Archive | March, 2012

What if Grandma Gets Run Over by a Reindeer (before she repents) ?

29 Mar

I know, I know….I promised I wouldn’t be writing about hell again…but it just keeps coming up in conversations.

So what if Grandma gets run over by a reindeer before she repents and puts her faith in Jesus?  Now what?

I ask the question because I have seen this very thing play out in my own family.

My wife’s Grandma was much-loved.  She was short, feisty, and a genuinely fun person to be around.  I loved her as well.  She always seemed to have a soft spot for me and I loved the fact that her secret ingredient for every dish she concocted, was bacon.

Spiritually speaking, Grandma had been raised in a non-religious home.  She converted to Catholicism when she met her husband and was faithful to raise her children in communion with Rome.   The rub came when her son, my Father-in-law, had a conversion experience to Evangelicalism and rejected his Catholicism.  As far as he and the church we both attended were concerned, the Roman Catholic Church preached a false gospel.  Some of our Bible teachers even suggested that the Catholic church was represented in the book of Revelation, described as  the Harlot who rode the Beast.  That’s right, not just a church with some problems…it was a church that was directly in league with Satan and the Anti-Christ.

Over the years, my wife’s parents would consistently share the Gospel with Grandma, trying to convince her that she needed to leave the Catholic Church.  Grandma once commented that “If I hear them share John3:16 with me one more time, I’m going to scream!  What do I have to do to convince them (my in-laws) that I believe in Christ?”  So she believed in God, but she had no intent of leaving the Catholic church.  To my in-laws and myself, this meant she probably was not a real Christian.  Since no real Christian would remain in a false church, then her salvation was in question.  At least, this is how we thought at the time….

As the years went by, the same frustrating spiritual conversations ensued, but she refused to repent of her Catholicism.  She also began to experience the pain of old age.  Her husband died of a heart attack while vacationing at the beach.  She was now a widow and had to move to a small apartment, to be close to family.  She began having small cancer patches appear on her skin.  It got to the point where part of her ear and nose had to be removed.  She was in pain because of the cancer, but it also caused her personal embarrassment.  She would have to attach skin bandages and a nose patch so she could go in public, without looking  abnormal from the scars left by cancer.

Eventually the cancer did what it does best, it stole Grandma’s life away from her and she died…..

It’s at this point that the whole idea of Hell becomes excruciatingly personal.  To be consistent, those of us who were Evangelicals would have to conclude that Grandma died in a false church and was never a true Christian.  Our theology told us that Grandma is currently being tortured in hell, and that with every passing moment, she will continue to be tortured for evermore-for eternity.

Eternal hell for the woman who gave life to my Father-in-law.  Eternal hell for the woman who always sent a little money to the grand-kids, even when she didn’t have much money to spare.  Eternal suffering for a woman who had by all accounts, been a decent human being to family and strangers alike.

It has been my experience, that in times like this, Evangelicals begin to seek out some sort of escape clause.  The thought of our loved ones suffering forever haunts us, and we begin to say things like:

“You never know, maybe God chose to reveal himself in those last moments…he is a Merciful God.”

“I know she heard the truth, only God knows, but I believe that she must have known the Lord.”

Besides hoping for some last second reckoning for our now departed loved ones, many begin to seek out some sort of sign.  Some indication from God, that their loved one is now in heaven and not in that other place.

For my wife’s family,  this came in the form of sunshine.  It had been raining all day at the memorial service and during the burial.  Just as the casket was being lowered in the grave, some sunshine peaked through the clouds for a few moments.  To some in my wife’s family, they took this as a sign from God.   A sign that Grandma was now resting with Him in heaven.

To be fair, I have no desire to pick a fight with anyone who has lost their mom.  But it seems a stretch, to say that a little burst of sunlight exempts a loved one from the plain teaching of scripture.   This tendency to find an “out” for our loved ones seems right to me…after all who REALLY wants to see Grandma burn? But it doesn’t change the stark picture painted in the Bible, of the Eternal suffering that awaits unbelievers after they have died.

