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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Worship songs about who? (or is it whom?)

My daughter Natalie is who turned me on to blogging. So the following is an excerpt of a post she made concerning a class she took at Wheaton College, which studied a book called "Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" by Mark Noll. You can read all her posts on my link "Natalie".

Noll remarks that hymns [and one could even say worship songs in general] are a good gauge of the intellectual structure of evangelicalism. He points out two hymns that are separated by only a generation, but communicate two very different messages about viewing the world. The first one, written in 1860 by George Croly, is "Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart:"I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,No sudden rending of the veil of clay,No angel visitant, no opening skies;But take the dimness of my soul away.In 1922, Helen H. Lemmel penned this hymn:Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dimIn the light of His glory and grace.Noll says that in the first hymn, knowing God better makes "our vision of the world clearer." But "under the influence of fundamentalism, evangelicals turned their eyes to Jesus, and the world grew very dim indeed" (144).

As Bill O'Reilly would say, "what say you?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that the second hymn is asking us to turn away from sin and not the world? I am not sure that is just what I have always thought when singing it. But I completely agree that we do not live in a platonic reality. The world is God's creation. Even though it is corrupted by sin it is still operating under the parameters set by God. I would even venture to say that it is exactly as God intended it to be...

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what are you saying Jason, God intended the world to be sinful. We know that God is completely soverign, so if he intended he had to make it that way, right?

2:59 PM  
Blogger Lyle said...

Our songs do reveal a lot of incorrect doctrine. How about the focus of songs being on ourselves and not God?
The largest problem is the focus of Christians inward and not outward. And outward would be toward God and others (or the World). Of course maybe I am wierd but I like praise songs, songs that just praise God, without some goofy analogy to a stork or an inanimate object (like a ..........). Now true they aren't real deep or philosophical but when David was dancing in front of the ark, I envision him just praising God. The 70s gave us some really goofy Christian songs and we still sing them today, they won't go away.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Isn't it possible that the second song refers not to turning away from the world, but prioritizing. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, everything else becomes seconday to following Christ. That is how I've always interpeted it. To "make our vision of the world clearer" could also mean to prioritize around Christ. I think its possible that Noll has taken two songs that say much the same thing and because of his own perspective, made them out to be opposites. Perspective and our own prejudices or preconceptions can have a huge impact on how we view both worship songs such as these and, just as easily, scripture. I think it's important that we understand our own preconcieved notions that we carry into an interpetation of any kind if we desire to come away with what is true.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Lyle said...

Possibly but I think there has been a shift in general to more "me" centered songs. I had never viewed the song in a negative way either, all though how we view the world is important. Does it show he we actually view the world or how we should view it? Sure he is looking critically and probably trying to prove a point, but the real proof would be in how many songs, doctrines, traditions, books have evolved in the past 200 years or since the Reformation and to what end?

2:01 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

Shawn, your mention of everything becoming secondary to following Christ reminded me of a quote by someone who moved away from her fundamentalist upbringing, Evangeline Paterson, that Noll refers to in his book:

"I was brought up in a Christian environment where, because God had to be given pre-eminence, nothing else was allowed to be important. I have broken through to the position that because God exists, everything has significance."

It IS important to make everything second to Christ, but not to the extent of neglecting a robust Christian mind--one that is not just spiritually healthy but also intellectually. I guess that neglect is what Noll is referring to when "the things of earth" grow "strangely dim."

4:26 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

That is a good point. We we do have to go into the world even though we are not to be of the world. You are correct, in general there has been a shift to more "me-centered" songs and often times, very "me-centered" performances of those songs in worship services (another blog for another time). But Lemmel wasn't exactly suggesting monasticism either. There has to be a healthy balance in there somewhere. In society, it seems, there have to be people at both extremes of an issue to create a balance in the general populous.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that we could all agree that there are plenty of things in this world that we could stand to turn away from. If the author is referring to turning away from everything in the world would not represent good doctrine, but if he is referring to turning away from sinful things, say porn for example, why would that be wrong?

I guess the issue in question is whether or not Noll is quoting both songs in context. And yes "anonymous" I think the world is exactly as God intended. If it is not then God does not have much forsight.

3:28 PM  

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