Kanye West’s new music language

Apart from those who’ve been culturally cryogenized throughout 2019, you’ve probably heard the rumours about Kanye West’s conversion to Christianity. Following a series of stops and starts, his newest album is now released, with the unambiguous title, Jesus is King. If it is anything to go by, the rumours seem to be true.

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The album consists of 11 songs which repeat a before and after picture of Kanye West’s life, with the dividing line being the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

West opens up about past decisions and struggles and the effect it’s had on people around him,

A lot of damaged souls, I done damaged those

And in my arrogance, took a camera pose

Without any of the cultural subtleties that we’ve come to expect from public religious figures, Kanye switches on the spot light and points it directly at the person of Jesus.

I bow down to the King upon the throne

My life is His, I’m no longer my own

Shai Linne tweeted out today how Jesus is King,

“exposes the notion of hiding Jesus to reach the culture for the foolish philosophy that it is. It also exposes hearts like mine- tempted to grow complacent & lack the zeal we once had as new converts, before we had all our theological i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”

So true. Where Christians so often feel like they’re as wanted as a possum in a Melbourne suburban street, Kanye West has blown open the roof. At a time when Christians have convinced themselves to tiptoe around the topic of Jesus, Kanye West has walked into the room and announced Jesus is King. For this reason, the album is a breath of fresh air. It’s like a warm weather front has hit the town to dethaw hearts that have been frozen with fear by the surrounding culture. 

It’ll be obvious to anyone who knows me, even a little, that rap is hardly my music of choice (and neither is Kenny G!). Ask me about Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff and we can have a conversation. Ask me about ‘Christian’ music, and I’ll most likely roll my eyes down the corridor. Ask me about rap, and I’ll have to turn to my son for help. I know the name Kanye West. I have some vague awareness of his mega-stardom in pop culture, but like many things circa 2000, I defer to my kids to point out who is what in the world of pop music.

That means I had better leave the critical evaluation of the music to others. Maybe Jesus is King will be praised or perhaps it’ll be thrown into a box tagged ‘musical heresy’; I don’t know. I have asked my drummer playing son for his thoughts about his album, for he sees something in this musical genre that has clearly evaded my imagination.

What I do love about this album is that even though the musical style is foreign to me, I sure understand the lyrics. Isn’t a Gospel truth that the Gospel both transcends culture and language and that it can also speak into any culture with precision and power?  The musical language may not be in my lane, but the theological language is familiar and exciting and encouraging.

Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Contemplating an answer, and despite declaring Jesus to be innocent of any wrongdoing, Pilate then proceeded to have Jesus crucified. In that rejection, God revealed the answer, yes Jesus is the King and he is the saving King. Ever since that day, generations have asked the same question, Is Jesus the King, often asking and hoping that the answer is no. Through a musical language that is understandable to millions, Kanye West is declaring that the answer is yes. I hope and pray that these songs will reach a generation of Aussies and Americans, and encourage them to consider this great and momentous question.

Let me leave you with these great lyrics from the song God is,

Everything that I felt, praise theLord

Worship Christ with the best of your portions

I know I won’t forget all He’s done

He’s the strength in this race that I run

Every time I look up, I see God’s faithfulness

And it shows just how much He is miraculous

I can’t keep it to myself, I can’t sit here and be still

Everybody, I will tell ’til the whole world is healed

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, all the things He has in store

From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door

You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name

Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane

And I know, I know God is the force that picked me up

I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup

I know God is alive, yeah

He has opened up my vision

Giving me a revelation

This ain’t ’bout a damn religion

Jesus brought a revolution

All the captives are forgiven

Time to break down all the prisons

Every man, every woman

There is freedom from addiction

Jesus, You have my soul

Sunday Service on a roll

All my idols, let ’em go

All the demons, let ’em know

This a mission, not a show

This is my eternal soul

This my kids, this the crib

This my wife, this my life

This my God-given right

Thank you, Jesus, won the fight

Anger at Archbishop Glenn Davies for saying Anglicans should believe what Anglicans believe

Outrage is one of the few certainties of our age. At times there is a good reason for anger, sometimes it’s misguided, and sometimes it’s a rhetorical weapon used for avoiding sensible discourse and argument. And yes, for third parties watching on it can be difficult to discern what is what.

