Why I (Sort of) Support the SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage

Christians in the US did not lose the culture war when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage – because Christians have never won any culture war. In fact, I dare say Christians are not even expected to, let alone commanded to, win culture wars. Let me explain. Continue reading Why I (Sort of) Support the SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage

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Don’t Be An Upcoming Gospel Artiste

It happens all the time. You hear a given phrase over and over and you get used to it and you never notice anything odd or weird about it. And then one day it hits you. You may have even used the phrase in conversation, until this day when someone says it and you were a bit absent minded and then it really hits you. Suddenly it sounds so different. That’s what happened to me last evening.

I was attending SPA FEST, an annual dancing competition, to cheer a team called DICE. It is the team my friend Winnie (she has written a guest post here before) dances in. In one of the interludes, a guy came onto the stage to perform a rap song. I didn’t catch his name, and it was obvious not many people knew who he was. You could tell from the murmurs in the crowd as he climbed up onto the platform.

“I am an upcoming artiste,” he added after the name I didn’t catch.

That’s when it hit me. I have heard that phrase used hundreds of times and I bet I have even used it a couple of times when referring to people. But what does that phrase, “upcoming artiste” really mean?

L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)
L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)

The surface meaning seems obvious. An upcoming artiste is someone who has recently started singing or performing in public. An upcoming artiste often doesn’t have an album – yet – and he has recently started recording some songs – or not yet. An upcoming artiste is not famous. His name has not caught on and people still struggle to remember him whenever he comes onto the stage.

An upcoming artiste is not an established artiste. In other words, he is not that popular – yet. Most of them can barely move the crowd (although the guy I saw yesterday really worked us up). All that sounds obvious, until it hits you afresh like it did me last evening. Why the “up” in upcoming? In fact, why the “coming”? Does the phrase reveal a worldview that we often overlook, as Christians, but should actually be wary of?

I believe it does, in a way.

An “up-coming” artiste implies that the artiste is “rising” to a certain level and that he or she will one day “arrive”. This bothers me. Because whenever we say an artiste is “rising” whose ranking are we using? The truth is that we have bought into the vocabulary and therefore the worldview of the world. We are categorizing and ranking Christian artistes using worldly standards and we don’t even realize it.

In the world, it is the numbers that speak. In the world, we know an artiste has “arrived” by counting the number of songs and albums and sales he has made. In the world, we know an artiste has arrived by looking at how many followers he has on Twitter and the place he holds in the TV music show charts. In other words, in the world, the stats are counted, not weighed. 

Which leads to the inevitable question, whose standards are we living and “performing” by? The irony is that most of the “upcoming” artistes often begin with a message that is faithful and biblical in the early years of their musical “career”. But as they rise up the ranks and arrive, the message gets more shallow and their gospel becomes watered down and less explicit. By the time they are topping the charts, many are great performers with messages that can barely be distinguished from the other chart-topping “secular” artistes.

Just track the musical journey of many current “arrived” artistes. Check their stats and you will see the consistent rise. Now go back and check the content of their songs and you will see the consistent decline. It will make you wonder if what we need is up-coming artistes or “down-going” artistes.

I am not saying that this is the case with all artistes who gain popularity in their musical careers. There will always be the remnants and the faithful such as Eunice Njeri. The fine wines that only get better with age like Christina Shusho are worth their place in the charts. But these are exceptional because they are the exceptions. The rule is more worrying.

“[Christ] must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Is the Bible a Work of Plagiarism?

I came across this interesting comic on the web (below). A teacher gave her students the following assignment: What is the “Golden Rule” and its source? The answers she got from her students are quite telling. In fact, many atheists use this example to illustrate why they think the Bible is not the Word of God but a mere fabrication of pre-existing (pagan) traditions.

thegoldenrule

Now, what is fascinating is that all the answers given by the students were correct, and factual. The problem is that some of the people quoted lived centuries before Jesus was born, and yet we often attribute the Golden Rule to Jesus (Matthew 7:12). But Confucius (551–479 BC) and Buddha (480-400 BC) said and taught the same thing and yet they lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

Similar examples have been cited as arguments against the validity of the Bible stories. Such as Noah’s flood. Many argue that the story was merely a Jewish adaptation of the Neo-Assyrian Gilgamesh flood myth found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The myth, according to historians, is very similar to the Biblical stories and yet it existed centuries before the supposed period of Noah.

Do these examples disqualify the Bible? Many people believe so. Yet what such arguments against the Bible reveal is the arguers’ ignorance of what the Bible is and what the Bible does. The Bible is not God’s Word because it contains novel (new and unique) ideas about God. In fact, the reverse is the case, all true ideas about God that exist outside the Bible only prove that God is the author and owner of all truth. It is the reason R.C. Sproul has popularized the phrase: “all truth is God’s truth.”

Truth is truth, wherever you find it. To argue that only the Bible contains truth is to actually speak against the Bible, because the even the Bible claims that there is truth about God outside itself. Romans 1:19 actually says whatever may be known about God is available to even those who have never read the Bible. Psalms 19 talks about how nature teaches us about various attributes of God. Even Paul often  quoted pagan sages in the Bible (1 Cor 10:23).

The availability of truth apart from the Bible is actually an argument for God, not against Him. It is proof of His sovereignty — that  God is God over all people and all things, not just the Jews and the Christians. It is proof that those who will never encounter Christianity will not be judged unfairly, because “what may be known about God is “plain” to them (Rom 1:19).

