The NCFIC Boldly Speaks Out Against Reformed Country-Western: A Parody with a Point

Caveat Lector, Culture, Music, Worship

Note: This will just be a weird, weird post if you haven’t been following the recent comments made by a discussion panel of men associated with the NCFIC about Reformed Rap.  Information on that can be found here, here, here, and here  [Update 12/3/13 Scott Brown has issued an apology which can be read here][Update 12/11/13 I can’t keep up with the updates to this story.  Go read The Confessing Baptist]. The below “transcript” is a parody with my modifications to Brent Hobbs’ notes in bold.  If you read and watch all that, this parody might seem less weird to you.  But I can’t guarantee it.


I applaud the recent bold stance taken by the NCFIC against the growing popularity of a certain so-called “musical form” in the church.  For too long, we have looked the other way as Reformed country-western has gained steam.  Look around.  Our young men have hats with ridiculously large brims pulled down low over their eyes, their headphones in, slowing strumming the air as though they were out riding the countryside looking for stray steer.  Country-western “music” cannot be disassociated with the culture from which it originated- a culture rampant with the abuse of alcohol and spouses, where the jeans are too tight and every one is cryptically told to “cowboy up”- whatever that means.  The crooners of this so-called “art form” think they are serving God.  They’re not.  What these cowards don’t know is the hand which picks up the Bible must first lay down the lasso.

Here is the transcript from the recent comments:

At the recent Worship of God conference, attendees were encouraged to prepare questions for the concluding time of Q&A. One of the questions we received was: “Any thoughts on reformed country-western artists? … Their musical styles would be considered offensive to some, but the doctrine within the songs is sound.”

Speaker #1:

I would be very against reformed country-western music. Let me tell you why. Words aren’t enough. God cares about how we deliver the message. And there’s two aspects of the delivery. The purpose of songs is to instruct. It’s also to praise God, it’s also to worship. But it’s to instruct and to admonish. We’re given the words because we’re a word-based religion, the emphasis needs to be on the words. And just having good words is not enough. The question is where is the emphasis. And I would argue with the country-western music, with the annoying twang, with those things that the physical distraction is so much that the focus is no longer on the words. And music should be about helping us to remember concepts that we need to remember. And help us to carry forward. Music is a wonderful tool as a memory aid. Country-western’s not that good for that because of the other problem with country-western. The problem with any other form of music is who’s the attention drawn to. And country-western is about drawing attention to the crooner, drawing attention to how his guitar strumm’n is different than anybody else’s strumm’n. To how he is a special person… [Story about M. L. Jones about a preacher with an unimpressive delivery who brings great glory to God.] that’s what all preaching needs to be. It needs to move the attention away from you and towards God. Otherwise it’s about you. And my problem with reformed country-western music is I think in the end it’s always about the crooner, even if the words are correct.

Speaker #2

Music is a medium of communication and God cares not just what we say but he cares how we say it. That’s the function of music. And if we truly believe in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, I believe the Scripture should govern not just what we say – in other words not just the content – because I’ll agree, I’ve read a lot of the lyrics of the reformed country music and some of them are much more doctrinally dense than some of our songs. That’s true. However if we truly believe in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, Scripture will govern not just what we say but it will also govern how we say it. So the question I always want to ask is (because remember Scripture is given to us in literary art forms: narrative, poetry, these sorts of things, parable, and those should govern our art forms as well). And so I want to ask with anything with country-western, with any form of music: does it compare? Are we allowing the art forms, the way truth is communicated in Scripture to also govern our art forms. When it comes the art form of country-western music, very few will disagree with the cultural milieu out of which it grew. What it was intended to express by those who created the art form. The only defense I’ve heard by country-western singers of why they want to use this form is they say, “Well we want to redeem the form of country-western music.” But when I read Scripture, whenever there’s redemption there’s change. There’s fundamental change. So I’m all about redemption of musical forms, but if we were if we truly redeem certain musical forms to express God’s holy truth that will mean that those forms will change to actually be appropriate vehicles for the communication of God’s truth as is expressed in the very Word of God itself.

Speaker #3

Yes, amen to that. “Do not be conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And what concerns me about this this so-called “art form” – it’s a picture of weakness and surrender on the part of people who think they’re serving God. And they’re not. They’re serving their own flesh. They’re caving into the rodeo. They are there disobedient cowards. They’re not really willing to engage in the fight that needs to be engaged. Scott, thank you for saying that. If we are reformers we are going to change and fully redeem and replace the rodeo. We’re not going to make ourselves friends of the rodeo and enemies of God. And so this is what concerns me about anytime Christians, in a cowardly way, follow the rodeo instead of changing it and confronting it. And confronting the antithesis. And we need be doing this in every possible art from – including film, including other kinds of music. And so, Scott, just to summarize: Reformed country-western is the cowardly following of the world instead of confronting and changing it.

