Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Bass abuse

It's spring in northern Illinois. I can see the green grass and the tulips and the dandelions, and I'm told that the birds are singing, but I'll have to take the word for the latter since I can't hear a single cheep. Yes, spring is in the air, so it's time for the noontime concerts at my college campus. Today's band, a typical rock band, was just as loud as any of its breed, so they did an excellent job of drowning out the robins. Thankfully, my lunchtime walk took me far enough away to escape most of their, er, music, but yet I never quite got away from all of it.

I'm no Luddite. I think most technology can be put to good use. However, I'm a bit baffled as to how the modern loudspeaker, the subwoofer in particular, is of good use. Oh, it can put out nice clean sound when amplification is employed judiciously, with the subwoofer providing a welcome body to the sound, but my ears tell me that this device is often grossly abused, perhaps because a substantial portion of the population has encurred permanent hearing loss from past abuse, thus necessitating the use of more and more amplification.

At home, at the office, and on the road, it seems that more and more people are occupied with discovering just how loud a loudspeaker can be. When this experimentation is performed on the loudspeaker's miniature cousin, the headphones, it harms only the ears of the researcher, but all too often larger speakers, invariably with the help of a big honkin' subwoofer, are employed, so innocent bystanders are provided with the dubious privilege of sharing in the sonic experiment. Now, I'm as big a music lover as anyone--witness my collection of several thousand CDs--but I'd rather that folks share their music with me when I give them permission to do so. Since my tastes in music are doggedly retro, I strive to not inflict my favorite tunes on unwelcoming ears, but I find that many of my neighbors are not so polite, or perhaps they so eager to share the music of their taste with me that they don't bother to solicit my permission.

This state of affairs would not be quite so bad, I suppose, if the music that's being shared wasn't so downright loud. To my ears, it would help even more if the subwoofer had never been invented. Perhaps I'm blessed with ears that are unusually sensitive to bass, but I find it to be extraordinarily difficult to escape the bassier portion of music. The ordinary means at my disposal--cranking up my own tunes, closing the windows and doors, etc.--are often insufficient to mask the thump-thump-thump that assults not only my ears but also my entire body. For me, bass is not just an aural experience. It's holistic: it affects my whole mind and body.

Oh, how I long for the days of yore when the air wasn't filled with the sound of booming bass! In the earliest days of the phonograph, there was hardly such a thing as bass: the acoustic process used to record and play records was technically incapable of reproducing the lowest tones. Bass didn't become a factor until the introduction of radio and electrically recorded phonograph records (the latter coming out in 1925), but up through the heyday of the transistor radio, bass was pretty much limited to one's home radio and music system. In the 1970's, however, bass became big business. That decade saw the sale of the first boomboxes and the first subwoofers. Every stereo system came with a "loudness" switch that, although intended for use only at low listening volumes, was kept on permanently by almost everyone who wasn't a true-blue audiophile because it added an extra thud to the thump-thump-thump. First invented for the home, the subwoofer eventually found its way into the automobile and truck, and from that mobile perch it's been rattling the frames of countless vehicles ever since.

If I had my druthers, I'd love to see the subwoofer go out of fashion and quick. It's my opinion that today's constant soundtrack of thump-thump-thump helps to drown out not only the birds of spring, but also the sounds of genuine person-to-person conversation, not to mention the flow of silent thought or reflection. Yes, today's hi-fi hammering is toxic to serious thought. I enjoy music in its time and place, but when I need to talk with someone or think something through, I turn it off. Therefore, I call on my neighbor to turn down the volume--or at least the bass--so I can hear myself think.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Speaking the words of God

A little while ago, I wrote briefly on the matter of frivolous claims of divine revelation, so I was struck when I ran across this saying of Jesus in my morning Scripture reading:

He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.

Luke 10:16

What an amazing statement this is! "He who hears you hears Me." Our Lord offers no mights or maybes. "He who hears you hears Me." To put it another way, whoever speaks the words of Christ speaks for Christ. Although professing believers often err insofar as claiming special direct revelation from God, when we speak or preach the Word of God, we are certainly speaking for God. This is a great privilege and a great responsibility, for if we are speaking for God, we owe it to Him to rightly interpret what He's said. Whereas we are rarely provided any certainty as to whether this or that impression from a "still small voice" is indeed from God, Christ here teaches that Scripture, as the Word of God, speaks for God even when imperfect human vessels such as you and me speak it.

