Archive for December, 2007

The Top 10 Albums of 2007

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season so far. I know I have. Teresa and I are finishing our winter tour of Kansas and Oklahom and will soon be heading back to Louisville. Before we do, here’s my annual Top 10 Albums of the Year. Enjoy.

10. Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago – An almost complete departure from the pop punk genre, this strictly pop album is not as good as their previous Mmhmm, but it is a strong release from the band. Many of the songs are instantly catchy and Matty T’s lyrics are just as witty as ever, although some of the tongue in cheekiness found in their previous releases is now gone.

9. MxPx – Secret Weapon – This album came out in July, but I didn’t get it until Christmas, which leaves it a little low on my list, but barges its way into the top 10 anyway. I’m pretty sure these guys will never make a crappy album, they’re still going strong after over 15 years and this album is even better than their previous two efforts. Upbeat, fun, positive, and full of all the things you love about MxPx. Hats off to the kings of pop punk.

8. Chiodos – Bone Pallace Ballet – Chiodos definitely takes a step forward with this album. It’s much better produced than All’s Well That Ends Well and Craig Owens’ vocals are much more on point. However, you have to wonder how long a band like this can keep up steam in a genre on the decline, but as for now, Chiodos may be the emo/screamo/whatever the crap you want to call it top dog amongst the scenesters in 2007.

7. The Academy is – Santi – This may have been my most anticipated album of the year. Santi is far from over-produced and holds onto much of the rawness of a live performance. William Beckett is a fantastic frontman and his voice is just beautiful. Also, We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands may be the catchiest song of the year. They’re not as big as Fall Out Boy, Panic!, and now Paramore, but the guys of The Academy is push the boundaries of the indie rock scene and may blow up with their next album.

6. LA Symphony – Unleashed – This is a collection of new songs and songs that were lost and didn’t make the cut over the past seven years. It features former members Pigeon John, Btwice, and J-Beits, and as you can expect, is solid throughout. LA Symphony is indie hip hop at its best and features hysterical moments along with focused and emotional songs that keep you listening from start to finish.

5. Paramore – Riot! – This is easily my guilty pleasure of the year. Yes, they’re all high school age, but they’ve put together an extremely solid album. It’s full of pop appeal and apparently MTV loves it, which is very odd since MTV and I rarely agree on anything. Don’t let the first single Misery Business fool you, this album is much deeper than their first hit and is full of hidden gems. It’s one of the few albums that I can listen to this year from front to back without having to reach for the skip button.

4. Chasing Victory – Fiends – Sadly, this is the best and last album from Chasing Victory. The band took about 10 steps forward with this release and easily shredded the boundaries of screamo that coralled them in the past. Musically, this album is incredible and the lyrical content cuts me to the core (it’s a concept album based on many of the vices we have).

3. Anberlin – Cities – At first, this album was a bit of a letdown for me, but as the year rolled on it became one of my favorites. It’s a bit more mellow at times than their previous works, but that’s okay. It’s honest and transparent and Stephen Christian may be the coolest dude in music. They have gotten more mature, even better live, and are ready to break out with a new album on Universal in 2008.

2. 12 Stones – Anthem for the Underdog – Don’t ask me why I still like 12 Stones, I just can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because they make other alt rock bands look silly. Maybe it’s because they stay true to their path and make the music they love. Maybe it’s because Paul McCoy is an incredible vocalist and isn’t out to prove anything other than he loves rock n’ roll. Maybe it’s because time and time again this band’s songs affect me in a way no other band does. Maybe this is why I STILL (and always will) love 12 Stones.

1. The Almost – Southern Weather – Was there really any question? Aaron Gillespie is absolutely unbelievable. He recorded every sound on this album and made it near perfect. It’s nothing like Underoath, and actually, that’s a good thing. It’s a true expression of Gillespie’s passions and his desire to create unique music. This album was easily the soundtrack to my year and I can’t wait for what Aaron cooks up next.

In case you were wondering, there were some let downs this year. Several in fact. Here are my biggest musical let downs in 2007.

3. Thousand Foot Krutch – The Flame in All of Us – Trevor, I know you can do better.
2. Falling Up – Captiva – I guess this is what happens when you lose half of your band.
1. Emery – I’m Only a Man – Apparently so. But I’ve seen you men make MUCH better music than this.

Enjoy your final day of 2007 everyone!

