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This is The Man’s world

Mike Reeves on a theology of music:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

ht Dave Bish - click for more resources and good comments.

His basic point is that Christians are generally pretty atheistic when they think about the world around us.  We readily think that Christian truth is a gloss that we apply to the blank sheet of 'nature'.  But no, this is the Lord's world.  Therefore we should be looking to all things (music included) to tell us the gospel of Christ.

After these mp3s, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I listened to a sermon in which the preacher tried a bit of a theology of everything himself.  He remarked, "I'm not sure why we sleep.  I think it's to do with God teaching us humility.  Keeping us inactive for 8 hours a day teaches us who's boss."

Really?  Is that the best he can do?

Which made me think - everyone has a theology of everything.  It's just that they don't often have a gospel theology of everything.  For this preacher, the natural world preaches the bigness of God and the smallness of man - which featured in his preaching much more than the actual gospel.  Strange to think that 'death and resurrection' didn't occur to him...

Anyway, that's by the by.

Enjoy the mp3s!


31 thoughts on “This is The Man’s world

  1. dave

    I don't think I could have got much further than sleep teaching us we're not god until relatively recently - so much better to be able to see the gospel everywhere! So much better to look out the window and not just see "big glory power show" but instead to see light overcoming dark, the sun like the bridegroom etc.

  2. Dave K

    We need both don't we?... law (God is boss and we're not) and Gospel (God gives us rest and new life in the morning).

    I'm a stuck record I think.

  3. Heather

    law (God is boss and we’re not) and Gospel

    Sounds like my dad's summary of Scripture.


    It is interesting to me that the view one has of God affects the way we see everything else.

  4. Dave K

    It just came out because the guy Glen quoted used the word 'boss'. Then I thought of you!

    You're Dad's summary was pretty good. Glen didn't like the word 'anyway' I remember. If I was being picky (and unfortunately I often am!) I'd say I'm not sure that I like:
    1. It implies God being God is bad news (which in some ways it is, because he could beat us in a fight any day and he hates sinners, but also its extremely good news, because he could beat Satan in a fight any day and he loves sinners).
    2. It implies our problem is our createdness (that we are not God) rather than we're in rebellion against us (i.e. the problem is ontological rather than moral).

    I thought the word 'boss' had connotations which implied a certain relationship which is ultimately 'bad news' who don't like authority.

    Not that I'd do better. I was talking with one of our elders the other day that I've seen several amended versions of two ways to live now, and they've all got a point. Still I think 2wtl is pretty good - and the fact is if you could summarise the Gospel in a few sentences you wouldn't have a thousand page bible - it's so multifaceted. But still, there is value in trying because it makes you think and helps you remember and apply. I imagine your Dad's summary has done that for you lots of times.

  5. Heather

    Dave K,

    I think Glen might have rejected the summary completely if it hadn't contained "anyway" :D

    My father is an instigator. I think he says stuff like that because he hates it that so many people (especially Christians) are too lazy to think through what we say we believe.

    Yep. God being God IS bad news if one is not perfect enough to enter His presence without being vaporized. The Law does a great job of amplifying that reality. The news gets even worse for those who persist in their rebellion.

    The good news is that this same perfect and righteous God took it upon Himself to bridge the chasm and is willing to overlook the fact that we have all fallen short of His glory when we "kiss the Son" :) That's gospel--"You're not God--imperfect and sinful. I choose to love you anyway".

    You're right, though. If everything about God could be stated in two brief points, we wouldn't need all of the rest of the words He's given us.

  6. Rich Owen

    Yes, we need a gospel theology of everything. To be clearer still, we need a scriptural theology of everything...

    I hope Mike mentions hip hop, i really do.

    I'm off to listen to these talks....

  7. Paul Huxley

    To be fair...

    Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
    2 My help comes from the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

    3 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
    4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

    Is there not a contrast implied there, by the fact that the LORD, unlike his creation, doesn't need to sleep, so we can trust him top protect us?

    Still, like Glen says, sleep -> death is much bigger in scripture. When we start our theologies of everything we too easily misread symbols, or at least ignore how God uses them.

  8. Glen

    Dave B, just after I left All Souls Langham Place I remember going to back to Australia with these newfound 'theology of everything' glasses and a friend asked "Why do trees grow upwards?" He was expecting a purely naturalistic answer but I said, "Christ must be hung on a tree and lifted up, so..." My friend (who's a Christian) looked at me like I had punched his mother. That was *not* the answer he was looking for. He had the ghostbusters view of faith and the natural world - Do NOT cross the streams! It's dangerous stuff this...

    Dave K, what if I use slightly different language to law-gospel. What if I say "First creation is about *Him* then it's about us." So yes there are implications to draw for us in creation's sermon, but first of all it proclaims Christ.

    Heather, yeah I didn't like "anyway" just cos it sounds like our otherness to God is an *obstacle* to His love. For the triune God He *is* otherness-in-love. And from His overflowing Being comes the *other* of creation which is very good. God doesn't love us in spite of our being creatures, He loves us in spite of sin. So I was just trying to guard against equating creatureliness with sin.

