Coloratura Christian

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Those Crazy Composers

I found out a few days ago that I passed my ARCT voice exam, so now I'm cramming to complete the history and theory components (I'm scheduled to write them on August 11 & 12.)

As I study the life and music of Romantic and 20th century composers, I am getting a little depressed because it seems that many of the genius composers are either somewhat crazy, totally crazy or even evil crazy.

Take for instance Richard Wagner (1813-1883). I LOVE his music, but the man was an arrogant jerk.

It seems he was always getting into trouble and having to flee the country. In 1839 he was forced to flee Riga, Russia to escape his creditors. Apparently, he and his actress wife liked to spend exorbitant amounts of money. He later had to flee Germany because there was a warrant out for his arrest (because of his involvement in a revolt in 1849.)

He had affairs with two different married women. The first one was the wife of a very generous patron, and when she wouldn't leave her husband, Wagner was supposedly inspired to write Tristan and Isolde, a story about a knight in love with married lady Isolde.

Fortunately for Wagner, the king of Bavaria, Ludwig II, was an admirer. He settled Wagner's debts and assisted him in getting his opera produced in Munich. The crazy man then had an affair with Cosima, Franz Liszt's illegitimate daughter whose husband was a great Wagner admirer and actually conducted the premiere of Tristan and Isolde. The indiscretion of his second affair caused him to fall out of favor with the court, and again he was forced to flee the country for Switzerland.

The worst offence was that he called himself a Christian, but it sounds like he believed a sort of Gnostic, Buddhist, Aryanist "Christianity", obviously some invention of his own, an amalgamation of the beliefs of his day.

Although his name is often connected with Adolf Hitler, it is impossible that they could have met because Wagner died before Hitler was born. I have read that Hitler was a fan of Wagner's music, but I have also read that Wagner's last opera, Parsifal, was banned in Nazi Germany because it was too pacifist.

Even though Wagner was an evil genius, he was a genius. Apparently he was mostly self taught, and had only about six months of formal training in theory. Even those who hate Wagner (and he did have many enemies even in his own day) have to admit that his music is incredible and powerful.

After researching his life, it somewhat ruined my enjoyment of his music. Although, it does console me to think that he is not benefiting from record sales.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The "Elder Brother Syndrome"

I have often heard it said that God would be totally just in sending every person to hell.

I totally agree with this statement. However, if I'm being honest, it does nothing to stir my heart in praise. It does cause my heart to fear, though, especially if I dwell on this thought for any length of time. And how can you dwell on this fact for long without also dwelling on the fact that God is merciful, compassionate and loving. Both justice and mercy are intrinsical to Him. Even though God would be totally just in sending every person to hell, because of His mercy, many are saved.

Unbelievers also have some understanding of God's justness (as evidenced by their conscience), and His kindness (as evidenced in loving relationships, the beauty of creation, and every other good thing on earth that they enjoy.)

This leads me to ask the question, "How is the believer's understanding of God fundamentally different from an unbeliever's understanding of God?" While I'm sure the answer is not one dimensional, the answer that presses foremost on my mind is that a believer is intimately acquainted with God's love and mercy, and therefore finds comfort in the fact that God is just and will not go back on His word.

An unbeliever cannot possibly believe that God is merciful and loving and still remain His enemy. Perhaps they would say that God's love is fickle and whimsical, if there at all. Therefore, He is not truly just, and his judgment is something to be greatly feared (or vigilantly ignored).

Even though I have known God's intimate love, there are times that I am tempted to think of Him as a cold, distant judge; even an unjust judge. You know those times when you say, "Father, I have tried to live faithfully, and to serve you as best I can. Why have you withheld ____ from me?"

I have recently heard an excellent sermon by Sinclair Ferguson entitled Christian Service: Slavery or Sonship. In it he talks about what he calls "the Elder Brother Syndrome." In Luke 15 after the prodigal son returns home and is received with joy by his father, the elder son says to his father (v. 29), "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends."

Ferguson warns against the error of seeing God as a harsh task-master. Satan set out to "assassinate the character of God in the garden," and since then, the natural disposition of mankind believes that service to God is slavery. According to Ferguson, Christians are not totally immune to this lie. We can easily slip into thinking that God is unforgiving, unappeasable and unfair.

Ferguson says some of the manifestations of "the Elder Brother Syndrome" in the Christian life are self-righteousness, a critical and cynical view of others (which he says reflects our view of God), and a personal confinement which he describes as, "inability to have a heart that is opened to the reassurances of the Heavenly Father that we are accepted in his grace in Jesus Christ, and that he will supply all of our needs out of the riches of His grace."

I believe that God's justness and holiness cannot be divorced from His mercy and love in describing his character. It paints a picture of a cold and distant God as opposed to the passion and intimacy that is brought about in Jesus Christ.

Conversely, this intimacy cannot be appreciated without first understanding the great holiness of God. Far too often God's love is disgustingly cheapened in Christian circles because God is brought down to the level of a boyfriend or buddy. However, we cannot shy away from the truth that God is mercy. It is true that God would be totally just in sending everyone to hell. But He will not, because He is merciful.

Believers must cling to the fact that we are completely forgiven, and that God's wrath is completely appeased by the blood of Jesus Christ. We must not be overcome by false guilt, and never feeling 'good enough' to please God. As Ferguson says, "When we don't believe that we are fully and finally forgiven, we are easy prey for Satan's blackmail." We need to remember that God has indeed saved us, and cares intimately for us as a Father does his son or daughter, and that "he will supply all of our needs out of the riches of His grace." There is truly nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins ... and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Informed Conscience and OCP

I went to see my doctor the other day in continuation of my research on whether the oral contraceptive (birth control) pill is abortive.

She confirmed that the second back-up method of the pill is abortive (although that is certainly not the term she would use to describe it.)

What I want to know is why it is so difficult to get this information. My experience is that doctors (generally speaking) do not explain fully what the pill does when prescribing it. Neither does the manufacturer (in the insert that comes with the pill for the general public), or the pharmacist (when despensing the pill,) explain what it does.

Despite whether this information leads someone to believe in good conscience that the pill is acceptable (because the chances of causing an abortion are slim enough), or unacceptable (because they are uncomfortable with the possibility of killing babies,) we should still be given all the information we need to make an informed decision.

Because this is a touchy subject, I want to be careful, but I would encourage Christians to take the time to research this issue for themselves (if applicable). Although ignorance can be bliss, I believe that Christians should strive to make responsible decisions, and this requires an informed conscience.