Reliquarium: Hymns for the World filming in Nashville at Ocean Way Studio.Read More
Filtering by Tag: The Kingdom
By Kemper Crabb
Christians have always seen parts of the Creation as symbols of God. Well they should, since the Bible teaches that this was one of the reasons God made the world: to reveal Himself to men.(On Reliquarium: Part Two)We can see this in places like Romans 1:18-20 -
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…
and Psalm 19:1-4 –
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world…
A realization that God has made the things that exist precisely in order to symbolize and reveal Himself causes believers to see the world differently, and parts of the world, especially parts that are important to their faith, become loci of devotion, things whose very existence act as reminders of, and engagements with, the Presence of God.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, especially since most people were illiterate, relics (articles of clothing or other possessions, or even the remains of those of holy life who had died in the Faith) became such focuses of devotion, reminders that God was real and worked in the lives of believers not just in the long-ago Biblical times, but also in the present life and ongoing experiences of Christians still living.
These relics were frequently kept in caskets or containers known as reliquaries, to preserve and simultaneously reveal these relics to believers across time.
With the advent of the Reformation, however, came a change in attitude amongst the Protestants in reaction to what they considered to be a far-too-deeply-developed devotion to these objects, and they deliberately distanced themselves from what they saw as a form of devotion that was an intrinsic part of what they were seeking to reform (Reformation, right?).
People being what they are, however, and the world being exactly what Scripture says it is, that vacuum of secondary objects of devotion was soon filled with creations more suited to the aims and goals of the Reformation: hymns.
In the Medieval Church, the laity, the non-clerical worshippers, didn’t sing in the services in church. That was a task done by either clerics (priests or monks or other ordained ministers) or by other specially-trained lesser clerics. The people simply listened.
Part of the reform wrought by the Protestants was a restoration of worship in song by the congregation as well as the ministers and choir. The Reformation brought a spate of composing hymnists who labored to write songs suited for congregational worship, hymns which both celebrated God and His Works and which also taught Biblical doctrine in forms both accessible to worshippers in their native tongues (prior to this, all songs were in Latin, which very few understood) and which were memorable melodically and lyrically.
These were songs even the illiterate could learn and utilize themselves in God’s worship (though the Reformers labored mightily to educate their people to read, as well). As ongoing, regular elements of believer’s worship, elements which allowed them to become integral parts of public worship, these hymns themselves soon became objects through which the Protestants could focus their devotion, and the hymns filled the space in life formerly occupied by relics.
The hymns were, for Protestant believers, the new relics, new, highly accessible portals and foci through which their devotion and worship of God could be evoked and poured.
In light of all this, it occurred to me that a collection of such post-Reformation hymns would itself be a kind of reliquary, a reliquary of hymns. In Latin, the word is reliquarium. This is the origin of the title of my collection of performed hymns: Reliquarium.
...back to my interview with Kemper Crabb regarding topics brought up in his new book Liberation Front: Resurrecting the Church.
Throughout the book you, via straightforward Scriptural examples, illustrate God’s intended immense empowerment of, and working through, the church in not only the earthly realm but even the heavenly. Why is this fundamental teaching so unheard and/or unheard of in today’s church?
Hmmm. Well, that’s an important question, I think. It has, however, multiple vectors that feed any kind of answer, and this shouldn’t surprise us, since any kind of motivation to do something, especially something sinful, and you’re going to find varied motivations, frequently even within a single person.
Generally, though, I think there are three or four basic reasons as to why these truths are largely unknown in the Church today. The first, and likely the single most important, since it affects most of the other reasons on one level or another, is the creeping reductionism that has influenced the modern Evangelical Church’s doctrine and practice for at least a hundred and fifty years or so (longer in some quarters), an orientation that I call Christian reductionism. Christian reductionism is willing to posit that the central Creedal doctrines of the Bible (the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Resurrection, Creation, etc.), but remain skeptical about other supernatural aspects of Scriptural teaching, preferring to view those things in the most reductionistic fashion possible, only giving credence to any such possibility when all naturalistic explanations are exhausted, if they finally give any credence at all to them (a salient antidote to this tendency happens not infrequently when a family member or congregant ends up demonized, and there’s no naturalistic explanation).
Some believers adopt this attitude because they seek to make the Faith more palatable to its cultured despisers, and, at least theoretically, bring them to belief. Most of today’s believers, though, have simply absorbed the naturalistic skepticism concerning the supernatural promulgated in modern education and the media, and, though they will accept the far-removed supernatural events of the central Creedal beliefs, anything closer to them in time and space is subject to their background reductionistic bent. This tendency is also far too prominent in seminary training, and many pastors pass it on to their parishioners, either implicitly or explicitly.
So, when Scripture presents a teaching that we actually worship in Heaven while still on the Earth, or that the more obviously supernatural spiritual gifts exist (even though all of the Spirit’s Gifts are innately supernatural in their origin and operation, though gifts like teaching and administration seem to not be so), or that demons actively engage humans to do harm, or that God actively judges nations rather than just individuals, to a Christian reductionist these beliefs are either dismissed as untenable or filed away as irrelevant or unbelievable.
And, of course, Christian reductionist ministers just don’t teach those troubling doctrines, except perhaps to explain them away in naturalistic or lunatic-fringe categories. Not to mention that there appears to be a widely-present fear that if “controversial” doctrines are taught or affirmed, numbers might dip in the congregation (and, consequently, tithes might do the same).
Now, there are Charismatic branches of the American Church who do embrace the supernatural as a matter of course, but since many (though not all) of these branches are much more concerned with seeking experience than they are with arriving at a doctrinally-coherent and integrated Biblical world-and-life-view, they frequently misunderstand or attempt to practice these doctrines, resulting in an imbalanced and regrettably goofy way, which just goes to further marginalize and ridicule these ideas among the more doctrinally-oriented Christian reductionists.
Finally, there’s the simple truth that most of us simply don’t know the Bible, or, if we know it much at all, we don’t know it deeply, so, even if our world-view allows more supernaturalistic possibilities (which taking Scripture seriously and learning it would definitely help that gig), if we don’t know the Bible, a broader world-view wouldn’t help in engaging these doctrines.
What’s needed, of course, is a knowledge of God’s Word engaged in an attitude that will take what it says seriously and be shaped by its teaching, and the courage to teach and practice them
The purpose of church architecture is to physically symbolize the true nature of where our worship takes place, and what is happening there... Church architecture is massively helpful in reinforcing these fundamental understandings in the worship that shapes everything we are and do.Read More