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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bordering on Sacrilege

Part 4 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

Bordering on Sacrilege

Over the last few years the world has gone on to woo the Church (about like water woos a duck!) and has won her heart and hand in what seems to be a case of true love. The honeymoon is still on and the church is now the pampered bride of the world. And what a dowry she has brought to her sensuous and drooling lover! An impenitent and unregenerate populace buys religious books by the millions, to the delight of the profit-hungry publishers. Movie stars now write our hymns; the holy name of Christ sounds out from the gaudy jukebox at the corner pool hall, and in all-night stomp sessions hysterical young people rock and roll to the glory of the Lord.

— The Size of the Soul

The helpless Christ of the crucifix and the vacuous-countenanced Christ that looks out in sweet innocence from the walls of our evangelical homes is all one and the same. The Catholics rescue Him by bringing a Queen of Heaven to His aid. But we Protestants have no helper. So we sing pop choruses to cheer our drooping spirits and hold panel discussions in the plaintive hope that someone will come up with the answer to our scarce-spoken complaint.

—The Root of the Righteous

Then, also, the Spirit gave a bright, emotional quality to their religion, and I grieve before my God over the lack of this in our day. The emotional quality isn’t there. There is a sickliness about us all; we pump so hard trying to get a little drop of delight out of our old rusty well, and we write innumerable bouncy choruses, and we pump and pump until you can hear the old rusty thing squeak across forty acres. But it doesn’t work.

—How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras divided men into three classes: 1. Seekers after knowledge; 2. Seekers after honor; 3. Seekers after gain.

I wonder why he failed to notice two other classes: those who are not seeking anything and those who are seekers after God.

Let us add them to his list:

4. Seekers after nothing. These are the human vegetables who live by their glands and their instincts. I refer to the millions of normal persons who have allowed their magnificent intellectual equipment to wither away from lack of exercise. Their reading matter is the sports page and the comic section; their music is whatever is popular and handy—and loud!

5. Seekers after God.

—Renewed Day by Day – Volume Two

Evangelical Christianity is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. Our models are successful businessmen, celebrated athletes and theatrical personalities. We carry on our religious activities after the methods of the modern advertiser. Our homes have been turned into theaters. Our literature is shallow and our hymnody borders on sacrilege. And scarcely anyone appears to care.

—Of God and Men


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Noisy and Uncouth

Part 3 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

Noisy and Uncouth

Religious music has long ago fallen victim to this weak and twisted philosophy of godliness. Good hymnody has been betrayed and subverted by noisy, uncouth persons who have too long operated under the immunity afforded them by the timidity of the saints. The tragic result is that for one entire generation we have been rearing Christians who are in complete ignorance of the golden treasury of songs and hymns left us by the ages. The tin horn has been substituted for the silver trumpet, and our religious leaders have been afraid to protest.
It is ironic that the modernistic churches which deny the theology of the great hymns nevertheless sing them, and regenerated Christians who believe them are yet not singing them; in their stead are songs without theological content set to music without beauty.
Not our religious literature only and our hymnody have suffered from the notion that love to be true to itself must be silent in the presence of any and every abomination, but almost every phase of our church life has suffered also. Once a Bible and a hymnbook were enough to allow gospel Christians to express their joy in the public assembly, but now it requires tons of gadgets to satisfy the pagan appetites of persons who call themselves Christians.

— The Size of the Soul

Gospel ballad singing is now quite the rage in the lower echelon of the entertainment world. Many of the shows beamed toward the paying masses are made acceptable to the religiously inclined by the introduction of a bit of tongue-in-cheek religion, usually expressed in these highly spiced gospel ballads, whose theology is a mixture of paganism and old wives’ tales and whose prevailing mood is one of weak self-pity. Such holy men as Elijah, Daniel, Ezekiel and John are turned into burnt-cork minstrels who are made to preach and prophesy for laughs…. Every word of Christ, every act, was simple, sincere and dignified. The entire New Testament breathes the same spirit…. It is significant that the two greatest movements within the church since Pentecost, the sixteenth century Reformation and the Wesley revival, were characterized by sobriety and sincerity. They both reached the roots of society and touched the masses, yet they never descended to be common or to pander to carnal flesh. The quality of their preaching was lofty, serious and dignified, and their singing the same.

— The Quotable Tozer

Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing. Some are even shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of the love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover.
How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by a true and Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such a love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste and reverent.

— That Incredible Christian


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Part 2 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

 The Tozer Collection: Worship Music

Music’s Power

There is about music a subtle charm that no normal person can resist. It works to condition the mind and prepare it for the reception of ideas, moral and immoral, which in turn prepare the will to act either in righteousness or in sin. The notion that music and song are merely for amusement and that their effects can be laughed off is a deadly error. Actually they exercise a powerful creative influence over the plastic human soul. And their permanent effects will be apparent in our growth in grace or in evil.

—Born After Midnight

What about the music you enjoy? It seems almost too late in these times to try to warn against what many in our society seem to revel in—the vile, vicious, obscene gutter language of so much popular music. It is not overstating the case to insist that the kinds of music you enjoy will demonstrate rather accurately what you are like inside. If you give yourself to the contemporary fare of music that touches the baser emotions, it will shape your mind, your emotions, your desires, whether you admit it or not.

