Saturday, June 11, 2005

Singing the sorrow

What can miserable Christians sing?

This was the title of a Themelios editorial by Carl R. Trueman and the article is now part of a superb collection of his essays: The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historic and Contemporary Evangelicalism (Christian Focus, 2004). Carl teaches Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. One cover blurb says that Carl writes with the wit of an evangelical Chesteron, the prophetic insight of a Francis Schaeffer and the accessibility of a John Stott. Highly recommended for a great summer read!

This particular piece laments the absence of the Psalter from most of contemporary evangelicalism's song sheets and comments on the one-dimensional emotional immaturity this leaves us with in worship. A large amount of Psalms are taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented and broken, so is there not a place for this kind of language in corporate worship?

Trueman writes:
'Now, one would not expect the world to have much time for the weakness of the psalmist's cries. It is very disturbing, however, when these cries of lamentation disappear from the language and worship of the church. Perhaps the Western church feels no need to lament - but then it is sadly deluded about how healthy it really is in terms of numbers, influence and spiritual maturity. Perhaps - and this is more likely - it has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing. Yet the human condition is a poor one - and Christians who are aware of the deceitfulness of the human heart and are looking for a better country should know this. A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one triumphalist street party - a theologically incorrect and pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is - or at least should be - all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship?' (Spin, 159).


KS said...

Interesting...Can you share more of his stuff?

David said...

Sure - I'll try and blog a little more about it later this week. I'll do another excerpt and list some of the other chapters.