Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The thing itself

I've tried to post on at least a weekly basis for the past few months, and it's a reflection of the rush of other responsibilities and commitments that I haven't for the past two. Sorry about that.

I did run across this item the other day and thought I might as well put it up. An article in The Tennessean described a debate on Calvinism during last week's annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. I was struck by the Christian tone of both men who honestly wanted to discuss theology, not aim for personal destruction of their opponent. The most regrettable comment, though, came from a Tennessee pastor who will remain nameless:

"I don't get caught up in Calvinism or some of the other issues," said [Nameless], pastor of [Deleted] Baptist Church in [Deleted], Tenn., attending with his wife, [Mrs. Nameless]. "I think our denomination needs to just focus on evangelism, on reaching the world through Christ."

Interesting twist there, reaching the world through Christ, not for Him. What's the purpose here?

But what bothers me is the highlighted comment. Occasionally I hear statements along the lines of, "At our church, we don't care about doctrine, we just love Jesus" -- begging the question what to do about Acts 2:42, for example -- but I expect better reasoning from a pastor. And if Calvinism as defined in the current debate isn't about evangelism, then it's not a debate at all.

I'd have to agree -- Pastor Nameless apparently isn't involved in the issue.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Automotive Thought

This afternoon I'm dealing with the realization that for every hundred miles we drive in the van, we'll spend $24.45 on the gas, $1.35 on the tires, 42 cents on the oil, and three bucks on the air conditioner.

Anyway, that's about the cost of cool air in our eleven-year-old 15-passenger van, if our mechanic is right.

I'm reminding myself that as long as we're spending less than $400 a month on repairs, we're coming out ahead in the near term.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Worms, I Tell You

Some years ago I read several books on English and American hymnody.  It was interesting reading, but it was plain that like so many other areas of American Christianity, there was a definite slide in the content of the hymnbooks during the last century.  One writer quoted, humorously he thought, a clergyman colleague's complaint about "vermicular hymns", that is, "hymns with worms in 'em!"  We sang one this past Sunday -- in the sanitized version, alas, but remembering Isaac Watts' original --

    Alas! And did my Saviour bleed?
    And did my Sovereign die?
    Would He devote that sacred head
    For such a worm as I?

More modern hymnbooks pull the "worm" reference and substitute "sinner", which it still Biblical and no doubt still offends some.  Still worse, though, is the bouncing chorus that some cheerful soul added long after Watts reached his reward:

    At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light
    And the burden of my heart rolled away (rolled away)
    It was there by faith I received my sight
    And now I am happy all the day

It's a catchy chorus, though you could debate whether modern notions of "happy" still mesh with the synonym "blessed" when the chorus was added.  It even has good harmony and an interesting bass line, I'll admit, but it's totally inappropriate for the original hymn.  Watts concludes his portion with simple pathos:

    … dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
    and melt mine eyes in tears.

    But drops of grief can ne'er repay
    The debt of love I owe
    Here, Lord, I give myself away
    'Tis all that I can do

Look at Watts' vocabulary --

    Alas, grieve, bleed, die, worm …
    dissolve, melt, tears …
    drops of grief, debt, owe, and give myself away.

And the chorus responds:

    And now I am happy all the day

I tried singing "blessed" but it just wouldn't fly.

Keep the chorus, if you like, attach to another hymn or develop the idea to stand in its own framework.  But as for me, I need to be reminded of my vermicular state, and my helpless dependence on a gracious Savior, and the awful price He paid, daily.  Or to borrow the chorus, all the day.