It’s the question I now ask believers.  Can you really imagine an Eternity in which your dear old Grandma will suffer in Hell?  I know I can’t…

Confessions of an Ex-Christian Rocker, part 2

27 Mar

Before I jump into my random memories as an aspiring Christian musician, just wanted to thank the good folks at Ex-Christian.net and The Wartburg Watch.  It’s been a hectic, but truly interesting week as I fielded questions at both sites.  Thanks again for allowing me the chance to interact with your readers!

Are you ready to rock?!…..let’s go…

So after a year of beating it out, trying to get some gigs, we actually were starting to gel as a group and had some potential hit songs up our sleeves.  Somehow, we ended up being contacted by a guy who said he’d heard of us and wanted to meet the band.  We had no idea who or what he was about, but anyone who showed interest was worth meeting, right?  Anyway, this guy shows up at our rehearsal studio (it was really a basement with 2 tiny windows, but to us, it was musical paradise) and starts talking about recordings, flying to California to make the scene, concerts, contracts, gold records….this guy certainly had enthusiasm and it was contagious.

Turns out, that our mystery man had been a sound engineer at a major studio in California, and had just finished up recording sessions with Elton John.  Considering Elton John was still reigning in the top 40 pop charts, we were very impressed and flattered that a true bona fide music industry guy was taking a look at our little rag-tag Christian band that could.  He pretty much became our de-facto manager and musical guru overnight.  He started taking us to studios to get us prepped for flying out to California and “making it” in the business.  We were sure that this was God’s way of providing us a fast track to stardom, top 40 hits, and spiritual impact as the coolest Christians to ever represent Christ to the masses.

At this point, the main songwriter and leader of the band pretty much issued an ultimatum.  We had to raise something like $10,000, so that we could book a studio in LA and fly out to make musical history.  He was positive that this would be the outcome, and we were pretty sold on the idea, as well.  Why else would God have dropped this music industry insider into our rehearsal studio?  We were still only getting scant gig time, a youth group in the Appalachians wanted a band for an outdoor event, the local high school needed a band for the school musical cast party, etc….but nothing big yet…but we had faith, hope, and some guy who kept telling us that we could be great!  But like so much in life, even the best laid plans can go awry….

It started during a hot summer night in a local studio….we were jamming our hearts out and recording three of our newest songs with our new-found friend.  He pushed us hard from behind the sound board, he told us we were sounding better than we ever had, and we were genuinely having a blast jamming and learning about the recording process.  But things went quickly sour after this night….

Our fundraising efforts were not going well, so the main songwriter started chiding us that we needed to bug our relatives for the money.  We even had a 10 page presentation packet that we were handing out, explaining our “vision” as a band, and the fact that investors could use the investment as a tax write off.  Yeah, for some reason not too many people wanted to give a bunch of late teens $10,000 to go to LA…what’s wrong with you people? Can’t you see that this is what God wants us to do…just trying to be famous for God here and all you have to do is give us your money!  Geesh-some people just don’t get it……………The final blow came when my well to do Grandparents said they’d take a pass.  It looks like we were going to be stuck on the East Coast for the foreseeable future.

Then came the final mix from our summer jam session.  We had been waiting for almost a month as our musical guru spent his time mixing down the final takes.  He finally finished and said he’d drop by with a cassette for us to hear.  We could hardly wait! We were sure we had just laid down the tracks for the next big musical revolution.  On top of that, we were on the verge of making it big for God!!!!

But the truth hit us after about 30 seconds into the recording….we didn’t sound all that good.  In fact, two of the three songs were down right awful.  I mean, singing off-key awful….The only song that was even interesting ,was a darker sounding tune that had a Pink Floydish type of feel.  The music was genuinely good, but as soon as the vocals started, it was sunk.  Our only male lead vocalist was a good song writer, but he sounded like he was singing with a clothes pin pinching his nose shut.  This was not going to end well….and it didn’t.

Most of the Band’s reaction was to blame our new-found musical guru for not mixing it well.  He tried to defend himself, saying this was just one night of recording and a rough mix at best.  He felt it could be used as a base line to make better recordings….I wasn’t sure I bought into either side, so I stayed out of it.  Truth is, I thought we needed more practice and a couple of singing lessons, but now was not the time to offer such a practical suggestion.

