NoiseTrade Widget

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Its been a time, time, and a half since I've visited this blog, virtual pen in hand. But here I am, at long last...
I've been thinking a lot about apologetics: defending a reason or position. In this case, making a case for the validity of Christianity. There are many arguments indeed which help to make a case for not only an "intelligent design" but also the historical validity of scripture. There are also arguments completely outside of scripture. My favorite: Bach existed; therefore God exists.
Arguing for the reliability of scripture and furthermore the validity of Christianity is definitely a worthy endeavor and worthwhile study. There are stories like that of renowned Christian author/speaker Josh McDowell who upon trying to disprove Scripture came to a saving knowledge of Christ. Other masters such as Peter Kreeft beautifully articulate the doctrines of Christianity and argue for the existence of God with the grace and skill rivaling C.S. Lewis.
Apologetics is necessary. It is scholarly and shows that Christianity is intellectual. Those who believe can enter into dialogue with those who would oppose such beliefs with skilled arguments if they have studied and understand what it is they are defending.
Apologetics is necessary, but physical, historical, factual proofs will never be foundational to our Christianity. Awhile ago, Ken Ham with his organization Answers In Genesis, published the image above. It made sense to me, but there was an element to it that disturbed me. It wasn't that the "evil secular humanists" would be able to crush Christianity if we ignored what they were shooting at. What concerned me was the absence of the sovereignty of God from the image, or better, the foundation of Christ.
AiG (Ken Ham's group - not the insurance co.) would argue that one only knows of Christ through the Bible, and if the Bible is proved to that person to be inaccurate or unreliable, then their faith will have been dealt a serious or potentially deadly blow. (In their defense, they would never question the sovereignty of God or the need for a believer's foundation in Christ)
This brings me back to my point that apologetics is necessary for the believer. However, I would argue that it is not alone capable of sustaining one's faith.
While we need to provide solid Biblical teaching and apologetic arguments for believers, we need to be primarily teaching/preaching Christ. It is not enough to mention him in our Bible classes or talk about his ministry in the gospel books. To truly teach Christ is to teach the most fundamental of all relationships, for it is the relationship by which all others are defined. If ultimate purpose of a relationship is love, and the ultimate love is unconditional love, then the relationship that Christ offers us is the ultimate of relationships.
Here is where we most fail as teachers and as Christians (thankfully Christ forgives our failures!): we don't teach the relationship with Christ because we ourselves struggle with knowing what is required and the desire to surrender it. Christ summed it up rather well saying "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). I know what Christ wants of me but my mind and my heart (flesh) lead me away.
I'm going to attempt a summation at this point. (I have a tendency toward long-windedness)
The reason I'm writing this is most likely because its what I struggle with the most. I've taught Bible classes and I lead worship regularly. I truly desire to have a meaningful, sustaining, life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. I know what it requires, and here is my problem: Jesus DOESN'T want my best teaching skills, my knowledge of scripture, my best guitar playing, my ability to lead worship well, how nice I am to people, my ability to defeat an evolutionist in an argument on the validity of scripture; What He DOES want is quite simply my heart. It is the center of my being. It is who I am. Not what I do, but what it is of which I am made. My spirit is indeed willing to surrender my heart, but when the hammer falls, I often turn my tail and run.
I hide this from myself by DOING, when Christ wants me.
Back to the apologetics. They're important. Its good and the Bible tells us to study and learn. But when Peter said be ready to give a reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15) we need to remember that his audience did not have the New Testament. They had their scriptures, but proving the historical accuracy of it was not his intent here. Their hope was in Christ. It wasn't their knowledge and abilities which gave the early Christians hope when faced with death in a Roman colosseum. It was Christ. Not their knowledge of Christ but their heart-surrendering relationship with him.
I remember putting my name in place of "the world" in John 3:16, and remember putting "Jesus" in place of 'Love' in parts of 1 Corinthians 13; in the patient, and faithful part. But we skipped the first part:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinth. 13:1-3)
I can learn just about every argument and how to manipulate debates to win. But if I have Christ, I have nothing.
