My blog has moved to http://www.SaintLewisMusic.com/ – for a direct link visit FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH.

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I’ve gotten a few messages of late asking where I’ve been and why I’m not blogging…

…fact is, I am still blogging, but now my blog is HERE.  It’s still ‘under construction’, but coming along nicely… please stop by and subscribe.  As soon as I get the glitches worked out I’ll be moving the entirety of FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH to the Hope Farm site.

blessings, and thanks for reading!

Goodbye Rick…

September 21, 2008

He was the quiet one – the fellow in the background.  Sure, folks debated continually on who was more important to “the Pink Floyd sound” – Syd, Roger, or Dave – but I’ve never heard Rick mentioned.  Most aren’t aware that, like George Harrison’s impact on the song-writing of the Beatles, Richard Wright was a cornerstone for the success of Pink Floyd, not only as one of the world’s most creative keyboardists, but also as a writer, having penned – to a large extent – many of the most important songs on my very favorite Pink Floyd albums; ECHOES, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, & WISH YOU WERE HERE.

Wish you were still here, Rick

(Rick wrote most of, and sings the chorus’s of “Time”)

and one of my very favorites of all-time, which Rick co-wrote & co-sings lead on…

In one sense, I’ve not always been a musician, but in that sense, no one has.  However, my very earliest memories – sitting on an old couch in my living room in South Western Ohio listening to “Abbey Road” by the Beatles with my folks – have left me ruined for much thought of a life without it.  My lonely years as the awkward child in elementary school were comforted by the Beatles, and eventually the Police and Tears for Fears, singing to myself while swinging, often alone, on the swings at recess.  Those led to my ‘suicidal years’ – and who doesn’t want to kill themselves at least some time between 7th & 10th grade – when I was comforted and befriended by Pink Floyd, and their vast catalogue of psychedelia.  Sure, I did the ‘piano lessons’ thing for a time, but I think I dropped those by the 3rd grade.  Through it all, I wrote – I have probably a hundred pages of songs I had written – melody & lyrics – during those formidable years.  When I first turned 15, however, I was thrown into the fire…

My grandfather had been in a mental institution since forever.  I never met him.  Not too long after my grandmother’s best friend died, her widowed husband moved in with her – they lived right next door.  He played guitar – WELL!  Late one evening after I had finished my homework I took to the path behind our house and went to grandma’s.  That’s when I held my first guitar…this one:

A Chet Atkins Gretch – one of the first electric guitars to have a tremelo bar.  Even better, this was CHET ATKINS OWN GUITAR, now owned by his brother, Buddy, who was my grandma’s live-in’s jammin’ partner!  For the next year or more I ran next door nightly to learn the basics from someone of his generation: “Wabash Canonball” & “Blue moon of Kentucky”, for starters.  The infatuation with guitars took hold of me so deep that I volunteered to take over as songwriter/manager/background vocalist for a local highschool metal band with a lot of turn-over.  It wasn’t long until it was my band, and I was the lead singer and primary songwriter, when weren’t covering Bon Jovi (remember, they rocked once), Scorpions, Irons Maiden, Motley Cru, or Slayer.  Eventually we all ended up Christians, and the lyrical content changed significantly, but that’s another story.  Next, I bought my own guitar…

Mine was actually far uglier: pink snakeskin, with gold accessories.  A true glam-metal axe if there ever were one.  What I find even more interesting is the sales associate who sold me on it: at the time he was on break from his primary gig, and was simply working at a guitar shop & singing lead for the local band The Bears (who rocked, I should add).  However, his name was Adrian, and his primary ‘gig’ was as a world-famous producer, and the lead singer/guitarist of King Crimson.  Oddly enough, my musical tastes would soon shift, and that guitar played far more music by the Cure, U2, and the Church (bring on the delay!) than it ever did metal.  Odd.

Of course, this was still only the beginning…  more to come.

On that day I married my lovely wife, Cyle Augustas.

I personally think it was a change for the better!

Thank you for marrying me, and changing my life – I love you.

Happy anniversary!

