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Dr. StrangePunk: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bad Religion Christmas CD

Dr. StrangePunk: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bad Religion Christmas CD

***Warning: Discernment Required Ahead***

For all you aging hipsters out there who are weary of drowning your holiday cheer in Sufjan Stevens and Brighteyes Christmas music… an energetic alternative has emerged from an unlikely source. That’s right… Bad Religion has released a Christmas CD. Gasp!

* * * * *

Here is the track listing:

  1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  2. O Come All Ye Faithful
  3. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  4. White Christmas
  5. Little Drummer Boy
  6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  7. What Child Is This?
  8. Angels We Have Heard On High
  9. American Jesus (Andy Wallace Mix)

Shocking? Yes. Let’s start with the obvious. Bad Religion has been an outspokenly anti-Christian band since 1979. For as long as I can remember, their logo has looked like this:

Glance at that track listing again. Why would this band choose these Christmas songs? All but two (White Christmas and American Jesus) are hymnal Christmas classics. This CD contains no snowmen, silver bells, hot cocoa, or Santa Claus. But it is replete with lyrics like…

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, and free thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save and give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

And…

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

The songs on this CD do not merely mention baby Jesus as a nativity centerpiece. These are Christocentric, Gospel-saturated Christmas songs! And Bad Religion remains true to the message without changing a word. So what gives? Either these guys have grown weary of suppressing the truth of God written on their hearts (Romans 1:18-20), or they believe the funniest way to offend Christians this year is to release a seasonal worship album with their name on it.

Interestingly enough, they recently shared a third reason for choosing these songs during an 8 minute interview on NPR. The audio and transcript can be found here. At one point, the interviewer observes:

And these are not secular songs, we should point out though. You could’ve done, you know, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” These are religious Christmas hymns.

To which, guitarist and songwriter Brett Gurewitz, responded:

I would disagree. I think that all of these songs are secular. Even though they have their roots in the pulpit or in the church setting, virtually everyone who celebrates Christmas has heard these songs. And so, it’s not Bad Religion that has made them ironic. It’s kind of a secular society that’s made Christmas ironic.

That sounds brilliant! My knee-jerk reaction to such an articulate paradigm shift is one of silent consideration. Does Brett Religion have a point? Are songs like “Angels We Have Heard On High” no longer powerful declarations of Christ’s deity because everyone has heard them? Has the fallen world’s popularization of what they lack in understanding truly made Christmas ironic? Let’s think about that for a moment.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). In other words, He authorized the eternal nature of His divine truth… not us. Gospel truth is tempered and timeless. It will be just as true two thousand years from now, as it was two thousand years ago… regardless of what we think about it. Words that convey His truth will always pack a wallop as the Holy Spirit uses them to soften or harden the hearts of those who hear them. God’s Word will never return to Him empty, but will always accomplish whatever He intends for it to do (Isaiah 55:11).

The guys in Bad Religion are lying to themselves if they truly believe the divine message is lost in these songs. Words matter. In fact, they matter more than the band’s intention behind singing them. Laughing at truth does not make it false. I agree with Brett that there is irony to be found here. It is truly ironic that God’s transforming truth of the Gospel would be proclaimed through such an unlikely source to one of the world’s most outspokenly rebellious people groups. Ironic and awesome. Many hearts will be hardened by this unintentional proclamation of Gospel truth. Let’s pray that a few are softened as well.


For the few of you out there who love Jesus, nineties style punk, and Christmas music… the million dollar question is this: should I purchase this record? Honestly, I can’t tell you what to do. However, I will strongly urge you to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading with regards to your own conscience.

The content is solid, but the delivery is certainly not for everyone. Many people will find the style of music itself to be vulgar because of its speed. That’s fine. Bing Crosby has a number of good Christmas renditions that ignite the senses at a slower pace.

The musicianship and vocal harmonies are excellent. As previously stated, the lyrics are Christocentric and Gospel-saturated songs of worship. There is no such thing as a “demon of atheism” or mystical quality that disintegrates everything Bad Religion touches. And for a band that has been around longer than I have walked the earth, I am not too worried about a six dollar download through eMusic sending a statement. If you acquire this CD and delete the last song, you will have the punk rock Christmas record you have always dreamed of. But if your conscience is unsettled in any way… do yourself a favor and obey the Spirit. His sanctifying work trumps all musical recommendations. There are plenty of good Christmas CDs out there.