You can drink poison if you want to, but I am still friend enough to warn you that if you do, you will be carried out in a box. I cannot stop you, but I can warn you. I have not the authority to tell you what you should listen to, but I have a divine commission to tell you that if you love and listen to the wrong kinds of music, your inner life will wither and die.

—Tragedy in the Church: The Missing Gifts

The influence of the erotic spirit is felt almost everywhere in evangelical circles. Much of the singing in certain types of meetings has in it more of romance than it has of the Holy Ghost. Both words and music are designed to rouse the libidinous. Christ is courted with a familiarity that reveals a total ignorance of who He is. It is not the reverent intimacy of the adoring saint but the impudent familiarity of the carnal lover.

—Born After Midnight


Saturday, January 4, 2014

A.W. Tozer

Part 1 of RELIGIOUSAFFECTIONS.ORG blog series-- Why listen to Tozer



http://religiousaffections.org/articles/hymnody/why-listen-to-tozer/ Why Listen to Tozer?



A.W. Tozer is found in places where he probably wouldn’t have been invited to preach. His books will be found on the shelves of the charismatic church and the conservative, the Reformed and the Wesleyan, the fundamentalist and the seeker-sensitive. Tozer’s writings were of such penetrating clarity that they resonate with people of very different theological leanings. Perhaps this partly explains his nickname – ‘the twentieth century prophet’. He did not claim any personal gift of special revelation, but his insight was prophet-like: incisive, penetrating and filled with unusual clarity. His bold warnings to the church have nearly all proved well-founded, though not many of them have been heeded.

When a writer is found to have appeal across such broad lines, there are only two ways to explain that. The first is that his writings are so generalized, so ambiguous, and so populist in appeal that almost anyone can pick it up and find some soothing platitudes. Such writing is of such a vague nature that as Tozer himself put it – if it were medicine it wouldn’t heal, and if it were poison it wouldn’t kill. This can hardly be pinned onto Tozer’s writings.

The second possible explanation is that the writer writes with such illumination that his writings are almost always ‘close to the center’; that all those within the realm of orthodoxy identify with his keen sense of understanding truth. His writings send forth ‘a distinct sound’, a ringing call to orthodoxy. His writings build on the faith of the historical, universal church with the moss of worldly pragmatism or false tradition scraped off.

It is this second explanation that is surely the reason for Tozer’s broader appeal, and one reason to hear his voice on the issues of worship and music. Clarity, incisive vision, and a catholic spirit are very often missing in this debate, and Tozer’s voice deserves to be heard. Tozer’s voice still carries authority to people on both sides of the debate.

Tozer was seldom, if ever, guilty of towing a party line or grinding a denominational axe. He was not afraid of the opinions of men, perhaps to a fault. When reading Tozer, one never feels he is placating the scribes from a particular ‘camp. Tozer’s spiritual independence comes out strongly in his writings; he had little time for the provincialism of many in Christendom, or the desire for Christians to curry favour with one another. Today, it is becoming rarer to find a writer who is not looking over his shoulder to see how his circle of friends or ministerial colleagues will review or regard his work. As such, we can approach Tozer’s writings and not fear a hidden allegiance to one side or the other.

Another reason for considering Tozer’s views is that he was largely self-taught. Tozer valued tertiary education and seminary training highly, but did not have those opportunities himself. As such, he diligently set about educating himself in everything from English grammar to poetry, from philosophy to theology. And Tozer showed no partiality when it came to these theologians. His writings freely quote from Augustine to Wesley, from Spurgeon to A.B. Simpson, from Fenelon to Martin Luther, from early revivalists to John Calvin. Tozer grazed where many seminarians are warned off by their professors; indeed, many would not be able to read from them and profit as he did. While many will regard his lack of formal education as a reason to disregard his views, I see great value in hearing from a man who, as it were, gave all the writers of the ages a fair hearing. He was not prejudiced against any. While he certainly had his own views, he did not judge a writer to be a heretic before he had read him. To me, this places Tozer in a unique position regarding this debate. Certainly it would be na├»ve to imagine that he was not shaped in some measure by his own denomination. But in Tozer we find a man who studied his Bible, and indeed, most books he read, on his knees. This does not give all his works doctrinal or intellectual infallibility. The point is, Tozer’s experience was to be thrust into the ministry before he could be made into a unbending disciple of one particular theological system.

And to this we must add, if his lack of theological training unnerves some, they must simply consider his orthodoxy on almost every other theological issue he wrote on. His views on the inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Incarnation, substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, the need for regeneration, the resurrection of the body and the Second Coming are impeccably sound. If he came to these by reading and studying humbly and diligently, there is sure to be some value in his writings on worship.

Certainly, Tozer had his weaknesses. He was no aesthetician. Nor was he a scholar of the first rank. He was a pastor. He was a generalist who strove to be a competent thinker. And as a pastor, he seems to me to be a model of what shepherds of this age should strive for, at least in the area of learning and personal piety. Given that he had come through some of the more vigorous expressions of revivalism, that he wrote and thought as he did is quite remarkable.

Several years ago I invested in some software that contains everything that Tozer had written. It’s been as invaluable to me as my complete volumes of Spurgeon. I’ve spent some time searching his works for his views on music in worship. What I hope to do in the next months is present a near-complete collection of Tozer’s views on worship music. There are some that I don’t completely agree with, but I don’t intend to cherry-pick only the quotes that seem to support my position. To my knowledge, these will be the collected written words of Tozer on worship music.