This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Wine in Old Wineskins - Setting the Record Straight.

Nor do they put old wine into new wineskins, or else the wineskins break, and the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:17, NKJV)

The above verse is an oft-quoted one in today's society, especially in lieu of people like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and the entire "contemporary Christian music" industry deciding that the Gospel, as it is written, must be made "relevent" to today's society. The above groups of people in the Christian community often use this verse to attack something that they know little about, but it poses a threat to them, and it consists of one word - tradition. However, it is my belief that these people are missing something, and I feel that what they preach against the "traditional church" about doing is something they are more guilty of themselves, which is the purpose of this study.

There have been many people, most of whom are so theologically ignorant they wouldn't know King James from Old King Cole, who have attacked those of us who see the error of much of this "purpose-driven" and "seeker-sensitive" nonsense because they think we have a hangup about one issue - music! They turn venerable old hymns with great theological truths into jokes, they bristol at even the thought that an organ or an hymnal would be used in a church, and their derisive remarks about "smells and bells" in regard to liturgical churches are often so offensive that it makes a drunken sailor blush, and yet they profess to serve Jesus Christ. Problem is, they fail to listen because 1. they don't want to be confused with the facts, and 2. they only hear what they want to hear, which often falls short of the full story. Those of us, for instance, who prefer more traditional worship in church are actually diverse in our own tastes musically - some like rock, some like classical, and some like jazz, simple as that. I myself am an afficianado of big bands. That being said, these immature Warrenistas need to understand that musical style is not what our argument is about - rather, it is the fact that too much of today's "worship" appeals only to the flesh and doesn't edify the spirit, and that is the fruit of a bigger problem with a deeper root. To drive my point home, my own library of Christian music is very diverse - in it, I have everything from Syriac Orthodox chant to Maranatha praise albums, and truly godly music of the Church knows no time restrictions - for instance, I am actually very blessed by modern Christian psalmists such as Paul Wilbur, Kirk and Debi Dearman, and Graham Kendrick, because all these people have produced godly, anointed music that not only stays faithful to the tradition of the Church, but it touches the spirit. And, these people I just mentioned are not pipe organists and composers of cantatas either - all of them are contemporary in sound and are sought-after musicians and composers whose works have been sung in churches around the world over the past 20 years. That being said, I reiterate that our reservations as traditionalists have nothing whatsoever to do with style, and personally many of us could care less about that. What we are addressing, I say again, is the fruit of a much bigger problem in recent years, and that is what we want to deal with here.

When Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 9:17 about the new wine and old wineskins, I don't believe he was talking about anything to do about "contemporary vs. traditional church." Rather, He was talking about the new life in Christ - the "old wineskin" represents our former sinful nature, and the "new wine" represents the spirit of Christ that renews and rebirths us. The "wineskin" of the Church has always been a new one, kept in shape over the years by a rubdown of the oil of the Holy Spirit, and thus it is the skin we should seek to be. The old wineskin of the world though is one of brokenness, decay, and is no good anymore for the follower of Christ, and thus if you pour wine into it, the thing is going to blow up. In some Middle Eastern cultures of antiquity, the wineskin Jesus talked about was literally the bladder of a sheep that was cured and treated to make it a suitable vessel for the transport of liquids such as water and wine which, in a largely arid desert culture, were precious commodities. If a goat-bladder vessel was not maintained and oiled regularly in that hostile climate, it could dry up, crack, and would be of little use, and hence precious liquids that sustained life could be wasted. The vessel lesson is the key - the old, cracked, dried-up vessel of the world cannot house the precious living water, or even the "new wine", of Christ, because it is no longer of any use - it is dead, dried up, and anyone using it risks a great loss of a precious commodity. In contrast, a well-treated new wineskin, oiled down, cured, and conditioned by the Holy Spirit, not only retains the liquid but expands without problem to accomodate it. That leads me to my assessment of today's church. Have you ever noticed those commercials for male-enhancement products you see on some cable stations at any given time of the day? They have the message always that "bigger is better," or that "size matters," although after expending all that air time on those pitch lines they fail to mention the side effects - you can have a heart attack and die, or a stroke, if they are used in some instances. The modern church's pitch line is a lot like a male-enhancement product commercial - size is all that seems to matter. However, like those bogus "growth" drugs on the informercials, some of these "pastors" fail to see the side effects of their "drug"; churches become so entertainment-oriented that they die spiritually. As a result, today it seems like those who embrace this stuff are growing loose in their standards - now premarital sex, "no-fault" divorce, partying, and rebellion are all touted by Rick Warren and others as a "revival." And, there are now so called "Christian rock" bands - groups so enraged about mentioning sin, hell, and the blood of Jesus because it might "offend" people - singing the praises of non-Christian behavior. This is the "new wine" of the Gospel being poured into an old bladder vessel of the world, which is so rotten and corroded that the wine drains right out. So, in essence, the true "old wineskins" are those people, churches, and writers that talk so much about being "purpose-driven' and "seeker-friendly" because the bottom line for them is simply this - the more palatable it is, the more it sells. Think about it - why are false prophets like Rick Warren and Joel "I love me" Osteen selling millions of copies of their books?? Simple - they don't offend people because they downplay the full Gospel in favor of a fake, feel-good pep talk that they codify into 300 or so pages so they can afford the new jacuzzi in their million-dollar palatial homes. And, they are an offense to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ - people are dying and going to hell because Rick Warren and Joel Osteen sell another thousand copies of that drivel they are hawking like cheap carnies selling funnel cakes at the county fair. Some of it is even outright dangerous - New Age doctrines and occultism are creeping into these big-sellers at an alarming rate, and "christian rock" music is no better. Dan Lucarini and John Blanchard, in their book Can We Rock the Gospel? (London: Evangelical Press, 2006) note this very thing when they discuss at length the influence some ungodly secular rock musicians, many notorious for promoting satanism and pornographic behavior, have on supposedly "Christian" bands:

