More on Metallica

Metallica recently headlined at Glastonbury. Having been intrigued by their lyrics and style (and, ok I admit it, a past love of their music) I am finding out a bit more about their lead singer. I have already realised that, as with most people, there is more to him than meets the eye and was amazed to find out that a few years ago James Hetfield took part in a film about Fatherhood. James’ own Father left him when he was 13, without even saying goodbye. Here is James talking about it. And here is an article about it.

The documentary is directed by Justin Hunt who goes to Central Christian Church in Mesa, ArizHis motivation for making the film came from his faith but he says the film itself is not religious.

One of the things that got me thinking about Metallica was their lyrics. Why would someone write this sort of thing?

Dear Mother
Dear Father
Hidden in your world you’ve made for me
I’m seething
I’m bleeding
Ripping wounds in me that never heal
Undying spite I feel for you
Living out this hell you always knew

Full lyrics here

At this point I was not quite sure of the meaning of the lyrics except that they seem to express a great deal of anger towards parents. I was soon to hear James talk more about those lyrics and what was behind them.

 

Master of Puppets

Here is where the journey started, looking at two types of worship:

In one, open hands reach out in need and surrender and awe. In another, horned hands punch the air in fierce fanaticism.

I find the lyrics of the second really interesting too. They are clearly about drug addiction and how drugs like heroin/cocaine etc master you and pull your strings. The words are not saying how great it is to do drugs, quite the opposite in fact. They will “help you die”. And yet the tone of the song, as it is sung, and played, seems somehow to delight in what is being said.

When the crowd shouts “master, master, obey your master”, are they making a strong  anti drug statement or are they saying that the master should be obeyed? The ambiguity stems from the fact that the words of the song are from the point of view of the drug, not the addict or a concerned observer. When you sing the song you take the part of the “master”, or echo his words, gloating over the horrors of drug abuse.

That is not in any way to suggest that the writer or performers of the song think taking drugs is a good thing. In fact, they explicitly say they do not and even work to help those who get ensnared in them. It’s just that I am uncomfortable with the ambiguity and concerned that it makes the song a double-edged sword. Would it be better to be clear cut as for or against this evil? But then a “just say no” song would not really fit with Metallica’s image.

The lead singer, James Hetfield,  has always wanted to express himself through music. He says some really interesting things that make me want to find our more about the man behind the music.

“every day there is that reminder again that you get to do what you want to do and create, and it is sustaining you and sustaining your family”.

“there was certainly a time when it got out of control. The black album. The tour. Out for a long time… Multiple divorces, lots of egos, swollen, no one was right sized any more, Everyone was bigger than they should have been”

“the adulation you get out there [on stage] is unreal. It is like a fantasy. These people think that you are more than you really are. That’s why you have got to stay grounded. I am human. Something knocks you back down to reality. …. I [just] got a gift of playing music, That’s what I’ve got.”

He say’s

“If you want to keep what you’ve got you have to give it away”

and backs that up with his actions in doing some great charity stuff. James is really involved in Road to Recovery  This is from their web site:

“ROAD RECOVERY is dedicated to helping young people battle addiction and other adversities by harnessing the influence of entertainment industry professionals who have confronted similar crises and now wish to share their experience, knowledge, and resources.”

Well, it just goes to show, there is always more going on than you see at first sight. On one level, the lead singer of a heavy metal band singing in an angry voice about drugs. On another, a man in the image of God, aware of his own imperfections, looking to help others. But I am only just scratching the surface at this point. I was not expecting to find the dots join up as they did when I kept digging.

 

 

 

What does God call us?

Stumbled across this gem of a chapter in Isaiah 62

1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.

