On Song and Church

My pastor said something this past Sunday that struck me as, well, wrong. Something to the effect of if you don’t sing then you have no joy and went on to cite Ephesians 5:19 as some sort of proof text. Other than certain tenets of the church’s Calvinist roots, I’ve never heard him make such a blunder.

I think he was defending why we sing so many Christmas carols during the time of praise before the sermon. He related singing Christmas carols to having joy. Joy that this is the season we celebrate Christ’s birth and His provision for humanities’ salvation. That and I think perhaps he was trying to use some sort of light guilt tactic to get people to see the Christmas musical that night. I don’t know why religion continues to use guilt as a means of control or persuasion over people. It doesn’t work anymore, at least not in my generation and those younger. Really, think about it, how can guilt work when most have some sort of perverted sense of morality anyway?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not mad about pastor’s faux-pas. I’ve been hearing from pastors and my father for years that I should…or need…to sing. They’ve often looked at me very seriously as if there’s something wrong, like my soul will be damned to Hell if I don’t sing because they think I need to; I see their faces as plain as day, even sixteen or more years later.

Fundamentalism. Makes me glad to be alive.

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6 thoughts on “On Song and Church

  1. I think you’ve figured out that your soul is safe, even if you never sing in church again. (Nobody should ever stop singing in the shower though. That’s one of the great joys in life I think.)

    I amazes me that the Christian church uses fear to control it’s followers, yet the God of the Bible is one of love. “God is love”, so it says in 1 John, yet so many preachers proclaim that the consequence of rejecting their way of thinking is eternity in hell. Reason tells me that fear is the opposite of love and that it is a tool of the darkness. Using fear to control the masses is what maniacal dictators do.

    It doesn’t make sense to me that a benevolent god of love would say to the world, “I love you and I want you to love me, and if you don’t I’m gonna send you to burn in a lake of fire for all of eternity.”

    I wonder if Christians have it wrong? Is God really that vindictive? Could it be that Christianity has twisted the real God into something hideous? Hmmm.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’re on the right track. Think for yourself. It’s your life and you are the one that is ultimately responsible for your own salvation, if there is such a thing.

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  2. I love you and I want you to love me, and if you don’t I’m gonna send you to burn in a lake of fire for all of eternity

    At the very least that’s a twisted view of both Scripture and God. God is not vindictive. I have the entire Bible to back me up on that. Where misunderstanding comes into play is when a person takes a verse out of the Old [or New] Testament about a justified action, i.e. death or destruction of a person/community/etc, and uses it to say God is not Love. In short, every person, without believing Jesus Christ, deserves death. Sin without consequence would mean God is vindictive. But God is holy and therefore requires holiness, which is Christ in us, our redeemer, the Incarnate Son of God who died on the Cross as punishment for our sins. The entirety of this depends upon the book of Genesis. Through one man sin entered the world and through one man (Christ), sin was defeated.

    So I wouldn’t say Christians have it wrong. It’s just that some are prone to a fundamentalist viewpoint which really does no one any good. Christianity and its tenets haven’t twisted the God of the Bible into something hideous, people have done that.

    Thanks for the comment. Hope your Christmas season this year is blessed.

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  3. I agree that God is not vindictive. That is my point actually. What I am saying is that the Bible wrongly portrays God as vindictive. It is filled with stories in which people are punished for disobeying God’s will. That is vindictiveness by definition.

    I think you would agree that God created us and that he created the world as well. Would you also agree that he gave us the gift of free will? If so, then it would be vindictive of him to say on the one hand that we can choose, but on the other hand to threaten us with eternal damnation if we do not choose his way. Is this why he created us?

    Of course not. That is my point. Since God is holy and demands holiness from us, why did he create the Earth, put us here, and then allow sin to enter? Was it just so he could place us in a situation in which we have to believe in Jesus or else? If all he wants from us is to believe, then why didn’t he just not create the Earth and allow us to stay there with him where we would be safe?

