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Correspondence with Carl Trueman Posted at Reformation 21

Carl TruemanLast night I sent an email to Carl Trueman notifying him of my blog post addressing his comments on Led Zeppelin at the Reformation 21 blog. This morning I received a very congenial (though unconvincing, IMO) response from Dr. Trueman. I considered posting the exchange, but Reformation 21 has already done so in their “We Get Letters” section. They’ve also provided a link to the letters from their blog’s home page.

FWIW, they’ve shortened my letter to “cut to the chase.” (I should ask them to kindly do the same for my sermons.) Here’s what’s missing:

Dr. Trueman,

My name is Chris Anderson, and I’m a pastor in Ohio and a too-frequent blogger. I often enjoy and benefit from what I read at Reformation 21, and I appreciate the ACE and those who comprise it. I’m particularly grateful for conservative theologians who make much of the greatness and sovereignty of our God. May your tribe increase!

That said…

Feel free to chime in.


33 Responses

  1. For what it is worth, we try to be discriminating in our choice of what we enjoy in Opera as well. His point about enjoying some of Wagner being inconsistent with attacking rock is valid (though there is still debate on the music’s communication itself, still). We should evaluate what we enjoy in Wagner morally and so we should do the same with Led–arguably even more with Led since he is speaking communicating much more clearly to us.

  2. Pearson is right, imo. Trueman’s response was, I think, a little lame. It seem to lean heavily on the “what’s wrong with it?” argument rather than stoutly responding with a “Here’s what’s right about it” argument.

    I think we Christians would do ourselves a service to investigate and try to understand exactly what Paul meant when he said, “Whatever is not out of (ek) faith is sin.”

    I could be wrong, but I’m inclined to think that if we cannot positively identify the faith-motive in what we do we’re off track. As for me, my faith drives me to listen to high quality secular music and less often results in a decision to listen to pop. But I am inconsistent. Not everything I do is out of faith.

    Perhaps our brother is being inconsistent. I appreciate your taking the time to kindly point it out to him Chris. It really doesn’t matter if he agrees now or ever. Down the road he may agree as he pursues a faith-consistent life (or at least see your point). Yet a gentle reminder as you have done reminds those of us who may be less inconsistent in this particular area than Trueman is that it is right to try to tie our faith into our entertainment. It should also show us that we too are never perfectly consistent. At least I’m not.

  3. As a former student, I tend to have a pro-Carl bias. Background: from what I understand (and i could be wrong), upon being saved he was initially given all the fun(ndy) lines about rock and roll making cows blood pressure rise and house plants wilt. So he threw away his extensive record collection of British rock. Then he discovered the Bible, Scientific Journals… and CDs.

    I do see you guys as making two arguments: You guys are assuming that the message of LZ is immoral. Carl is defending everything we know and love against the moral link between the object or the expression and its creator. Is music immoral because those who play or write it are unrighteous? Carl maintains that to hold such a position is absurd. If there’s an inconsistency (he’d argue I suspect) it would be with those who fail to hold that same position with other art forms, or technology, or food. – (would you eat a meal prepared by a chef who is sleeping around with the wait staff?… i suspect you have)

  4. FWIW, I think his argument was more sophisticated than you allow here. If I’m tracking him correctly, it flows something like this: (1) we all participate in culture to one degree or another; (2) the key is to determine what aspects of culture violate God’s will; (3) with regard to art issues, the producer of the art is not consistently used to discredit it (and is somewhat irrelevant); (4) one can’t make the case that LZ should be rejected completely because of a few songs that contain objectionable content; and (5) some of what LZ sings about is the common stuff of literature, music, etc.

    Frankly, I don’t know that I disagree with what he has written. But, I see two very closely related problems with his argument: (1) he prejudices the discussion about rock music by only focusing on the immoral lifestyles of rock musicians; and (2) he writes as if that’s the only argument used against rock music. Regarding the former, this is where he mounts his defense and does so quite ably (to my mind). That is, I agree that this is a weak (perhaps even bad) argument against rock music. But who made this argument? You specifically pointed toward the lyrics of LZ songs as the reason it seemed incompatible with R21’s commitments.