So, my friend, if you wish to speak forth the mind of God, you need look no further than the Scriptures. You have no need of further revelation from God, for He has seen fit to provide all that it necessary for faith and practice in the Scriptures. Therefore, I encourage you to put aside any misguided faith in random thoughts or impressions and instead put your faith in the Scriptures alone, for in them we can discern the mind of God with perfect assurance and clarity.


The Family Factor

Courtesy of Al Mohler, I've discovered an article titled The Family Factor by Allan Carlson of the Howard Center of Rockford, Illinois. (This makes him my near-neighbor--my home in Belvidere is a mere fifteen-minute drive from Rockford.) In this article, Mr. Carlson covers much the same ground I covered not long ago regarding what I dubbed the "power of multiplication" wielded by people who subscribe to traditional family values. He explains how Europe, which has largely given up on the traditional family, is dying a demographic death, whereas the USA is seeing an increase in births amongst those who hold to family-friendly religions. He writes:

The best explanation for America’s greater fecundity—this openness to children—is the higher degree of religious identification and behavior shown by Americans. Forty-five percent of Americans in the year 2000 reported attending religious services during the previous week; in Europe, only about ten percent did. And believers usually do have more babies. Alas, outside of recent Hispanic immigrants, overall Catholic numbers today are not impressive, but “white fundamentalist Protestants” who attend church weekly show a fertility rate 27 percent above the national average, and the fertility rate of active American Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, is about double the national average.

It is interesting to consider the consequences of disobeying vs. obeying one of the first of God's commandments: to be fruitful and multiply in order to populate the earth. The eventual demise of today's seemingly omnipotent and omnipresent secularism and hedonism is inevitable as its proponents meet their eventual end, without offspring and thus without a legacy.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Blabbing in the name of the Lord

Back in my long-ago Charismatic period, I was by no means shy about telling everyone about all the things that God was telling me or doing for me. On one occasion, I showed up to our weekly campus fellowship group all excited about a miraculous provision. I'd just moved back to the area after a year out of state. Due to a lack of space in the moving truck, I found it necessary to leave my mattress and box spring behind, so I was in need of a new set. Thus, I was very excited when I just happened to find a store that was holding a 50% off mattress sale. How amazing that God brought me to this sale at just the right time! Indeed, He brought me to that store in just the nick of time, because as it turned out that store carried on a continual 50% off mattress sale up to the day they closed up shop ten years later, proving that my claimed miracle was a tad more ordinary than I'd testified.

Although it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to testify of His goodness to us, I believe that we bring much dishonor to Him when we claim that "God told me" or say that "God did this for me." Throughout Scripture, we see that God takes His reputation seriously. He strictly forbids taking His name in vain, but that's what we do when we claim divine inspiration or assistance without clear and evident grounds. To put it another way, when we claim to speak the mind of God or know His purpose behind His works, we had better be 100% certain that we are correct, because if we're mistaken, we have attributed a falsehood to our holy God.

Now, I think I understand what motivates this kind of flippant "God told me" talk: a desire to think and act spiritually rather than carnally. It just sounds much more spiritual to say that "God told me to go to the mall" than to say "I felt like going to the mall", but I'd suggest that in fact it's usually much wiser to just say "I felt like it." So long as my trip to the mall doesn't involve any kind of sinful purpose, I am at liberty to go whenever I wish. I need no direct divine inspiration to undertake such an excursion. Moreover, by admitting that the trip was my idea I take responsibility for my decision, whereas if I claim that God told me, I'm saying that God is responsible for what I did. So, in my effort to sound spiritual, I'm digging an awfully big hole for myself by claiming divine inspiration and approval.

Let us face facts. Although God has indeed offered special revelation and specific direction to certain individuals, this is not His ordinary means for working out His will in the life of the believer. Unless God has some special purpose in mind, He uses the often mundane circumstances (or, more accurately, providences) of daily life to direct our steps and unfold His plan. This isn't particularly exciting much of the time, but it's how God works, so we ought to humbly submit to His ordinary means. Although we certainly ought to thank God for every mercy that comes our way, we must take care not to claim special insight into why He granted that mercy or how He worked it out.