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My Stance on Rob Bell, the Emerging Church, and Off-Brand Soda

Okay, so I said that this post was going to happen last week, but it didn’t. Which is actually good, because I’ve done some more reading since then on various things and I hope that I have a better idea of what I want to say.

Keep in mind, my views almost always annoy someone somewhere, usually many someones. However, the blogs I’ve written so far have gotten surprisingly good feedback (although the ideas, when expressed verbally elsewhere have received quite a bit of venom. I guess that just means that people only reply to my blogs/notes if they like what I say and save the criticism for when they see me face to face.) I expect this blog to receive quite bit of jeering from both sides, which may be why I delayed it some, but I think I’m ready for it now.

For starters, if you’ve spent any amount of time talking theology with me, you’ve probably heard me state my views on Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and many other Emerging Church figures. I have been one of the more outspoken people I know against this movement, in particular, Rob Bell. Strikingly, I had not read any complete volume of any of these men, I’d read clips, reviews, opinions and seen a few Nooma videos. Because of this, I decided it would be of my best interest to spend my time off from school over the winter break to read as many books on or about the Emerging Church and their views as I possibly could. What I’ve discovered so far has been quite a surprise.

I started by reading “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, a book I’ve heard nothing but bad things about from people I really respect and hold to many of the theological views as I do. I read it in one day.

It’s the best book I’ve read this year.

Now, before you hit the reply button and praise me for coming to my senses, let me explain why. I do not think Rob Bell is the greatest theologian of our time, as a matter of fact, I learned nothing theologically from this book and would not advise anyone to look to Bell for growth in the area of Biblical doctrine. That being said, I felt that as far as Christianity in practice, the book was outstanding. Bell called out several areas of our “Christian culture” that are in desperate need of revision and/or overhaul. Many conservative, right wing, Christians would do good to listen to Bell’s call for activism in our communities, churches, and relationships.

I also completely agree with his view of how the right side builds a wall of doctrines (some essential, some non) that keep others out and make sure that the right ones are in. I would not have gone so far as to use the example of the Virgin Birth to make my point on this issue, but I see what he is trying to say, and I believe him to be mostly correct on the issue.

I also found in the book that he upholds substitutionary atonement, which was very important for me to read. I know that others in this movement don’t, or at best don’t talk about it, which I find extremely troubling since it so foundational to the Christian faith.

Did I agree with everything Bell said in “Velvet Elvis?” No, but the things I did agree with stirred my soul for days as I contemplated the ways that my Christian life fails to reflect the life that Christ has called us to live. I would not recommend this book to those who are very young in their faith, simply to avoid confusion on particular issues, but for those who are mature and have a good idea of where they stand theologically, I think the book could be a great help. I look forward to read Bell’s next book “Sex God” when it comes back to the library.

Now, I spent a day this week reading a book by Brian McLaren called “A Search for What is Real: Finding Faith.” I am sad to say that the book did nothing to change my view of McLaren. I think that, like Bell, McLaren has much to say to a culture that has become apathetic to loving the lost and reaching out to those in need. However, McLaren’s pluralism is just too much for me to swallow. It appears from what I’ve read that McLaren does believe that Christianity is the best way, but simply the best way of many other good ways such as Judaism, Islam, or whatever else.

So for what it’s worth, here’s my take on the Emerging Church:

I believe that they are right on when it comes to communicating with our culture and loving people where they are. They have a very good understanding of the social part of the Gospel and our obligation to help the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, and the despised. I commend them for their efforts to reach out and invite anyone and everyone into a loving relationship with God.

Unfortunately, this is where it ends. I believe in the inerrency of Scripture – that it is God’s Word, written through the hands of men inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it is completely perfect and it is exactly what God meant to say. It is complete truth to me, and I need not look beyond God’s Word for authority in my life. Because of this, I believe that there is not salvation apart from the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To abandon this or to downplay it would be a travesty. Because of this, I cannot affirm the complete mission of the Emerging Church.

On the flip side, I am becoming more disgusted with the right-wing, conservative church as each day goes by because of the unwillingness to love and accept those who do not agree with our complete wall of doctrine. I would be happy to partake of communion with someone who was not baptized in a Baptist church. I would also be happy to work alongside a brother or sister who has a private prayer language, who is not a Calvinist, who is a woman pastor. I refuse to limit my ministry to consist of only those who hold to each and every non-essential doctrine as I do.