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”–these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Wisdom is knowledge lived out. The last quality of the mature Christian is this: they walk out the fruit of the Spirit – they put into practice the words of Christ – they practice what Jesus preached. When we know God intimately, meeting Him “in the secret place” – when we have that depth of relationship, the natural outworking of that is wisdom: living the life of Christ in a broken world. The mature Christian looks ever more like Christ – his life is conspicuously like Jesus, who was the Word made flesh – wisdom embodied, and lived. Read the rest of this entry »

I first preached the following sermon at a WDA Campus Ministry meeting at the University of Georgia in 2002. I have been hoping to edit it into essay form to blog for some time now. My interest was rekindled after reading Fred’s fascinating blog on Sickness yesterday, hoping to balance some of the other writing I’ve been doing on the subject in my lengthy dialogue with the text of SUFFERING & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD over at my other blog. It is a healthy reminder to myself, and hopefully many others, that all-to-often we ask the wrong questions. I hope this blesses, challenges, and encourages you…

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Let me set the stage. You’re in the backyard of a single-story brick home on a hilly eight acres of spring-green grass. One acre is a garden, freshly planted, and needing rain. Downhill, East of the house is a small creek-bed lined with maple, white oak, and buckeye trees that seem to form a wall protecting a patch of newly planted evergreens nearly hidden behind them. All around edge the yard are log fence-posts, with fields of wheat, tobacco, and corn crops on the other side. This particular day was dark, and it looked as though it may storm. In the backyard among all that beauty stood an 8 year-old boy who was lonely, angry, and alienated, and just wanted a friend. He had been teased a lot at school for being weird, and many of his “friends” only kept him around as a scapegoat. Though his parents were not believers, his mom had taken him to Vacation Bible School at a local church to help teach him “right and wrong.” There he learned enough about God to come to the conclusion that it was God who was to blame for all his pain. That day, as a storm was fast approaching, that young boy held a pocketknife to the sky and screamed, “Come down here because I’m going to kill you. He waited around for a few minutes, in tears, and when he decided God wasn’t going to show he returned inside. That day he lost what little faith he might have had and began to live his life as though God did not exist. Read the rest of this entry »

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and GO ON TO MATURITY, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5:12-6:3

The mature practice discernment. Notice; they don’t merely HAVE it – they put it into practice, and this discernment is sharpened by being continually put to good use. The discernment spoken of here is no spiritual gift, but simply something every mature believer, by encountering and knowing and growing up into Christ-like-ness, should have. And what does discernment in practice look like? Godly wisdom – nothing less. What is Godly wisdom? Applying the truth that we discover by “rightly handling the Word”.

It’s easy to let other’s consciences guide us, as seems to be the practice for far too many Evangelical Christians, which results in us, when trying to be ‘Biblical’ on secondary matters, teaching as truth – as law – things that the Scriptures are not actually clear on. Though many think they’re doing other believers a service, too often this acts as an ‘adding to the Gospel’, and usually results in ultimately enslaving genuine believers to the law – emphasizing law over grace, a grave error for believers, which ultimately leads to death, rather than eternal life.

We need to each approach the Word to discern for ourselves how God wants us to apply His Word, and be careful to not bind other believer’s by our own consciences on secondary matters. As each of us matures, we will discern how God is leading.

Formerly Uncle Jed’s Oil, The Local Story’s full-length is a clean, upbeat, straightforward modern rock record. Falling near Caedmon’s Call, early Counting Crows, and sharing Weezer’s knack for melody, Closer… contains few surprises but is so incredibly catchy that one can’t complain.

Starting strong, track one screams for radio-play. “The Theatre Downtown” is an ironic number about a man who ignores his hard-to-win dream-date to watch a mediocre movie – she merely inches away. “Quicksand Catastrophe”, another potential single, proudly wears Weezer on its sleeve. Showcasing punchy piano and heavy guitars, the music screeches to a near-halt for its mostly a’cappella chorus; “Please excuse me as I take my life for granted.” There are many other standouts, and there are no duds.

My only criticism: the c.d. loses some of its punch midway though because the first few songs are so memorable. Overall, however, Athens should be proud to welcome another entertaining rock band to its ranks.

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Where are they now? See:
Ryan Dean
the Goodfight
the Wydelles

I’m going to start a new series today. Given that I have written so many reviews over the years, at least half of which were for publications that are no longer available online, I’m going to reprint some of the highlights. Today’s is of my old friends in Jaspergate. I loved their music so much that I eventually asked them to join my own band. Patrick ended up being responsible for a large part of the lead guitar work on A Story to Cling To. He’s awesome.