The listening party ended in a very terse goodbye in which we (the band) essentially told our new Guru to go talk a long walk off a short  pier…in Christian love, of course.  Not long after this whole kerfuffle, our drummer called it quits, saying he was done with rock bands.  He wanted to finish his college degree and move on.  But this was bad news for us, because he was the best musician (and singer) in the band.  We pretty much thought he was an idiot for quitting.  How could he quit when we were so close to becoming rock stars for God?  That just doesn’t make sense!  Oh well, his loss…because we were far from finished. Someday he’d be sorry he quit.

So, what does an aspiring Christian band do, that has just fired their only contact in the music industry, after pumping out a God awful recording?  They go and hire an image consultant…

The Image Consultant

Ah…well…yes, makes sense right?  Bad recording, bad singing, etc…probably means we need a new pair of Guess jeans?  Oh well, we weren’t peddling in logic, and paying someone $350 a month to tell you you’re cool and could be even cooler, is the way to put a bad record behind you, right?  Well, it worked for us…

Looking back now, I honestly have no idea how we even found this person, or how they found us?  I mean, how many people at your local mega church on the main line, are out there peddling their services as an image consultant?  But here he was, and there went our money.

You may ask yourself, what exactly does an image consultant do?  Well, the first thing he did was tell us to go downtown to the hippest alternative fashion shops in the city and shop for a new look.  I have to admit, it was kinda fun to go downtown with the only goal of finding a cohesive and convincing look that said “look at us, we’re a cool rock band!’.  In other words, we enjoyed being flattered.  We did as he suggested and spent way too much money (almost $1,000) on new clothes for the band.  We had been banking some money from some recent gigs, so we shelled it out to find the new us.

Next, our image consultant set up a professional photo session.  He told us he was hiring a freelance photographer that had done some photo sessions for Rolling Stone Magazine.  I don’t know if it was true, but we took it at face value and it stroked our egos a little more.  Our photo session was during rush hour, in a semi-underground commuter railroad tunnel.  I have to admit, the pictures actually came out looking cool.  Even if we didn’t always sound good, we were at least starting to look good…style over substance, but hey, it WAS the 80’s.

After blowing the wad to find the new us, our image consultant then spent the next month at rehearsal.  Sometimes he would show up with this favorite record, make us listen to it in its entirety, and then break it down and point out to us why this group or recording epitomized cool.  I guess it was supposed to inspire us in the way that authors find inspiration in the classics.  I’ll admit, he turned us on to some artists that I still enjoy to this day, but at $350 a month, these were some pretty expensive listening parties.  Other times he would just goad us on to be “sexier” with the microphone (a little risqué for a Christian band).  “Be more intense when playing your solo!”-he would coach me, as I learned to look even cooler during my musical riffs on the electric.  He even tried to get us to do some synchronized dance moves, but that didn’t go very far.  Dancers we were not….but after a couple of months of working on our image, we were ready to go after the big time again….watch out world, we’ve had a makeover!

Some Big Breaks

Amazingly, we managed to scrape together a pretty decent recording session, in a studio associated with a regionally televised dance show.  After getting a couple thousand copies pressed to cassette, we began sending them out to concert halls, music reviewers, and the big local FM stations in the area.  Something  unusual happened, we started getting good reviews in local music columns, local concert halls were calling to book us, and then the most amazing thing occurred….the biggest FM station in the city began spinning one of our tunes on their local rock show.  I can not tell you how amazing it felt, to be called in person by the station DJ and told that she was 60 seconds from playing our song for millions of listeners! Most of the band lived together, we quickly called everyone we could and turned up the radio to full volume…and for 3 and a half minutes, we sang along, jumped on furniture, and played air guitar to ourselves blasting over the airwaves of the biggest FM radio station in the city .  It was an exhilarating moment, and we all took it to mean that we REALLY were on the edge of something big-something big for us and God…

And the good news just coming…a few weeks after our radio debut, the same FM station called to book us for a lunch time concert that they sponsored in the city.  This was it!  Thousands of people down town, and they’ll hear our God anointed pop rock, to soothe their souls.

And then the bad news….our new drummer was going to be unavailable for the gig downtown (what is it with drummers?).  We begged, we pleaded, but he said he could not get out of whatever it was he was doing.  I think his folks were taking him to visit a college…for Christ sakes man, where are your priorities?  We are on the precipice of major rock stardom, and you’re off and running to look at colleges? Whatever….

