Saturday, April 22, 2006

With Thanks to C S Lewis ...

As a further contribution to the war over "Draw Me Close to You", I noticed that Bob Kauflin has published a takeoff of the 'Screwtape Letters' written by a friend of his. I read it. I digested it. And it has fair points to be sure. But I don't like the matter resting without another side being presented. It's interesting that Kauflin notes (quite rightly) that we should pay attention to our own hearts first and not be tempted to sound more authoritative when we have less support from Scripture - yet proceeded to print this letter that supports his point of view (which by the way didn't have one Scriptural text in it). So I guess I don't really feel that guilty for printing this. Therefore here is my version of a possible letter in the spirit of 'Screwtape'.

My dear Misery,

The greatest mistake, you will learn, is when the fools begin doing what they think the Enemy wants, and stop doing what He wants. The great joke is that the fools actually asked the enemy what the greatest commandment was when He walked the earth in those accursed days and He told them – in black and white. Simply - for simple minds:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 – NKJV).

When we heard this, all of hell was in panic. The Enemy had covered all aspects of the hated human character. If they obeyed this – they would become obsessed with Him. Our objective since then has been simple – to prevent them from loving Him. If we can’t prevent that, then what we have been exceedingly efficient at doing is to cause a block in one of these areas. The idiots spend so much time panicking attempting to fulfil one, that they don’t realise they are abandoning the other and so effectively not obeying the command at all. When they realise their shortfall they rush over in a panic in an attempt to fulfil that one and hence abandon the other. The Master is then happy. If we can’t stop them doing it, then let us at least push them into excess in any area. It really isn’t important.

A number of the Enemy’s servants have got very close to identifying our schemes. One ‘Jonathan Edwards’ for example wrote (in fortunately a much abandoned old volume) that;

It is a stumbling to some, that religious affections should seem to be so powerful or that they should be so violent (as they express it) in some persons. They are therefore ready to doubt that whether it can be the Spirit of God; or whether this vehemence be not rather a sign of the operation of an evil spirit. But why should such a doubt arise? What is represented in Scripture as more powerful in its effects than the Spirit of God? Which is therefore called “the power of the Highest” (Luke 1:35)”. (Edwards, Jonathan, Works Volume 1, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, pp367-368).

Yes Misery. We must read their hated volumes of writings. For by it we learn their secrets. You may ask which ones to read – as we have effectively flooded their Christian market with rubbish. Watch the lives of the authors Misery – watch them. If you see one who is filled with Him and His power and is affecting others, then you will know there is a threat. If he or she start to put pen to paper, then worry more. For when they keep their thoughts to themselves, there is damage limitation. But once their words start spreading and are worse anointed by the Enemy, then we are under threat yet again.

Forgive the long introduction, my dear nephew but it was necessary to have some context. To your question. Yes the Master has indeed heard this song, “Draw Me Close to You” that they are blessedly all bickering about. It is a hateful ditty and causes him much nausea. My dear Misery – you see all things in black and white, but hell will only cause the Enemy damage when we see that things are grey. You asked – is it a song to worry about? Or can we relax? Will it dull their senses yet again? My nephew – it really doesn’t matter. The song is a tool. What matters is who is singing it and what is going on inside them.

Now – we cannot see their hearts or read their minds. Only You-Know-Who can do that. But we can see their outward manifestations. And see them we must. Because there is nothing more distressing to the Master, than when they stand as one corporate (*shudders*) body singing that ditty with their arms raised, with tears rolling down their cheeks and when they leave to go out during the week to spread that hated Word. The Enemy didn’t specify the tools that they use. Our informants suggest that He really doesn’t care what they sing as long as it fulfils the Command to love Him with all their hearts, souls and minds. You-Know-Who is taken up with their hearts and whether their affections are stirred for Him.

Let me close by reminding you that we cannot quite grasp this concept of “love”. Nor would we want to, I would hope Misery! As it is a concept birthed by the Enemy Himself! But You-Know-Who has revealed enough of Himself throughout our watch of history, for us to know that if they truly-deeply fall in “love” with Him then our work is finished. How might they do this, you may rightly ask. By drawing closer to Him. It’s as simple as that. As they look at what He has done for them (the Cross in particular) the more they will realise His deep love for them, and their hearts will leap in return. They can’t help it. It’s the intoxication of His affect on them.