Predictable parts of the media and progressive Christians are today fuming at Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop because he believes Anglicans should be Anglican.

The line that has particularly infuriated people is this,

“My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us.

“We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world.”

 

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Robyn Whitaker of Pilgrim Theological College tweeted in response,

There’s a redefinition of “Anglican” here that is terrifying and must be utterly rejected. Christianity has always tolerated a range of views. What is being advocated by @abpdavies is a fundamentalist cult.

First of all, Glenn Davies hasn’t redefined Anglican. He is doing what he’s supposed to do, namely upholding Anglican doctrine and practice, and calling out those who are creating fracture by introducing unAnglican ideas. Indeed, it is worth noting that at the very same event where Archbishop Davies gave this address, the Synod prayed for Jay Behan, a newly appointed Bishop over a new group of churches in New Zealand who have been forced to leave the Anglican Church of NZ because it has turned away from Anglican doctrine.

Whitaker’s use of language here is designed to paint Sydney Anglicans into a religious box where all fanatics and right-wing dangerous religious people belong. The reality is very different. Sydney Anglicans belong to mainstream and historic Christian faith which is practised by many other denominations in this country and across the world. You may not like or agree with the Sydney Anglican Diocese but calling them a cult is intellectually and morally disingenuous.  Whitaker suggests “Christianity has always tolerated a range of views.”. No, and yes. Christians throughout history have agreed on some things being tertiary, but many other beliefs and practices are primary, and agree on these is necessary for continued unity and fellowship. Despite her implication, Anglicanism (as with Christianity) isn’t an endless spectrum of alternate theologies, as though I can believe whatever I want about God and call myself Anglican. Anglicanism consists of concrete beliefs and practices, which include the 39 Articles, and more important, beliefs and practices that are grounded in the Bible. As Melbourne’s Ridley College (an Anglican college) recently, stated,

“We are convinced that the biblical vision for human sexuality is clear. We also believe that it is beautiful, and that God’s commands are for our good as well as for his glory. The traditional path may be a hard one to travel, but it is the one we are called to take.”

It is interesting to note in light of her tweet that Whitaker’s own denomination (the Uniting Church), is squeezing out evangelicals who hold to the classical view of marriage. An example of this was reported in The Australian last week.

Jarrod McKenna also tweeted,

“It’s Jesus’ church. You don’t get to ask those you disagree with to leave”

Yes, it is Jesus’ Church, and that’s the point. The Lord Jesus Christ establishes and defines the Church, not us. So when people come along and declare that they no longer agree with Jesus, it is incumbent upon Churches to point this out and call them to repent. Should they decline and persist in holding to erring ideas, they ought to leave. Glenn Davies is simply acknowledging the Bible’s own processes on this matter, and it also makes sense. I should add, there is a difference between someone wrestling with the Bible’s teaching and someone who rejects the Bible’s teaching. There is an important distinction between someone struggling with doubt as they come to terms with biblical ethics and someone with knowledge deciding to say no. There is a difference between a person who is exploring the faith and a leader who has decided that no longer adhere to church doctrine.*

For example, if a member of a sporting club decides that they no longer hold to the values of the club, it is a matter of integrity that they move elsewhere. If a member of a cricket club insists that they no longer want to play cricket, but instead want to redefine the club as a lacrosse society, the right thing to do is for them to move to a sporting club that plays lacrosse.

Last month I wrote the growing schism in the Anglican Communion and argued at the time, “Of what use is a doctrinal statement if churches can freely ignore or reject articles without consequence? Of what benefit is a definition of marriage if churches and pastors can circumvent the rules and pursue alternate avenues without disciplinary procedures both defined and enacted? These clergy and churches have either broken fellowship or they have not.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is acting with pastoral awareness of the churches and is using commonsense.