Who is Zion? The people of God. The church, both Jew and gentile united together as one body, one people, one holy nation…

And it’s for Zion’s sake, for the sake of the church, that God will not keep silent. At least I think its God speaking but it may be the prophet (quick check of commentaries shows both views are argued but there is certainly good scholarly backing for it being God. In any case just like in the Psalms and of course Isaiah 61, prophetic words can find their fulfilment on the lips of Jesus). He has to speak out. So what does he say? What will make the righteousness of the church shine out? It’s the gospel. As it is heralded, proclaimed and preached, the church is built. People from every tongue and tribe and nation are called forth from the far reaches of the earth and are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Her salvation shines out the dazzling glorious grace of God.

2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

The glory of the church will be seen in all the nation, and reach even into the thrown rooms and council chambers of rulers and kings. But here’s the thing. The people of God will be given a new name by God. A name that defines and encapsulates her identity. Are you apart of the church? Then listen up for your name!

3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

We are kept in suspense as the church’s destiny is described. A crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD. Crowns designate authority and riches and power and such is the destiny of God’s people but why in the hand?

1)       Maybe because God is intimately involved in its construction,

2)      Maybe because it is under his care and control

3)      Maybe God delights to look upon his people and enjoy them,

4)      Maybe God wants to show her to others. Draw their attention to it. Look at my beautiful church. My people. See her glory shine in my hand.

4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.

To take on a new identity, the old must be done away with. The city of God will no longer be called Forsaken and Desolate. This may have once characterised her, at least in the eyes of others, but no longer because here is perhaps the most amazing statement in the whole bible. The name by which God’s people will be called, the thing that will define them and shape them will be “My-delight-is-in-her”. That’s worth seeing in the Hebrew script. Someone should make a poster of it.

חֶפְצִי־בָהּ

“My delight [is] in her.”

God the Father loves the Son, and his focus is on the son, he is pleased with his son. Yet God’s delight is also in his people. The church. How is that possible? The son delights in his bride and the two will be united.

The word translated “married” also means “belongs to” or “dwelt in”. There will be an eternal owning and a dwelling in of the land by God’s people.

5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

I’m not to sure about this bit but I guess “marry” may not be the best translation of “your son’s will marry you”. Maybe it’s “belong to” you again or be “dwell in”. My best shot is that there is a strong unity being spoken of here between the people of God. A high view of being joined to the church? (better check commentaries again. Mmm, not sure I quite get it but it looks like the people who are part of Zion/church/God’s people will be delighted about it and really be joined forever to her. Kind of the oposite of when people talk about the church as “they” or “why can’t the church do such and such”. God’s people who are part of the church will have a real deep sense of “we/us”. )

The second half is easier and surely finds it fulfilment in Jesus and his bride, the church. The bible starts and ends with a marriage. First there is Adam and Eve, being united together, both imaging God and prophetically pointing forward to a time when the church is finally united to Jesus. The book of revelation, the last book in the bible, joyfully proclaims “the wedding of the lamb” Rev 19:17.

Haven’t got time to write up the rest but its worth a read!

6 On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, 7 and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. 8 The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; 9 but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.” 10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples. 11 Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” 12 And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.

 

The End (Love Wins Chapter 8)

I have come to the last chapter of Rob Bells book “Love Wins” where I think he is saying that we urgently need to trust Jesus now. Jesus tells parables about people who didn’t, and they suffered tragic loss. But he is also saying that we have a chance every moment to trust God and he doesn’t seem to be saying that time will ever run out. In fact, he is implying that it may never run out. We will never get the moment back, but there will be another along shortly, and another after that. Somehow the sense of urgency is lost in that but he argues (in subsequent interviews) that the opposite is the case, and as people see that God will never ultimately shut the door on them they want to go through it sooner rather than later. I can kind of see how that could be the case. (It reminds me of Calvinism where its opponents see negative logical outworkings that its supports do not.)

Having finished the book in a few short hours I will put down my thoughts while they are fresh:

1)      It was an engaging exciting read. I didn’t get bored for a second!

2)      There are some gems in the book like “we end up with a garage full of nouns”.

