By Joe Bragg
Yesterday (8/13/19) a buddy of mine sent me an article written by George Brahm from Cogent Christianity and I am not going to lie I was super curious. Those who know me well, know that I am not a big Skillet fan. I can appreciate them and I certainly acknowledge all they have done in the Christian rock scene, but I personally don't dig their music much. Skillet was actually my first Christian concert after coming to Christ and I left disappointed. They put on an amazing show as far as rock concerts go but I felt that it lacked Jesus. To be fair, my expectations were high, I had never been to a Christian concert and I expected it to be Spirit filled, the gospel clearly presented and that it would be so evident that these bands were different than what I had come to know in the world. Sadly, that wasn't the case. I looked around and felt that Skillet and TFK had in some way dropped the ball (side note, Decypher Down was the opening act and they were the only band to say the name of Jesus, they made a fan of me that night). I share all of this to say, when I saw an article from John Cooper speaking about the apostasy of young Christian leaders, I knew I had to read it.
As I read what John had to say, I was honestly blown away.
John was transparent and real in his response to the recent falling away of Hillsong's worship leader Marty Sampson and Josh Harris author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". John didn't pull any punches and he said what needed to be said. I know it is a Facebook post and we can read whatever tone we want to read into it, however, it is as if you could feel John's sadness and frustration. The post is filled with edifying admonishments to the church and other believers and it is refreshing to hear someone with John's influence draw people back to the Word of God and to take Christ seriously. I felt that George of Cogent Christianity summed it up well at they end of their article when he said... "I am glad to see one of these ‘influencers’ come out in defense of the authority of Scripture and the importance of a robust faith that can outlast even the harshest of challenges."
Below you will find John's Facebook post. It's a little long but it is very much worth the read. I am curious to hear your thoughts so be sure to leave a comment! As always thank you for stopping by and taking the time! God bless!
“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.
“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?
“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?
“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.
“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.
“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.
“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”
Here is the link to the original post bit.ly/2KPuq5o
Thoughts? Start a conversation and leave us a comment. Thanks again for taking the time! God bless!
Before coming to Christ I was a big Deftones & Meshuggah fan. After giving my life to Jesus I got rid of all of my "secular" CDs, that was a super hard day for me. I remember praying rather boldly & not necessarily in a way that I would recommend but I remember saying "Lord, You better replace this." See I longed to be obedient to Jesus but I really loved music & I was so worried that I wouldn't find bands that were comparable and that I would live a sub par if not music-less existence (I knew nothing of Christian music at the time & all I had heard I thought was super cheesy). I was legitimately torn & young in my walk.
God did not have to honor my prayer but He did.
I began to scour the scene for solid rock and metal bands. I came across Red, Oh Sleeper, Memphis May Fire, For Today, Fit For A King, and a band I came to enjoy exponentially A Plea for Purging. I was super sad when A Plea for Purging called it quits as their last album is by far my favorite. You may be wondering why I am sharing all of this in an album review for the new Bloodlines album, and your wonder is valid but trust me I have a point ;)
For me "Hostile | Minds" picked up where The Life & Death of A Plea for Purging album ended. A Plea for Purging's album dropped in 2012 and I hadn't heard an album like it until July 30th 2019 when "Hostile | Minds" Dropped.
Bloodlines has managed to create something really special here. Their album isn't just heavy in sound and style, it is super heavy in it's content which is super refreshing! Bloodlines is unapologetically Christ-centered in their music. A stand out track to me is "Babylon" where lead singer Alexis Rodriguez is boldly proclaiming that he understands that he will be persecuted for his faith in Jesus but that will not cause him to loose his faith in God and that as God's people we are not to be silent.
I love the over arching theme throughout this album that life is hard and we are at war but our God is good and worthy to be praised. The first song "Esh" comes flying out the gate and sets the whole tone of the album and with it comes an admonishment and exhortation to burn bright for Jesus so that the world can see (Matthew 5:14-16). I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the song "Wrath". I loved that they had a song warning people of the judgement to come, this is not only bold but it is so often over looked these days when sharing the good news of Jesus. "Wrath" carries with it a sense of urgency and the stylistic choices they used in the song are nothing short of brilliant as it creates the same sense of urgency and dissonance as the message they are sharing. You can feel their heart for the lost through the music as they want people to realize that apart from Jesus they are slaves to sin.
The other dynamic I really enjoy about this album is how transparent it is lyrically. You can sense the struggle Alexis is facing as he seeks to grow in his walk with Jesus. The material is extremely relateable. "End of Days", Disconnect", "Had Enough" & "Spiritual Warfare" really capture a genuine battle between the flesh and the Spirit as portrayed in Galatians chapter 5 as well as Romans 7. For me, this makes the album very real and when they are sharing the realities we are up against in say a song like "Wrath", a non-believer may be more apt to listen to the message of that song based on the testimony shared through out the album.