No, the Bible is not a work of plagiarism. But it is a work that seriously needs to be plagiarized by you and me.

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

How God Redeems Culture

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him,  “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God.  “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man.  “No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

This popular joke communicates volumes about how God deals with His own creation. It was only the other day that I found this classic joke to be illustrative of a fundamental truth about how God redeems culture. Abraham Kuyper once remarked, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!” With this thought in mind, I decided to trace out some examples in the Bible where we see God taking a cultural practice and “redeems” it to serve His own purpose and to glorify Himself. In my study, I have come to the realization that the whole universe is one great metaphor. It is like a divine analogy of God’s glory; a transcendent illustration of God’s great design.

Even so, the problem with analogies, pictures and illustrations is that they are not the real thing. The best they can do is point to reality. But they are not the reality themselves. For instance, when I say, “My God is a mighty fortress”, I am using the fortress as a metaphor. God is like a mighty fortress. However, a fortress is not God, neither is a fortress like God. One is the metaphor of the other, never vice versa. God is the ultimate reality. It is important to maintain this distinction in our efforts to engage and redeem the culture around us. The following are a few examples of how God appears to have done it, as gleaned from the Bible: Continue reading How God Redeems Culture

Music As Christian Entertainment?

Music, like food, can be enjoyable. But that’s not its primary purpose. The “entertainment” aspect is a secondary and incidental outcome, not to be pursued as an end in itself. This does not mean that the entertaining effect of music is unnecessary, just as the taste of food is not unnecessary. The problem lies in our finite need to understand things in limited and distinct categories.

I don’t think we ought to classify something that happens to be “entertaining” as “Entertainment” because that would be establishing the identity of something by what it does rather than by what it is.

By definition, I am not a writer, I am a human being who writes. I am not a blogger, I am a son of God who blogs. I am not a sinner, I am a saint who sins.

If you don’t see the ridiculousness of classifying music (Christian or otherwise) as entertainment, consider the idea of classifying a theological book that happens to be humorous as “Christian Humor”. The problem is that the moment we define the book as such, we’re bound to have people reading the book solely for the “humor” in it. To define is to confine. We must therefore be careful with our definitions lest we put our borders too restrictively on ideas that are bigger and more complex than our finite minds can comprehend.

FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

There are many things that we can do for the glory of God. I believe that it is in the process of seeking to glorify and delight in God that we find ourselves delighted and entertained. However, the devil wants to replicate the same “felt” outcomes of delighting in God and achieve them through misguided and misplaced purposes. For instance, while sex is enjoyable, that does not mean that enjoyment is the primary purpose of sex.

When we make the enjoyment the end, then any means of attaining that enjoyment becomes acceptable e.g. pornography and masturbation. In the same way, romantic feelings are an incidental part of the whole package of marriage. However, if we make those feelings the sole basis for a marriage, then there’s nothing to stop us from pursuing them in misplaced objects, e.g homosexuality. There will also be nothing to stop us from getting divorced once those feelings fade. Continue reading Music As Christian Entertainment?

A Man After God’s Own Art

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

Ephesians 5:11

Samuel said to the Christian Singer, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you to write and lead songs of worship in His Church; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Blasphemous Singers for what they did to my children when they waylaid them as they came up from that world of sin. Now go, oppose those Blasphemous Singers and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death their lyrics and their lies, their instrumentals and their melodies, their curses and their choruses.’”

So the Christian Singer summoned the worship team and the evangelists. They went to the clubs and radio stations where Blasphemous Singers ruled and reigned and ambushed them with the message of the Gospel. Then he said to the Compromised Christians who were associating with the Blasphemous Singers, “Go away, leave the Blasphemous Singers so that God will not destroy you along with them; for you have shown kindness to all the Christians who have come up out of this world.” So the Compromised Christians moved away from the Blasphemous Singers. Continue reading A Man After God’s Own Art

Blog Break (6 Mar 13)

It’s been awhile since I posted the last Blog Break. I guess the tension after the general elections here in Kenya have re-organized all our schedules as we wait for the final poll results to be announced. Here are four links to articles that I found worth sharing and re-reading:

  1. TEACHABILITY. This post was written for me. It hit the nail right on the head (and into my heart). David Murray; “No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.”
  2. HOW TO ROCK TWITTER LIKE A PHARISEE, I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing it all the time. Human beings have a natural tendency to draw “envious” attention towards themselves, even under the guise of humility and innocence. Mike Leake hits home with this one. I particularly loved the examples he used in the “SmugPharisee” mock twitter account. Plus I got to learn a new word from the post: Facebragging.
  3. CHURCH SHOULD BE A PLACE OF UNDISTRACTING EXCELLENCE. Stephen Altrogge; “In worship, children’s ministry, preaching, coffee, sanctuary temperature, lobby greeters, and ushers, we are aiming for “undistracting excellence”. If our service to the Lord is sloppy, disorganized, late, and smells bad, it will distract people from communing with God. If the worship team sounds like a walrus seal massacre, people will have trouble focusing their attention on God.”
  4. Finally, in WHY I DON’T LIKE CHRISTIAN MUSIC, Michael Patton takes the question right out of my mouth, “Why is it that when people become Christian in the music business they feel pressured to only sing songs exclusively about Jesus?” The answer could be controversial. read and find out.

Enjoy your reading, friends.