And then some strange news, somehow, someone put us in touch with the drummer from the Hooters.  No, not the semi-strip club excuse for a wing place type of Hooters.  No, this was the Hooters– a genuine top 40 sensation with a string of hits, Gold records, and world tours to prove it.  Amazingly, their drummer lived in our home town and was not touring or recording at the time. For a very modest sum, he agreed to play for us, if  we would provide him a recording of the songs we planned to play at our huge breakthrough gig! Of course we jumped at the chance and booked the gig….world, watch out!!!!!!

Why Do Bad Gigs Happen to Good People? (or how to go down in flames in front of a whole city…)

It was a perfect sunny day, warm, with just a touch of that east coast humidity in the air.  We arrived with the biggest of expectations.  We had been praying and practicing all week.  We were convinced that this was it, the day we started to climb to the heavens and shine as rock stars (who also happened to be Christians).  We were ready to rock!

As we set up, the drummer from the Hooters showed up and began to prepare and go over some of the songs.  He was good, real good.  I was also impressed with how humble he was and how genuinely interested he seemed  in getting it right, so that we didn’t have to worry about the drumming.  We did a sound check and the guitars were screaming, it didn’t just sound good, it sounded great.

Finally, the moment of truth had arrived.  One of the DJ’s from the station introduced us to the lunchtime crowd that was gathered in the plaza.  I have to admit, I was almost as nervous as the first time I had ever played… it was a big stage and there was a decent sized crowd mulling about on their lunch hour.  Our fill in drummer was solid and we launched into our set.  The first couple of songs went ok, but I could tell from the crowds reaction (or lack of reaction) that it wasn’t going great.  At one point I was just shredding a guitar solo, but when I looked up, there was almost nothing but blank stares from the crowd.  I learned later that our sound person had not been properly informed about my solos and had missed raising me above the mix…no one except the band had heard my solo.

After some polite applause, we started our only ballad of the set.  Somehow, our lead singer got confused and began singing before we were done the intro to the song.  This threw our replacement drummer off, because he only knew the song from a recording, which we had now deviated from and he was seeking an answer as to where he was in the song.  Because the lead singer was dating the lead songwriter/keyboardist of the band, they did what all couples do best, they began to fight in the middle of the song.  Yes-hundreds, if not a thousand people listening, confused professional drummer struggling, and our two lovebirds are exchanging dirty looks and barely off microphone arguments as we struggle to recover the song.  Of course, fighting during a song means you’re not paying attention to the song, so more mistakes were made, which just sent our keyboardist through the roof, and our on loan drummer from the Hooters wondering what was going on.  It was not a pretty picture….

We finally trudged through the rest of our songs.  But the fighting and embarrassment had taken its toll, we were awful and there was no way to salvage the set.  I remember thanking the drummer from the Hooters and trying to apologize for what happened.  He was more than gracious, but I was pretty sure, we wouldn’t be getting any calls to go on tour with his band.  The radio station never called us again and the enthusiasm for our band died down pretty quickly.  Not long after, I realized that the dream of being a rock star for God was not going to be happening any time soon, so I quit and concentrated on my studies and on being a Young Life leader.

If there was anything I took away from the experience, it was that flattery and self-delusion can carry you a long way.  It can also cost you a lot of money, if you’re not careful…at least I still had a cool pair of Guess jeans.

Christianagnostic featured on Exchristian.net

24 Mar

It has been an interesting week, for sure….first The Wartburg Watch and now Exchristian.net has just posted another article.   You can read it here:

http://new.exchristian.net/2012/03/hell-hath-no-fury.html

Gotta run to a kiddo’s double header today….so I’ll catch up later, thanks for the comments and the many new folks that have stopped by the Christianagnostic.

Christianagnostic featured on The Wartburg Watch

23 Mar

Until The Wartburg Watch is back online. You can view my post here.