From an overall production stand point, this album is very very well done. It is incredibly well written and laid out, everything is clearly done with intent and purpose. "Hostile | Minds" is very dynamic, it has a fantastic flow and it is recorded superbly.
I don't normally do a rating system but if I did I would give this album a 5 out of 5 and I am inches away from calling it an instant classic. If you are a fan of Christ-centered metal you would be doing yourself a real disservice if you passed this album up. These guys are the real deal both in their boldness to proclaim the truth of Jesus and in their music.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the album, leave a comment below. We are also big proponents of asking people to support the bands they enjoy by purchasing their albums as this helps them continue to make the music you enjoy listening to! Links to stream and/or purchase are at the top and bottom of this post .
John Warwick Montgomery tells the story of a man who was convinced that he was dead.
His wife took him to the local psychiatrist, who decided to change the man’s mind by convincing him of one fact: Dead men don’t bleed.
After a week of reading medical texts and viewing autopsies, the man was overwhelmed by the evidence and confessed, “Fine! I’m convinced that dead men don’t bleed!”
The psychiatrist promptly jabbed a needle into the man’s arm. Blood spurted out.
“Great Scott!” the man exclaimed, “Dead men do bleed after all!”
Christians often find themselves in a similar conundrum when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. What they frequently discover is that their counterparts remain unconvinced even when presented with logically watertight arguments for the truth of Christianity. This occurs because their presentation is devoid of persuasion. While the evidence matters immensely, a persuasive method of presentation is also necessary; for our audience must be persuaded of the need to give it a fair hearing and be open to changing their minds.
In his Pensées, Blaise Pascal presents one such method. He writes,
“Men despise religion…The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next, make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”
I consider the three-step method delineated in this pensée to be a valuable method for evangelistic apologetics since it highlights the need to persuade both the head and the heart during our presentation. Let us examine each of these steps in the context of presenting the Christian message.
THE RATIONAL STEP
Most atheists dismiss religious faith as irrational, or in Dawkinsian terms, a delusion latched onto despite the complete absence of evidence. These preconceptions are the largest stumbling blocks preventing people from considering Christianity.
The rational step is aimed at removing these stumbling blocks to belief. This is the function of a large part of Christian apologetics today, including things like arguments for the existence of God and responses to the problem of evil; while they often don’t convince people to turn to Christianity, they do help them overcome the obstacles erected in their path, demonstrating that the Biblical God is not a “capriciously malevolent bully” and that Christianity itself is “not contrary to reason”.
Unfortunately, many fail to realize that presenting these rational arguments is but the preliminary step in evangelistic apologetics and fail to move beyond this step. Observing that most remain unconvinced of Christianity after hearing them, they wrongly assume that these arguments have no utility.
Conversely, Pascal urges us to continue on from the rational step to the emotional step; to move from the issues of the intellect to those of the heart.
THE EMOTIONAL STEP
Pascal once noted that people are more likely to be convinced by reasons they’ve discovered themselves than by those presented to them. An aim of the emotional step, then, is to help your counterpart generate reasons for belief on their own instead of presenting them with ready-made ones. Another aim of the emotional step is to personalize our presentation. The rational step presents impersonal arguments that respond to objections, while the emotional step takes a more personal approach, attempting to answer the person (Col 4:6), and not just his objections. But how might one go about this?
Perhaps you’re engaging with a naturalist friend who is also a humanist, or someone who holds that there is no reality beyond nature and its laws, but also holds that humans have intrinsic value/dignity and human flourishing ought to be pursued. You can begin by demonstrating how such humanism is naturalistically unsustainable. According to naturalist Richard Dawkins, “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference…. We are machines for propagating DNA.” The logical consequences of naturalism include a world without objective morality, for without a transcendent source, moral facts become the subjective preferences of the majority; a world without objective meaning or purpose, since there’s no explanation for why my life’s purpose is better than Hitler’s; and a world without love, for what is love but a reaction produced by a certain set of hormones when you see that mewling bag of chemicals you call your ‘baby’?
Now, you ask your friend whether he wants to live under a nihilistic naturalistic framework or wants to continue in his humanism, for clearly, he cannot have both. In most cases, he will choose humanism, given our shared desire for a world with morality, meaning, purpose, and love. It is now your opportunity to present a plausible alternate hypothesis – the Christian faith, where morality is ensured by Him who is the Good, meaning and purpose are ensured by the One who created us in His image, and love is ensured by Him who is Love and was willing to demonstrate it in the ultimate form. You can now present the Gospel message in all its beauty, culminating in the sacrifice on the cross as a solution to the human condition.