    Rich, I fear you'll be disappointed. In fact no real mention of beat, tempo, time signatures, etc. Another time perhaps.

    Paul, good Psalm. Yes indeed there are implications for us to be drawn from creation - but I think the order is Him first, then us. And thanks for the comments on bluefish - very illuminating.

  9. Heather

    Okay don't have to like it. I assumed you were okay with it as long as "anyway" was attributed to God being Who He is.

    As I told Dave K, my dad is something of an agitator and frequently says things like that to push people to think. It's open enough to allow for a lot of interpretation and tends to create the need to define one's own terms in order to adequately respond.

    I suspect you would prefer his "other" version : "And I love you more than you can imagine" ? ;)

    That one might be misunderstood to suggest that God really doesn't mind sin even though he's God. Others would hate the shortness of a summary, regardless of how it's worded.

    I know I'm not supposed to overdo apologies here, so I'll just say that I wasn't intending to try to press a discussion concerning my dad's quirks. Mostly noting that the response one has to such statements (and how one relates to the world in general) is determined largely by his pre-existing understanding of Who God is. When put in a position that requires a definition of what a person means when he says "God" or "love" or in the instance you've provided, "sleep" or "gospel"

    Eh. Not sure how you manage to so frequently post about stuff I've already been mulling over. Sunday was my "pound the keyboard about the importance of theology" day. It's been on my mind for several weeks, now.

  10. Heather

    Oops. I meant

    When put in a position that requires a definition of what a person means when he says “God” or “love” or in the instance you’ve provided, “sleep” or “gospel”, his underlying belief framework often is revealed. Then that can be examined in light of what scripture actually says.

  11. Anonymous

    If you're after Christian hip hop, you couldn't do much better than this...

    [Atonement Q & A, set to hip hop, by Shai Linne]

    The rapper quotes his favourite books as:
    "The Letters of John Newton
    The Glory of Christ & Sin and Temptation by John Owen
    Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards"


  12. pgjackson


    'Which made me think – everyone has a theology of everything. It’s just that they don’t often have a gospel theology of everything.'

    is, imo, the most important thing you say in this post, Glen. Well put. Thanks.

  13. Dave K

    Glen, I understand your point. Maybe (having absorbed Pete's points in a discussion on Dave Bish's blog) its better to say it is about both at the same time, rather than saying it is theocentric before it is anthroprocentric.

    Pete, like our discussion the other day, I think that we need to start learning a distinction between Christianity (theology) and the Gospel.

    Great to think about these things. I hope I can keep using my "[gospel] ‘theology of everything’ glasses"... I do tend to lose them a lot of the time and whenever I find they're in the same place as joy.

  14. John B

    This is an interesting topic, and one that I hadn't thought about before. I looked at some of the articles at the Theology Network on the "Theology of Everything".

    I wonder if this is a similar concept to panentheism, which has a more prominent place in eastern Christianity. Is "Theology of Everything" panentheism in a western mode?

  15. Heather

    Is “Theology of Everything” panentheism in a western mode?

    Is that like jumping from "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." into "I am god, you are god, this rock is god, that banana is god..."?

  16. John B

    Not *that far* east! Just like the *iota* makes all the difference, so does the *en*!

    Panentheism doesn't say that "God is all", but rather that "God is over all, through all, and in all".

  17. Heather

    Okay thanks. I was just curious as it seems there is an element of far eastern mysticism that has been introduced into the western Christian sphere. The "New Age" influence is startlingly subtle and pervasive in some ways.

    So, you are referencing Eastern Orthodoxy? I'm still guessing as I'm only marginally familiar with EO and obviously know nothing about panentheism.

  18. dave

    Maybe some healthy Eastern influence, but then you look at Mike Reeves' main theologian shaping his theology of everything, and it's Jonathan Edwards...

  19. Glen

    Hi John B,
    You don't have to say everything's in God to have "a theology of everything" but if you have a theology of everything you're saying everything *reveals* God. So allow me to introduce theology's newest term: Panapocalyptheism. What do you think?

    But yeah - I think Acts 17:28 and Eph 4:6 are awesome.

  20. pgjackson

    'So allow me to introduce theology’s newest term: Panapocalyptheism.'

    Surely there needs to be a 'Christo-' in there somewhere?

  21. pgjackson


    I have a feeling that there is an important distinction to be made. Trouble is, distinctions become separations and divides all too easily.

    To try and be clearer - what I would mean by a 'theology of everything' is a way of looking at and understanding everything through the lens of scripture, of which the organising centre and hub is the gospel ('Jesus Christ is Lord'), to the extent that if our theology of something has not sprung from the gospel it is at best sub-biblical. This is because theology itself, like scripture, is centred around, organised around, has as its controlling centre the gospel. Who, after all, is 'theo' (or 'Logos' for that matter)?

  22. Dave K

    Yes, wouldn't want to divide them.