On the other hand, we ought to remember that God does indeed speak directly to every believer through the Scriptures. Whenever the Scriptures are read, preached, or studied, the Holy Spirit is actively applying them to the believer's heart. When we read the Scriptures, we are reading the very words of Almighty God! Whereas we bring God dishonor when we flippantly claim that He told us something or did something, we honor Him when we take His Scriptures to mean exactly what He intended them to mean. Therefore, let us put aside vain and idle boasting about what God tells us or shows us through extra-biblical means, and instead seek the Scriptures to find the true mind of God.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The test of time

One of the advantages I enjoy as a lover of vintage music, movies, art, books, etc., is that I don't have to work all that hard to distinguish between the good and the bad. It's not that everything that was made in the past was good, or that everything that's being created today is bad. Rather, the best of the old has had time to rise to the top, whereas the best of the new has not yet been in existence long enough to have passed the test of time. Thus, when I go shopping for CDs or DVDs, the percentage of dross amongst the new releases is much higher than that of the reissues of old classics.

Although I am rather lonely in this opinion today, I should point out that the wise men and women of past ages have been like-minded on this point: it often takes time for the good, right, beautiful, and wise to be proven in value. In this present generation, I fear that many lack either patience or inclination to let time perform its wonders. Instead of prizing the tried-and-true, our generation is entranced with what is new and fresh. In fact, the best of the past is often despised on account of its age. Many folks won't think of watching a movie unless it's in color or listening to music if it's in mono, and the writings of the wise sages of bygone days are rejected on account of their quaint old way with words.

Looking back on the history of the Christian church, we can see that the men who have had the greatest Gospel impact have shared a deep respect for the works of those who have gone before them. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin owed a great deal to Augustine and other early church fathers, and in the 19th Century Spurgeon was in no way ashamed of the debt he owed to the Puritans. In our day, the growing revival of interest in Reformed theology has been accompanied by a renewed respect for the works of the great Christian teachers and preachers of the past.

What a different picture we see in much of modern Evangelicalism! Aside from the Bible itself, it is getting increasingly difficult to find any books that were written more than forty years ago. Also, the tried-and-true preaching of the undiluted Gospel has gone out of favor, replaced by an ongoing rush after religious fads and follies. All this is done out of a professed desire to reach the masses, but with a callous disregard as to whether the teachings and practices that are popular today are of any real lasting value.

Perhaps this love of the novel and distaste for the old ought to be no wonder to us. Consider our attitudes towards youth and old age. In the past, the elderly were seen as worthy of special respect, but now older folks are often put away in special homes, perhaps to help preserve our youth-oriented culture from having to confront the reality of our universal mortality. In fact, some have seen a trend amongst middle-aged adults to hold on to behavior, music, dress, etc., that was once associated exclusively with the young. Some have named such folks "grups." In the not-that-distant past, people's tastes and styles used to evolve with age. Musically, one's tastes once shifted from swing to jazz to classical, but more and more we see folks continuing to listen to the Stones, Springsteen, or the Ramones well into middle age.

Although I'll grant that a nostalgia for one's youthful days isn't necessarily a moral failing in itself, it seems to me that this and other indicators suggests that our society has become so besotten with the new and the youthful that it is no longer paying attention to the voices of older and wiser men and women from the past. No, you don't need to trade your Stones albums for the waltzes of Strauss--there is substantial room for liberty regarding such matters of taste--but yet regarding matters of faith I would argue that we would do well to pay less heed to today's trendy purveyors of religious fads, and pay more attention to the teachings that have stood the test of time: that have stood up against centuries of scrutiny in the light of Holy Scripture. My brother, it is unwise to adjust the course of one's spiritual life based upon the supposed wisdom of the latest best-seller. Instead, let us be patient, and let us be diligent to evaluate the new against the wisdom of the past, especially the God-breathed wisdom of Scripture. The words of Rick Warren and his ilk will pass away, but the Word of God will never pass away!

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