What have you done so far? You have removed the false obstacles that made him dismiss Christianity at the outset. You’ve then personalized the approach by deconstructing his worldview and presenting him with an alternate hypothesis that has far more appealing consequences to him. You have brought out what is attractive about Christianity, making him “wish it were true.”
But it is imperative to note that the truth of a set of propositions is independent of their emotional appeal or ethical consequences. Why couldn’t nihilism be the ugly truth and the real world be one without morality, meaning, purpose, and love?
It is time to proceed to our final step, showing that while Christianity is rational and attractive enough to make us wish it were true, it is actually true for a completely different reason.
Finish reading over at growingdeeperroots.org
This is the album CHH & CHH fans needed!!
Gods Goon is exemplary.
In a day and age where CHH artists are wrestling with who their target audience is, BRM has found a fantastic balance. BRM doesn't pull any punches, from beginning to end "Gods Goon" is raw, real and in your face. It is obvious through these songs that BRM has a love for God and a love for people. He clearly desires to see people come to know Jesus and for the church to take God and evangelism seriously. "Gods Goon" is an album that plays well for the believer and the non-believer. There are many testimonial aspects to this album; for instance, "Where to Go" is a powerful song where BRM is sharing about an extremely hard time in his life and how lost he was. What I really like about this song is that BRM is very open about what was going, he isn't hiding things, there is a picture painted that I am sure many can relate to. This song sets the stage well for the next track "Anxious" which has a beautiful and relevant chorus. I don't think I need to go into details concerning the message of this song but something I love, is how these 2 tracks pair, but what I enjoy even more is how they lead into "To the Clouds". "Gods Goon" is extremely well thought out, it is very intentional in its layout. It's purposeful.
For the believer this album will challenge you and hopefully spark a fire to reach the lost for Jesus. "I'm Ready", "Wind Em Up", "Goon" & "Pop Off" make it clear that BRM understands the call to go and make disciples. There is a boldness all over this album that is not only refreshing, it is so needed. BRM's passion for Jesus is so evident, he knows where his gifts come from and it is also evident that he is seeking to bring glory to God with his gifts.
Here are my overall thoughts...
To CHH artists: "Gods Goon" has raised the bar. BRM has created something that should challenge those of us in the game, this album should push all of us to get better at what we are doing. Also, take the message in "Let the Fire Out" to heart and examine your life in response to the message of this song. May we rejoice with our brother in his accomplishment and may it fuel us to rise to the occasion, for such a time as this...
To CHH fans: "Gods Goon" is an instant classic, this is as an album that you will go back to often. "Gods Goon" is also an album that you can show your friends who think CHH is lame. I also ask that you let this album challenge you in your walk with Jesus. You may not be a rapper, but God has called you into the greatest mission of all time. As a believer you are part of God's redemptive plan for all creation. God has called each and everyone of us to share the Gospel and to make disciples. If you want to live a life that matters, this is that life.
Go stream or purchase "Gods Goon" on any platform, it's available everywhere. Links above (under the album cover) and beneath the videos below. I believe that if you like an artist you should seek to support them by purchasing the album so they can keep making the music you enjoy. This is one investment you won't regret.
So much has been happening in BRM's world these days, from signing with Rapture Ready Productions too getting set to drop an album July 19th and everything in between. BRM was one of the first people to submit his music to Tentmaker, and we were impressed out the gate. The way BRM handles Himself as a Christ follower amplifies his music as it is clear that he isn't in this for himself but rather for God's glory. We were blessed to have the opportunity to chat with BRM and ask some questions, we hope you enjoy reading his responses as much as we did.
Could you please share a bit of your testimony? When did you start following Jesus?
I didn’t grow up christian. Never really believed in God till about 2005. It took a while for me to even believe God existed and that he sent his son Jesus to die for me. It wasn’t till about 2012 where I began seeking a relationship with God and living my life for him. After struggling with selfishness and almost ending my marriage, God spoke to me through my wife. He restored my marriage and i finally started to understand it was him who I needed in my life and not earthly temptations. He’s taught me how to be a husband, father, and to see myself as a child of God.
Wow, praise God, that's amazing, thank you so much for sharing! So how long have you been making making music & why did you get started?
Been writing music since I was in Junior high, since the first time I heard "Gangstas Paradise" by Coolio! Did some music in high school with some buddies as well. I didn’t start writing music for God until 2012 when I rededicated my life to him and started writing testimony into my music. I was never really a good talker but I was able to put my feelings and testimony into rap verses and song.