3)      It gave me a good workout and made me think, examine, shape, and defend what I think the bible says.

4)      He seems to be asserting possibilities rather than making any strong statements of truth. He says the book is about answering questions but he doesn’t really do so.

5)      He blurs to the point of eradicating the end of this life and the start of the next. I think the bible says that the judgment comes when we die (well, when Jesus comes back) and people are separated after this life, but he alludes to a continuous chance to respond, and heaven and hell always being mixed together.

6)      The book has got me thinking and I enjoyed interacting with it but it also worried me. It seemed to dull the gospel call to trust in Jesus now and hold onto him as the only certain means of salvation (forgiveness, eternal life, adoption into God’s family, knowing God’s love, gaining an inheritance, ….)

I like listening to and reading Rob Bell. He is an excellent communicator and makes me think about stuff. The Numa videos were really engaging, I shamelessly copied and developed the white board style of presentation in “Everything is Spiritual” and I am currently enjoying his talks on preaching (link). His latest book was no exception to all this in that it was set out clearly and provoked me to much thought. On the whole though, while it contained many excellent points, on a first read through at least, it seemed to me that a reader was more likely to be put off the scent of biblical truth rather than pointed towards it.

Well, that’s it. I hope I have not been too negative and what I have said is constructive in some way. I have tried to be as tentative as possible in my response knowing that this is only my first read through the book. I would love to know if I have misread it at any stage. I kind of hope I have.

Other great reviews of the book:

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book

All together? (Love Wins Chapter 7)

As I get further into Rob Bell’s book, particularly the last chapter, I feel more and more in unfamiliar territory. This does not smell like home. Reformed theology makes my heart leap but this, to be honest, leaves me a bit cold. I know that is a very subjective observation though and others will find the opposite to be true. What matters is how something lines up with the truth of the bible. In chapter 7 of his book Rob talks about the story of the prodigal son.

Talking about the elder brother he says:

“hell is being at the party, It’s not an image of separation but integration. In this story heaven and hell are within each other, intertwined, interwoven, bumping up against each other.”

I would caution that any notions of integration drawn from this story need to be processed in the light of the separation passages (Mat 25:32, Mat 8:12, Mat 22:13, Mat 25:30, Mat 25:11).

“Millions have been taught that ….a loving heavenly Father, who will go to extraordinary lengths to have a relationship with them, would in the blink of an eye, become a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor who would ensure that they had no escape from an endless future of agony. If there was an earthly Father like that we would call the authorities”  p 173,174

“if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever language or good music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one true glaring untenable, unacceptable, awful reality.” p 176

I do find this sort of thing hard to understand and relate to but here are a couple of my thoughts on the matter:

1) People may continue to reject Jesus for all eternity. If a person hates a god who will judge sin, it’s possible (and biblical Rev 16:9,11) that they will continue to do so even under that god’s judgment.

2) For God to be loving, does he have to love everybody in the same way for all eternity? Does he love Satan?

3) The Bible says God is loving because he sent his son to die for us. This he has done. Does the refusal of some to take him up on his offer reduce God’s love?

4) We must be careful in mapping all aspects of God the Father, and God the Son, to their earthly image bearing counterparts. God is the ground for all justice and will punish all wrongdoing. We (and he) will forgive because he (not us) will see justice done either on the cross or when Jesus returns.

Rob continues:

“ We are at the party. but we don’t have to join in. Heaven or hell. Both at the party” p 176

“ we do ourselves great harm when we confuse the very essence of God which is love, with the very real consequences of rejecting and resisting that love, which creates what we call hell.”

God is love but he is also Holy and just. Reading through the book of Revelation does not leave me with the impression that resisting God’s love creates hell. Disobeying God and rebelling against him makes us objects of wrath and rightly liable to God’s judgment.

He talks about church leaders who are so burnt out slaving for Jesus now, that they don’t enjoy life now, nor do their wives or their kids. They have a sneaky feeling Jesus has let them down. “it is the gospel of the goats”. A good point! There are some real gems in this book.