    On the latter point, he must not consider any of the musical or cultural arguments that have been made to be of value. That’s disappointing, because the important questions seem to be: (1) does the ethos of a band like LZ and its music represent the ethos prescribed in the NT for believers; (2) if it is not, then are we to assume that this would have no influence on a believer? (3) if not, then what are the ramifications of passages like Ephesians 5:3-14 for what we listen to and promote? (4) is music so value-free that there are no moral distinctions to be made among the possible ways it affects us?

  5. I do think that Carl misses the point of why we (at least I) think LZ is unacceptable for a Christian. It has nothing to do with the lifestyle of the performer/composer or the fact that it is non-sacred. It has to do with the content (both textual and musical).

    I’ve really been thinking a lot lately about fundamentalism’s view of culture. Many of you think that the two words have no place being associated one with another. But if McCune is right about the apologetic philosophies that have characterized fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism, then Rick Phillip’s astute observation about fundamentalists and antitheses reveals that fundamentalists really have been characterized by a particular view of culture — it caries meaning — while broader evangelicals have been characterized by a view of culture than sees only neutrality. That seems to be what is going on in Carl’s mind here — culture is neutral, so what’s the big deal?

    And so I proclaim heartily with VanTil and Bahnsen — Neutrality is a myth!

  6. Scott, I think that’s a fair assessment of Carl… namely that he doesn’t get nuance of the American fundamentalist’s take on rock music. (I don’t either – i do remember taking music history with you though… good times.) Or better – Carl assumes that immorality refers to actual actions or thoughts of the art-producer instead of… ethos(?) – not a bad assumption. Trueman is more Augustinian than Manichaean on most days :-)

    I don’t think it’s fair to throw Van Til around in defense of the anti-culture argument. I suspect that what he means by that is that culture and facts and science is always invested with meaning based on the reception and the presuppositions of the hearer/viewer. I’m with VT as well, but I don’t think that helps your argument at all. Actually it kinda shoots it in the foot so to speak.

  7. Lest a certain someone should have fun at my expense :-). Please change “Led since he is” to “Led, since they are communicating”. I just figured Led was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s cousin.

  8. Sam, it’s not an anti-culture argument; it’s a “no-culture-is-neutral” argument. And I think VT’s idea of antithesis absolutely applies. There is no such thing as something produced by humans (at least in terms of culture) that does not carry meaning. I agree with you (and Carl) that music cannot be “moral” per se — only moral agents can be thus. But products of moral agents (i.e. culture) necessarily carry moral significance.

    Now, factor in common grace (the natural tension with antithesis that says that even unbelievers may create something contrary to their own worldview), and we are faced with the absolute necessity to carefully critique and evaluate every cultural expression to discern its acceptability for a Christian. The believer’s task, in this sense, is to parse culture for its meaning since culture is never neutral.

    This is exactly what T.S. Elliot meant when he said that (I’m paraphrasing) no culture can appear apart from religion. He didn’t mean organized religion, I don’t think. I think he meant something more similar to what VT means when he says worldview.

    Sometimes I get the idea that “you guys” (I’m being broad here, obviously) view the Christian’s battle as only in the realm of ideas, and perhaps in the realm of obedience to certain explicit biblical commands. However, as VT’s antithesis emphasizes, the battle between the believing and unbelieving worldviews is total rather than piecemeal. It includes cultural expression, too.

  9. Bob,

    I’d like to push back a bit on your suggestion that we should “positively identify the faith-motive in what we do.” Do you really think we ought to, or even can, identify some positive faith-motive in everything we do? To me, that seems like a call for needless, and possibly morbid, introspection.

    Of course we ought to be living in and by faith. Of course we should refrain from anything which violates our conscience (so quite a few in this discussion probably must refrain from enjoying Zeppelin). But how on earth can we come up with a positive, specific faith-motive for everything?

    Why did I eat that Big Mac instead of a Whopper — or a salad? Why did I buy a used Jeep instead of a used Honda? Why did I go to Florida on vacation instead of Canada? How can I justify playing and singing “She’ll be coming round the mountain” on my dobro? Oh no, how do I justify owning and playing a dobro?

    Some of these decisions might indeed be done not-in-faith — due to the context/motivation/etc. of my life/decision making process (say I can feed and house my family if I go to Canada but not Florida, but I went to Florida anyway) — but for most of us, most of the time, we ought to be able to make decisions like these without major soul searching.