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Patrick and Dawn Davis, the creative and musical core of Jasper Gate, are no strangers to their trade. Patrick, a local guitar instructor and a DJ for NPR, graduated from UGA with a degree in music, and can be heard playing on such productions as MTV’s The Real World. His playing is professional and restrained, a far cry from the oft “wanking” of the young upstarts. Dawn, a local voice instructor and a part-time model, has been singing live for over 10 years. Since ’92 they have released two full-lengths CDs together, an unknown number of cassette EPs and songs for compilations, and have performed nationally with such varied acts as the Dead Milkmen and Sixpence None the Richer. Jasper Gate have been around the musical block a time or two, and it shows. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently on one of the ‘lists’ I subscribe to online a fellow subscriber forwarded yet another email (this one from one of her personal friends) on the evils of secular music, and the blessings of Christian music. Though I admit that the heart behind her message was good, to draw such a line in the sand is nothing short of legalism.

You see, there is really no Christian/Secular distinction – at least I have yet to see a valid way for one to make such a distinction. For one, there is no Scriptural definition by which one can define music as ‘Christian’. A song can’t be ‘saved’, just because it’s written by a Christian doesn’t mean it’s content is necessarily Biblical, just because the content of a song is Biblical doesn’t mean it was necessarily written and/or performed by a Christian – the list goes on & on & on. Honestly, over the years I have known a good number of CCM musicians – and I know people who know a lot more than I do. Some of the ones who sing the most blatantly Jesus-centered middle-of-the-road ‘dear God please don’t offend a single soul‘ bland CCM, that mention Jesus every other line, and clone melodies and styles of music that were popular no more recently than 20 years ago, are – when not on stage – the most cursing, partying, and absolutely un-Jesus-like people you could ever meet. Likewise, some who don’t sing about Jesus WHATSOEVER (I have one in mind who’s released about 15 c.d.’s yet have never mentioned Jesus once in the lyrics, and has no openly Biblical themes), and rock so loud they’d scare your older siblings, let alone you grandma, are humble, Bible-believing, family men/women who are faithful believers in Christ.
So tell me, WHAT is a ‘Christian song’? Does Bach’s classical work count, particularly the stuff with no lyrics?
The only valid dinstinction I can think of is between music written explicitly for the Glory of the Biblical God, and that written for the Glory of another. Yet, with the former, sometimes an individual intent may be to glorify the Biblical God, but their theology is so askew that the results is actually the worship of a false God (since the song sings to Jesus, but not a Jesus that is actually written about in the Bible), and when considering the latter, which may have been intended to glorify someone other than God, such songs still glorify God in some sense as all creative acts point back to the creator. In fact, even something written explicitly to glorify God may not work to uplift my spirits and draw me closer to him, so in that case, it may be best that I avoid it.
What it really comes down to is “What do I personally feel edified by?“, which is an almost entirely subjective question, about which there are few very clear rules. Yeah, you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to music with excessive cursing (though – to be honest – I have very rarely heard very powerful songs written by Christians, and about Biblical themes that have contained language some might find offensive, in order to drive home their point), and you PROBABLY shouldn’t listen to too much music written by people who’s overt intent is to undermine your faith through music. Other than that, I think the decision is yours…
What this means for me personally, as someone who deeply loves music, is that I need to stay in touch with my thoughts and emotions.  If I’ve had a rough day at work, and am tempted to be angry with God, I will likely need to ‘conform my mind’ by listening to explicitly God-glorifying corporate worship music, even though I may not want to.  However, if it’s a wonderful summer day, and all is well, I may just as easily worship God in my heart & mind while listening to some non-believers rockin’ out in French (okay, so I’m thinking particularly of Stereolab’s excellent song “Metronomic Underground”, which has accompanied me during many a wonderful Summer day).  There may be days that I need to mourn a loss, and I put on Vigilantes of Love’s Resplendent, but I need to remember not to stay there, for there is also a time to rejoice!
So, that’s it folks – there is no ‘Christian music’. Likewise, there is no ‘Secular music’. That said, be careful of what you take in, because music is powerful, and has the power to change your mind and move your heart. I suggest you make of point of evaluating where you mind and heart go when listening to music, and choose to listen to what moves you towards Christ.

Heads up, fellas! The gals are trying to surpass us with great new music! Right now, I think they may be winning!