“let’s be very clear then: we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction. God is the rescuer.”

Speaking for myself, my problem was that I had done things that God would rightly punish me for. I would have been excluded from his presence to bless me and experience his anger against me for the things I had done. My problem was that I was wrong and that God was good. Dangerously good for someone like me who wasn’t. What is the solution? In his love this Holy God sent his son to take my punishment in my place. To experience the exclusion and wrath I deserved. I do not have a problem thinking that God rescued me from God since my problem was his wrath and my solution was his love.

“Our beliefs matter.
They matter now for us
and they matter then, for us.
They matter for others, now
and they matter for others then.”
p184

I think he may be saying that it matters if you believe in Jesus now in this life because of the difference it makes now in this life. The sooner you believe in him, the sooner your life will be changed for the better. Knowing Jesus now and being tortured, is better than walking away from him now (thus avoiding horrible pain) and walking back to him later.

“On the cross Jesus says “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. (Luke 23). Jesus forgave them all, without their asking for it.

Although Jesus didn’t forgive them, He asked that they be forgiven, I guess it’s safe to assume his Father granted his request in some way but how? I would see it as a cry from the cross expressing the very purpose of the cross which is the forgiveness of our sin. The means by which that forgiveness is worked out is in the preaching and response to the gospel. To interpret Jesus’ cry as a request for all to be forgiven (either all present at the time or all people over all time) creates problems with passages that seem to suggest that not all are saved (Mat 7:13, Rev 20:15).

“forgiveness is unilateral…God has already done it” p189

I would say forgiveness is available to all now in this day of favour because of what God has done through Jesus. I do not think that the bible implies that all are forgiven now because of what Jesus has done. It would be odd to be an object of wrath and yet forgiven at the same time.

“Everybody is already at the party. Heaven and Hell, here now, around us, upon us, within us” p 190

True in a sense, but any hints or expressions of the reality of heaven and hell now, as God allows the wheat and weeds to grow up together, must not detract from the knowledge that God will one day separate the two.

A game of “it” (Love Wins Chapter 6)

As I read through Rob Bell’s book for the first time I made a few notes. For what they are worth, here are my thoughts on chapter 6.

In this chapter he says that the Israelites drunk from the rock that was Jesus without knowing it. I guess the point is going to be that you don’t need to know Jesus in order to benefit from what he has done for you. One thing to bear in mind though, is that though all who drank would have been physically refreshed, they would not all have been spiritually renewed. My understanding is that it has always been through faith in God’s revelation of his saving grace that people are saved. Now what was seen dimly in the OT sacrifices etc is seen clearly in the person of Jesus.

He points out that in John 12 it says Jesus will draw all people to himself and that:

“John remembers Jesus saying “I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except through me” (Chap 14). This is as wide and expansive a claim as anyone can make. What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him. He doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore the world, is happening through him.” p154

But doesn’t other bits of the bible give us a pretty good idea that it’s responding to the gospel that does it? Is any other way ever described?

“As soon as the door is opened to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baptists from Cleveland, many Christians become very uneasy, saying that then Jesus doesn’t matter anymore, the cross is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter what you believe, and so forth.

 

Not true.

 

Absolutely, unequivocally, unalterably not true. What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe….

 

Talking about baptism, the Lord’s supper he says:

“these symbols are true for us because they are true for everybody. These are signs, glimpses, and tastes of what is true for all people in all places and at all times – we simply name the mystery present in all the world, the gospel already announced to every creature under heaven.

