In the nearly eighteen months that I have been “blogging” I have already discovered that an occasional break from my weekly writing schedule is necessary and helpful. Indeed, this post comes in the middle of a “scheduled but unannounced” hiatus from writing and posting here. While one can stop writing for a time, stopping *thinking* is a bit harder, and over the past few weeks a number of ideas have come to mind, and were hastily written down before I forgot about them. None of the thoughts expressed below are significantly developed, but they seemed worth sharing, and perhaps will become starting points for longer posts in the future.
1. The longer I am a dad, the more I grow in my understanding of God as Father. This is particularly true in the area of discipline. Scripture plainly reveals that God disciplines His children and, yes, even visits unending wrath upon the unrepentant. However, God is never described as delighting in this. Conversely, Scripture says that God is pleased to show mercy and delights when people turn from sin and unto Christ. Similarly, as a dad I am obligated to exercise discipline when necessary, but it is a chore. How much more delightful is it to give gifts and rewards to my son than to discipline him!
(In saying all of this, I don’t intend to reduce God’s revelation of Himself as Father to a mere metaphor; rather, it is our human fatherhood that is a pale reflection of His.)
2. Speaking of parenthood, the cliché is definitely true: the older I get, the dumber I get, and the smarter my parents get.
3. The Christian should hold tightly to Scripture as the inerrant and infallible rule for faith and life, slightly less firmly to the ecumenical creeds, still less firmly to the doctrinal standards of one’s church or denomination (in my case, the Westminster Standards), and with hardly any force at all to one’s own opinions and interpretations. Given its faddishness, “popular opinion,” even within the Christian community, should be given little or no consideration in religious matters.
4. Those who accuse Christians of “picking and choosing” the Scriptural directives that they prefer while ignoring others rarely have any understanding of the Bible’s having been revealed over an extended period of time, with certain instructions being fulfilled with the coming of Christ and thus no longer in force. Determining what is and what is not still binding is usually easy enough, though there are a few debatable items. In any case, the Bible is not simply a list of “rules and regulations;” its teachings are revealed largely through historical accounts of the lives, struggles, and divine encounters of real people. I’ll admit, sometimes I think it would be easier if it were just a list, though it would make for much less interesting reading….
5. With all due respect to Dr. Welch, I miss having actual wine at communion. I was almost thirty years old the first time that I regularly attended a church that served the “real thing.” Even better, they served it in glasses that were substantially larger than the “thimbles” used in most churches. I’m not advocating drunkenness or suggesting that serving the “pasteurized version” somehow invalidates the sacrament, but once one has experienced communion by tearing off a chunk of bread and drinking a comparably large portion of wine, a tiny cracker or piece of bread washed down with almost no grape juice just isn’t the same.
6. Music in worship is one topic about which everyone feels entitled to have an opinion, and yet almost no one actually knows what they’re talking about. This is true of folks on both sides of the “contemporary” versus “traditional” debate. I like to think I bring an informed opinion to the table, but the more I study the topic historically, the more I think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, either.
7. Extremes of statism and libertarianism have the same problem: they underestimate the fallenness of man. The one thinks that vesting supreme power in an all-consuming state apparatus will solve the nation’s problems. The other thinks that almost entirely eliminating governmental function will have that effect. The statist’s problem is that his “big government” will be made up entirely of sinners that will inevitably act to promote their (ironically, individual) self-interests rather than the good of the commonwealth. The libertarian’s problem is that the same sinners acting, by design, to promote their individual self-interests will have difficulty producing a functioning common society. A functioning government exists somewhere in between; it’s figuring out where that place is that is the problem.
8. Most people surround themselves with folks whose worldview is more or less in agreement with their own. This is neither surprising nor scandalous. When public controversy arises, however, people are exposed to contrary opinions and seem genuinely surprised that there are people—including intelligent, thinking people—out there that think and see the world differently than them. As a social and religious conservative working in an environment where the prevailing opinions are to the “left” of my own (and as a person with Facebook contacts whose opinions are “all over the map”), I see the polarization of our society all the time, but mine is an unusual vantage point, I suppose.
9. I know just enough about economics to know that the folks making economic decisions in this country know even less than I do about it. Or, perhaps they know a lot more about it, but what they “know” is unproven economic theory that doesn’t work out very well in “real life.” An honest reading of history, including economic history, shows that there really is “nothing new under the sun,” that our present economic conditions are not all that historically unique in their root causes (though technology allows us to deal with bigger numbers). But, we don’t seem to teach history very much anymore….
10. I find it very interesting that people no longer encourage their children to “follow in their footsteps” professionally. This is understandable in one respect, since only an “insider” is truly privy to the difficulties that attend a given line of work, but it is as if we really think that other professions don’t have their own problems.
11. If I held the same theological positions at age 18 that I do now, I might have chosen a different profession. There are certain historical and doctrinal idiosyncrasies that sometimes make it difficult to reconcile the positions of Reformed Christianity (which I believe is the most true to Scripture) with the life and work of a person employed in the performing arts. Sometimes this makes me forget how much of a blessing it is to play and teach music for a living, and I am thankful for the authors I have encountered in my studies that demonstrate how music is an honorable profession that can and should be pursued for God’s glory. Besides, as a good Calvinist I believe that God has decreed all that comes to pass, and that includes my becoming a musician before I became a Presbyterian. “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20)
12. One of the best witnesses a Christian can have is the quiet pursuit of quality in his or her chosen profession. While we should be prepared to give a more direct witness to the faith when the opportunity arises, Christians should not underestimate how much simply doing good work honors God and gives a positive impression to others. Conversely, sloppy performance in one’s job gives a poor witness, particularly when more “spiritual” pursuits are used as an excuse for this. As I’ve written before, for Christian musicians, this doesn’t always mean that we will be “the best” (after all, in God’s providence, some outside the church simply have more innate ability than we do), but we should be among the hardest working.
13. I wish my low brass students understood just how much skill is *lost* each day that they neglect individual practice, particularly fundamentals practice. We all know amateur guitarists and pianists that can play once or twice a week and do fine, often starting in with little or no warm-up at all. Percussionists, singers, and to a lesser extent string and woodwind players can even “get by” better than we do. With brass instruments, though, making a sound on the instrument involves using the lips and facial musculature in a way that is not comparable to any other activity. Think about it. Singers talk, and other musicians use their hands and fingers in other ways so that when they approach their instruments they are not totally “cold.” Unless a brass player regularly buzzes his lips in some other context (how awkward would that be?), each day without sufficient practice brings loss of the coordination and flexibility needed to produce a good sound, and eventually, to produce a sound at all.
14. I talk entirely too much, and gain too much enjoyment from voicing my opinions—and hearing and reading responses to those opinions. With the advent of social media, the opportunities to express one’s views and interact regarding them have increased exponentially in recent years; even something as simple as sharing articles one has read can lead to long and often edifying exchanges. Still, I find myself more and more using time that should be devoted to other pursuits being spent promoting or defending my views on some issue. Thus, I have begun to reduce my activity on Facebook. I have already largely ceased sharing articles that I read on my Facebook page, and over time my activity will likely become limited to sharing family pictures, promoting events, occasional humor, and, of course, promoting my writings on this blog. I even hope to spend less time reading online articles and more time reading actual *books.* (For the three or four of you that will miss my shared articles, the “liked” pages on my Facebook profile will lead you to almost everything I ever read.)
And with that, I will resume my scheduled “break” from blogging. I will return, Lord willing, on Friday, January 24.