First, Rita Springer released a ‘best of’ record that’s been a long-time coming…

Secondly, though I find myself far less excited than most by Jesus Culture’s c.d.’s (I have to admit it – I don’t like ‘covers’ very much – give me original music, please?), I am absolutely floored by the power & passion of Jesus Culture’s lead singer, Kim Walker. This may be right up there with Brian & Jenn Johnson’s WE BELIEVE c.d.


Thirdly, who knew that Hillsong United vocalist & songwriter, Brooke Fraser, had solo records out? I think someone’s been holding out on me.

And lastly, one of Vineyard’s better songwriters & voices – nearly a local, being from the ATL – has just released her debut full-length, which features her versions of some of her original Vineyard worship material, and much more. My favs are “I am Changed” and the title track, currently.

Guys, we need to get on it, already! Actually, I just got 5 rockin’ tracks of stereo electric guitar goodness back from Saint Lewis‘s lead guitarist earlier today, and my rhythm guitarist is in his home studio today adding some vibe to another song, so I hope to add to the ‘male’ contribution of rockin’ new worship tunes very soon.

blessings…

Blog Lovin’, that is…

First and foremost, kudos to Fred McKinnon for directing my eyes towards the excellent discussion over at the Worship Community Forums on WHO IS WORSHIP FOR? This is one worth jumping into!  And if you’re involved in any aspect of leading worship at your church, I encourage you to join – it’s a great place to network, discuss issues, and find helpful resources that have worked for other worship leaders.

Also, more helpful resources on songwriting:
I AM AN OFFERING offers up Practical Music Theory Tips on Key Signatures
DESIRING GOD MINISTRIES posted Creativity is Imitation
CHRIS FROM CANADA posted a 2 parter on recent Songwriter’s Forums they’ve been hosting at their church
MILESTONE WORSHIP added another installment to his Songwriting for Worship series
ADRIAN WARNOCK interviewed excellent songwriter Stuart Townend
& Mark Altrogge let us know How God Gave Him a Song.

Speaking of Mark, the latest c.d. from Sovereign Grace Music has been getting RAVE REVIEWS (one coming from me VERY soon, too).  See what what BLUE FISH had to say about it, and then read Bob Kauflin & Stephen Altrogge‘s own thoughts on the project.

Have a great weekend!

For the first 2 parts of this series, see the INTRO, and PART 1.

Due to the incredibly huge nature of this next subject, I’m merely going to touch on this briefly, but when discussing the historical reliability of the Gospels, the time-frame in which they were written is an important factor to consider. Liberal ‘scholars’ often date the Gospels’ earliest manuscripts from 70 A.D., as with the Gospel of Mark, to 95 A.D., in the case of John’s Gospel; 40 to 60 years after the events recorded. Many argue that this is a long period of time, and that many facts could be distorted between the events being written about, and the act of writing them down.  But the fact is that at that time Israel was still an “Oral Community” — people were still reciting the entire Torah from memory. Combining that with the fact that many of Jesus’ teachings were formulated to encourage oral transmission by being spoken in essentially poetic form, in spite of what seems to us moderns like anything but up-to-the-minute breaking news, we can still be confident, even apart from any divine intervention, that the main body of the Jesus story would be rightly transmitted orally, even if those dates were valid.

But accepting such dates is even problematic. Methods for dating the Gospels are often spurious a grasping at straws. What one scholar uses to claim an early date another uses to declare an older one. For example, people using Liberal dating methods often date Mark’s Gospel after 70 A.D., primarily because of Mark 13:2; ‘”Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”‘ This is often interpreted to be a veiled reference to the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish-Roman war, and is used as evidence that Mark’s Gospel had been written after that event. It is assumed that any prophecy of an event that actually took place must have been read back into the mouth of Jesus after the even had taken place. Now the assertation that no one could under any circumstances predict the future in and of itself is very problematic. If any one of you were in the same situation as a person like Jesus, living in such a volatile age you could’ve likely seen the destruction of Jerusalem on the horizon. Given the political climate nearly anyone could have “prophesied” such an event rather accurately; it was obvious that something like the Jewish-Roman war was on the horizon — it took no miracle to figure that out. However, Mark 13:2, rightly understood cannot be a reference to the Jewish-Roman war because only the Temple was destroyed, not the entire city, as is implied by the verse. And even then, if that was intended to be a reference to the Temple’s destruction, that was what many Jews desired, so they could rebuild a VALID temple, because many viewed the current temple as less than perfect because it was built by a Roman and not a Jew. So, if this verse referred to a Temple destruction, it was more a THREAT than prophecy!