 

He holds the entire universe in his embrace. He is within and without time. He is the flesh – and – blood exposure of an eternal reality.” p159

“People come to Jesus in all sorts of ways…they drink from the rock, without knowing what or who it was. This happened in Exodus, and it happens today. The last thing we should do is discourage or disregard an honest, authentic encounter with the living Christ. He is the rock and there is water there for the thirsty there, wherever there is….sometimes people use his name; other times they don’t.” p 158

Is Rob saying that Jesus saves everybody and then opens the way to God through Buddhism, Islam and New Age religion and philosophies? Does Jesus stand at the end of the wide easy path and welcome all in along with those who travelled the narrow path? Surely the most important question is what are the possibilities for entering eternal life? Can we drink from Jesus through worshipping Baal? I really don’t know what to say to all this. I feel I have misunderstood something here.

I love playing “it” with my children. The catcher chases the other players and tries to touch them. When you get touched you are out of the game. When all players have been got the game ends. In order to make the game last longer we sometimes have a “home”. If you are “home” you are safe and can’t be got. Now one of my children likes to keep adding “homes” so as I am about to get her she nominates a nearby tree as “home” and grabs it. Can we do that with eternal life? As death and judgment come near can we call anything home knowing Jesus will be in it, or is there just one home that is Jesus and is called Jesus?

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (ESV) Acts 4:11-12

There are no other bases nominated by God as “home” other than Jesus. A name is not a mysterious unknown reality that has many expressions and handles. It is the handle. A name is given so that we might take hold of God’s grace and mercy and there is no other handle given to us. Sure in the OT other handles were given to be taken hold of by faith, but they all pre-figured and pointed to Jesus so that when he came we would take hold of him as the reality to which they pointed. To make them mean that any and every expression of sincere belief can be a means to eternal life, is like driving through a no entry sign and over arrows in the road pointing in the opposite direction. I surely must have misunderstood what Rob is saying here. The shadows in the OT were shadows of Jesus. Now Jesus is here we should not be looking to take hold of shadows. There are no more shadows!

Does “as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe” mean that Jesus is the only way, but that there are many doors that don’t look like Jesus that actually are Jesus? That the nearest, most convenient tree is home? Surely not. Have I misunderstood what the book is saying here?

Did the sheep die for nothing? (Love wins Chapter 5)

A quick quote from chapter 5 of Rob Bells provocative book, and then a short summary of the rest of the chapter.

“is the cross about the end of the sacrificial system, or a broken relationship that’s been reconciled, or a guilty defendant who’s been set free, or a battle that’s been won, or the redeeming of something that was lost?…. Why all the different explanations? For these first Christians, something massive and universe-changing had happened through the cross, and they set out to communicate the significance and power of it to their audiences in language their audiences would understand. And so they looked at the world around them, identifying examples, pictures, experiences, and metaphors that their listeners and readers would have already been familiar with, and then they essentially said: what happened on the cross is like…” p 127/128

“For the first thousand years or so of church history, the metaphor of victory in battle, Jesus conquering death, was the central, dominant understanding of the cross. And then at other times and in other places, other explanations have been more heavily emphasised.”

He then seems to say that because our culture does not understand sacrificing things to gods to appease them it is not a great way to communicate the cross. He says it is off people’s radar and though it may work in some small pockets of primitive cultures around the world it is not helpful in ours.

I think though that God was purposefully trying to create his own culture in his own people as a context for Jesus’ saving work to be understood. A lot of sheep lost their lives so we could “get” sacrifice!

For me, the fact that Jesus took my place, owned my sin and bore God’s wrath for me are the foundation upon which all the other aspects of the atonement are based. It was necessary for my sin to be dealt with in order to be brought into a relationship with God as Father. I was guilty and the means of my acquittal was Jesus bearing my sin. It cost God to redeem me because  something so precious (his son) needed to be given to die in my place etc. The victory over sin and death was through my sin being dealt with in Jesus.

He then moves on to the resurrection; life from death, and notes that John has seven miraculous signs in his gospel before the resurrection. Jesus rising from the dead is therefore the first act of a new creation. He emphasises that it is not just people that are saved but the earth is renewed, all of which are quite helpful insights for me.

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