Therefore, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. It appears that I lie in somewhat of a no-mans-land between the right and left, unable to choose an allegiance. Maybe this is where I’ll stay, or maybe others will join me in an effort put our differences aside and work together for the good of the Gospel. I’ll leave you with a quote from D.A. Carson in his book “Becoming Coversant with the Emerging Church.”

“No worldview, no epistemological system developed by us in this fallen world, is entirely good or entirely bad. God’s gracious “common grace” assures us that even systems that are deeply structurally flawed will preserve some insight in them somewhere; our sin ensures that even a system closely aligned with Scripture will be in some measure distorted. Thus thoughtful Christians should not identify themselves completely with either modernism or postmodernism, nor should they utterly damn either entity. “

Feel free to say whatever you want. Next time I think I’ll be writing about tolerance . . . dun dun dun. See ya then.

P.S. – Go have a Pibb Extra. It’ll kick your mouth in the butt.

Disaster Tourism

I officially turned in my last assignment of the semester yesterday, and I’m now completely done with school for over a month. As a result, I’ve got a double whammy for you this week! I can’t tell you how weird I feel for saying “whammy.” I promise, it won’t happen again.

This Friday marks the release of the film “The Golden Compass.” This movie has sparked an extreme amount of controversy due to its anti-Christian imagery and the fact that the author of the three book series, Philip Pullman, is a self-proclaimed athiest who has written the books to open people’s eyes to the evils of the Christian faith. I personally think Pullman is a bozo, and could care less if he decides to adapt his books to the big screen, but several Christian groups have already called for a boycott of the movie among Christians, lest we support an evil endeavor and become indoctrinated with its lies.

But this post isn’t about The Golden Compass.

In the late 90s, the Southern Baptist Convention began an 8-year boycott of Walt Disney Co. because of a so-called “gay agenda.” Apparently Disney offers health benefits to homosexual employees and particular days at their theme parks are directed towards the gay community. Why don’t we go ahead and boycott businesses that offer benefits to unmarried people living with their boyfriend or girlfriend? Or even a company that allows its employees to have a cigarette outside the building during their 15 minute break?

But this post isn’t about Disney.

Last month at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Arlington, TX, Messengers approved a bylaw change to replace the word “drunkenness” as it appears in several instances to “the use of alcohol as a beverage,” stipulating that such practice is unacceptable for employees and members elected to the executive board, committees and offices of the SBTC. Therefore, if you are an employee anywhere within the SBC in Texas, you now prohibited from partaking of any alcoholic beverage. I could go into a rant about the use of alcohol in the Bible and the fact that it’s not a sin to partake of an alcoholic beverage . . .

But this post isn’t about alcohol.

This post also isn’t about Harry Potter, public school, the environment, or any other topic we could name that may cause controversy among Christians over what’s right and wrong to be associated with. This post IS about the real issue:

We are not teaching our brothers and sisters the truth of what the Christian life looks like and are copping out by passing laws, rules, and boycotts to cover up for our failure to address what the Bible says we should be doing.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

What this means is, because Christ came to fulfill the law that we couldn’t keep, we are now free from condemnation and set free from the law that once kept us from being who God wanted us to be. Jesus came and took our place by keeping the law, dying, taking our sins to the grave, and rising again on the third day, leaving us guiltless and righteous before God! Does this mean that we’re free to sin? Of course not, but it means that we’re free to live a life of joy and happiness as we enjoy the things that God has given us and share with others what it really means to be a Christian.

And being a Christian doesn’t mean boycotting, shaking our fists, and adding laws that the Bible does not in order to make sure our Christian brothers and sisters don’t “screw up.”

The truth of the matter is, if we were teaching in our churches the truth of the Bible and helping our people understand what it means to be a Christian and how to live a life holy and pleasing to God, we wouldn’t need to be scared that our friends might be indoctrinated with false truths from “The Golden Compass.” We could actually smile and say “enjoy the movie!” Perhaps they might even be able to discuss it with their non-Christian friends after it’s over and tell them why the way of Christ is better.

What do I know, though?

Stay tuned, because later this week I hope to be writing a new post about Rob Bell. Have I gone to the dark side? Have I gone off the deep end? Have I become *gulp* a liberal? You’ll have to check back later this week. :o)