    "organising centre and hub is the gospel"... I like that.

  23. John B


    Now that's a great term and one that could stick!

    I think that the thought of the Eastern Church can enrich our theological perspective in several key areas. One such area is Christological Maximalism (Bradley Nassif's term), which sounds very close to Panapocalyptheism (FKA Theology of Everything). A key feature in the East is the breaking in of the eschatalogical kingdom of God in anticipation, here and now, through Christ's work by the Spirit in the church.

    It's interesting to note that some scholars have suggested a connection between the theology of Jonathan Edwards and the Eastern Church (especially Maximus the Confessor). So much of early Protestantism was of necessity formulated in reaction to the Catholic Church of the high medieval period that it remained for later thinkers like Edwards to carry on the mission of recovering the fullness of the christology of the early church by a return to the sources expressed in patristic thought, before the separation of east and west.

    As an Augustinian, I have genuine differences with the East, but find profound richness and value in their theology on christology, union with God, and ecclesiology.

  24. Otepoti

    I enjoyed the mp3s very much, thanks, Glen. I listened through twice, since I had a very long job of work to do.

    One question: how does a groaning creation that involves both predation and entropy play into a theology of everything? Doesn't it provide fertile soil for misinterpretation?

  25. Glen

    I had that question too. I think the closest to an answer in the mp3s was when Mike discussed light and darkness. Light and darkness appear side by side in creation. You *could* read creation as saying light emerges from darkness and then slinks back into darkness (our modern naturalistic cosmology). Or, with the help of Scripture, you could see that the day begins in darkness and is conquered by light.

    The sermon of creation is very susceptible to misinterpretation which is why we need the spectacles of the Scriptures (Calvin's phrase) to read it aright.

    Wrong interpretations go against Scripture, but I think Mike wants to say also, they go against the grain of reality. Atonal music is ungodly music because this is the Lord's world. You don't want to found your argument on experience, but once you've founded it on Scripture you probably can say "Now do you see why this kind of music grates?" Again the *experience* of it grating is not the fundamental argument (Scripture is) but it is a confirmation that Scriptures interpretation best fits the world we live in.

    As for how bad stuff in creation can reveal a good God, I guess you have to put the cross at the heart of creation's sermon and therefore see the sweep of a redemptive narrative. (The minor fall and the major lift). Again only Scripture can tell you that, but once Scripture has told you it you can point to it in art and literature etc and say "Now do you see why this kind of music works (eg Beethoven's 5th)?"

    Dunno. Thoughts?

  26. Otepoti

    Yes. That'll do nicely.

    I'm uneasy about seeming to claim special precedence for western harmonic ratios though. There are other musics no less meaningful.

  27. John B

    Yes, I echo this concern as well. The beauty of God's grace isn't *in* the harmonic ratios, but rather, is revealed *through* them. I think that confusion on this point may be at the root of many of the controversies over church music. Our longing is for God's grace, which is revealed to us in musical imagery. But if we don't distinguish between the image and that which it conveys, we make idols of the music and impose limits on God's revelation to us. God makes abundant use of music and art, in all its variety, both in the church and in the world, to display his grace and draw worshipers to himself.

  28. Glen

    I hear you both. And I don't think Mike will go to the stake for one harmonic ratio over another. (But 8 and 12 are very suggestive numbers for an octave!) But he would say, for instance, that atonal music definitely runs against the grain of reality because it has lost its root. There are limits to what faithfully communicates Christ in His world.

    In a sense it is all relative. But it's relative to Christ. He may be revealed only *through* these created constructs but I think we can still say that there are better and worse constructs through which to communicate His Person and work. When I hear a key-change and think 'goose-pimple, exultant progression' I don't have to say that this is purely culture-bound do I?

    We all have cultural glasses on, but there is still hope that we can see through biblical glasses and judge our cultures. Which means some kinds of music are less meaningful than others and perhaps whole cultures may have music that's actually just really *wrong* when judged by the standard of its gospel faithfulness. Do you think?

  29. John B

    Yes, but this is quite a difficult judgment.

    For myself, when in need of a musical soul stir, I often turn to Byzantine music, which is atonal and vastly different in construction from western classical music. (Which is also soul stirring, but often takes longer to achieve this effect.)

    Within the church, I'm most at ease with music that is traditional and represents a broad consensus, i.e., approved by both the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. Byzantine music clearly passes both of these tests.

    I like the view that C.S. Lewis expressed in one of his curmudgeonly moments: "I naturally *loathe* nearly all hymns; the face and life of the charwoman in the next pew who revels in them, teach me that good taste in poetry or music are *not* necessary to salvation." *Letters of C.S. Lewis*

  30. Pingback: The minor fall and the major lift « Christ the Truth

  31. Josh

    Thanks for the link for those talks: soul warming stuff! And I love the major-minor-major gospel message.
    Can you imagine being in the New Creation with eyes opened to see all the ways creation speaks of Christ (or will it be coninually learning?). Everywhere we go we will see a sermon better than any sermon we've every listened to so far.

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