So there you have it. Bad Religion has inadvertently released a seasonal worship album.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! And Merry Christmas!

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Article

 

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Liebster Fever

Liebster Fever

Last Monday, Leah Ness nominated Hacking Agag for a Liebster Award. Thanks Leah! The award is basically a chain mail exercise. These were very popular at one time, but I haven’t been asked to do one since… well… it really has been that long. You answer ten questions, write ten of your own, and nominate ten other bloggers to answer them. Since I didn’t really introduce myself on the About page, I’ll play.

* * * * *

Here are my ten answers:

  1. What is your favorite word?

    This week… Liberty

  2. What is your favorite story (book, movie, tv show, etc)?

    Book: The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny
    (favorite short-story: Divine Madness)
    Movie: The Truman Show
    TV Show: Mystery Science Theater 3000

  3. How happy are you that summer is over?

    I’m thankful for the cooler weather.

  4. What would you do with a time machine?

    I would lock it in a barn and tape a note to the door that says, “My name is Hans Kaufman. The year is 2013. Come find me.”

  5. If you had to choose one food to eat, once a day, every day, what would it be?

    Steak – Medium Well with BBQ Sauce

  6. What is your favorite way to kill ‘downtime’?

    This question is about sleep, right?

  7. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

    Rome, definitely.

  8. If you could choose any super power, which would you choose?

    Flight… in space

  9. If you are writing a book, what is it about? OR If you’ve ever thought of writing a book, what would it be about?

    My dad made up bedtime stories for me when I was a kid and I want to do something similar for my future kids. So I’m writing an adventure series that takes place in the New Heavens and New Earth.

  10. What would be the most difficult thing for you to give up if asked to by God?

    My wife

Here are my ten questions:

  1. Everyone gets a Lumbar puncture in the TV show House. Have you ever gotten one? Was it Lupus?
  2. Have you ever had an awesome idea for a new invention? If you aren’t still holding onto that dream… what was it?
  3. Was your first kiss awkward or magical?
  4. If you knew that today marked the exact mid-point of your life, how would you live the last half of your days differently?
  5. What is the best thing you have ever written?
  6. Have you read the entire Bible?
  7. Are all your friends on Facebook really your friends?
  8. Ask one friend and one enemy to describe you with one word. What did they say?
  9. What is your favorite book and why?
  10. Who is your hero?

Here are the ten blogs I nominate:

Craig DeSpain’s Blog

Streha

Indiana Priest

Reflections from Seminary Life

The Calvinist Caroller

High upon the Rock

TodaysManager

The Commonsense Philosopher

Life in Mind

Resting in His Grace

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Article

 

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Rest For The Weary

Rest For The Weary

Few bands have impacted my young adulthood as much as Cool Hand Luke (this not this). I have fond memories of attending many of their Midwest shows, opening for them a time or two, and engaging in light theological discussions with their singer/drummer, Mark, from time to time. That was over ten years ago. Mark is currently a few semesters ahead of me towards completing his M.Div. and attends Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Good for him. The world will miss his music for a while, but benefit greatly from his preaching (or whatever scholarly pursuit he adopts). I say this… while eagerly anticipating his new project which releases in a few days.

Last night, I was working on my first syntactical analysis paper for Hebrew Exegesis class and feeling sorry for myself. (Biblical languages have not been my strongest suit in seminary so far.) After spending a few hours on two ancient words, Cool Hand Luke’s song Rest for the Weary came on in the background of my headphones. I never cry, but almost publicly lost it.

Immediately, I was taken back to some of the blackest days of my life. I remember listening to that song (and others like it) over and over again while weeping in the dark and praying through the psalms. My troubles in life are comparatively light at the moment and God has blessed me beyond imagination. Thankfully, as the bride of Christ, we have so much more to ultimately look forward to. The sufferings of this life are temporary. Morning’s joy will come. Maybe not right away, but it will come.

Jesus has always been my closest friend, comforter, and hope. The song below addresses all three realities of our relationship with Him. He knows our pain and has suffered greater. Christian, as we walk through the fires of life, let’s keep our eyes fixed on Christ and Him alone. No one else provides rest for the weary.