    It seems that in cases like these, and many others, there is nothing wrong with responding, “What’s wrong with it?”

    It’s probably obvious that I would agree with Trueman in placing music like that of Led Zeppelin in the “What’s wrong with it” category. I know what’s wrong with some of it. I know various ways in which any of it could be wrong. However, I also think that if some are going to say that all of it is wrong, all of the time, for all people, then the burden of proof is on them.

  10. All,

    It thrills me to say that I agree with Dave. I think he may be asking a bit much of a blog reply to an e-mail from a stranger. Nevertheless, I agree with most of his post. Ecumensim is breaking out all over. . .

    I especially agree with this comment of Dave’s:
    “I think his [Trueman’s] argument was more sophisticated than you allow here.”

  11. Again, I think Keith illustrates what happens so often. While we perhaps shouldn’t have a morbid introspection, we should see it as just as bad if not worse to throw introspection (well, a lot of it, anyhow) to the wind and enjoy what we enjoy. We probably agree there should be some, and we exercise various levels of it according to our applications of the Scripture.

    Usually when something is breaking out all over, there is an allergy being surfaced…:-)

  12. Scott,

    I cannot agree with your statement that “fundamentalists really have been characterized by a particular view of culture — it caries meaning — while broader evangelicals have been characterized by a view of culture than sees only neutrality.”

    I think that statement so drastically oversimplifies things as to make it inaccurate. Quite a few fundamentalists, as you indicate, are hostile to “culture” — even though, unavoidably, they have one. Quite a few fundamentalists think that the cultures of America’s “greatest generation” and before were neutral, but the cultures since the 50s or 60s carry negative meaning.

    Furthermore, what do you mean by “broader evangelicalism”? If that term includes the presbyterian and reformed world, then you are really off track. Terms, concepts, and thinking that involve “worldview”, “antithesis”, etc. have been developed primarily by folks from that world — not the fundamentalist world. Fundamentalists that wish to make arguments like yours that involve any appeals to experts in these areas are forced to quote Kuyper, VanTil, Schaeffer, Myers, Payton etc.

    I have no idea what is going on in Trueman’s mind (regarding neutrality). However, I do know that there are quite a few presbyterian and reformed thinkers (several of whom you quote or have on your reading list) who reject the possibility of cultural neutrality, yet do not rule out all uses of cultural artifacts like those of Led Zeppelin. They are fine with rock (and other genres similarly villified by fundamentalists) in the right place, at the right time, in the right amount, etc.

    You are correct, and I’m thrilled to agree with you, that cultural neutrality is a myth (more like a pipe dream, but close enough). Some things (not just people or people’s actions) are better than other things. A meal prepared by a fine French chef (I think Bob will verify) is better than an American Twinky. That doesn’t mean there is no place, no time, for no one in which a Twinky can be enjoyed. I think I’ll have one now.

  13. Keith,

    I believe that John Piper makes an argument somewhat similar to Bob’s that specifically addresses things like food and sexual relations from 1 Tim 4:1-5. He does it in “When I Don’t Desire God” (I believe). Before you dismiss the concept, I’d check it out (assuming you haven’t).

    I’m glad that you agreed with my earlier comment. If I may leave my rejoicing to disagree with your initial comment, please allow me to do so. It seems woefully misguided to compare Led Zeppelin to watching a football game. Not only do you make major assumptions about the event (e.g., you can’t bring alcohol into the Big House), but you assign motives to others that serious over-reach (e.g., that people watch the game for the babes on the sidelines or in the commercials). We weren’t talking musical concert vs. sporting event. We were talking about a specific band with a specific reputation and specific body of work. It seems that the proper analogy for that would some specific event with a specific reputation for such things as you claim.

    I realize that you said you were jesting, but also that you meant what you were saying. If I’ve missed the jest, please forgive me.

  14. My parents had the good sense to let me watch football growing up, rather than listen to Kiss, Led Zeppelin, or any of the other 70’s and 80’s rock groups that existed back then. I never associated football with beer or girls. Growing up in Southern California, I associated it with the Pac-10 making mincemeat out of Michigan or Ohio St whenever they came to town on New Year’s Day.

