4/1/08

PC&D and the Trinity

I'm back. *gasps heard around the room*

I think I'm going to start writing more. (I say that every time I post, don't I?) Even if I don't have anything tremendously meaningful to say, I think it will be a good discipline for me to simply write. And perhaps it will give you something of a window into my weird mind.

At any rate, I actually have something to write about today. I ran across an article a couple days ago about the Christian music industry, with a particularly unsettling discovery (on my part) about the group Phillips, Craig, & Dean. It's gotten me thinking a bit.

Here's a link to the article, which includes the discovery I mentioned. The bottom line of the article is the suggestion that the CCM industry (Contemporary Christian Music), and what is "Christian music" and what is not, is driven more by business considerations - namely, what makes money - than by any spiritual or doctrinal standard. The evidence of this fact given in this particular article is the difference between Sufjan Stevens and Phillips, Craig & Dean.

You see, Sufjan Stevens is not a "Christian artist." His CD's have been produced by mainstream labels. His agents and promoters are CCM outsiders. And yet his orthodox Christian theology is immediately recognizable in his music (Countless other examples could be offered, but this is the one the writer of the article chose.). He even has a soulful rendition of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (which you can check out at this link; don't pay any attention to the goofy animal pictures - just listen to the music.).

Phillips, Craig & Dean, on the other hand, as you probably know, are highly successful and prominent artists within the CCM family. Unless you live under an evangelical rock or you can't change your radio dial from KHCB, you've likely heard many of their songs, even if you didn't realize it ("Crucified with Christ;" "I Want to Be Just Like You;" "Mercy Came Running;" "You Are God Alone" (which, I should add, they didn't write), etc.). And now the discovery: They are modalists - which means they deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Each of the three men are pastors and music ministers in (different) Oneness Pentecostal churches, which teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit motifs are simply different "modes" in which the unipersonal God has revealed himself in various periods of history. In other words, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons comprising one unified Godhead - rather, they are each an alter ego (that's my term, not theirs) of the one person who is God.

This is deeply troubling to me. Of course you won't find the word "trinity" anywhere on the pages of holy Scripture, but its concept is nearly impossible to miss! Jesus prays to his Father. He says "I and the Father are one." He tells the disciples that after he goes to heaven he will send them "another Comforter, who is with you and will be in you." When he gives them the "Great Commission," he tells the disciples to baptize people "in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (plural)." In the event of Jesus' baptism, all three persons of the Trinity are seen performing separate tasks at the very same time. Is this unipersonal God of Oneness Pentecostals seriously delusional, or is something else happening here?

Add to this isolated issue the loads of sappy drivel that pass for Christian art these days, and I think we have a pretty substantial problem on our hands. After all, in one very real sense, this is the image of Christianity the world is receiving. Is this what we want to communicate? That we don't really care that much about what people believe, and the closest we can come to art is to imitate what non-Christian artists are doing?

I don't have good answers at the moment. Just those questions and concerns roaming about my mind. Perhaps some of you have thoughts to share. That's what the comments are for.

Grace.

7 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I promise to read this entry and then write another comment that actually pertains to the content of the blog.

Erik said...

The supposedly Christian music industry is nothing more than another branch of the same machine that churns out the crud of the secular world. They produce what they think will be purchased (by Christians or others), not what is good or God pleasing.

Just like the secular music machine, they use mathematical formulas to calculate the expected return on their investment to produce an album and promote the artist(s) behind it. They carefully evaluate various changes to the musical or lyrical style and determine if the new blend is palatable to the "Christian" ear and then pump out more of the same when they find something that works.

Have you ever noticed that CCM tends to sound a lot like the music that was on the secular radio about 1-3 years ago? They look for a style that is popular with a lot of people (Christians and non-Christians alike) and then put "Christian" lyrics to it and pimp it out.

There was once an episode of South Park (not an endorsement of the show) in which some of the boys formed a "Christian Pop" band called Faith + 1. They basically took secular love songs and replaced words like "baby" and "girl" with "Jesus" and "God". They became a huge success (in the show), and their album went "myrrh" - the CCM version of platinum. While the show is meant to be satyrical, I think this may be closer to the truth behind much of what passes for CCM today.

I guess my point is....uh...don't believe the hype of the CCM machine...um...evaluate the music to which you listen to see if it lines up with scripture...er...fight against the machine. I don't know. I guess I'm just rambling, so I'll stop.

Buckeroo B said...

I prefer music such as the Generation of the Gaithers. Though I used to sing contemporary music, I saw a decline in content and an incline
in commercialism and singing repeatitive non-sense.

Elizabeth said...

'kay I'm back!
Well, crud. I was going to cut and paste something. In the article you linked the sentence that grabbed me said something to the effect of "It's a game- you play by the rules and we call you Christian music. You don't and we won't". To me, it's like the difference between a tv show portraying an interview with a Christian family and an actual interview with a Christian family. Follow me for just a second. I think while I type instead of thinking it out and then typing. I was watching the Dateline from last Friday on youtube yesterday. I don't know if you saw it...it's about the mistaken identity of two Taylor University students two years ago. Anyway, both families and strong Christians, and it was evident in the way that they spoke about God's will and prayer journals and whatnot. And it was so clearly as much a part of who they were as the hair on their heads. And you just know that if the media brought in actors and gave them the same "motivation" it would feel contrived. they think they know what we want to hear, but they totally miss the point.

The movie Facing the Giants drives me crazy! The story and message are great, but the acting, and at times the writing, are a total joke. It seems like people who think they know what Christians want but have no heart-connection are trying to make money off the Christian industry.

Bringing that back to music: I guess I veered off-course. I saw a connection. I hope you can too. I just think that any time we try to put Christianity in a box, we stifle the people whose boxes may be a different shape. I applaud the people who don't try to box their Chritianity and instead just share it- in whatever form they can.

Vicki Pearson said...

Thank you for clearing that up for me concerning Phillip, Craig and Dean. I had heard a comment about them on a program that I listen to each morning (on KHCB) but it was not clarified at all. I sent an email to the ministry trying to find out what they meant by the comment but never heard from them. I am glad that I finally understand what they believe.

I share your concern about the Christian music industry and wonder why the radio stations don't do more to "filter" what they play on the air. I love KSBJ and listen to it often and know that on a couple of accounts they have quit playing the music of certain artists who were undergoing personal problems that affected their testimony. It sounded like a pretty involved process to be back in their good graces and put on the air again. Wonder why they are not doing the same with fundamental beliefs?

Good thoughts and questions. Keep pondering and let me know if you come up with any answers.

Erik said...

I really like Vicki's point about the radio stations filtering (or not) the music they play. I'm not sure about KSBJ, but I know that KHCB does do this. They have a person or people there that listen to every CD they get to ensure that each song is scripturally sound, and they mark each disc as to what can and cannot be played - and why. This is on a per-song basis.

They also will elimante songs if the musical style doesn't fit the KHCB style preferrence. I've seen this first-hand at the KHCB studio when I was a guest of one of the Saturday evening DJs. I got to queue up some songs and do the station ID at the top of the hour. He then showed me the racks of CDs with their coded markings on the CD cases. There were a couple of CDs where the DJs could only play one or two songs out of a dozen.

Anonymous said...

Glad to say I don't know them, and see - I haven't been wasting my time listening to the music of heretics. (If what you say of their beliefs is true, they are by definition heretics).

Crawling back under my rock for now. See you tonight.