Sadly, as demonstrated earlier with regard to the Beatles, some of the secular musicians listed in this chapter are claimed as key musical influences by Christian musicians and worship leaders...Additionally, the Christian music industry does not help matters when it compares Christian rock bands to some of these same secular bands - and almost always in a most favorable way. (Lucarini and Blanchard, 100-101)

Read that quote carefully, and you will see it - "New wine" in "old wineskins"! I am probably going to tick off some people for saying that, because the argument they have is always this: "Well, music is just music!"
They forget though that we experience God with all of our senses, and that includes the love of music God gave us also, which is why music has been an integral part of the Church for centuries. Satan also has the power to corrupt, and in the Christian realm today, he has sown many tares in the wheatfield, and the fertilizer for those tares is the bad influence and theology of ungodly entertainment, which in turn has brought an entertainment spirit into the House of the Lord, and He is not pleased!! As a matter of fact, it breaks His heart, because it is as if these very people are using the Gospel - in a corrupted form mind you - to turn people away from the Cross, the very thing that saves us. Therefore, we need to begin to truly be "seeker-sensitive" - we as Christian pilgrims need to seek God on our knees, with a spirit of brokenness and contrite hearts, in order for us to be renewed as a Church. However, this bad theology lining the shelves of "Christian" book stores, as well as the grating noise of so-called "Christian rock" music, has bred within many people professing to be Christians a selfish, self-indulgent spirit that does not glorify God - the "new wine" has leaked out of their "old wineskin," in other words. Jeff Godwin, in his book What's Wrong With Christian Rock? (Chino, CA: Chick Publications, 1990) sums it up well when he writes:

Here's the heart of the problem (regarding the supposed "relativity" of C-Rock music) - the "relating" hoax is really about friendship WITH sin, not coming out from among them and being separate. Instead of "touch NOT the unclean thing," C-Rock says: "Touch it all you want to! We'll use it as a bridge to get to something better! Who cares if God forbids it? What does He know, anyway?" (Godwin, 235)

And, there is the bottom line that Godwin captured so well - people professing to be "Christians" today all of a sudden think they know better than God does about how to reach people!! Never mind the Church as it existed for 2000 years - that encompasses ALL Christian traditions too, BTW! - has been effective and done a fine job - not always perfect, but at the same time it has produced a wealth of beautiful tradition that is rich in doctrine and both edifies the saint and convicts the sinner. Now, conviction and edification are no longer good enough - we have to entertain and tickle ears as well. Scripture has much to say about that also, as there are many verses that speak prophetically about the latter days and a great falling away, and I believe one verse even warns about men loving pleasure more than God and His word. Again, the "old wineskins" delude themselves into thinking they can carry the "new wine," even to the point of arrogantly thinking they are new wineskins. However, God has a warning for such people - professing to be wise, they became fools. And so it begins - Laodicea's descent into absorption by the future "mystery Babylon," the whorish religious system that one day will arise on the earth, deceiving many into following the coming Antichrist. Unfortunately, unless they truly repent and come to know the real Jesus, they will regret every bit of it one day. Some of these people may sell millions of books, but big book sales don't save people; only the shed Blood of Christ, and His broken Body for our sins, does.

I hope this will be a blessing to many of you, as I know many non-Christians have even shaken their heads incredulously at some of the circus acts that pose as "worship services" in big megachurches and on "religious television." TBN is resembling more of MTV these days - surprisingly, MTV has gotten better programming actually, as it is now tackling important issues like teen pregnancy while the folks at TBN continue to tickle the ears of their viewers with empty promises of "blabbing and grabbing it," and all this while a world perishes and dies without Christ, damned for the pits of hell. God help us as a Christian people, and as a nation, for we may rue the day we hung onto the "old wineskins," with their leaky cracks and decaying walls, as the "new wine" of the Gospel slowly trickles away while the church folk play. Lord have mercy upon us.

God bless you all, and will be back next week.