Tag Archives: noncomformity

“Why become ‘all things to all people’?”

(Old Facebook Post)

I think this is the best sermon I’ve heard on the following passage. Thank you D. A. Carson!

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ESV).


Save page

On scanning Mennonite confessions of faith

I’m scanning some Mennonite confessions of faith and booklets of instruction for new Christians, researching where we got the idea of 7 ordinances. It’s pretty frustrating. One moment you’re reading wonderful summaries of biblical truths, and the next moment you’re left wondering whether you are reading the same Bible.

Example: After quoting Rom. 12:2, we’re told “nonconformity to the world in the above passage refers primarily to the way we dress.” Hello? Did you forget to give Paul that memo? He never mentions dress in that passage… Then we get: “The church has the responsibility to design patterns of simple dress for her people, in harmony with Biblical principles. You will find this code written in the standards of the church. You ought to become acquainted with these standards and obey them willingly.” [Military salute. “Yes, SIR!!”] For some reason there is no Scripture reference given for this last paragraph. ??

Or, in another booklet, after a generally good paragraph on what “the Word teaches” about clothing, a move away from “the Word” to simply what “we believe”: “We believe that the principles of nonconformity, modesty and simplicity can best be maintained by uniformity [no evidence given, from “the Word” or otherwise], therefore, we believe uniform plain attire in the congregation is necessary” (a move from “best” to “necessary”).

Or this: “In this chapter we are going to study about the seven ordinances of the church [Pardon me? What seven ordinances? Which Bible passage lists these seven?] The word “ordinance” could mean any commandment or law [pretty close to the Bible’s use of the word, I believe], but in this chapter we will use it in a different [non-biblical?] sense.”

I’m starting to feel like I have when I’ve scanned Roman Catholic catechism books…

[Affirmation: I love my Mennonite brothers and sisters!]


Save page

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.


Save page