Can we only sing songs in church written by solid evangelical Christians? I wouldn’t say that. We may not know the precise theological convictions of some ancient hymn writers and, no doubt, popular tunes can come from a wide array of sources. But I question whether we should sing songs meaning something with the words that the author did not mean. Fosdick wrote God of Grace for the dedication of the Rockefeller financed Riverside Church in New York City (October 5, 1930). Years later when he penned his autobiography, Fosdick entitled it “The Living of these Days,” an allusion to a line in the second verse of his famous hymn. When Fosdick wrote of the church’s need for courage and asked God that the church might bloom in “glorious flower,” he had a different vision for the church than we should be comfortable with.
A few years ago, when I was a pastor, I had a hard time explaining to a rather cranky member why we, as a church, had to pay for a license to use Christian music in our worship services. “They should give it away freely. Why do I have to pay for it? I thought this was ministry. Why they are out to make money?” What made this man’s beef all the more interesting is that I had just concluded, a day earlier, a long conversation with him about what he considered unfair pay at his work. The irony was lost on him, but not me.
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Yet if I leave the public square, what will keep you from burning down my church? On what basis will you tolerate me and my so-called false god, even if he’s tucked away in the private sphere? You might refrain for pragmatic reasons for a little while. But if you can manipulate the levers of power to get rid of troublesome religious minorities like my own, why wouldn’t you?
So I guess the big question in all of this is, if I and my morality left the public square altogether, what would you be left with?
On April 25, Crossway and WTS are teaming up for a book launch event for Kevin DeYoung’s latest (and, to date, greatest) book, Taking God at His Word (which I reviewed last week). The daylong event will be held at Covenant Fellowship Church in the greater Philadelphia area. The event will feature plenary addresses by Kevin DeYoung, as well as panel discussions with David Powlison, Carl Trueman, K. Scott Oliphint, and G. K. Beale. Tickets are still available at $25 a piece if you’re interested in going. I’ve no doubt it’ll be a good time!