Feb 10, 2008

Do hymnals affect our worship?

Next time you are at church, try to take special notice of what you do during the music. Are you holding a hymnal? Are your hands lifted up in praise? Do you stare at the instrumentalists, or at the song leader? Perhaps you simply stare at the hymnal or overhead, or maybe at the other church members? Maybe there is that one special someone you watch each week, and think: “I wish I was as free to worship as them”; or “Why can’t they just honor God with their voice? Why do they have to raise their hands and hop around like that? Who are they trying to impress?”

Have you ever noticed that we really didn’t have so many problems with singing in church back when everyone used hymnals? According to a simple Google search, the first dedicated hymnals started showing up in the ninth century. Prior to this hymns were collected in the back of other books; they obviously deserved their own special section, just like the Psalms are their own special book in the Bible. Hymnals became the predominant collection of spiritual songs among nearly every denomination of Protestantism. The only things that differentiated were the actual hymns as well as how they were performed.

In many modern churches, the congregation has ditched the hymnal for the overhead. Instead of bending your head to read from a book, you are now encouraged to look above the worship leader or group in order to read the lyrics. This has encouraged more music leaders to take chances on newer songs, as well as providing a sort of uniformity across multiple churches. But what has this simple 45 degree change done for our modern church goer? It has freed their hands.

1Ti 2:8 “So wherever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.”

Does lifting your hands in worship draw you closer to God? The Bible really doesn’t say one way or the other. There are many who have attempted to twist Scripture to prove either argument, that it is either encouraged or discouraged to lift your hands while singing. However, using the Bible to prove whether you should or should not do it can be a tricky thing. The Bible also shows characters such as David dancing and shouting before the Lord, and while there are many churches that frown upon such outward displays of emotion, not once did God rebuke them for doing it. Consequently we have many churches today that encourage such outward displays of joy in God.

But this brings us back to the original question. What do you do during the singing section of your church service? Do you think more people will be involved with the hymns and songs if they do not have a hymnal in their hands? Will it encourage people to show more emotion, to perhaps sing with a smile on their face? Or do we only honor God by providing a worthy performance with our voices?

Next church service, why not try singing without your hymnal. For all you know, it might be a great blessing to you not to use one. Perhaps you could organize a service where everyone already knows all the songs that will be sung, even if you can only sing choruses. It is possible that if more people let go of their hymnals and free their hands in worship churches will start to see a new life and passion that wasn’t there before.

It’s worth a try. It might bring a new spiritual life and revival to your church.

Feb 2, 2008

Biblical Arguments class

I signed up for a Communications class at the U of M that is a "Special Topics" course. The topic being "Biblical Arguments." Taking it purely as an elective, I went into the class not expecting much, other than my professor's vague email warning that a 1000 level Comm class was a prerequisite.

But except for one instance where he was talking about some classic model used in arguments, I've been loving this class! Loving it so much I was eager to go on Wednesday!

The class is set up pretty simply. The professor will basically be a forum moderator, introducing the topic and Scripture passage, assigning two students to be discussion catalysts, and then he lets us talk. We have a pretty diverse group, so the discussions have been lively and multi-faceted. We primarily have Catholics (mix between lapsed and active), one Hindu, one Jew (and she's pretty hardcore), a few Lutherans, couple of agnostics, at least one atheist, and me, representing...who knows anymore. I introduced myself as a charasmatic Wesleyan, but then clarified it as more "Pentebaptistcostal."

Whatever. The Bible is true.

And our topics have been great too! We first went over Genesis 1 and 2, and the 2 separate accounts of Creation. That took the tail end of the first day and the entire second class session. Are there really two separate accounts? Only two of us in the class were unable to see "proof" of two different Creations. But of more interest to me was that God created/designed Adam, but didn't place him in the Garden until a day or more later. So where was Adam this whole time?

The next class session we went over The Fall...specifically, who was to blame? Found out we have some feminists in the group, although that is really no surprise. Still, it was a great discussion. I think we generally agreed that both of them were to blame, although some would still argue that God was to blame for putting the tree in the garden in the first place.

Last class we discussed a passage in Judges, where one of the judges makes a vow before the Lord that he would offer up as a burnt offering whoever came out of his house first upon his return from battle. Alas, his daughter comes out. He sends her off into the wilderness for two months so she can bemoan her virginity, and then she comes back to him so he can fulfill his vow.

So did he kill her? I believe I was the only one in the class who argued that he didn't (and thanks to Johnathan for that: him and I went over it before class), although I don't know what the professor thinks. There are a whole list of reasons why I don't think he killed her, but I do believe he kept his vow. He dedicated her to the temple where she served the rest of her life. It was strange; even the feminists wanted her to die, just so they could stick it to God or Christianity, I think. But then again, no one really cares that babies are getting slaughtered. Or the millions of people oppressed under Islam. Dhimmitude is living death.

Anyways, this has been a great class so far! I've already developed a reputation, but that's nothing new. I had to prove that without the Judeo-Christian worldview womens' rights would not exist as we know them today. I don't think many in the class liked hearing that.

Ah well. Truth, you know?