"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Theology by Music - Depravity

I love music. I find, even after I have just criticized the latest Matt Redman song that people have sung as “worship,” I will still go to my ipod and listen to Sufjan Stevens, or Pedro the Lion or Johnny Cash or even Derek Webb and feel like I am having a spiritual experience. I do not share Plato’s rejection of music as entirely base and animal. Words and music often can convey more together than apart.

Believing the above, I have sometimes pondered what songs best speak to the soul on truth. On one topic, the Depravity of man, I find I have a plethora of songs which come to mind. In fact, entire albums like Pedro the Lion’s Control, or Johnny Cash’s Murder thoroughly tackle the topic. But if I had to choose one song that conveyed the concept the best it is Sufjan Steven’s song John Wayne Gacy Jr. [video below]

Listen to the lyrics about the nice boy people described Gacy as. The later facts are starkly stated in the song:

(He killed) Twenty-seven people
Even more, they were boys
With their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God

Then the sickness of the acts linger, as Sufjan ends the haunting song with these lines:

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid
What was broken in John Wayne Gacy Jr., is shared in Sufjan, and in all people. The most haunting and gut-wrenching fact is not Gacy’s crime, but our common humanity; the capability of each man to do what Gacy did. Succinctly, Sufjan’s song communicates the first thing one must know to be a saint: you are a sinner…a greater one than you tell others or even yourself.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summary of All Theology

J.I. Packer, in his forward to Death of Death, gives these three words as the summary of all theology: God saves sinners. The more I thought about the summary, the more I liked it. So much is said there, so much to unpack. I wonder how many of my favorite theologians can be put into those three words.

After reading that, I looked over at my three volume Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge. The names of the three volumes? Theology [Proper] (Theology of God), Anthropology (theology of man), and Soteriology (Theology of Salvation). God saves man, or sinners. All of theology in three words.

One of Augustine’s favorite phrases was “God justifies the ungodly.” God saves sinners.

Calvin said all knowledge consists in knowledge of God and man. To supply a little, knowledge of God is knowledge of His alone being Savior (Is 43:11). God saves man.

The very order implies Reformed Theology. Not man saves man, or God and man save, but God. Saves. Sinners/man. God first, who takes the action of salvation of fallen man. Just something to remember if someone asks you to summarize your theology, all it takes is three words: God saves sinners.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who do you say I am? - The Need for Creeds

American Christianity has bred a suspicion of creeds. Yet, a creed connects us with Christians across time, space and denomination. Before he died, Jaroslav Pelikan gave an interview about his multivolume collection of Christian Creeds (outlined in his book Credo).

Pelikan also published a 5 volume history of Christian Doctrine. His defining of the role and development of tradition and its relation to Christian faith helps Protestants accept tradition while maintaining the supremecy of the Scriptures. As Pelikan says in his interview: "The only substitute for tradition is bad tradition" (i.e. the tradition you make up and try to pass on)

Saturday, May 03, 2008


"Whatever is true, it is emphatically not true that the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth were suitable to His time but no longer suitable to our time. Exactly how suitable they were to His time is perhaps suggested in the end of His story."
-G.K. Chesterton