Foundations of Faith
It is not enough to say that "I am a Christian", for during the course of the 19th century this same term became a mantle for all kinds of heretics. They broadened and broadened the licence of the name, while abolishing creeds and confessions as divisive, until what was left was ostensibly ecumenical but which was, in fact, quite meaningless. We cannot be vaguely "Christian" for long. We each have a position on the Trinity, on the Sacraments, on Creation, on Salvation, on every facet of the Christian life and doctrine as revealed in the Word of God. And it is precisely because some people have distorted the meaning of the Holy Scriptures that we each have to nail our colours to the mast and own the specifics of our faith. If we do not know what we believe (and why), we will allow ourselves to be influenced unthinkingly and we will sway with the breeze and believe what others want us to believe.
~ Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever ~
This is my presupposition. It comes from the catechism of the Westminster Assembly in the 17th century, which had its roots in the English Reformation of the 16th century. I take delight in such heritage, while not leaning on it as mere tradition. It is a summary of Protestant truth, rooted in Calvinistic and Reformed soil. It is also a plumb-line, by which to test the beliefs of the modern Church, an organisation that is more likely to believe today that God's chief end is to make people happy. Of course, this is not true and the convert is bound to be disappointed in God for not granting his every wish. If such people retain a profession of faith, it is often out of pity, with a patronising "I'll stick with God, in spite of ..." - as we might refer to a faithful old dog that cannot help being blind and deaf. If we make ourselves the centre of our Christianity, we will look down on God. If God is the centre and his glory our goal, we will not be obsessed with ourselves for long.
* "Should not" because it is a product of Romanticism to believe that our art, books, plays and music are a revelation of spiritual truth to change the world, with the artistic-person becoming the ultimate hero to procure society's redemption. All such thinking produces cults around an individual and always deviates from the order appointed by God. His Word alone is able to change the world and His ministers, acting and blessed by the Holy Spirit of God, may preach that Word to reform an evil age. My own writings do not feature in this context at all.
My books are intrinsically counter-cultural. I wave a banner for a society reformed by God. But I am not under any illusions. My writings will not and should not* change the world.
Look at the picture below. The Church is in an even worse condition than this old castle. Ivy has grown over the walls of the Church and covered the windows, blocking light from illuminating the interior.
In my writings, I climb up the outside wall and pick the ivy away from one of the windows. It is unpleasant work, as anyone who has pulled ivy will know. It gets under your nails and when a clump of ivy comes off, the dust clouds into your hair. I am clearing ivy off one window. (There are so many other windows, for other people to clear - whether their field is medicine, or history, or mathematics.) That light is not to glorify music or myself, it is a means of helping people within the Church seeing their way more clearly.
I am by training a composer and so, in between pulling ivy off the outside of the window, I step back into the building and look at the window from the other point of view. This allows me to keep sight of where the ivy is, but also to benefit from the light myself. As I have exposed the idolatry of music, my own compositions have improved and my skills have been enhanced. Thought changes action.
Under this analogy, I am not doing anything for people on the outside of the Church. Non-Christians often believe in music as an alternative religion. I cannot persuade such people to disbelieve in music by reason, for all I have tried. They need the Gospel and when they hear it, they will let go of believing in music for themselves. So, while I am frankly critical in my examination of the non-Christian view of music - for it often adversely affections Christians - I do not argue with non-Christians about music. We will never agree and the argument would only be for the sake of arguing.
My perspective is expounded in my books and briefly in the blogs on this site. I welcome cordial conversations with fellow-Christians who have read my books and request a disclosure of religious affiliation on the contact form so I can respectfully know where you are coming from. That said, I will not debate or argue. Time is too precious to me and confrontation on music is often a mask for an argument on doctrinal matters and Scriptural interpretation. While I would gladly talk about such things in person, the online sphere is an inappropriate medium for such discussions and tends to escalate out of control, eating time and going no where.
Comments are posted at my discretion.
Removing the ivy has consequences. People within the Church are forced to see the ugliness outside more clearly. It cannot be helped - nor should it. The Calvinist, it has been said, should never be shocked by sin. The world is desperately wicked and in dire need of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Since that society rejects Him, it ought to be in a mess and it is in a mess. With the exception of the tender minds of little children, we should not obscure the wickedness, pulling a curtain across the degradation in order to spare our own blushes.
I am not creating anything, hence the analogy of the ivy. The truth was always there. I am not saying something new. I am not making a new Church or changing its location. I am trying to restore what was there and help other Christians to see it so that they may walk more boldly in the light of God's Word.
This is no grand gesture. Neither is it a quick fix. Ivy grows back. There is no place for smugness or complacency. We do not pick the ivy off the window and then say, "That's it, we can relax now." I have been doing this for over 12 years, whether or not people are watching, whether or not people were buying and reading my books. And I am only just beginning to see the scope of the task and the shallowness of my progress. But this is how I glorify God.