Speaker #4

I don’t have much I add, I agree with everything that’s been said. Just maybe add one thought. If my children, with their upbringing were to start to embrace this – I would use all these arguments, with intensity that they’ve been spoken. When someone comes to me, who comes from a culture that’s raised that way, had no Christian background, and first hears this kind of country-western and listens to the lyrics and gets really interested in Christianity – first thing I don’t challenge them on is the form of the music. I to try to take them in, disciple them, and break this in slowly to them. I wait until they are sleeping to swipe their boots and shave off that ridiculous mustache and sideburns.  So let’s have a little compassion for people who, for whom they related to this culture – which we don’t really relate to at all probably – and work with them. And get them to this point where they understand these things. But that doesn’t happen a day. That’s only thing I would add to it.

Speaker #5

I’m gonna get sucked off the stage with the gasping happens with what I say here. I’m probably the only panelist who’s ever had Garth Brooks on my iPod. Yeah. They want to know who Garth Brooks is. We’ll tell you after the panel. So here’s what here’s what drove it home for me: A few months ago I saw picture of Garth Brooks. Vintage Garth: tight jeans, ready to sing, and but he’s 50 now. Wasn’t 50, you know, when he became cool. And he’s starting to have wrinkles on his face. OK, so he’s 50-year-old man with wrinkles on his face – got those tight jeans, and he’s ready to sing. And what didn’t seem unseemly when he was a young man just looks really out of place in the pictures now. So the question is: 50-year-old men in the church – is their job to extend a hand down in the Church and to pull them up into Christian manhood? You don’t see the discontinuity so strikingly until they start getting wrinkles. It’s our job to reach down to our young men, offer them a hand and pull them up in maturity and Christian manhood. That is not doing that.

Speaker #6

I don’t think any of us are saying that in the worship of God there’s only a certain kind of music that should be sung – like we should only sing rap music in church. Or we should only sing classical music, etc. But I think what we are all saying is that some forms of music cannot be separated from the culture out of which they come. That’s an important thing to bear in mind. When we have young men or women the church let’s say the young men start wearing boots and a “cowboy up” t-shirt. I say, “What’s the purpose of the boots? The lasso?” And they’ll say, “Well I just like it.” or “I think it’s nice,” or “it’s the fashion,” and I say, “Do you know why it is the fashion? Do you know who you’re identifying with when you wear these spurs? You’re not identifying yourself with the godly men in the church but with an entirely different culture out there. And same thing with certain forms of music.

I don’t want to be controversial or unloving, Brother Cash, but I believe country-western is the death rattle in the throat of the dying culture. And I think also that we must not use music in the worship of God where the words get lost in the twang. And all people hear is the twang. Now that doesn’t just mean rock-and-roll, that means some songs, you know, that you can cow-daddy shuffle to. That people remember an old tune or identify that particular beat or rhythm or kind of music with something in their past and so, even though they might be singing the right words the connotation is something entirely different. And I think that the music that we use in the worship of course all the words must be true. We must sing our hymns to God, they must be about God, and anything we say about ourselves in the hymns must be with reference to God.

And I think the music by which we sing must fit the majesty of the words, and the dignity of the words, and that there be edification and instruction as well as praise in the words. For instance: music where everything is just repetitious, the guy loses his wife and truck and dog and goes drinking over and over and over and over again and people call it various things, and it may move them emotionally, but that kind of music is so depressing – I think it’s also disrespectful to God, it doesn’t reveal any kind of real knowledge of God.

So music as all of us know is a very sensitive thing. There’s certain kinds of music I like and certain kinds I don’t like. We use a great hymnal in our church, but some of the tunes are funeral dirges and I don’t like singing funeral dirges in church. You remember what it says the Old Testament? The purpose of music is to raise sounds of joy. That is to help us in our joyful praise of God. You must always ask yourself, particularly you young people who listen to music a great deal on your iPods and all the rest: What does this music do to me? How is it making me feel? Is it making me feel anxious? Bitter? Upset? Lustful? Ready for a rootin’ tootin’ round up?  How is this music making me feel? And the same thing I think we should ask when we’re worshipping God: Is the music enhancing and strengthening the words that we’re singing, to the glory of God? Or is it basically the twang that we’re after?

