I recently gave some hints about how we can be more aesthetically engaged, so let’s pick up on that note once more.
For decades now, a certain sort of music has been popularised for Western Protestant Christians: worship music / contemporary Christian music. But in the early 2000s, something else started brewing.
The new hymns movement is something I’ve begun exploring only recently. These artists draw direct inspiration from traditions that have been obscured to us, and they take what I consider a more community-minded approach to music-making, a folk/roots sensibility. Probably because of this influence, it has become popular to rework hymns — the famous ones, that is — but there’s even more exciting stuff around. One group that helped pave the way (and grew from a university ministry!) is Indelible Grace:
Our hope is to be a voice calling our generation back to something rich and solid and beyond the fluff and the trendy. We want to remind God’s people that thinking and worship are not mutually exclusive, and we want to invite the Church to appreciate her heritage without idolizing it. We want to open up a world of passion and truth and make it more that just an archaic curiosity for the religiously sentimental. We believe worship is formative, and that it does matter what we sing.
In this post, let me introduce you to Cardiphonia as an avenue into the new hymns movement. Cardiphonia is curated by Bruce Benedict, who gathers all sorts of musicians to create amazing compilations. Most Cardiphonia releases are free to download and each comes with a songbook. Let’s take a quick tour through some of their releases. They’ve amassed a huge collection now, so I’ve picked out just a few highlights for you to explore. Read more
In 2010 we hosted a debate for our theological college: Will the real Mars Hill please stand up? The debate invited the audience to compare and contrast two well-known American megachurches and the leaders behind them, Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll, whom we saw as representing powerful and differing forces in American Christianity — check out the comparison chart Dave Hughes produced for the debate. For us as Australian students, American Christian culture is often novel and foreign, yet also strangely influential — a source of both familiar comforts (Chris Tomlin) and bizarre terrors (Joel Osteen!). It also seems like a hyper-coloured version of the fate of Christianity that we’re witnessing in our own Western context, even though Australia has gone further along the post-Christian road.
And so we continue to watch for developments. Although I’ve written about Rob Bell here a few times, I’ve not followed his work especially closely, but I’ve certainly been interested in his motivations, methods and audience rather than simply his content (which is all that seems to matter to some critics!). James K Wellman’s short book, Rob Bell and a new American Christianity, takes all this into account. It’s an unusual mixture of anecdotes about Bell plus summaries of his work, interspersed with sociological categories and commentary. Wellman takes us chronologically through Bell’s life and work, surveying his preaching, publications, tours, and films (including Nooma). It makes for a good overview of Rob Bell, but also an accessible spiritual snapshot of America today. Read more
Katie, a med student, has been feeling torn between the profession she’s studying and the spiritual needs she sees around her: ‘People say they’re meant to line up, but I’m struggling to see how that works!’
The answers she’s looking for haven’t been all that easy to find, and we’ve seen a similar story with many university students. ‘Faith and work’ has become a hot topic, says Tim Keller, but I suspect it’s still pretty unknown to many Christians here in Australia. Our pulpits are not known for reflecting on the workplace regularly, consistently or deeply. Our university student groups are not known for giving students more than a catch-all preparation for their future professions. We focus on many things — community, charity, evangelism, healing, discipleship — but how well are we tuned into the weekly world inhabited by most Australians?
And in my evangelical circles, we’ve got a tendency to speak about the workplace as if it’s good for little more than ‘evangelistic conversations’, or earning money with which to support ‘gospel work’ — because those are the things of ‘eternal value’. With phrases like these, we divide the world into all sorts of halves: Sunday/Monday, word/deed, sacred/secular, clergy/laity, earth/heaven.
In Every Good Endeavour: Connecting your work to God’s plan for the world, Keller quickly cuts beyond this with a more full and fruitful vision:
If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.
I noted in the comments of this post recently that Christians can unfairly interact with a caricature of feminism. I get annoyed when people speak about the Christian faith in unsympathetic or un-nuanced terms so I think it’s important to interact generously with others, to hear how they define themselves. In that spirit, let me point you to this article (language warning) by the very funny Lindy West. It’s a pretty neat summary of feminism and its different forms over the years.
I think there are considerable resources within Christianity for the feminist. The overwhelming dignity and value that the Genesis creation story assigns to women is unique in ancient creation accounts; likewise, there’s very little room in a passage like Eph 5 for men to assert their dominance over women; 1 Cor 7 is an outstanding example of mutuality in marriage. Here, I’d like to consider Lindy’s definition of Third Wave feminism (if it exists!) here. Read more
It’s a bit of a dream job, really: Sophie Lister gets paid to watch movies. Heaps of them. Sophie (right) works for the Damaris Trust, creating reviews, discussion guides and podcasts which appear on Culturewatch for ‘exploring the message behind the media’.
Sophie’s articles are a fantastic model of Christian thinking, and I regularly recommend Culturewatch as an outstanding online resource. In this two-part interview, I’ve asked Sophie to reflect on her creative work, along with her perspective on watching movies and understanding culture.
Following part 1, I’ve asked Sophie to talk more about culture and how Christians relate to it.
If you’ve got further questions, Sophie and I will respond in the comments below. Read more
You’ll find occasional movie reviews on this blog as we do our best to engage with the visual storytelling of our culture. But this time, let’s talk with a pro: Sophie Lister, who writes about film on a weekly basis. Sophie (right) works for the Damaris Trust, creating reviews, discussion guides and podcasts which appear on Culturewatch for ‘exploring the message behind the media’.
Sophie’s articles are a fantastic model of Christian thinking, and I regularly recommend Culturewatch as an outstanding online resource. In this two-part interview, I’ve asked Sophie to reflect on her creative work and her perspective on watching movies and understanding culture.
To start with, let’s meet Sophie and hear what it’s like to work as a writer. Let’s continue talking in the comments, too: What grabs you about the movies? What do you do with the stories you find there? Read more