 

The good folks at The Wartburg Watch have asked me to share my deconversion from the Christian faith.  You can click here to read the post and the discussion that is ensuing:

http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/03/22/my-deconversion-a-former-sgm-music-leader-leaves-the-faith/

The Wartburg Watch is a Christian Site that discusses current issues facing the church.  I began reading and posting at TWW under the name of doubtful, as I was questioning my faith.  I still comment there from time to time, even though I no longer believe.  Dee (one of the moderators of TWW) emailed me with the idea to share my deconversion.  She has written an intro, explaining the reason  it is important for Christians to hear the stories of those who have left the Christian faith.

Dee and I do not agree on the Christian faith, but she has my respect.  My sincere thanks to The Wartburg Watch for the chance to tell my story to a primarily Christian audience.

Confessions of an Ex-Christian Rocker, part 1

21 Mar

Pretty cool title huh?  Ex-Christian rocker tells all, type of post…well, sort of.  You see, the truth is that I was in a Christian band in the late 80’s.  We were kind of an 80’s smash up of Fleetwood Mac and U2.  If you’re thinking to yourself, that you can’t quite figure out how that would work? Then don’t worry, because it didn’t work!  Simply put, we were not very good.  We were entertaining in the sort of way that America’s Funniest Home Videos are entertaining, but great music it was not.

I played electric guitar and I had dreamed of  live gigs ever since I began playing.  My first live gig was in Asbury Park, NJ.  The starting point for famed rocker, Bruce Springsteen.  I was convinced that my foray into rock and roll would be just as impactful, maybe more so, because we were on a mission to make Christianity cool-not just true.

As we set up for the gig, I grew extremely nervous and excited.  We were in a nice ballroom, filled with around 300 graduating seniors of the class of ’87.  Everyone was dressed to the hilt and I couldn’t wait to rock their socks off!  As we neared the stage, we gathered as a group (there were 6 of us) and prayed for God to bless this gig.  We then broke to our parts of the stage and launched in to a rocking up tempo stadium rock tune ,to kick off the set.  I was so nervous that my hands were sweating and my fingers shook as I struggled to stay cool.  Somehow, I manged to pull off my guitar solo without a hitch.  Looking up from time to time, I had expected to see something like Beatlemania breaking out around the stage, instead I saw 300 well dressed high school students sitting down and looking a little bored…they were enduring us.  You see, this was a Christian High School event, and dancing was forbidden.  But in an attempt to meet the students half way, they had hired a low rent Christian rock band.  And we were that band….

At one point we played an instrumental we had written.  It actually was an interesting song, but being our first time live in front of an audience, it went horribly wrong.  It started when I got lost and couldn’t figure out where we were in the song.  Instead of just dropping out a few bars to figure it out, I nervously tried guessing what chords were to be played, by looking at the bass players hands across the stage.  I couldn’t quite find the groove, and soon enough the bass player was looking back at me wondering if he was playing the wrong chords.   Since I was playing different chords than he was, he decided to start looking at my hands to figure out where we were…it was a true comedy of errors, as the two of us blindly led each other to a new chord, in a desperate attempt to find musical cohesiveness.

It must’ve sounded really weird, because at some point everyone was looking and shaking their heads, not sure what to make of this musical menagerie that we had concocted.  Finally, we somehow managed to end the song, but it was a snapshot of how most of our gigs would end up.  Confusion would reign, arguments would ensue at a later practice, and we would continue to peddle in mediocre live performances, with the utmost sincerity that we would someday make a huge impact on the rock world, under the guidance and banner of Christ.  We were not good, but were earnest, to the point of delusion.

We did shine a couple of times!  One memorable gig was at the Jr. High School in our hometown.  We sold hundreds of tickets to our friends and actually pulled off a fun show, filled with a mostly cohesive set of originals, sprinkled with a couple of cover tunes like “Lean On Me”, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.  A couple times folks did rush the front of the stage to dance, and a good time was had by all.  It was the only time my parents ever saw me rock out.  When I asked my mom what she thought of the show, she dryly replied ,that she was glad none of the girls were throwing their undergarments on stage.  Other than that, I think she was happy to see me living my rock dreams, surrounded by other earnest Christian youth that wanted to share the Gospel and be cool at the same time…not sure we ever got to cool, but we did talk briefly about God most sets.  Revival never did break out like we expected.  Maybe the mullets had something to do with that, but I digress…