    Keith, I do believe that you are doing the Twinkie a disservice. Has anyone read the lyrics that Chris pointed us to in his previous post? Even the benign stuff is complete rubbish. I looked at the lyrics of the song that Carl praised in his blog post. Here is the first stanza:

    Working from seven to eleven every night,
    It really makes life a drag, I don’t think that’s right.
    I’ve really been the best, the best of fools, I did what I could, yeah.
    ‘Cause I love you, baby, How I love you, darling, How I love you, baby,
    I’m in love with you, girl, little girl.
    But baby, Since I’ve Been Loving You, yeah. I’m about to lose my worried mind, ah, yeah.

    I’m having a hard time getting my mind around a serious theologian wasting his time with such ridiculous “poetry,” let alone praising these lyrics and promoting a whole concert of this stuff. At least a Twinkie, for what it is, is well done.

    Then I watched this song performed on YouTube, at least part of it. How can a God fearing man promote this wickedness? The guys are intentionally dressed to be sensual. They are using music designed to enhance a message of promiscuity, drug use, and rebellion. LZ is part of a rock culture that is anti-God and godliness. How is the entire genre not contrary to Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:8, Eph 5:3-19, etc.? If it is, then it is contrary to sound doctrine, not in accordance with the gospel, and not glorifying to God (1 Tim. 1:10-11).

  15. Keith, there is indeed a spirit of ecumenicism: I find myself agreeing with much of what Scott Aniol is saying.

    Specifically, in response to your push back. I admit that consistency is a problem. I admitted it in my original post. I know myself to be inconsistent. However, the Paul’s statement is in the context of “doubtful things,” those things that cause real tension among believers. Whether one chose a Big-Mac or a Whopper probably would not make any difference with anyone in the Body of Christ. But only a dunderhead would not be aware of the fact that rock music is a disputed “doubtful thing” in the Body of Christ. In that case, it seems to me that a faith-motivated reason for publicly delighting in it is reasonable. Particularly from leaders.

    It seems to me that a leader would probably opt to do as Paul did and “not eat.” Or, at the very least, not blog about it to the whole wide world.

  16. I said that I thought Dr. Trueman’s explanation was unconvincing. Here are a couple of my thoughts regarding his explanation:

    1. First, I get common grace. I understand that the fact that my plumber isn’t saved doesn’t affect his ability to do a good job. And of course, the same is true of art. However, though an immoral but talented artist who paints landscapes would be an example of common grace, the same artist painting nudes would be rejected—not because he’s a sinner, but because the content of his art is sinful. I think that’s the case with LZ, as indicated by the lyrics of their songs and by the entirety of the message they’ve conveyed as a band. (I admit I’m not as familiar with the band as others who could speak more authoritatively about it.) To use another of Dr. Trueman’s examples, wearing a nice shirt isn’t sinful; wearing one with a dirty message would be, however. It certainly wouldn’t be covered under the umbrella of common grace.

    2. The comparison to opera isn’t really helpful, IMO. It’s a complaint (and probably a legitimate one) about inconsistency. However, the fact that some Christians tolerate immoral opera doesn’t legitimize other Christians tolerating immorality elsewhere. Perhaps both are wrong. Anyway, saying Christians tolerate worse doesn’t move the conversation forward at all.

    3. Justifying songs about adultery by saying that the Bible contains adulterous stories (“a counterpoint”) is weak, I think. First, the purpose of the “objectionable content” in Scripture is clear—showing the depravity of mankind, providing a warning against sin, illustrating the nature of apostasy, showing the astounding forgiveness of God to the wicked, etc. It’s certainly not gratuitous, like much of the same content in various forms of art, particularly rock music. Besides, the fact that something appears in Scripture doesn’t mean I need it to be pumped out of my radio (or television, DVD player, or novel). The Bible also contains discussions about bestiality and incest; that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for me to listen to people sing about them. It’s not a very compelling argument, especially when Scripture repeatedly commands believers not to think or jest about some of the very things it presents as wicked. (Many texts have been cited already, but I’ll highlight Ephesians 4:17-20 and 5:1-12 again.) Anyway, arguing for immoral content because the Bible contains the same is sloppy, I think, and could be used to excuse all kinds of immorally-themed art.