If an Anglican no longer holds to Anglican beliefs and practices, they can no longer be described as Anglican in any meaningful way and so it’s a matter of integrity that one stops pretending to be so. If a football player changes clubs, it is inappropriate for them to wear the jumper of their previous club. Be honest about it and go support the team you’re now playing for.

I understand why some people don’t like what Glenn Davies has said. Some people may not agree with his views, but he is being consistent with the teaching and practice of Anglicanism (and indeed with that of Christian denominations around the world). As a leader of that Diocese, he has the responsibility under God to “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:9), “to contend for the faith” (Jude 3), and “to keep watch over the flock” (Acts 20).

What especially grieves me amidst this ongoing issue is not only the way progressives publicly misconstrue the true nature of mainstream Christian Churches but the fact that they also misconstrue to everyday Aussies the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel doesn’t affirm 21st Century sexual ethics, it is offers something better, more astonishing and good.

If I may defer to Ridley College once more,

“We acknowledge that homosexuality is a difficult topic to discuss. This is not because the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is especially unclear, but because its implications are so deeply personal. We are Bible scholars, but we are also people. All of us have wrestled with God’s teaching on marriage on a personal level as it relates to those we love –  our children, our friends, those we pastor  –  and indeed to our own lives.

“We rejoice with the many gay, lesbian and same-sex attracted men and women in our churches who love Jesus and are quietly committed to following him on this path, trusting him with their whole lives even, and perhaps especially, with their sex lives. The church as a whole can learn much from their example about what following Jesus looks like as we await his return. Jesus calls us to give up our lives, take up our cross, and follow him no matter the cost. If, for some of us, life has become a little too comfortable, a little too much like the world, incurring too little a cost, then we might look to these celibate gay, lesbian and same-sex attracted saints whose lives can serve as a living, breathing sermon, an example to follow, and a reminder not only of the cost of following Jesus but also that he is worth giving up anything to follow.“

 

 


*It should be noted that the Archbishop’s comments were directed toward bishops and clergy of the Anglican Church. This is a distinction that the media is overlooking

Ellen DeGeneres is told to change her friends

According to The Age columnist, Robert Moran, progressives will now choose our friends. We don’t have to worry about making friends any longer because they have stepped in and will select suitable friends for each of us, that is, if you deserve a friend.

Ellen DeGeneres and I share little in common. For one thing, I’d prefer to watch the hands of a clock rotate around for an hour overviewing daytime television with Hollywood celebrities salivating over each other under the guise of ‘interview’. However, Ellen DeGeneres did and said something that I thought was refreshing and encouraging to hear, as did millions of other people.

DeGeneres was spotted sitting with President Bush at an NFL game last week. If that was bad enough, the two appeared to be enjoying each other’s company. Within a nano second, social media begun to meltdown again as left handed trolls shook their fists with rage.

The fact that Ellen DeGeneres is Hollywood and that she cuts a significant slice of the intersectional pyramid, wasn’t enough to save her from this social heresy. She has apparently betrayed her own, not just because she was caught being nice to a conservative politician, but she then had the gall to suggest it’s ok to be friends with people who don’t agree with you.

“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush…In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.”

Writing for The Age, Robert Moran has joined the screechy chorus against Ellen Degeneres’ choice of friends.  Amidst the  air of superiority in which progressives hover over the rest of us mortals, Moran didn’t even bother to disguise his condescension toward those who differ from him,

“We all have that polite, otherwise lovable, friend or acquaintance who at some point mutters some off-colour remark about abortion rights, or immigration, or Soundcloud rap”.

I don’t even know what Soundcloud rap is. Is it that bad?

On the other hand, Moran wants to tell us about “Hollywood good guy, Mark Ruffalo”.