-End transcript-

Prophetic words, no?  What about you?  How does this music make you feel?  Does the guy strumm’n the guitar and crooning enhance and strengthen the words you’re singing?  Or is basically the twang that you’re after?  Coward.

P.S.- does this parody seem ridiculous?  Full of holes?  Only half the story?  That my friends, is exactly the point.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Adam and the 10 Commandments

Law, Quote, Theology

forbidden-treeTo understand the fall of creation, and specifically what Adam did in the garden to bring all of creation into a state of sin and misery, we must identify what law(s) Adam actually broke. Was it just that God told Adam to not eat of the fruit, but he did, and therefore all of creation fell? To be sure, that’s enough – but it’s much more than that. In Edward Fisher’s classic work The Marrow of Modern Divinity he identifies through the interlocutor Evangelista how Adam broke all 10 commandments (which he was obligated to obey in the Covenant of Works):

1. He chose himself another god when he followed the devil.

2. He idolized and defied his own belly as the apostle’s phrase is, ‘He made his belly his god.’

3. He took the name of God in vain, when he believed him not.

4. He kept not the rest and estate wherein God had set him.

5. He dishonored his Father who was in heaven; and therefore his days were not prolonged in that land which the Lord his God had given him.

6. He massacred himself and all his posterity.

7. From Eve he was a virgin, but in eyes and mind he committed spiritual fornication.

8. He stole, like Achan, that which God had set aside not to be meddled with; and this his stealth is that which troubles all Israel – the whole world.

9. He bare witness against God, when he believed the witness of the devil before him.

10. He coveted an evil covetousness, like Amnon, which cost him his life (2 Sam. 13), and all his progeny.

The 10 commandments/Moral Law of God did not begin in Exodus 20. The Moral Law of God was written on the hearts of Adam and Eve and in full effect, rendering an obligation upon them to keep God’s Law perfectly lest they die.

Want more? Check out what I consider one of the most important books for Christians to read. The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher (Marginal notes from puritan Thomas Boston).

(By: Nick Kennicott)

A New Take On Uncle Henry’s Old Thanksgiving Hymn

Caveat Lector, Music, Worship

I went looking for a video of Uncle Henry‘s Thanksgiving hymn to post and came across a modern arrangement I wasn’t familiar with.  I think it has real promise, and made me hear the words with fresh ears.  Although the video itself includes many stereotypical praise band members I am tempted to poke fun at, in the spirit of the day I shall refrain; even from making fun of the sweater vest keyboard dude, the too-cool bass player, and the cat with the scarf and ripped jeans.  Somehow making fun just doesn’t seem right today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

My Top 5 Reads

Book Reviews

BooksI read a lot and am often asked what I think other Christians should read as well. I consider it an integral part of my work, and I always encourage Christians to read more. So, in an effort to stoke your literary fire a bit, I would like to offer my top 5 list (apart from the Bible) of what I think every Christian should read and understand (in no particular order)…

Authority by: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Lloyd-Jones delivered three messages on authority which were compiled to make this short, but very important volume. He covers the authority of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, and the authority of the Holy Spirit. As a people (i.e. Americans) who question and often reject all forms of authority, Lloyd-Jones delivers a masterful reminder of our true authority and what it means in our daily lives as God’s people.

The Marrow of Modern Divinity by: Edward Fisher 

In my opinion, one of the most important issues Christians need to understand is the relationship between the law and the gospel. This classic work from the 1600’s has not disappointed when it comes to causing a bit of a stir, however it remains the most unique treatment of this very important issue. For those who have not spent a lot of time reading older literature, it might prove a bit more difficult, however it’s not a hard book to read or understand by any means. It’s as entertaining as it is helpful, and I think it’s the perfect antidote for legalism and antinomianism in the church today. The specific edition I have linked to includes the valuable explanatory notes of the puritan Thomas Boston along with an Introduction by Philip Ryken and an historical Introduction by William Vandoodeward.

Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul by: Octavius Winslow

Let’s face it: Christians get discouraged and we begin to grow stagnant or even cold in our affections for God. At times, it may be an indication of a person’s true condition and whether or not they are in the faith. However, sometimes we lack in spiritual growth and vitality and don’t know the way out. Personal Declension is one of the most stirring, helpful, encouraging and convicting books I’ve ever read. I turn to Winslow each time I’m feeling discouraged in my communion with God and find fresh words for my weary soul. He has packed mountains of help and wisdom into this volume – read it carefully and prayerfully.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by: John Bunyan

You didn’t expect me to leave off the best-selling Christian book in history, did you? Bunyan’s allegory of the life of Christian is a memorable classic that Christians should be familiar with (especially if they want to understand a lot of reformed preacher’s illustrations!). There’s nothing quite like The Pilgrim’s Progress in terms of biblical fidelity, entertainment value, and thought-producing insight into the heart of a Christian. No Christian should reach the Celestial City without having a good knowledge of The Pilgrim’s Progress!

Undiscerned Spiritual Pride by: Jonathan Edwards

At the beginning of each year I re-read Edwards on Spiritual Pride. It’s a short read, but it packs a powerful punch. It’s a particularly helpful work for young people and those in the ministry. Most people don’t assume they’re prideful, and particularly when it comes to our spiritual lives. However, argues Edwards, that’s what it’s undiscerned and why we need to be made aware of it time and time again. Spiritual pride lurks in the shadows – are you willing to root it out?

What about you? What are your top 5 reads for every Christian?

(By: Nick Kennicott)

The Blessing of Argumentative Prayer


prayerIn a few recent church prayer meetings my Pastor has been leading us in devotions from Isaiah 62.  I have been struck afresh by the language that is used in verse 6, that we are to give God “no rest” until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.  Did you catch that?  Did the Bible really just tell weak minuscule creatures like us to give the omnipotent Creator God no rest until he acts? Have you ever been struck by the unexpected and radical nature of that command?

It it really appropriate to use that sort of language, or should we not follow this example?  Is it right to actively pursue the blessing of God through prayer or should be just passively acknowledge his sovereignty?  Is it ok to reason with God, indeed to present arguments to Him, or is that a horrendously inappropriate way for the creature to approach the Creator?  I believe God not only allows, He actually commands argumentative prayers.  Let’s look at five aspects of the blessing of argumentative prayer.

1. There is a vast difference between arguing to, and arguing with God.

Arguing with God is a sin.  We have no right to bicker with the Lord Sabaoth.  That’s a recipe for rebuke, and not something I would ever argue for the blessings of.  In fact, when you consider who He is and who we are… it’s basically an illustration of the insanity of sin to argue with God.

But arguing to God is a whole different matter.  I’m not talking about the ways we foster bitterness against the Lord for what he has done, or that arrogant mindset that believes we would have done better than He.  That sort of argumentativeness, like all sin, should be put on sanctification death-row and briskly executed.  But there is a way of arguing without being sinfully argumentative.  What I mean is this: we not only may, but actually ought to offer careful arguments to God when we seek his power and blessing upon our lives and gospel labors.  The Redeemer would have us give Him reasons in our prayers.  With this crucial distinction in mind, we can move on to the next point.

2. The Bible is full of examples of saints offering argumentative prayers.

We’ve already seen that Isaiah 62 tells us to give the Lord “no rest” until he acts.  This is vividly illustrated in a historic event when we look at Genesis 32 and see Jacob wrestling with God throughout the night, unwilling to give him “rest” until he receives the blessing.  But for the most frequent example, we must look to the Psalms.

The Psalms are refreshingly uncensored.  Here we find the words to express the totality of the human experience in all of its many aspects- expressions of comfort, but also confusion and pain.   Soaring language about hope and deliverance, but also the frequent expression of real fear.  Joy poured out in tears, but also the stinging tears of sorrow.  Assurance and doubt exists in the Psalms side by side like an old married couple on a city park bench.

The Psalms are all about the honest and uncensored living of life in a fallen world before the face of God Almighty.  They express the full breadth of the human condition but they never express it in a vacuum, and never unto itself.  The Psalms express the redeemed human condition in the context of life lived in the presence of the Redeemer.  They are therefore perhaps the richest of all teachers in the school of Christian prayer.

There is no shortage of Psalms available to illustrate the point of this post, but I’ll just look at one.  Let the reader amend their own examples as they so wish.

Psalm 13 starts our with a cry of distress.  The Psalmist says

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2, ESV)

Much could be said concerning these verses, but for our purposes it is sufficient to see that we are dealing with a man in deep distress.  He says “How long,” expressing that he has either been in his distressing situation for quite some time, or it is of such an intensity that we cannot long endure it, or some combination thereof.  He has turned inward in terror, is full of sorrow, and is forced to see his enemies lifted up around him.  So in the next two verses his prayer goes from lament to supplication.  And he argues.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. (Psalm 13:3-4, ESV)

Did you catch that first word?  Consider.  Consider this, Lord.  What a request to make of Omniscience!  And he even develops his argument, in effect saying, “Lord, if you do not hear me, this and this and this will be the result.  Consider that if you do not hear my cry, I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemies will not only prevail against me they will rejoice in my defeat.  Lord, consider these things.”