    The reason he created the Earth and placed us here is so we would have the opportunity to exercise free will, learn from our choices, and grow spiritually towards holiness. Threats of damnation would undermine this purpose. That is why I think the Christians have it wrong.

    If our purpose is simply to glorify God, as many Christians say, we could have done that in heaven, without the need to be born and be exposed to the threat of hell.

    You say you have the whole Bible to back you up. That is part of the problem. Christianity is composed of people, and you’re right, people have twisted the concept of God into something hideous. The Bible is one very strong example of that. It is a shame when someone pushes aside reason and relies too much on the words in a book to define their faith.

    All I was suggesting is that one should use the God-given gift of reason to test what the church is saying, and to avoid fundamentalism as you suggest. Unfortunately, your response tells me that you do lean towards fundamentalism, as much as you do not want to admit it.

    I do not mean that as an insult, merely an observation. I hope that your Christmas season is blessed as well.

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  4. Let me just add one more thing. I don’t want to start a battle over this issue. It is enough for me if you would just read my words with an open mind so that you understand what I’m saying.

    It doesn’t matter to me if you agree, just that you understand. My faith in God is such that I believe his heart is big enough for the both of us. We love the same God but there is nothing that says we have to see him the same way.

    I understand Christianity very well. I was a born-again, baptised fundamentalist for 25 years. Then one day I finally dared to take a leap of faith and I began to examine all those little nagging doubts I harbored about the dogma of the Bible and the church’s teachings. I asked God to reveal himself to me directly in a way that I could understand and he did. He taught me not to confuse religion with faith.

    Now I feel like I am free from the intolerance and fear inherent in the church and it feels great. My relationship with God is more vibrant than ever and certainly more genuine. I no longer fear God’s wrath and that makes me free to love God for who and what he is. The church may not approve of that but God does and that’s enough for me.

    Anyway, I truly wish you well on your journey and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

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  5. A sermon from John Piper.

    Here’s a good quote to begin with in response to your claim that Scripture supports the thesis that God is vindictive:

    And then we see from the word “repay” and “vengeance” that God’s wrath is his response to sin. God does not take vengeance on the innocent. When he repays with vengeance, we know there has been sin—there is something to repay. And since he is meticulously just, that repayment will be a suitable vengeance, a proper vengeance. It will not be more or less than his perfect justice demands. So here is the definition again: The wrath of God is God’s settled anger toward sin expressed in the repayment of suitable vengeance on the guilty sinner.

    I find your distrust of Scripture rather alarming considering your claim to understanding Christianity very well. It most likely runs contrary to that leap of faith in examining all those little nagging doubts. Not that we shouldn’t look into doubts. But if it causes us to doubt something, i.e. Scripture, that is the very word [Breathe] of God, then there is something wrong with the conclusion we came to.

    Yes I wouldn’t argue with you that I do hold fundamentalist views. One has to when holding to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. No one can adhere to Christianity without being fundamental. Not doing so sheds doubt on a person’s actual adherence, and might I submit, conversion in following Christ.

    Why did God allow sin to enter the world? On the most basic level, because of the free will He imparted to humanity. And on this side of eternity, I don’t think you and me will ever truly know why He allowed sin to enter the world! Therefore, the receipt of free will was necessary in order for humanity to choose to love Him back [Genesis 1:26a]. Had he just plopped us in the heavenly realm would be quite redundant. He already had all the angelic, etc beings to praise Him.

    That being said, I agree with you about fundamentalism, which in the way I meant it, when it is taken to the extreme, results in nothing but dead religion. It is the reason why Karl Marx believed it to be the opiate of the masses. But the difference with right adherence to Christianity is that the living Spirit of God makes Christianity much more than another religion, the Spirit gives life to the Word. And it is that life which shines through us, reflecting Jesus in us.

    I wish you well on your spiritual journey. And I pray that God, in his goodness, would grant you wisdom and right understanding.

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