Another passage that is used to place a late date on the Gospels, yet again a Temple reference, is John 2:19-21; “Jesus answered them,”Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. Jews replied, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are to raise it in three days? But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” Here, it seems, this reference to the Temple again had little to do with the Temple on the Mount of Olives, but rather was a reference to Christ’s own body and his future death and resurrection. Since none of these are references to the Temple destruction that occurred around A.D. 70, then using these references to date the Gospels post-70 is unjustifiable.

That is just to say this: the gospels were written in a community that was trained to pass along large bodies of tradition orally, the message of Jesus fit into the larger story of Israel in a way that made sense and would be easy to pass along, the individual sayings of Jesus were originally given in a fashion that encouraged memorization within that culture, and the dates between the events of Jesus life and their being written down were not nearly as long as many doubters would like us to believe.  That adds up to yet another very good reason to believe what was written about Jesus in the Bible.

Many blessings, and stay tuned for part 3!

Catch me if you can!

April 29, 2008

Apparently I’m absolute ADDICTED to the various ‘social networking’ thingees.

Most recently, I’ve joined TWITTER (which I now update regularly) and BEEN UP 2 (which, though not updated as regularly, if far more interesting to look at).

For the ‘old schoolers’ among us, I’m also on VIRB, MYSPACE, FACEBOOK, & FRIENDSTER, among others (a few lame Christian sites I won’t bother telling you about because I don’t check them anymore).

If you really need another ‘friend’ at one of those sites, come by an see me.

God has really blessed me of late. Though I’ve been very busy, I’ve had many opportunities to worship and to lead worship, and have seen significant steps towards ‘freedom’ take place both within myself and in the environments I lead. The last couple of weeks, though not ‘break-through’ weeks, we have seen significant signs that our youth at INSIDE OUT are beginning to really recognize their dryness and desperation for God. To see the faces of High School student stepping out in faith, expressing their worship in ways that may draw ridicule from others – that’s indeed priceless. Last week, during our time of praising God, our Associate Youth Pastor stepped up to the mic and preached/prophesied a spontaneous message on Christ that was so powerful and passionate that a spontaneous song just jumped up out of me. It was a humorous moment, as the other vocalists on stage were looking around trying to figure out what I was singing, and the folks responsible for running pro-presenter sat in the back speed-typing – hoping to put the lyrics of this out-of-the-blue worship song up so everyone else could join in. It’s not so much that the song was GREAT, but it welled up from my heart, and that was something special. God, be welcomed to give me those whenever it is appropriate.

Coming soon:

New Blogs:
Recent sermon essays, including a 2 part series on Worship.

Full music reviews of:
Sovereign Grace Music – COME WEARY SAINTS (in short: Life-Giving!)
After Edmund – HELLO (in short: Mute Math + Switchfoot + ROCKS!)

Full book reviews of:
GOD SONGS
– Paul Baloche (in short: a must have for songwriters)
THE NINTH GENERATION – John Owens (in short: I helped edit it, so
I must have liked it!)

Thank you for sticking around, and thank you for reading…

be blessed!

I leave to celebrate my Dad’s 60th in Ohio for the weekend, and blogging goes into a fury, apparently…  there are many goodies to report, and I do hope you follow all of them!

I AM AN OFFERING offered up a whole series of excellent blogs related to getting ‘back to the basics’ on a number of instruments used for corporate worship: Drums, Bass, Guitar, & Keys.  Each are short & easy to read, but have some very helpful tips.

ALL ABOUT WORSHIP reported on a Memorable Moment at a recent IHOP conference.

MILESTONE WORSHIP published one more in the Songwriting for Worship series on the importance of MELODY.

THE GOSPEL-DRIVEN CHURCH dropped a bomb entitle “Worship as Turning to God’s Agenda“.  Let’s just say: WOW.

And lastly, related to my recent “Apologetics as Worship” series, I offer two excellent reviews of the recent movie release, EXPELLED!  Breaking Down the Wall; & Evolution vs. Intelligence.

Be blessed!