To close, I must impress on you how close some have come to cracking our work. Their two greatest failures are apathy on the one hand and fanaticism on the other. Our goal MUST be to force them into either. Let them “grow up” and become disillusioned with these dittys of love they once sang. Let them abandon the Word that the Enemy has given and abandon themselves to stupidity. The Master doesn’t care as long as they DO NOT fulfil this Command He has given. One final quote from that infernal servant of You-Know-Who, Jonathan Edwards. Note this. It is fortunate that he died young, for he was closer that most have come to knowing what we were up to:

If there be anything extraordinary in the circumstances of this work, which was not observed in former times, theirs is a rule to reject this work which God has not given them, and they limit God where He has not limited Himself”. (Edwards, ibid).

Do not fail me in this Misery. Their worship must be devoid of true spiritual affections. The tools are irrelevant. Let them drone out boring hymns of truth. Let them mystically waft in dittys of fluff. Just don’t let them worship You-Know-Who in “spirit and truth”. Or great hurt will be promised you if you fail the Master.

I remain, evilly yours,

Your affectionate

Aunt Legalism

PS: By the way. If you carry nothing else from this letter, note what You-Know-Who's servant wrote: "What is represented in Scripture as more powerful in its effects than the Spirit of God?". Misery - KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We cannot see Him. He is all the more dangerous for it. He is exceedingly powerful, Misery - for He can change their hearts. He can awaken their moribund churches. He can melt their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that are passionate for His Name and His glory. We underestimate the Spirit of God TO OUR PERIL. Keep them bogged down in controversy. Keep them obsessed with anything - but Him and His Presence. Keep them away from the Spirit of God.


Anonymous said...

An impressive comeback my young brother! I greatly enjoyed this letter - its thoughtfully written and well thought out, as well as being packed with Scripture. Well done!

Dr S A J Burgess

James B said...

The controversalist strikes again ;) I thought we couldn't keep you down for too long. A great read though! You get into the characters of Misery and Aunt Legalism (ha ha) very well.

However would Kauflin disagree with anything in your letter? I've been idly wandering through his website and he's not quite as rigid as say Colson on worship.

Just a thought!

Baxter's Boy said...

Who knows what Kauflin would do?! When he led worship at some of the meetings i attended a few years ago, I found him a powerful leader. He didn't dominate by personality but was passionate enough to lead us into the Presence of God. He chose a marvellous blend of theological hymns that stirred and stimulated and reminded us of what God had done for us in Christ, but knew when to linger with simple songs of love and devotion. I had nothing but the greatest respect for him!

Now ... I don't know really!

I am just tired of being forced to choose all the time. I love hymns with all my heart. "O for a thousand tongues to sing". "Amazing grace!". "And can it be?". But after I have declared them and sung them, there's nothing more powerful than just lingering in God's Presence with simple songs like "Draw Me Close to You!". I am greedy I guess. I want both! And I really don't see why both don't fit into the Scriptural mandate of "In Spirit and in Truth"!

So James. I don't know is the simple answer!

jul said...

I want both too. And I want to write both kinds of songs. It's funny, but I've been to several songwriter seminars ect. and have been told that we need more 'simple' songs, as well as more songs about the Holy Spirit. C.J. said he wanted more songs like "This is the Air I Breathe" but with more content. (Not saying that he didn't like that song, just that if it had more content it would have a longer shelf life I think) But, I have to say that anyone who brought a simpler song had it critiqued to death. You can't have both simple and theologically in-depth lyrics, although songs can be simple while also being theologically correct.

There's a time and a place for both, and last time I was in a service Bob was leading, I think he did a great job leading into worship using both kinds of songs. Bob has been very influencial in my life both in songwriting and in dealing with pride/fear of man. I don't quite agree with him on everything when it comes to this guarded stance towards singing intimate worship songs, but I think it's safe to say I can understand where he's coming from. Believe me, I'd choose an old-fashioned hymn sing any day (assuming content is good) over some wishy-washy 'worship' time singing songs about wind, rain, and fire. But that does NOT mean I would choose a 'Word' church over a 'Spirit' church. I will not settle for one or the other ever. Hmmm....I think I may have mentioned that before...