Moran counts the Incredible Hulk as a more suitable friend in life because lashed out at DeGeneres’ choice of friends. Ruffalo tweeted,

“Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”

Doesn’t Gruffalo, sorry, Ruffalo realise that he isn’t a member of the intersectional pyramid, with all his whiteness and maleness and wealth? How can he forget rule no.1 in today’s society: he’s not allowed to question someone on the intersectional pyramid, even if he is as angry as the Incredible Hulk. Or does his eerie ability to turn green elevate him up a few spots?!  What is clear, both Hollywood and the media are a forgiving bunch, because Ruffalo’s object of disdain involved a Bush. The double standards and hypocrisy stand out more than an oversized green man smashing cars through downtown Manhattan.

This entertainment reporter  informs his readers that,

“Ellen needs new friends and, specifically, regular types”

“I’ve found Ellen’s uncomfortable misstep offers a useful reminder: not to “be kind to everyone”, but to be a Mark Ruffalo.”

Think about it. Surely, it is a sad state of affairs when journalists begin telling us whom we can and can’t be friends with. This is further evidence of how our culture has drifted far away from civility and sanity.

Thank you, Robert Moran, for telling a woman what kind of friends she ought to have. And it is so kind of you to remind us all “not to “be kind to everyone””! Upon short reflection I think I’ll take my cue from someone else.

One of the greatest privileges I have each week is to open the Bible and to tell people about Jesus Christ. Jesus expressed kindness to people who were unlike him. Jesus chose to be friends with people whom the cultural elites thought were unworthy of friendship. Jesus loved those who were unlikable, regardless of their station in life: a national leader or a wealthy businessman, a child, or a prostitute. As Jesus did so, his detractors retorted with similar moronic style, “‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ They believed they were mocking Jesus, but how mistaken they were. Isn’t this the type of kindness we need more of as a society?

The Bible reminds me to “be kind to everyone”. Ellen DeGeneres has taken a note from this book (whether she realises this or not, I don’t know). Kindness is more powerful and more beautiful than the Hulk like impressions that clog up our newspapers and twitter feeds. Well done Ellen DeGeneres. Thank you for looking outside the glass pyramid and for sticking with friends who are unlike you.

Ridley College explains its position on marriage

A good news story has come out of Melbourne evangelicalism this week. In what may be a first, an Australian theological College has produced a formal statement about their position on marriage.

 

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Ridley College in Melbourne has released a letter in which they affirm the biblical (or ‘traditional’) understanding of marriage. They explain the reason behind the decision to articulate the College’s position,

“Our purpose in writing this brief letter is to support our fellow Anglicans in wrestling with this issue by offering a summary of the scholarly discussion over what the Bible teaches on homosexuality, and an explanation for why we believe the traditional path on marriage and sexuality is the one that Christ is calling us to take.”

Ridley’s influence extends beyond the Anglican communion, touching denominations across Melbourne and indeed around Australia. Accordingly, this letter is an encouragement not only to Anglicans, but also to Baptists, Charismatics, Presbyterians, and others.

The document goes onto outline 3 primary views on marriage that are held by various people under the Christian umbrella. They explain why Ridley College rejects both the revisionist and the progressive view on marriage, and instead why they affirm the belief that “Bible teaches that sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman, and that we should do what the Bible says”.

You can read the full letter here:

Two weeks ago I wrote about the mounting pressure on Christian organisations to either capitulate or accommodate to the current sexual morality. Many other denominations and leaders have chosen to defer or kick the can down the street, so to speak, as though avoiding the issue is dealing with the issue. Ridley College has chosen the third and only proper Christian option, faithfulness.

As the letter makes clear, Gospel fidelity doesn’t stand in opposition to love and grace, rather it is a rightly ordered expression of these virtues. Adhering to the classical understanding of marriage doesn’t diminish the beauty of the Gospel, but is a God-given reflection of the good news of Jesus Christ.

“We are convinced that the biblical vision for human sexuality is clear. We also believe that it is beautiful, and that God’s commands are for our good as well as for his glory.”