A couple of weeks ago I explained the Biblical importance of Apologetics – ultimately to be obedient to two particular Scriptural mandates: first, to take our own thoughts captive, according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, in order to do battle with the things that cause us to doubt God, and secondly, to be prepared at all times, according to 1 Peter 3:15, to make a case for – to make a defense – to give an ‘apologetic’ for the faith we have in Christ. Combined, these two are one aspect of what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your…mind” (Luke 10:27), which IS part of, and essential to, true worship.

The world is interested in Jesus. In fact, Jesus has probably never been more popular than He is now. People wear “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts, movies about Jesus abound (many which not only verge on – but party in being – entirely sacrilegious), and nearly every major network has aired some ‘documentary’ on the historical Jesus over the past few years – some days I think PBS and the History Channel air a new one weekly, all of which interview almost soley liberal scholars who have long lost their faith, and work to cast doubt over not only the resurrection of Jesus, but even his mere existence. The next three blogs in the ‘Apologetics as Worship’ series will deal specifically with the questions I asked myself, and the answers I discovered, which both help me deal with doubts about the resurrection of Jesus, and help me “give a reason for the hope” that I have in Christ.

To begin with one of the most important pieces of evidence showing that Jesus was physically raised from the dead is the Gospels overall historical reliability. Reliable tradition holds that all of the writers of the canonical gospels were either apostles, or authorized to write their gospels by an apostle. An apostle was a person who not only knew Jesus first hand, but was personally sent out by Jesus to continue His work. That is just to say this: the writings of other early Christians seem to all recognize that the gospels we have in our New Testament were written by people close to Jesus, or by people who were writing down the stories of those close to Jesus.

The apostle Peter, who was likely behind the writing of Marks Gospel, stated, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” This has recently been challenged by some in contemporary scholarship, but these critiques are largely unfounded, based on little more than elaborate counter-intuitive theories – not hard evidence. If you’d like to read a few good critiques of these works, be sure to read Emory University professor Luke Timothy Johnson’s THE REAL JESUS – by no means a ‘conservative’, but who has a good grasp on history – or if you’d like to dive in head-first, devour N.T. Wright‘s entire catalogue.  Also, the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a great overview, and fairly easy to read.  I list those books because it can take so much time to look into every argument raised, but to show that there are good responses to most,  I’d like to look quickly to one generalization that I believe can easily be shown to be unlikely.

Example; Many of those who hold a revisionist view of Jesus, believe that the Gospels were all written under false names – in other words, some say that the names associated with the Gospel are not those of the actual authors, and that the real authors are unknown. Now, they will point out – and truly – that many Gnostic texts were written this way, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocryphon of James for instance (which, I might add, may be one of the many reasons that they were hardly even considered for inclusion in the New Testament when the church gathered to decide on that). It is entirely believable that over time some Jesus myths might develop and even take written form under a false name in order to honor a deceased apostle – this was actually practiced from the late 200s through the 400s. However, these Gospels, if they may be called ‘gospels’, were obviously sensationalist, and mythological in nature – an obvious attempt to fill in the parts of Jesus life that either did not concern the authors of the canonical gospels (those included in the Bible), or where information was simply not available to them. If you don’t believe me, take some time and read a few: the portrait of Jesus contained in those is more akin to a modern-day superhero we’d find in a comic book than like the person of Jesus we encounter in the Biblical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In other cases, Gospels published under false names were developed by Gnostic sects (Greek cults who tried to hi-jack Jesus to fit into their own religious system) to lend authority to their interpretations of the Christ-story with the intentions of influencing the church at large with their so-called ‘secret truths’ about Jesus.  Often, the reason, then, for publishing later mythological books on the life of Jesus, and naming them after well-known apostles, was to give authority to what was written in these books.

Consider, then, how counter-authoritative it would be to name a hopefully influential work after those so unprestigious, as is the case with John-Mark and Luke, who are only remembered BECAUSE of the gospels named after them.  That’s just to say that, apart from John’s gospels, the canonical Gospels are not named after ‘famous apostles’ what-so-ever.  Why do that, if your trying to make your book look important?