    4. I acknowledge that I’m stepping out on the limb of experience and observation, but I think we need to be careful when comparing music to other art forms. Two things come to mind (neither adequately developed, I admit):

    First, the rock music scene is very different from other art genres (such as classical music or sculpture) because to a great degree the artist is the art. People don’t flock to a concert to hear a song, but to hear and see it sung by that band. It’s much more difficult to separate the rock star and his lifestyle from the product because they are so intertwined. For many, the star is the product.

    Second, the power of music shouldn’t be underestimated. It communicates more deeply and permanently than other art forms, at least in my life. I’ve seen hundreds of paintings in my life, but I remember very few. I certainly don’t have them rattling around in my mind when I’m thinking of nothing in particular. But I can sing the lyrics to all sorts of songs from the 80’s without even trying—songs I haven’t heard for years. Music sticks. And more importantly, music teaches in a particularly powerful way. Even Scripture recognizes this. It’s a great reason for us to be very, very careful about what we hear, and even more careful what we endorse for others, especially on a Christian blog.

    I wish that one of Dr. Trueman’s friends and peers at ACE would chime in. Instead, the response to the post has been a snicker and a wink, giving the impression (to me, anyway) that the discussion is so much silliness. I’m more disappointed about that than about the original post, I think.

    I’ll close a long post with this: A few days ago a teen in our church posted one of her favorite songs online. It’s about a break-up, and it has this line: “And the bed where you lie is made up on your side.” That’s pretty tame compared to some of the LZ lyrics. Anyway, as I watch for her soul, I have to determine whether that’s an appropriate and safe thing for a teenage girl who professes to know Christ to be listening to, singing and thinking about. This isn’t just theoretical.

    What do you say, Dr. Trueman? Shall I give her a thumbs up and rejoice in common grace?

  17. I can’t resist:

    As for DMD’s comment about football, you just know that during the last two weeks there have been over 100,000 people wishing that alcohol were allowed at the Big House.

  18. Whew. . . a lot to respond to. Chris, if the following response is too long to be appropriate here, please delete immediately . . . if it’s not too long, here goes:

    Dave, I was not trying to dismiss Bob’s argument/concept. By “push back” I mean that I am challenging what I think I’m hearing/reading — if that argument/concept can stand up to the challenge I might just accept it. If it’s knocked down and can’t get back up, well maybe then I’ll dismiss it.

    I have not carefully studied, or even read all of “When We Don’t Desire God.” However, the bits I’ve read don’t strike me the way Bob’s argument did (his follow up post clarified some things for me, but I’ll address that later).

    Piper, agreeing with Lewis, writes, “Introspection can never find spiritual joy in God, but only its residue of physical sensation.” That would seem to agree with my suspicion of “needless, and possibly morbid, introspection.”

    Piper also writes, “Our physical lives will affect our spiritual lives whether we plan it or not. Better to think it through and be intentional.” In general, I’d agree with Piper here, and if that’s all Bob meant, then I’d gladly agree with him too. Nevertheless, for some reason, the call to be “intentional” strikes me as somehow different from the call to “positively identify the faith motive” in all we do. I could try to explain why, but this comment is already going to be too long. If you, or Bob, would like to pursue this part of the discussion further and Chris would like us to, I’d be willing (as time permits).

    For now, I’ll just say that I also agree with Piper in “WIDDG”, when he writes, “I don’t want to give the impression that in our fight for joy one must always make special plans to pursue such revelations of God’s glory,” and “All the world, and even the imperfect representations of it in human art, is a witness to the glory of God. That glory is the ultimate ground of all human gladness.”

    Now, on to the football thing . . . I must concede that you are correct in stating, “We weren’t talking musical concert vs. sporting event.” If you really need me to make an analogy that compares Zeppelin to a “specific event with a specific reputation,” will the Superbowl work? Seems like it has a specific reputation for things like wardrobe malfunctions.

    I must also concede that my comment that “football’s just an excuse to drink beer and watch cheerleaders and beer advertising swimsuit models” does improperly impune the motives of all those who watch football. I am sure that many people watch football with other motives, so I apologize. What I meant (but admittedly did not say clearly, the rhetoric got out of control, flag on the play) was that the ethos surrounding American football is saturated with those things. And, I’ll still hold on to that position.

