No Gospel Without Wrath

Why would a denomination want to remove a hymn’s reference to God’s wrath?

We cannot rejoice enough over what God has done for us. Let’s sing and preach about His wrath, warn the unrepentant what’s coming, and tell them that through Christ alone, as the hymn states, they can avoid it. That is the gospel   When I read that the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) decided to exclude from its hymnals the song “In... Continue Reading

‘My God, My Father, Blissful Name’: A Hymn of Patient Hope in God

Anne Steele’s poetry focuses on God who reassured her life as all around seemed uncertain

In Anne Steele’s life, the rain was falling.  She longed for the sun to warm her days, but often she was given no respite from pain and loneliness.  She felt out of control.  And the gracious, merciful Father she saw in the Scriptures picked her up, and held her, and it calmed her down.   ... Continue Reading

What You Can’t Sing Without Penal Substitution

Without penal substitution there is no salvation. And there isn’t nearly as much to sing about.

The notion that Christ died as our sin-bearing substitute who bore the curse for our sakes is considered, by some, too primitive, too violent, and too narrow. Penal substitution is only a theory of the atonement, just one idea among many, maybe not even a good theory, at the very least not the best or... Continue Reading

The Father, Mumford & Sons, and the Holy Spirit

The controversial Christianity of a hot-selling band has rock critics running amok

In a world without taboos the only taboo is God. A higher power reminds of limitations, authority, and that something greater than number one exists. The rock star imagines himself as a human deity, and his many worshippers treat him accordingly. God’s a real buzz kill in that anthropocentric universe.   Babel, Mumford & Sons’... Continue Reading

Christmas Carols: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

A hymn celebrating the hope of Messiah’s advent

The hymn is based on a prophecy in Isaiah 7, a prophecy that looks forward to the birth of a child who will be named Immanuel, which means “God with us.” In Eden, God had been present with mankind, but as a result of the Fall, man was exiled from God’s presence. From that point... Continue Reading

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

The story of an ancient Advent hymn

At the age of fifty-seven, at the height of his power and prestige, Prudentius grew weary of civic life and considered his life thus far to have been a waste. He was having a midlife crisis (or, given the age span at the time, more like an almost-at-the-end-of-my-life crisis). So the successful lawyer, judge, and... Continue Reading

On Theology, Rap, and Pop Culture

Theology is always conceived of and articulated within a social and cultural context.

We make belittling jokes about pastors or youth pastors who seek to preach the gospel in a manner that is meaningful to these culture and sub-cultures. Instead of belittling those who try to minister meaningfully, we need to encourage them to do it well, and follow suit ourselves.

Mumford & Sons and the Death of Church Music

If I want to sing a bunch of stale, bland pop songs, I’ll have a campfire, not go to church.

What Mumford has discovered, along with his masters at Universal, is that this goopy, self-serious emotionalism sells like crazy. And since he apparently has no interest in new musical ideas, you end up with a relentlessly monotonous body of work that amounts to more of a brand than an oeuvre.

Puritans and Propaganda

Holy Hip-Hop Controversy: Rapper Propaganda’s blistering critique of Puritanism’s racist history has some Reformed listeners crying foul.

Is criticizing the racist roots of Puritanism out of bounds? That’s what some Calvinists are debating following Christian rapper Propaganda’s scathing indictment of Puritan history.

The Church’s Antipathy to Popular Music

Part 5 of the Christian church's history in relation to popular entertainment

T.G, an unidentified Puritan divine, wrote a 1616 treatise on why Christians should not go to stage plays and listed seven reasons why not: “The Puritan authorities hated and feared the theater because it portrayed immorality and could be used to promote subversive ideas.”