The letter opens by acknowledging that this no mere academic exercise for these scholars,

“We acknowledge that homosexuality is a difficult topic to discuss. This is not because the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is especially unclear, but because its implications are so deeply personal. We are Bible scholars, but we are also people. All of us have wrestled with God’s teaching on marriage on a personal level as it relates to those we love –  our children, our friends, those we pastor  –  and indeed to our own lives.”

The letter also rightly points out the wonderful example in our churches of same sex attracted believers, who have chosen fidelity and godliness over and above the narrative that is being fed to us in almost every part of the culture, and which is sadly becoming normalised within some of our churches and institutions. 

As I read this sentence, “The traditional path may be a hard one to travel, but it is the one we are called to take”, I was reminded of the College’s namesake, Bishop Nicholas Ridley. Almost 500 years ago, Nicholas Ridley taught against erring doctrine and practised what he believed was in line with Biblical Christianity. He did so in the face of severe opposition, which ultimately cost him his life. His famous example reminds the Churches that holding onto biblical truths rarely garners popular adulation, but it does prepare the soil for a Gospel harvest.

God honours faithfulness. I suspect that there will be some backlash as a result of this letter but isn’t that what the Lord Jesus taught us to expect as we follow him in this world? Faithfulness is almost always hard, and it may create some difficulties for us in the days ahead, but faithfulness never fails in the end.

 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3-4)

I am thankful to God for Ridley College’s public testimony in this letter. We can pray that other Christian colleges and institutions have the courage to follow suit.

The power of forgiveness

Amber Guyger is a former Dallas police officer who has been found guilty of murdering Botham Jean. The case became a national story because of the circumstances surrounding the crime, which included allegations of racism. Guyger is white and was a police officer; Botham Jean was an African American. Guyger shot and killed him in his own home—alleging that she had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and thought he was a burglar.

Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Many people outside the courtroom have decried the sentence, insisting that it is far too lenient. Inside the courtroom, another voice was heard, from the brother of Botham Jean, Brandt. He gave a statement where he forgave Amber Guyger and explained that he did not wish her any harm. He instead encouraged her to look to Christ. Brandt Jean looked at Guyger and told her that he loved her. He then asked the Judge if he could approach Guyger and give her a hug.

It is worth taking 4 minutes to watch and listen to Brandt Jean’s words. The weeping in the courtroom is palpable, with even the Judge wiping tears from her eyes.

According to CNN, shortly afterwards the Judge, Tammy Kemp, handed Guyger a Bible to take with her, saying,

“You can have mine. I have three or four more at home,” the judge said. “This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. ‘For God so loved the world…'”

Out of evil and tremendous sadness has come an extraordinary act of grace and kindness. Brandt Jean’s actions in that courtroom represent the heart of the Christian message, which is about undeserved forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Gospel of Luke records while Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The Apostles’ echoed his words in their own:

In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7)

Christianity is often portrayed as being foolish, stupid and even evil.  In our wisdom, we have decided that we no longer require the teaching and habits of the Christian faith. Many of our cultural spokespeople are trying to banish Christian thinking from the public square, as if it were a virus that needed to be contained or inoculated-against. Certainly, some Christians give Christianity a bad wrap. Sometimes Christians forget what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about. But what a timely reminder Brandt Jean gives both Christians and non-Christians of real Christianity.

The first Christians also knew about this tendency to forgetfulness. Paul once wrote:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1Tim 1:15)

Our world doesn’t need to hear less of this Divine forgiveness. In this age of constant rage and anger and malice, the message offered by Brandt to the woman who murdered his brother is both extraordinary and subversive and offers us a healing antidote.

The Psalmist captured the human condition well when he pleaded with God,

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,

    Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” (Psalm 130)

I thank God for Divine forgiveness, and for the beautiful and powerful way in which Brandt Jean has today given this ancient Gospel renewed clarity and pertinence.

 

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Further extraordinary and beautiful scenes: here is the video of Judge tammy Kemp embracing Amber Guyger following the trial and giving her own Bible for Guyger to keep.