the Lord in various passages. Nevertheless, there is a two-fold reason that I personally refrain from doing the same. Firstly I do it to avoid causing confusion and to create a clear distinction between the word that is ink (the bible) and the Word that is flesh (Jesus). Secondly, scripture is not exclusively God's words but rather should be viewed as God's story. Or to put it differently, the bible records the words not only of God, but also those of fallen men, angels, demons and even the devil. Sometimes, people even mention that they are speaking of themselves and not by the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 7:25)  So we need to be careful when we say “it is written”, for what follows may indeed be in the bible, but it might not be of God. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the problems we may encounter when reading the bible.

Firstly, the bible clearly has God's fingerprints all over it. It is full of prophecies that no human could possibly have come up with. The rise and fall of nations is often prophesied about in detail as were the details of the birth, life and death of the world's promised messiah. And even where scripture ventures into seemingly unbelievable tales, science or an ancient historical manuscript, will once in a while pop up and validate it. Snakes once having legs which you can read about on the BBC website by clicking here and here is the first example that springs to my mind. A recent study within the group I fellowship with revealed an incredibly detailed chiastic structure within the book of Revelations and that it contained over 500 Old Testament references within 404 verses which is simply mind boggling. John clearly had some inspiration in penning that letter. But the problem with our outlook on the bible comes in when we create a blanket view for all of the words holding the same weight and we ignore the human element involved in its assembly. And so we get to verses like the 2 quoted at the start of this article where a clear discrepancy exists and we are forced to find a way to try and harmonize it because our faith has been placed in every jot and tittle being in place rather than placing our faith in the one it was written about. It took me several years to even share those 2 verses with another person for fear that I might cause someone’s faith to wobble. Eventually I realized the hypocrisy of sharing Christ with certain cards still held close to my chest and that despite these rare inconsistencies that pop up it would not shake the faith of a believer who knew God personally.

Secondly, the bible cannot be read like a dictionary. You can open the dictionary anywhere and what you read will make perfect sense and be 100% true regardless of what is written 50 pages earlier or later. But the bible cannot be read like that. It is a book of unfolding revelation and God does not approach every situation in the same way, always using the same methods. For example, in Deuteronomy 7:1-4, Moses commands the Israelites to utterly destroy the people in the lands that they were about to conquer and not to intermarry with them. Nehemiah 13:1 reiterates that “no Ammonite or Moabite should ever come into the assembly of God”. The story continues in verse 25 with Nehemiah retelling that of those who had intermarried, that he “...cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair” before cleansing the Hebrew people of everything pagan (verse 29). Ezra 10:23 actually says that they cast the women and children out from among them. Now consider those stories with that of Ruth which was probably written a short while later. Ruth was a Moabite woman whom Boaz married; it is a wonderful picture of Jesus and the church which according to Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah should never have happened. Boaz and Ruth are even listed in Matthew chapter 1 as ancestors of Jesus. Now all these stories are a part of scripture and rightfully so, but it is the Boaz/Ruth account which clearly reveals the grace, mercy and love of Jesus that we are to walk in.

This is far from the only time in scripture that we encounter conflicting messages. Consider the Psalmist who wrote these words in Psalm 137:8-9

O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

Compare that to the heart of Jesus for children revealed in Matthew 18:6 or his command in Matthew 5:44 to love your enemies. To give just one more example, we also see in scripture that Paul was not to worried about believers eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8), something that the other apostles and elders warned against in Acts 15:29 and that was strictly condemned by Jesus in Revelations 2:20. In sharing these few examples I just want to point out that teachings sometimes differ within the Old Testament, between the Old and New Testaments and then even within the New Testament itself.

So how then are we to approach the bible and how can one truly still believe that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)? I would suggest that we are NOT to approach it as a legal document where we throw verses at one another which fit our own preferences while ignoring what the rest of it stares. The way that we SHOULD interpret the bible is through Jesus, who is the only one who ever truly revealed the fullness of God's character to us.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18

Jesus obviously regarded scripture as from God, he quoted it throughout his ministry but he also did not hesitate to overrule it when necessary (Matthew 5). In fact, he actually told the people that John the Baptist was greater than all the prophets (who penned the Old Testament) who preceded him (Matthew 11:11) and then declared that His own testimony was even weightier than John's (John 5:36)! The Old Testament does indeed give us glimpses of what God is like, but the fullness of who the Father is only gets revealed in Christ and it is therefore through his life that we approach all scripture and scripture through its variance I believe actually invites us to wrestle with it in order to discover the heart of Christ and the will of the Father.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 3:11

As for inspiration, if you believe that God literally penned each word through a human vessel then you may actually be attributing the occultic practice of automatic writing to God, think about it. There may indeed be little grammatical errors that have crept in over time and every scholar I know of recognizes the unique writing styles of the canon's various authors. But the reliability of the book as pertaining to all the big things, especially the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been proven time and again to be considered reliable and undeniable.In this I have faith because it has been tried and tested and the living Christ confirms it.