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for that insight Jul - its encouraging to hear that C J would like more songs like the one you mentioned - that's a beautiful song. I think you hit on the truth there though in one of your comments. "although songs can be simple while also being theologically correct".

Are the "Word" people who hate "Draw Me Close" wanting theologically IN-DEPTH songs - or theologically CORRECT songs? Because like you said, songs cant usually be in-depth and simple but they can be simple and correct! I've been reading through some of the Psalms as they're one of the best examples of worship.

(I'm leaving Song of Solomon aside because I hear it's been argued over ;) ).

And they make for interesting reading! Bearing in mind, it seems we are not allowed to like simple, or anything that doesn't teach us something theologically about God ...

"Give ear to my words O Lord. Consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my God and King for to you do I pray" (Psalm 5:1-2).

"I love you O Lord, my strength" (Psalm 18:1).

"To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God in you I put my trust" (Psalm 25:1-2).

"I will extol you O Lord for you have drawn me up". (Psalm 30:1).

'Drawn me'!?!? ...

My point is that I don't actually think that many critics today would like some of the Psalms if they were set to music! Especially the ones where the Psalmist is questioning God as to why He has seemed to have left him!

And just a cheeky after-thought ... as for songs about wind, fire and rain ... aren't they all biblical types of the Holy Spirit!? ;)

jul said...

I was wondering if you would pick up on that. I don't actually have a problem with these kinds of songs,as long as it's apparent that we're really talking about the Holy Spirit, and they are not the only songs we're singing. I think it's important to have a wide range of songs both simple and complex, intimate and exalting. I would have a problem with singing only one kind of song to the exclusion of others. We are supposed to be singing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs; not picking the one we like best and turning up our noses at the people who choose differently. No offense to the wind, rain, and fire songs!

Dr Annette Walker said...

Yes I would agree with that. Surely the emphasis must be on "WIDE RANGE". Dan mentioned the Psalms ... well the whole book covers a VAST scope of issues and aspects to praise and worship God and we must do likewise. To be sure, there is no dictate as to exactly WHAT we are to sing (as Dan pointed out in his excellent letter).

I think Ern Baxter pointed out that the only criteria is that it is "joyful" and "unto the Lord!".

However we limit ourselves and our range of praise and worship if we don't use the glorious scope of assets that we have in the great hymns of history - as well as the gifted songs written by our newer songwriters.

I noted from Dan's most recent post of quotes from Jonathan Edwards that he warns against despising anything because it is "new". This is HIGHLY accurate and needs to be heard. There is a highly unbiblical phrase going around - something like, "If it's new it probably isn't true". That may be true to an extent, and indeed we do not need "new revelations" to add to the canon, but Edwards is surely right to ask - who are WE to dictate whether God can or cannot choose to reveal some new aspect of His character for us to marvel in and worship?

ABPWD said...

I very much like your PS concerning the Holy Spirit. This is so pertinent and so forgotten incredibly even though the Charismatic Renewal happened in the last 30 years! I really feel deeply that you are touching on something that is so dangerous - and I believe you referred to it in your excellent transcripts of the "High Priestly Clothing".

Ern Baxter stated quite clearly that the reason why we are being confused and kept away from the Holy Spirit is because His primary work is to tell us exactly what Jesus Christ is doing NOW in heaven.

And so the PS ... spot on! This is so consistent. The devil doesn't want us to know what Jesus Christ is doing NOW! Because if we realise and remember that, then we will be so vastly encouraged in our Christian walk, knowing that He has gone before us and is interceding for us!

I worry that even discussions, debates and the like about the spiritual gifts could potentially distract us from what the Spirit came to do. Doesn't the old adage - the Giver not the gifts - still hold?

Ollie said...

