“When people add to the Word of God”

(Old Facebook Post)

Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You Buy on Amazon Dennis McCallum on adding to God’s Word:

“How much should we make of Eve’s addition to God’s Word–that even touching the fruit would cause death? [See Genesis 3:2. God had only said, “If you eat it’s fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:17, italics added.] Some commentators think this is significant, and I tend to agree.

“Remember, Eve wasn’t around when God spoke his directive to Adam… Therefore, Adam probably had to convey what God had said. Perhaps he decided to play it safe and, just in case, add a restriction that God never mentioned. If so, his addition is similar to what believers have historically done with God’s Word. Instead of sticking with what God has said, we tend to add extra restrictions, as layers of protection or control…

“When people add to the Word of God, they tend to add more boundaries and guidelines than he gave in the original. Such additions can become openings for Satan because they represent God as being needlessly restrictive and portray the Christian life as stuffy and unlivable. Satan then uses this to call God’s character into question.”

Excerpts from Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You (Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House, 2009), page 29. (The bracketed comment and the boldface were added by me.)


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On borrowing pagan musical forms

(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

I find hard to believe that heavenly music will be restricted to the styles of 16th to 19th century Europe. The Bible itself demonstrates the appropriateness of borrowing from other musical cultures:

“It is clear that Israel’s psalms have in some places happily taken over Canaanite poetic meter, imagery, and even aspects of their mythology and utilized it all in extolling the unique sovereign and providential power of YHWH.” – Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (footnote on page 443)

I’ve done some study of how music “means,” looking both at music history and at some scientific literature. I’ve concluded that there is some intrinsic emotional meaning to some sounds (for example, sudden, loud or fast sounds tend to increase the excitement level–or, more accurately according to scientific literature, it is unexpected sounds that do this, so an unexpected silence can achieve the same), but that most of the meaning/affective power of music comes from the extrinsic associations we bind up with a particular kind of sound, thanks to our past history and teaching regarding that kind of sound. What we hear and enjoy in our adolescence/youth tends to become the norm by which we experience and compare all other musics we subsequently hear throughout life.

(I’ve heard a story of an ex-Satanist fleeing a church because of the organ music of Bach, which had been used in his Satanic cult, and another story of a mother and infant in severe distress during birth, until medical personnel were convinced to play her favorite heavy metal music–at which point the baby’s heart rate calmed down, as did the mother, and the birth proceeded successfully.)

I think much fundamentalist/conservative Anabaptist teaching regarding music is a reactionary theology, developed on the “battlefield” in response to the rock and roll music revolution, during which time certain sounds were connected quite closely by a majority of musicians with an evil lifestyle. Those concerns were valid for the time. However, such music today is does not carry those evil associations to a majority of listeners and performers, being innocent enough to be useable for radio jingles and children’s educational songs.

The suitability of musical sounds is an important question, yes, but the deeper question is whether the musician is using sound to bless God and neighbor. David used pagan poetic meters to praise Yahweh.


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“The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind”

(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

An excerpt from The Epistle to Diognetus, written about the end of the second century:

“The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs. Christians do not live apart in separate cities of their own, speak any special dialect, nor practice any eccentric way of life… They… conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, diet, and other habits. Nevertheless, the organization of their community does exhibit some features that are remarkable, and even surprising. For instance, though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behavior there is more like that of transients; they take their full part as citizens, but they also submit to anything and everything as if they were aliens… Like other men, they marry and beget children, though they do not expose their infants. Any Christian is free to share his neighbour’s table, but never his marriage-bed… Their days are passed on the earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their own private lives they transcend the laws. They show love to all men–and all men persecute them.


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