* * * * *


Rest for the Weary

Hey, it’s me
I’m sorry it’s so late
I can’t sleep I knew you’d be awake
You’re always home
Waiting by the phone
For nights like these when I’m feeling all alone

I wish it didn’t always have to be this way
I wish that I could talk to you face to face
But nothing compares to the way
You always listen and know just what to say

Hold my hand
I can’t stand alone
Here I am
Waiting for you to take me home

Oh, I just want to sing
I only wish there was a word
For what you mean to me
I would only say it once
In hushed tones so it would not grow old
But all I have is, “I love you”

You’re my Jesus, You’re my hero
You’re everything I wish that I could be

You’re the one who comforts me
When everyone has gone away

I can’t stand alone
Here I am
Waiting for you to take me home

And I will keep on singing because you hear me
And I will keep on smiling because you’re near me

I’ll sleep well on a promise tonight

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Article, Video

 

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Why Pray?

D.A. Carson answers the ancient question, If God knows everything, why pray?, while sitting in front of a giant screensaver.

Good answer. I would ask the inquirer this question, “If God does not know everything, why pray?” If God is not the sovereign King of all He creates… if He is just as surprised by our experiences as we are… then what assurance do we have that He will hear our prayers at all (let alone do anything about them)? I would rather pray to a God who knows all things, controls all things, and rules over all things. That God has the ability to answer prayer in alignment with His perfect wisdom, power, and authority. The fact that God knows everything should be a great comfort to us when we pray. If He didn’t, our hope would be fastened to the inadequate abilities of an imperfect deity who wishes he could do more for us than he can. Thankfully, our God is better than that.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Article, Video

 

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Happy Citizenship Day

Happy Citizenship Day

It’s Constitution Day… meaning that the U.S. Constitution was signed 226 years ago (in 1787). It may be a lesser celebrated holiday, but one that still requires state funded institutions to inform their students of its existence (since someone decided to make it official in 2004). A transcript of the document can be found on the government archives website.

Most of us (native citizens) were forced to memorize the preamble in elementary school. If you have a memory like mine, your ability to recite this simple run-on sentence probably looks something like this…

Another recognized name for Constitution Day is Citizenship Day. When I hear that, it’s hard not to recall Philippians 3:20-21, which says:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.

Every Christian on the planet is a dual-citizen. Our eternal citizenship in heaven… and all things fall under the sovereignty of Christ our King. The U.S. Constitution is a comprehensive and articulate attempt by man to rule himself with justice. It’s easy to get caught up in that system, focus on it, rely on it, and forget the governing Authority that all men will someday give an account to. Unlike the Constitution, our King’s document is perfect, complete, and cannot be amended. It displays perfect justice, mercy, and grace. Man may attempt to form a more perfect union… but we have the real deal to look forward to.

Don’t get me wrong… I like living here. But this is not my home. Happy Citizenship Day!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Article, Video

 

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A Pope and His Cricket

A Pope and His Cricket

Absolution for everyone!

Or maybe not…

People are outraged by Pope’s Francis’ assertions that atheists will be in Heaven. He wrote an open letter to the former editor of an Italian newspaper on Wednesday. The letter exceeded 2500 words, but it only took a few sentences for nearly everyone on the planet to take notice.

According to one article, a few of those sentences stated:

You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

He went on to say that:

Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.

There are a number of biblical issues to be taken up with the pope’s statements. Certainly, the nature of sin, salvation, justice, mercy, grace, repentance, and faith are wonderful places to start. It’s downright offensive for anyone to say “this is a fundamental thing” while ignoring virtually every fundamental thing in the Bible. However, it is interesting to see Francis hang his heresies on a clothesline called the conscience. What is the conscience? Do the Scriptures have much to say about it? Of course they do.

* * * * *

The Condemning Conscience

Simply put, the conscience is an individual’s ability to sense right from wrong. Everyone has a conscience, both Christians and unbelievers alike.

In his famous letter to the believers in Rome, Paul wrote:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. – Romans 2:14-16

Gentiles are those who are not Jewish, and therefore never received the Law of Moses with its crushing demands. Paul says that they do “by nature” what the law requires them to do because the work of the law has been written on their hearts. Their conscience bears witness to God’s law and their guilt. Those who have not placed their faith solely in the perfect work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice… possess a guilty conscience that testifies to their condemnation. In contrast, those whose faith has been solely established in the total power of the cross to satisfy the guilt of their sin… are left with a clean conscience before God and men.

