Spurgeon on balancing joy and solemnity in worship

Two kinds of worshippers often show up at church on any given Sunday: those who believe the worship of God requires solemness and seriousness and no show of emotion versus those who believe in expressions of great joy, raising of hands, maybe even shouting. In his commentary on Psalm 95, Spurgeon says there should be a balance of both.

It is to be feared that very much even of religious singing is not unto the Lord but unto the care of the congregation: above all things we must in our service of song take care that all we offer is with the heart’s sincerest and most fervent intent directed toward the Lord himself. Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. With holy enthusiasm let us sing, making a sound which shall indicate our earnestness; with abounding joy let us lift up our voices, actuated by that happy and peaceful spirit which trustful love is sure to foster.
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We should shout as exultingly as those do who triumph in war, and as solemnly as those whose utterance is a psalm. It is not always easy to unite enthusiasm with reverence, and it is a frequent fault to destroy one of these qualities while straining after the other. The perfection of singing is that which unites joy with gravity, exultation with humility, fervency with sobriety. The invitation given in the first verse (Ps 95:1) is thus repeated in the second (Ps 95:2) with the addition of directions, which indicate more fully the intent of the writer. One can imagine David in earnest tones persuading his people to go up with him to the worship of Jehovah with sound of harp and hymn, and holy delight. The happiness of his exhortation is noteworthy, the noise is to be joyful; this quality he insists upon twice. It is to be feared that this is too much overlooked in ordinary services, people are so impressed with the idea that they ought to be serious that they put on the aspect of misery, and quite forget that joy is as much a characteristic of true worship as solemnity itself.

Secularists horrifed by churches encouraging congregants to vote

Susan Jacoby is a real-life card carrying Secular Humanist. She is program director of the Center for Inquiry-New York City, a rationalist think tank, and a member of the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America.

In her most recent post for the Washington Post’s On Faith blog she decries the efforts of conservative evangelicals to inform their congregants of the issues in the coming mid-term elections. Some of the activities she laments include:

* Planning, advertising and conducting non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives.

* Educating the congregation regarding biblical teaching on civil government, the responsibility for culture engagement, and the importance of being informed by biblical principles when considering current issues, candidates’ positions, etc.

* Mobilizing members of the congregation to vote their values.

Oh, and let the church not forget to provide transportation to the polls for those who need it.

Horrors. People actually voting their values and other people actually driving them to the polls to do it. What is this country coming to?!

Her piece is a rallying cry to her secularist compatriots who seem to be slumbering under the impression that the Religious Right is dead. She informs them that quite to the contrary:

No secular organization is capable of mounting anything like an organized, church-funded campaign to recruit new voters. Churches reach deep into the daily lives of their most devout members in a way that no secular group can (or, for that matter, would want to do).

One wonders if Susan Jacoby has never heard of unions, which for decades have been mobilizing (intimidating?) their memberships to support a most extreme liberal agenda through the election of Democrat candidates.

The Hitchens Brothers Debate

UPDATE: NPRs Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty was a panelist at the Hitchens Brothers debate. She was my guest on Wednesday, October 12 at 5:05 pm ET.

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Yesterday in Washington, DC a lunchtime “debate” (billed as a “conversation”) was held between noted Atheist Christopher Hitchens and his Evangelical Christian brother, Peter. The question on the table was whether or not civilization could survive without God. The debate was sponsored by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Christopher argued,

There used to be a word which could be used unironically. People meant what they said when they said the word Christendom. There was a Christian world. Partly evolved, partly carved out by the sword, partly defended by the sword, giving way and expanding at times. But it was a meaningful name for a community of belief and value that endured for many, many centuries. It had many splendors to its name, but it’s all gone now.

[In] huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue that they lead conspicuously less civilized lives than their predecessor generations. I don’t think it’s really true to say that we live less civilized a life than those of our predecessors, who believed there was a genuine religious authority who spoke with power.

His brother,Peter, responded:

The behavior of human beings towards one another has sunk to levels not far from the Stone Age. How has this decline come about in civilization?

Well I think it has come about, a least partly, and I’m not a single-cause type of person, but at least partly there is no longer in the hearts of the English people the restraints of the Christian religion that used to prevent this type of behavior. I think it would be completely idle to image the two things are not related.

The extraordinary combination which you in this country and I in mine used to enjoy, and may for some time continue, of liberty and order, seem to me to only occur where people take into their hearts the very, very, powerful messages of self-restraint without mutual advantage, which is central to the Christian religion.

“Under the Radar” interviews Stone Director John Curran

The interviewer, Chris Tinkham, asks Curran about the radio show the DeNiro character is listening to throughout the film:

Throughout the film there’s radio commentary. Was that part of the original screenplay?

No, that wasn’t even indicated in the screenplay. That was an idea that was borne out of desire to kind of place it in a time, give it some sense of a news aspect but not go heavy on it. But more to the point was to keep a faith-based discussion going throughout that I didn’t have to put into Bob’s mouth, into the character’s mouth. I didn’t want the characters overly discussing these notions of God and redemption and faith, and I felt it as as an almost soundtrack to his character. I started putting music in there for when he’s listening to the radio or whatever, and it just didn’t work, [he] didn’t seem to me like the kind of guy who would listen to music unless it was going to be ’40s swing or something, which is kind of lame and dumb, typical for some reason. Once I hit on that, I started listening to local guys, and that’s a local Detroit radio host.

So were those archival tapes?

Oh yeah, a lot of it is. It’s Paul Edwards. He’s got a radio show called God and Culture. Some of it’s archival, some of it he recorded with actors in a studio. He kind of did like a show that we recorded. They were free to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, and I just grabbed stuff.    

Read the full interview here.

‘Dearborn Four’ Acquitted; Paul Talks to Their Lawyer

Four street evangelists were arrested in Dearborn this past summer during an Arab-American Festival. They were charged with disobeying a police office and disturbing the peace for continuing to exercise their First Amendment right to distribute evangelistic literature on a public street in an American city.

The four were acquitted recently by a jury. I spoke with the attorney from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor who is representing them, Robert Muise.

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