The best part of the whole show was an accident….the drummer was on a riser, around 6 feet above the stage.  The sax player and I had walked to the top of the riser and were jamming with the drummer.  At some point the smoke machine kicked on to enhance the light and laser show (and when I say laser, I mean we had one single little laser beam).  The smoke machine was misfiring and our stage manager couldn’t get it to turn off.  Pretty soon we were engulfed in a large cloud of stage smoke, and it was literally beginning to choke us (stage smoke is nasty stuff).  I realized that I needed to get down from the riser if I wanted to continue to breath.  Faced with suffocating and unable to see the stairs to walk down, I impulsively jumped off the riser, out of the cloud of smoke, and nearly fell off the stage into the orchestra pit.  I literally thought I was going off the stage because the boots I had on had no grips.  Somehow, I managed to stop…at this point, whole crowd leapt to their feet and began to cheer and dance wildly.  All they had seen was me disappear in a cloud and then leap out onto the stage to start a guitar solo….little did they know I had almost died!

That wouldn’t be that last time the smoke machine would jam.  One other time, we just about suffocated a whole youth group, before someone finally threw open all the doors to allow everyone to breathe again.  But the smoke machine jamming and choking the people we played to, is an apt metaphor for what was happening to us and our audience.

On the one hand, we were just a bunch of kids that loved music and were trying to find a way to tap into the mysterious powers of rock and roll.  But the other side of it, we were trying to use the appeal of music to sell the message of Christianity.  If the music was cool, maybe people would think Christianity was cool and check it out.  At least that was assumption we were working under…and this approach, this emotional appeal through cultural vehicles, is the way that almost all of Christianity attempts to be “relevant” to the culture at large.  The idea that the Christian message needs to be repackaged into a newer, more culturally relevant style is really an indicator that the message alone, is not compelling enough for most people to believe it.

At the time, this thought had not occurred to me.  Years later and over 20 years spent in the Christian music scene convinced me that the message is not true, no matter how you dress it up culturally, you still have to deal with the contradictory and unbelievable claims of the Bible.  And this is something that no amount of rocking music can make up for….

Don’t Feel Like Going to Church, Don’t Worry…Neither Does Your Pastor

18 Mar

A few years ago, I’m talking politics, ministry, and theology with the Senior Pastor of my church.  We lived right near each other and I was on staff as the worship leader, so we spent a lot of time together discussing church, books we like, etc…

On this particular day, I had an insight into my pastor’s soul.  You see, he had a conundrum.  His politics had changed from Conservative to Liberal, pro-life to pro-choice, and his theology had gone from a simple  Evangelical faith to a more nuanced approach to the scriptures.  As we talked, he referred to the Old Testament as myth (something I did not believe at the time), he had adopted a post-modern view of Hell (allegory at best in his view), and he referred to his mostly conservative, Bible believing church members as unable to handle his position on these matters.  He was scared to tell the truth to the very people who turned to him weekly to preach the truth. You see, he was dependent on these folks for his living and he was scared of the consequences of telling the truth, so he didn’t.

Sure, sometimes he would hint at this, or refer to that, giving an indicator that there was more beneath the surface.  But I could tell by the tone of his voice, that he feared for his living.

I felt sorry for him in that moment, because I realized that he was held hostage to a job, and to a certain appearance of theological correctness, in order to keep his congregation at bay from his true thoughts.  I also felt sorry for him, because he also sounded condescending or even loathsome towards our little church. Every day he had to put on his good little Evangelical game face, and try to make his way through a day without outing himself.  I could tell, that this is why he seemed tired and cranky around the neighborhood.  If you’ve ever had to act in a play, then you know how hard it can be to keep the script on track, and how hard it is to recover from a slip of the tongue.  All the world was a stage for him, in a play that he wished he had never tried out for.  The script was exacting it’s price and drinking whiskey was his new way to fall asleep.  This is not a healthy way for anyone to live, let alone someone claiming to be called to live and teach the scriptures.  I did not envy him…I pitied him.

I tried to encourage him to be honest, but he resisted.  Not long after this conversation, I resigned from the Worship team and soon left the church.  It was the right thing to do….