Side Note: The conscience has a limited extent of usefulness in this passage. It bears witness, or testifies, to a present reality. It does not determine that reality. Deadening our conscience does not justify us, as much as sensitivity to our sin cannot condemn us.

The Confirming Conscience

Later in the letter, Paul states:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. – Romans 9:1-2

He displays the condition of his grief by appealing to the testimony he has in the Holy Spirit via his conscience. A Christian is a redeemed sinner who never stops sinning this side of death. But thanks to one of the many powerful, practical, and profitable works of the Holy Spirit, the Christian’s conscience becomes more reliable, albeit fallible while trapped in a body of sin and self-destruction. So how can we distinguish His sanctifying work from our desires? Thankfully, the same Holy Spirit who dwells within us is also the same divine author of all Scripture. Therefore, we can wholeheartedly rely on the illumination and instruction of His Word to renew our minds and calibrate our corruptible consciences into the image of Christ. By continually devouring the Word of God, our sense of right and wrong can grow in all truth.

There is so much more to be said about the conscience. I’m sure the subject has been wrestled to the ground by men far more intelligent and articulate than me. Its attendance in the New Testament is more prominent than a few verses, with appearances in Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, and 1 and 2 Peter. Paul personally petitions his readers to take action for the sake of their consciences (Romans 13:5), warns against wounding another believer’s conscience (1 Corinthians 8:12), and encourages others to maintain a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9)—to mention a few. But as well represented as the conscience is in Scripture, its role never usurps the power of the Gospel, nor does it ever provide an alternative means by which sinners can be saved.

Summary: The conscience bears testimony to a man’s condition. It has the capacity to both condemn and confirm. However, it does not have the power to save.

Sorry pope. Next time, do us a favor and squash the talking cricket with a Bible.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Article

 

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Mob Mentality

Mob Mentality

“There is nothing more foolish, nothing more given to outrage than a useless mob.” – Herodotus

“There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob.” – Ayn Rand (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)

Saint Mary’s University of Halifax has been making news as more than 80 student leaders are scheduled to undergo sensitivity training following a pro-rape chant that occurred during ‘frosh week.’ Here is a short news-clip of the story:


According to an
article from CTV (Canada’s largest private broadcaster),

The president of the Saint Mary’s Students Association says allowing a chant about sexual assault to be performed at a frosh event is the “biggest mistake” he’s ever made.
. . .
He added that the same chant has been part of frosh events since at least 2009 when he was a frosh, with the lyrics being passed down on paper to orientation leaders.

However, he couldn’t explain why no one had raised concerns about it previously.

According to another article, the same student said,

“A lot of them showed a ton of remorse for their actions,” Perry said. “Many of them ended up crying, speechless, jaw drops, and they’re very disappointed by their actions. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize until after the fact.”

Psychologists have tried to explain this phenomena with terms like “group mind” or “mob mentality” since the 1800s. My least favorite term is “herd mentality” which more than insinuates an animalistic and evolutionary debasement of man. Nevertheless, there still exists in all of us a tendency to go with the flow. Some guys make rebellion look easy, but I would bet cash that even this vagrant struggles with conformist desires from time to time…

Few men possess the conviction and fortitude to stand their ground and push against a mounting wall of social adversity. One of those guys was the Apostle Paul. He had his fair share of fears when it came to the mob (Acts 18:9, 27:24), but he also possessed a self-abandoned sense of boldness that makes the most self-righteous punk kid’s credibility look like a Mickey Mouse Club beach party. Acts 14:19-20 says,

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. (NASB)

How awesome is that? Paul is wrapping up his first missionary journey before retracing his steps on the way home. He heals a man in Lystra where the masses mistakenly think he and Barnabas are Hermes and Zeus. A few bad apples make it into the barrel. The crowd suddenly turns into a mob, stones Paul, and leaves him for dead. But how does he react? He gets up and walks back into the city.

Ultimately, Paul was more afraid of God than he was of men. He had seen the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus and joined the Apostles as “one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8). No throng could overcome this man’s resolve. The root of his faith ran deep; deeper than the threat of death. His desire to share the Gospel with the perishing populous was stronger than his desire to win their affections. Certainly, his love for the Truth was greater than the stony attacks of a mental mob… whose members would likely cry in speechless shock… given the opportunity to see themselves on national TV.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Article, Video

 

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