May Christ be first in my heart.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I've been fixing up some of my old guitar gear to sell in order to purchase something new. One of the items to go is my first acoustic. I remember saving my grocery-store-cart-boy money and buying it myself and the feeling of how proud I was to own something which I paid for. That was the guitar I really cut my teeth on (other than the nylon string jalopies from Mrs. Harrop's 7th grade music class): first gigs; first songs. I can even recall exact places where I played it.
Its strange to part with pieces of the past. (I'm a pack-rat so this doesn't happen often.) There's a lingering feeling of hope that I won't regret giving it up. But I know the memories won't be gone along with the guitar. Those are set in place. Only in time will some of them fade away, replaced by more recent circumstances.
I think its a good exercise though. There's a lot more than tangible items onto which I hold: mindsets, character traits; habits; the way things should be done. What do I need to part with in order to move forward. What needs to go so I can move on? Its not that I don't like change. I like the idea of fact I really like it once its happened and I can look back and laugh on the old me. But its the examination that's difficult. How do we discover and name those pieces of ourselves with which we would be better off without.
My history tells me to say "prayer". Pray to God and those parts will be illuminated. That's true...good too. Prayer is necessity for those who profess faith in God and Christ. But there's the clincher isn't it? Professing faith in God and Christ. Its one thing to be convicted of something. Its another thing to let that thing go; set it free; give up the ghost. It presents questions. What will I be without that? If I stop thinking this way will God still love me? What will people think of me if I don't look, act, and talk like everyone else? If I really do believe in what Jesus said: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28 ESV)", then those questions fade away as quickly as they approached.
Jesus promises rest. My questions promise unrest. Yet I still allow myself to be chained to the questions which keep me from giving up those things which I must to be free in Christ.
My friend Justin often concludes his prayer with the words of the father in Mark 9 saying "I believe, help my unbelief!" Its such a simple sentence, but with such profound meaning. I know there is freedom there. I've tasted it myself. Why hold on?
It just started with waxing nostalgic over a guitar. Now I've got myself thinking.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opening Thoughts

Welcome...and thanks for coming by to read. I've not blogged prior to this, but as I'm trying to immerse myself in the vast world of Web 2.0 before it upgrades to 2.1, 2.2, or even 3.0, I thought I would begin.
A bit about myself at this point would probably be apropos. My name is Ben. I'm a husband, father, musician, gym teacher, and armchair theologian. Let me correct that. I really wouldn't say I'm a theologian by any means. I enjoy the discussion, reading, and stretching of the mind associated with the study.
I'm an ex-Yankee. I grew up outside Philadelphia, spent my college years in western NY state, and now happily live way below the Mason Dixon line by the beach in South Carolina.
The title: The String and the Sound comes from my fascination and ever-increasing bond with the guitar. Music is my starting point for a lot of my thinking; a kind of home base for me. The guitar is the primary means by which I express myself musically. When I pick up the guitar and play, the instrument responds to the way in which it is played. There is technique, nuance, tempo, feeling, and strategy. But human input is not all that drives the song. The song speaks for itself. It takes on a life of its own. It hopefully will become its own entity apart from me once it is heard by others. It then becomes theirs as well. Jeff Tweedy from Wilco wrote it well in "What Light." (Video)
And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on
The blog title is also a bit of a metaphor as well. I'd be disingenuous if I didn't reveal that I'm perpetually haunted by the gospel of Christ. As the song takes on a life of its own as its played and revealed, so does the gospel. As Christ moves in a person, he will express himself. Not in the same way. (We get ourselves in a world of trouble when we expect all those who seek to follow Christ to act and respond the same way.) I can't help writing from this perspective. If I kick against the gospel, it will reveal itself despite me (thankfully).
So I hope these opening thoughts have allowed for snippets of insight into who I am and how I go about thinking. Check back, say hi, I'll keep writing.