    I made no assumptions about Ann Arbor’s little stadium. I’ll admit that I made some assumptions about parking lots, bars, and backyards in the vicinity. If the Michigander’s really haven’t figured out how to use their tailgates as well as the Buckeyes, then I retract my comment about beer drinking. Of course, the beer drinking itself is not my concern — no problem at all — the problem is the drunkenness, the lust, and the pride of life that are a part of the college and professional football ethos.

    I know that you take pride in being the “jock wing” of fundamentalism, and in all seriousness, that’s just fine with me. As is watching football — used to have season tickets to Ohio Stadium. What isn’t fine, and what I was trying to address, is the fact that fundamentalists usually aren’t too concerned with identifying the positive faith-motive in sports and other similarly middle-American activities/practices — those things are usually treated as needing no justification and as self-evidently neutral, if not pure and positively good.

    There’s no need for me to forgive your comment Dave. If this long reply, written with a smile, causes any offense, please forgive me.

  19. Andy,

    Don’t mistake brevity here for rudeness — It’s just that I’ve more than exausted my word count already . . .

    1) It doesn’t really matter what you associated with football. Anyone who is willing to look as closely at American sports as fundamentalists look at rock music will see that the things in each category are close, if not equal, in their level of ridiculousness, sensuality, promiscuity, drug use, and rebellion.

    2) Of course, the facts that sports can be described in this manner and that fundamentalists watch/participate/obsess over sports does not logically or reasonably lead to the conclusion that rock/Zep is just fine.

    3) You need to learn a bit more about the history and tradition of the Blues and about the instrumental/musical skill/talent of the guys in Zep. Within the category of blues based rock, Zeppelin is as good as or better than a Twinkie is within the category of junk food.

  20. Bob,

    Consistency, in general, is a good thing, but the specific kind you seemed to be looking for, I believe, is impossible and should not be obsessed over.

    I think that there are more things that cause tension among believers than most fundamentalists are aware of or acknowledge. I also know that there are people, who aren’t dunderheads, who have no idea how shoking rock music is to fundamentalists.

    All that said, I see the point in your follow up comment, and I can respect it.

  21. Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s what we’re arguing about: (youtube video of LZ’s Whole Lotta Love).

    I feel like I need a shower after watching it. The fact that we’re even debating this is ridiculous. Really, it’s unconscionable that a Christian would defend this.

  22. Chris,

    If I try to respond to all of your post, the comments section is going to explode. So, just a couple quick thoughts:

    1. You’re not totally wrong about the “see the star” thing in relation to rock. However, you’re not totally right either — at least about Blues based stuff. People do go to hear guys play stuff that was written in the 30s. If you can hear Clapton play it great — he’s good. If you can hear B.B. King play it even better — he’s an original AND he’s good. Also, quite a few people are going to hear the music of significant bands that no longer exist performed by others (see Australian Pink Floyd). Furthermore, the star thing also applies to high culture stuff — people went to see Pavaroti, Bernstein, etc.

    2. Again, I know that none of the above proves the acceptability of rock.

    3. As far as the girl in your church — a. With all due respect, I’m not trying to be snarky, but shouldn’t her parents deal with that issue? b. If the answer to “a” is no, then how about teaching her to rejoice in common grace and how to hear this song? Check out a little book by Francis Schaeffer called “Art and the Bible.” It makes the point that we can appreciate/evaluate art from various perspectives — the skillfullness of the artist, the worldview portrayed, etc. Showing kids that we can see even small glimpses of good amidst the fallenness of this world can sometimes do more to spur them toward the pursuit of holiness than just banning things.

    I really appreciated the spirit in which you communicated with Trueman. I also thank you for your patience with all my comments. And, as I said at the outset, I won’t be offended if you delete them all.

  23. Keith,

    Furthermore, the star thing also applies to high culture stuff — people went to see Pavaroti, Bernstein, etc.