Also, it also would seem that the titles were early additions to the text because, to quote Gregory Boyd, “If the titles…were added in the mid to late second century, we should expect a diversity of suggestions as to who authored them. Instead…we find absolutely no variants”

Last but not least, their authorship is unaniminously testified to by 2nd century writers and historians. For example, the historian, Eusebius, who preserved the writings of Papias, a disciple of the apostle John, testifies to the authorship of the gospels. What should be even more troubling to liberal scholars is recorded by the Bishop Irenaeus, a former student of Polycarp and also a disciple of John’s, who was martyred for his Christian faith in 156 A.D. Iranaeus reported that Polycarp, in the moments before his death, claimed to have been a Christian for 86 years. If this is true, it places Polycarp’s conversion at around 70 A.D., causing significant problems for the fore-mentioned scholars, since this not only places him in the general geographic location that the gospels were being written, and, according to them, at about the right time, but also as a student of one of the authors, the apostle John. Granting authority to Irenaeus testimony concerning the authorship of the Gospels, this essentially means that the gospels are not only sources of theology, which Jesus very character commands that anything written of him would be, but also reliable sources of history, even if one doesn’t hold to the doctrines of inspiration and/or inerrancy (i.e., even if one doesn’t believe that the Bible was written by God through man, and is therefore without error in the original manuscripts).

With the authority of eyewitnesses, each author wrote to a different audience from a different perspective. Matthew, a well-off Jew and former tax collector for the Romans (understood more accurately in modern terms as an official in charge of customs), probably well skilled in keeping records, is believed to have written his Gospel to the Jews. Because of this he accented Christ’s kingship and His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John Mark, Peter’s disciple, kept record of Peter’s preaching concerning Jesus while in Rome, and seems to have often accented Christ’s servant-hood. We can make a fairly good guess that Marks Gospel was written for the Romans, due to his regular use of Latin terminology, and his frequent explanations of theological concepts with which Jewish believers would be readily familiar. Luke, a well-studied physician, and disciple of Paul wrote his Gospel, including Acts, from Paul’s teachings, as well as from eyewitness’s testimonies, and older written records on the life of Christ (see Luke 1:1-3). Acting as both historian and theologian, Luke wrote as an apologeticist to the Gentiles for Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles. John, a close friend of Christ’s (”the one Jesus loved”) most likely wrote his Gospel in his later years while in Ephesus, and often directed his insightful writings toward exposing Jesus as God incarnate.

To make their writings relevant, each author focused on his individual audience’s needs, arranging material topically or thematically rather than strictly chronological (the Greek words sometimes translated as “now” and “then” can also be understood as “and”), in order that they might convey Jesus’ importance to people of various walks of life; Jew or gentile, male or female, slave or free. One or more of the Gospels speaks the language of one or all of these; from the common Greek, to the scripturally studied Jew; from the historian to the mystic, and even those in-between. Because of this, by combining the four Gospels, we can get an accurate and fairly complete portrait of who Jesus was and what he did.

Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon…

till then, love the Lord with all of your heart, MIND, soul, & strength…

Be sure to check out Leeland’s new single. I’m really digging it.

4 A.D.

December 7, 2007

During one of my recent times randomly surfing around iTunes looking for new music (as I am prone to do), I stumbled across an incredible set of compilations from one of my favorite bands in college: Cocteau Twins.

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently was chosen to review a Christmas c.d., but I’ll have to be honest with you: I’m not a really big fan of Christmas music. There are a few artists/albums which I enjoy, such as Over the Rhine’s Snow Angels, Jars of Clay’s Christmas Songs, and Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas, but generally I find Christmas music either stale and overused, or just ridiculous and annoying. In light of those critiques, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God become Man – though not a spotless gem – is indeed a breath of fresh air, and has been spinning almost continually since I received it over a week ago. Read the rest of this entry »

 Well, apparently it’s FINALLY DONE!  This one book I am most definitely anticipating…

Worship Matters: Leading Others to encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin, forward by Paul Baloche.

Is anyone else really looking forward to reading this?

A profound quote from one of my favorite movies, the Big Kahuna Read the rest of this entry »

There is something to be said for a not shrinking back from asking the hard questions.

Today I stumbled upon an old music video.  I was there the first time it was shown in public – it was at a Film Festival in Athens, GA – the video was shown at the 40 Watt.  I think I cried.  I fought back the tears just now while watching it – and listening – again.
Here is “Resplendant” by Bill Mallonee & the Vigilantes of Love…I’ve loved this song for many years, and it doesn’t grow old.  Sit quietly and just take it all in.  Very powerful.