Music and Emotion in Worship

Jeremy Begbie is a joy to read. A Peculiar Orthodoxy is a thoughtfully compiled series of lectures and essays that Begbie had created over the span of a decade and wished to share with a wider readership. These essays deserve to be widely read. Yet, most laity and many undergraduate students would find the essays difficult and, perhaps, irrelevant. This is precisely why pastors and professors should engage with Begbie’s work, inviting their congregations and classrooms into conversations around the “peculiar orthodoxy” Begbie finds through the theology of the arts.

In the chapter “Faithful Feelings,” for example, Begbie addresses worship, music, and emotions. It can be difficult, as a pastor, to grasp the fullness of worship, the place of music in worship, and the role emotions should play in leading and participating in worship. Advent highlights this difficulty well. What is a pastor to do when many folks in the congregation think Advent is simply “Christmas preseason,” and feel frustrated when the pastor preaches lectionary texts that are not filled with the holly jolly sentimentalities? What is worship for, they might ask, if it is not meant solely to cover the harshness of life with warm fuzzy feelings? What has worship to do with actually addressing our complex emotional lives? Continue reading

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Hymns of Resistance?

What are we doing when we worship? The answer to that question is multifaceted. According to Matthew Gordley, the New Testament hymns indicate one facet of Christian worship is to resist grand narratives, other than the Gospel, that “may have a claim on the lives of community members.” Read Colossians 1, Philippians 2, and John 1 as someone who is part of a fledgling community in the middle of a vast, tribalistic empire. They take on a slightly different tone, don’t they?

You can read my review of Gordley’s book over on Christian Century’s website. I’d be interested to know what hymns or songs your church sings that could be categorized, like the hymns found in the New Testament, as “resistance poetry.” Comment below!

Givenness and Revelation

“There is revelation not because paths have been made straight, the valleys filled, the hills made low, and everything straightened that was winding (Lk. 3:4, quoting Is. 40:3-5), as just so many preliminary conditions to be filled before God can manifest himself. No: there is Revelation precisely while these paths remain twisted—or even so as to show they are.”

Jean-Luc Marion, Givenness and Revelation, p. 59


Slowly, I am wading through a dense little book called Givenness and Revelation by Jean-Luc Marion (Oxford University Press, 2016). Marion is delightfully and unashamedly verbose. He expects of the reader a solid working knowledge of phenomenology and Aquinas, so I’ve put Google to work defining terms. I feel like I’m always several steps behind. So I read, and read again.

Despite my shortcomings, I have found myself scribbling notes, underlining phrases, and putting exclamation points next to striking sentences. The quote above received two exclamation points.  Continue reading

When the Author Predicts Your Question

[This post is one of several on Ben Myers’s new book, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Click here to order the book. Click here to read the other posts.

In an earlier post about this book, I asked a question similar to this: During congregational worship, is it better to confess “we believe” instead of “I believe” when reciting the creed? Ben Myers directly addresses that question in his final chapter. Continue reading

“They Will Forget to Die”

[This is one of several posts on Ben Myers’s new book, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Click here to purchase the book. Click here to read the other posts.]

Gerascophobia. Do you know what that word means? It is a fear of growing old. My beard hairs are turning gray, so I have entered a stage of life in which I can no longer pretend I won’t become old someday. Sometimes I am gerascophobic.

In his chapter on “the life everlasting,” Myers summarizes a story by Jorge Luis Borges, in which a man drinks from a stream and becomes immortal. Eventually, the man realizes that “without death, life lacks definition; it doesn’t mean anything.” This story sets Myers up to make a proverbial statement: “You cannot make life better just by increasing its quantity. What matters most is its quality.” Continue reading

Death is serious…

[This is the third interaction with Ben Myers’ new book The Apostle’s Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Click here to see more posts about this book.]

I am reading Ben Myers’s new book chapter by chapter, slowly and joyfully. In this brief book, a new believer will meet figures like Julian of Norwich, Karl Barth, and Athanasius. Yet these towering and often complicated thinkers are met as someone would meet a friend of a friend at a diner. We get a name and something witty or important they said. Just enough to make you say, as you sit down at your own table with your friend, “I’d like to get to know them more.”

The presence of important figures from church history is pertinent in Myers’s chapter on the Creed’s claim that Jesus “descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead.” In this chapter, Myers helps the reader get a sense of early Christians’ views of the dead, especially martyrs, by describing some of their practices. From teaching new believers in graveyards to singing during funerals, Myers suggests, Christian views and practices related to death would have offended pagan sensibilities. The practices revealed the Christian conviction that “death has been subsumed by life” (p. 79).

Myers’s use of dead theologians is pertinent because each time he quotes a dead person he resists Death’s attempt to silence the life of the faithful. So, among the many one-liners worthy of quoting (“Death is serious; but not as serious as life”), Myers includes several words of wisdom from various saints. Here are a few: Continue reading

Pledging Allegiance

One day while at the University of Aberdeen, Prof. Phil Ziegler invited Kent to look over his shoulder at some new-fangled thing on his computer screen. It was 2006 and he was pointing at a theology blog. “Take a look at this,” Ziegler said, “there is some really thoughtful stuff here.” It was Kent’s first glance at a theology blog, and it just so happened to be Faith and Theology by Prof. Ben Myers. Eventually Kent and some pals decided to give theology blogging their own twist, and Theology Forum was born.

Picture of Book2
I discovered Faith and Theology nearly a decade later, through Theology Forum. I latched onto it because of Kim Fabricius’s doodlings. “Doodlings” are joyfully incomplete thoughts, like someone hastily doodles an idea for a picture or project. How does someone provoke such thought and such laughter at the same time? Through the blog, I discovered Myers’s thoughtful writing.

Now I am reading Myers’s in print form. His new book The Apostle’s Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism is fresh off Lexham Press’s printers. (This is, to my knowledge, the first Lexham Press review on Theology Forum!) The print edition is aesthetically pleasing, hardbound, and small enough to carry with you. Grayscale images throughout keep the copy interesting. Continue reading