This is just one example of what we see again and again in the prayers of the Biblical saints.  More could be explored, but this is a blog and not a book.  Suffice to say, there is a holy sort of argument that can and should be offered to God, not so much because of what it does for Him, but rather because of what it does for us.  More on that to follow.

3. The God who ordains the ends has also ordained the means.

There is more to say on Psalm 13 related to our topic, but at this point we have to pause and ask a question.  Why would God command this sort of prayer?  Why would the God who is for example, completely sovereign over the salvation of men according to Romans 9 say in Luke 10 …the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…?

Again, it can be difficult to bump up against big questions in the small confines of a blog.  For what we are talking about now, I do think the most important principle to point out is that the God who ordains the ends (that is, the things that come to pass) is the same God who ordains the means (the various ways that those ends come into being).  He not only knows what will happen, he has actually decreed that those very things would come to pass.  But he generally doesn’t ordain that they pop into existence apart of normal means!  If he has created the beauty of a forrest, he has done so by the means of seeds, light, water and time.  Similarly, if he has ordained deliverance for you from a particular situation, or the salvation of a lost person’s soul He has also ordained the various means he will use to bring it about.  And one of the crucial means He uses is the prayers of His people.  God wants us to pray without ceasing, to pray earnestly, to pray even for specific things in the manner requested by Paul in Colossians 4:2-4:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Yet as we consider the specific question of offering reasoned arguments to God in prayer, we still need more guidance.  On what basis can we possibly offer and argument to God, pleading with Him to act?

4. The only basis upon which to reason to God are his own divine promises.

On what possible basis does a mere man reason with God?  There is only one good, biblical answer to that question.    That answer is that we only reason with the Lord on the basis of the Lord’s own promises.  When begging the Lord to consider something, the only place we can point to is the very words of the Lord himself.

Offering arguments to God does not mean that we can reason with God and get Him to somehow course-correct or remind Him of something He has forgotten.  But it is true that part of the way our Lord has chosen to unfold his plan for history and for our lives in particular is through the means of prayer, and in those prayers he not only allows us, but we have biblical precedent for reminding, as it were, the Lord Himself of His own promises.  Look at this illustrated in the cry of Jeremiah:

Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;

do not dishonor your glorious throne;

remember and do not break your covenant with us.

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?

Or can the heavens give showers?

Are you not he, O Lord our God?

We set our hope on you,

for you do all these things (Jeremiah 14:20-22).

Notice the specific arguments- Lord, is there any other?  Lord, are you not the only one who can deliver us from our current trouble?  Are you not he, O Lord our God?

The beauty of argumentative prayer is that it reminds us of the rock solid promises of God.  It forces God’s people to consider His character, to rehearse out loud the various covenantal oaths he has sworn to uphold.  Ultimately, although God certainly makes use of the means of prayer in accomplishing his will, this is for us and not for Him.

5. The only attitude to take in such prayers is utter humility and astounded wonder.

I have primarily used two examples in this post, Psalm 13 and Jeremiah 14.  Notice that in Psalm 13:5-6, just after offering an argumentative prayer, the Psalmist explodes in praise to God:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

And just prior to arguing for the deliverance of God on the basis of the covenant and the unique ability of God to save, the prophet is driven low in humble acknowledgment of his position before God in Jeremiah  14:20:

We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,

and the iniquity of our fathers,

for we have sinned against you.

The first reaction to argumentative prayer might be to think that it is arrogant and bitter.  But in both theses cases we see that it is couched in utter humility and astounded wonder.

So can we pray this way today?  The answer is simple: we must.  We must pray with urgency and zeal, we must plead the very promises of God back to Him.  We must argue to God in prayer, unto His own glory.  We must argue that the salvation of souls will magnify his name in all the earth.  We must argue that he has sworn merciful promises to us in His New Covenant.  He not only allows this, I believe He desires it.

Because when we argue to God on the basis of His own promises, and in the interest of His own glory, it is an argument He always wins.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Check out these previous Decablog posts on prayer-

Prayer According to God’s Will

Conducting Effective Prayer Meetings