I wonder if we become so connected to and obsessed with the gifts because they are the only evidence that we are used to of His Presence? And hence you get charismatic churches that have to manufacture gifts because otherwise we "arent charismatic" or in other words He isn't present? It's just a throw out thought. But I wonder if it's a sign of our age?

Don said...

There's so much rich stuff here, I hardly know what to comment on. I agree with Jul that we need as wide a range of worship songs as possible -- and that there's ample room for the simple as well as the theologically in-depth.

My concern, however, is that in the past 10 or so years, there have been so many simple songs popularized, I'm wondering how people are growing in the Lord through singing just those songs. I've always appreciated about PDI/SGM-written songs the depth and didactic worth most of them have. The writers work scriptural or near-scriptural statements into just about every song, and they aren't afraid of expressing rather complex theological thoughts.

That Spirit-given skill is a powerful tool to draw us into the presence of God during worship -- to stir up gratitude, awe and wonder in us through the expression of biblical truths that are impossible to understand intellectually. There's something God put into music that allows musically expressed concepts to bypass our intellects and penetrate our emotions and spirits (this is no big revelation, of course). If songwriters can describe deep truths about God in a musically lovely manner, our spiritual perception of those truths has got to be affected and improved. (It's hard even to express this in words! Like contemplative prayer, it really must be experienced, not explained.)

I'll never stop singing "Draw Me Close To You," but if that's the *only* type of worship song I'm singing, then something's very wrong with my devotional life, and I'm probably not going deeper in my renewed-mind *understanding* of God. And if that's the only kind of song an entire congregation is singing, then I would be concerned whether that congregation is moving "deep and wide" into further revelation of Christ.

Baxter's Boy said...

Don ... my friend!

So great to hear from you! I have been wondering about my wise friend from the USA and wondering how you are! Thank you so much for this rich, laden piece of writing. (It's far more than a comment!). There is so much here to benefit from. And once again I am grateful for the blog forum. Because I get to throw out these catalyst thoughts and learn and grow from what far wiser friend than I have to say on it!!

I would echo your appreciation of the didatic wealth of the SGM songs and the songs that came from their midst whilst they were PDI. It is great to see that they have brought out a new song book - gathering them altogether. I hold many of their songs on a par with some of the great hymns that I was raised on as a child. It's been a while since I have sung any SGM songs so I can't quote them off the top of my head but I would know them if I heard them.

Likewise I would agree that if our diet of worship songs is limited to the genre of "Draw Me Close" then we are doing ourselves short.

My testimony is geared more towards a diet of hymns/SGM songs I have to say. My former church was practicing cessationist and we were very much a "hymn" church. Which was fine! Just as similarly the SGM church was of course purely SGM songs. And I have to be honest, while no one bar no one can doubt the didatic value of the hymns and the SGM songs, I felt quite dry after a while.

I don't think the appreciation of the truths they were expressing stayed.

Now as you have said so rightly, there are some songs that do bypass our minds and touch our spirits right "there". I would argue that "Draw Me Close" is one of them. And those songs set our "affections" (Edwardism) ablaze. Those songs make us cry. Those songs make us tingle. Those songs make us shiver. Because we know we are in the Presence of the Living God!

So once again ... I am afraid I must stamp my feet and throw my toys out of the cot and say that I want BOTH! I don't want a diet of simple love songs. Because I dread the familar. I dread singing them bored and with my teeth clenched. But similarly I am afraid I DONT want a pure diet of hymnody. Because I want an outlet for my spirit to soar and wheel and dance in the glorious sunlight of God's Presence by His Spirit.

And thank God ... that balance is well-nigh achieved in my Newfrontiers church. It is just a simple thing! But so potent. And as a recent new commentator said on this blog - it means we stop talking and arguing about worship and just get on and "Do" it!

Thus ends todays sermon .... ;)

Anonymous said...

I think we are all united in our heart's desire here actually. I've been reading and re-reading these profound comments and this excellent discussion and I see a real unity.

Not a unity that we have to manufacture out of the whittled down barest bones of the ethics of the Christian gospel - but a unity around a desire simply to be in the Presence of God and lift Him high.

So that's why we fiercly get stirred when we feel that is under attack and that's a good thing.

Keep it up!

Dr S A J Burgess