    It would be quite electrifying to see either of those two perform live, right now…

    But seriously, I agree to a large extent concerning the worldliness and idolatry of sports. CT had an article in their latest issue accurately analyzing the idolatrous nature of football, but then simply ignores it to find a Christian ‘lesson’ as well:

    Despite these critical cautions, idolatry and worldliness are not the whole story, not by a long shot. Evil exists only by corrupting that which is good, and in football there remains considerable good to be savored and preserved. Football, to put it differently, may lead not to the forfeiture of grace but to a richer experience of it. And like most experiences of grace, it involves people and takes root in a place. For me, that place is Pittsburgh.

    And Chris, the display over at R21 simply shows the evangelical mind, IMO. They don’t get the antithesis, as Phillips said earlier. They don’t get separation from the world at all.

    It is true that we may not entirely get it either. But that is not an argument.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  24. Keith,

    Just so you can be at peace about my sanity, I’m not obsessed with being consistent! I’m probably already insane anyway.

    Actually, I concur with your point about sports. The American obsession with sports and the unchecked or unqualified enjoyment of it by Christian leaders is similar, I think, to the rock music issue in many ways. (I don’t impugn anyone here). When I see pastors go completely gaga because they finally got a jersey with some idiot’s name on it, I can’t help but wondering if they are sending wrong signals to those who watch them (young people especially) about their (the pastors’) real values. To me going to an professional basketball game and going to a rock concert are very similar. I’ve done both. On the surface, of course, it’s a different experience, but on another level (the ethos?) it is very much the same. I think.

    I hesitate to say this because of how it could be misconstrued, but as I think I’m among friends, I’ll attempt it:

    I think there is one reason that John Piper has such an effect on today’s Church. On a personal level, he seems to care less about being cool or relevant. He wears the same dark professorial suit, lives in a modest home, and doesn’t appear to care that much about who’s who in rock or sports. In the last Together for the Gospel Conference he made a poignant statement about pastors wishing to convey a message that all glory, beauty, and happiness was in God, but maintaining a lifestyle that communicated the message that all the happiness had to be seized down here on earth.

    To me that is the crux of the matter. I am not offended that someone likes base things. I assume the best of people. I assume Trueman has a “filter” I don’t have, and I can live with that. I am perfectly comfortable assuming he is more godly than I.

    My problem is that I don’t think everyone has that “filter” and in an effort to be relevant too many guys (and this is particularly true in Reformed circles) play the “all things are to be enjoyed” card for whatever their particular fancy happens to be (a band from the seventies, sports, or beer). The problem, in my mind, is not in the band, the sports, or the beer (and you know what I think about that), but in the message conveyed when someone who is godly says, “I love _____________ .”

  25. I’m from the generation when LZ was first popular. Thankfully, before reading this post and the comments, I could not have even named a LZ song if you were holding a loaded pistol to my head. But, YIKES, Chris! I went to the YouTube link you posted! All the lyrics came flooding back into my mind, even if I could not have told you the name of any LZ song or that “Whole Lotta Love” was a LZ song. If anyone had named the song title, I would have I just remembered that that was part of the old life before the Lord had my heart and my tastes. As I listened to that song, I found myself thinking, “I cannot imagine that heaven will ever be filled with any music that sounds like that!” Why in this world would anyone whose citizenship is in heaven find it worthy of his attention here, other than to be reminded of how evil is evil, and how good God is for giving deliverance and victory?!

    As I said, I could not name any other songs by LZ, and I have no desire whatsoever to do a web search that would result any other filth from the old life before God made me a new creature be re-awakened in my heart and mind. (It’s going to take a while to not have that melody and those words keep resurfacing!) All that said, Keith has said that the music of LZ is “blues based.” I looked on Wikipedia to see what the world’s definition of blues is, and here’s what they said: “Many blues songs had sad lyrics about sad emotions (feelings) or sad experiences….” I’m not sure that a joyful believer with a close walk with the Lord should ever desire to immerse himself in blues music. It’s a far cry from the ungodly music, lyrics, and gyrations of “Whole Lotta Love,” I realize. But why bother with it? There’s so much good, edifying, God-glorifying music out there!

    To think that *any* believer would ever defend and/or debate this kind of thing would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly pathetic!

    To me, one of the most discouraging and sobering things about reading blogs, Facebook profiles, etc. is to see displayed boldly and unashamedly for anyone with Internet access the carnality and lack of discernment of some who name the name of our lovely, holy Savior. My mind goes back to the verse “proving what is acceptable to the Lord.” That doesn’t seem to be the measuring rod for many believers these days, unfortunately.