Not  long after, I ran across a survey ( I think from Barna) that found that almost 50% of all clergy /pastors surveyed, said they would leave ministry tomorrow if they had another job lined up.  Did you get that…it’s a 50/50 chance that your pastor does not even want to be in ministry anymore!  Another survey I ran across said that over 70% of  Christians no longer attending any church, had been in full-time ministry or been a full-time volunteer.  Again, that’s a huge number of people who have been running the “guts” of the local church, who eventually leave to never return.

What is it about being a leader or pastor in a church, that makes most folks want to leave and never come back?

For me, I just don’t trust the Bible anymore.  So I just don’t go to church anymore, why would I?  But for someone whose job is to go to church-now that’s not a situation I would wish on anyone.

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

15 Mar

I’ve mentioned that I grew up in an Evangelical Presbyterian church.  I attended well into my teens before a church split over women in leadership, sent my family looking elsewhere to attend.  But the Church of my youth was still liturgically based, meaning that it had a set order to the worship.  Every week we sang 2 Hymns, Scripture reading, 1 more hymn, announcements, and then we all stood to sing the Doxology.

The Doxology was (and still is) my favorite hymn from any church liturgy, it’s words are a simple Praise song with a theological statement on the Trinity.  The melody is simple, yet memorable….and as a young child, it signaled that all us youngsters were to scurry to children’s church while the adults stayed behind to listen to the sermon.  As I got older, we stayed in the sermon, and I began to appreciate the intellect and knowledge of our minister.  He wore the traditional Robe, which I found odd, but he was smart and had a wry sense of humor that I enjoyed.  He was a genuinely interesting and intelligent speaker and I still remember many of his sermons from over 30 years ago.  But I digress….back to the Doxology.

I remained fascinated by the Doxology, because the tune remained with me, and the fact that it still held musical power ,almost 500 years after being written and sung for the first time, impressed me.  It’s origins were from the Reformation (1500’s) and is still a musical force within most Protestant churches….you’ll even catch many a praise band taking time off from their “power ballad” inspired praise songs to play that oldie but goodie in the church music catalog.  I was a music major, so I was very aware of how much music has been composed, sung, and forgotten over the centuries.  Not so for the Doxology….

Another major reason for it’s longstanding success is it’s lyrics, simple yet profoundly drenched in Orthodox Christian Theology….

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below.

Praise Him above ye Heavenly host.

Praise Father , Son , and Holy Ghost….Amen!”

The simple statement of belief in the Trinity, within a memorable musical framework, has served to indoctrinate millions ( myself included) in the doctrine of the Trinity.  A doctrine that, as a Christian, I found mysterious.  Today I just consider it illogical.

The idea that 3 people make up the 1 God is tough to swallow.  On top of that, Orthodox versions of the Trinity teach that all 3 people are fully God and fully equal within the Godhead ( a strange term to my ears….when I was younger and would hear someone say Godhead, it summoned up a Medusa like image of some monstrous God like head being cut off and raised in victory….weird, I know, too many Saturdays watching Jason and The Argonauts).  As an adult, I studied hard to try and make sense of the doctrine of the trinity, only to find out that most early Christian Fathers, would have been considered heretics for their thoughts (or lack of thoughts) on this strange and confusing doctrine.  As I began to learn the ins and outs of what most creeds and traditions taught about the Trinity, I realized while most Christians believed in the  Trinity as outlined in the Doxology, most Christians could not describe the belief without falling into a heretical category.

I once asked my Dad about the Trinity, and he used the example of himself…he was a Father, a Son, and a Husband, but only 1 person.  Of course, if he had been a Church leader in the late Roman Era, he might have been banished or condemned as a heretical teacher of modalism.  I didn’t know this at the time…but my later studies led me to conclude that almost every example of the Trinity I’d ever heard would have been considered heresy, according to the creeds of the Church.

Again, the claim is that the Trinity is a bedrock doctrine of the church and it’s orthodoxy.  If this is true, then why isn’t clearly spelled out in Scripture and why is it that so many Christians themselves are unable to explain it without falling into or skirting close to heresy?

Despite the deceptively simple melody and lyric of the Doxology, it is fraught with almost 2,000 years of theological pitfalls…who knew, I certainly didn’t at the time.