  26. I interrupt the rather serious-minded thread for a public service announcement:

    Rob (who just posted a comment on this thread) has one of the funniest blogs I’ve ever seen. Click on his name above, but only if you have some time to spare. Funny, funny.

  27. Don and Bob,

    When I compared Zep to sports, I was afraid that some would agree that sports were bad and conclude that they ought to be completely avoided — just like rock/Zep ought to be completely avoided. But that wasn’t my point.

    I think I can reduce my point to two parts: 1) I don’t think that we really must have, a priori, a thoroughly developed, positive defense for everything we do, and by their involvement with things like football, many fundamentalists seem to agree with me. 2) There is nothing around us that is completely untainted by sin, so be intentional, but don’t even try to come up with some approved standards list that only allows things that are completely pure.

    Don, the fundamentalists who are falling all over themselves to use the term antithesis as a synonym for separation and “standards” lately (thanks to the pat on the back they received from the evangelical Phillips) are the ones who don’t understand “antithesis.” I’m not saying that these fundamentalists don’t understand separation and “standards” (I don’t agree with them here, but they know what they mean). I’m saying that that the guys who introduced the term/concept of “antithesis” to the evangelical discussion do not use it the way you guys are using it.

    Francis Schaeffer was HUGE on antithesis (having been a student of VanTil), but he listened to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, etc. (not to mention the art and literature he studied) and acknowledged any truth, beauty, and goodness he found in them — while simultaneously pointing out the lies, ugliness, and evil they contained as well.

    Bob, glad to hear you’re not obsessed, sorry to hear you’re insane! I almost completely agree with your latest post.

    Here’s my only quibble: Like you, I don’t have much use for (and I do have a lot of mockery for) guys who TRY to be relevant by faking hipness and pop-culture appreciation. I also share your respect of Piper for not doing those things. However, I think that you need to consider that some guys say, “I love _______” in pure, authentic honesty and in the absence of any attempt to be relevant. They just like whatever it is and it hasn’t crossed their minds that it might be wrong or need justification.

    Further, all of us — even a great guy like Piper — are open to accusations of artificiality and streigned relevancy. For example, Bethlehem Baptist used to have pretty old-fashioned, white, baptisty music. Today, it has hands-raised, multicultural, charismaticy music (and an ocassional rapper) — Should we assume that is because more people like that kind of music . . . because it’s more relavent?

  28. Keith, you might be right about antithesis, but what I really wanted was a reaction to my Pavarotti, Bernstein crack…

    Regarding sports, I am not absolutely condemning an interest in them, there may be some room for enjoying the niceties of athletic achievement. But surely the idolatry of sports is a growing problem and one that Christians need to take seriously.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  29. Well Don, I guess it would be electrifying to see Pavarotti or Bernstein now — although a proper description of the sensation depends on whether they joined you or you joined them.

    Either way, that’s why I wrote that “people WENT to see . . .”

  30. Rob,

    The Blues is much more than “sad songs” or a Wikipedia article. Christians should be joyful, but somehow in that joy we are still to “Weep with those who weep.” This side of glory, Christian joy is not a perpetual grin.

    Here are a couple articles that discuss, in detail, why some Christians bother with the Blues:

    “Ain’t It Hard? — Suffering and Hope in the Blues” by William Edgar in Modern Reformation

    “A Case for the Blues” by Doug Wilson in Credenda/Agenda

  31. I’m going to bow out now, unless specifically asked to say more. However, as I leave, I do want to make clear that I have not been trying to “judge” those of you who believe you should abstain from Led Zeppelin. I have also not been trying to claim that Zeppelin “is just fine.” I see clearly many reasons to be concerned with their work and avoid them. I have merely been trying to discuss/think about how to interact with life in an honest, realistic, non-fearful, and productive fashion. Thanks for the discussion

  32. Keith,

    I think you do may a good point, and I’ll back off a little on what I said. I guess it’s not an affirmation of antithesis per se that has characterized fundamentalism’s view of culture, but a particular position on what to do with the “evil” part of the battle.

  33. […] up getting posted at Reformation 21 (here, on their homepage here, and with a bit more information here). The mud-slinging has continued ever […]

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