What are some of your goals as an artist or just life goals in general?
I love music, and will continue making it. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself with the music. I want people to hear my music, hear my testimony, and build relationships. I look forward to meeting more people, making more connections, do some more live shows, and hopefully touch peoples lives. My 9-5 job is a P.E. teacher and enjoy teaching kids, I believe that will lead to coaching and possibly some youth group opportunities down the line.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming album?
So this will really be my first official album! When I signed with Rapture Ready Productions they told me I had to put an album out and was hesitant because I really like to just drop singles to a video. But I thought this would be a great opportunity to try something new. The name of this album will be called “God’s Goon,” … and should be released July 19th. This Album for me is about GOD using me where I’m at … and in turn trying to meet you where your at! The album covers and handles a lot of topics that most people can relate too. Topics in this album include: Anxiety, testimony in not knowing where to turn, changing our perspective and seeking GOD, feeling strong in faith, ready to be sent out, addicted to music, CHH needing to work together and so so much more! I’m a goon for GOD, I’m coming to tell you about him the best way I know how, and if the devil gets in the way, I got something for him too!
I know we are for sure excited for your album to drop!! Can't wait!! We will for sure be promoting here on the site!
Who is your favorite musician of all time and who have you been rocking to lately?
I grew up listening to people like Eminem, Jadakiss, Canibus, Wu-tang Clan… but the people i listen to now are Derek Minor, Andy Mineo, NF, Social Club Misfits. I’m actually a lover of all music and genres from country to rock to rap. If its good, ill listen to it.
We think it is fantastic that you love music of all genres, in our opinion it is so important for an artist to be diverse in their listening and there is so much good music out there!!
We do like to sprinkle a little random elements of fun in these 1 on 1's so if you were a dinosaur which dinosaur would you be and why?
Probably a Triceratops, they looked pretty tough with the horns on their head, had very thick skin, but they were mostly plant eaters, mainly just wanting to be left alone. My music sometimes may come across as a big bark or bite, but that's just my look and energy. The Triceratops has always been pegged as the arch nemesis for the T-Rex. So I take it to mean the triceratops was spirited if provoked!
It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into that before us asking it lol, great answer!
If you were to name a Playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
Title: Lost now Found
Lecrae - Tell the World
Andy Mineo - Coming In Hot
NF - Lost In the Moment
Life verse and favorite book of the Bible?
9. Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will
Do you have any practical advice you would like to share with aspiring CHH artists?
I would say Build Relationships with people in and out of the genre. Make yourself available to people. And don’t be afraid to reach out. Be genuine, be vulnerable.
Fantastic advice! We hope you all enjoyed reading this and a huge shout out to BRM for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to check out a couple of his songs below and for sure support him when "God's Goon" drops July 19th!!
It's a great day!
Way back in 2012, Universal and other major companies were caught in a scandal buying billions of fake streams for their YouTube accounts. It was only discovered when YouTube changed their algorithm to curb the 'black-hat' technique of paying for fake plays. Even after Universal was caught with their hand in the cookie jar, news media, like Clevver, still covered for them with reports claiming that Universal was 'only moving their videos to their VEVO platform', and YouTube was simply doing 'housekeeping'.
Well it looks like the needle has been moved a little bit further. Because now it seems that Spotify is following Youtube in the pursuit of Bot-blasting. According to Rolling Stone, Spotify, Amazon, Sony, Warner, Universal and other major players in the music business are joining forces to battle the evil empire of Stream Manipulation. Once they Implement their new changes, people who have been gaming the system by buying likes and plays will no longer be able to benefit from these practices. So while we may witness the further clamping down of Big Business over Spotify, blocking out the little man once again, we may also get to witness a great purge of click-farms, bot-merchants, playlister curators and other kinds of cheaters who game the system with dubious streaming practices.
Maybe this is a great day for who simply want to build true relationships with their music will have a fighting chance here. I've watched media companies blow up with ridiculous engagement and numbers, but always walked away scratching my head wondering how they were able to make such an impact with little money and in such a short amount of time. Call me skeptical, but I'm pretty sure a lot of the people that I've seen rocketing into the stratosphere are about to slow their progress significantly once it's exposed that they were buying plays and likes the whole time. They will no longer be able to rely on stream manipulation strategies to make their money, and further raise their profiles.
I think it'll be a good thing to see plays and engagement brought back down to a reasonable level. It may even drive the value of music streams upward. I think that it will definitely help build artists' confidence in their abilities once they see that they can make a living by pulling realistic numbers, instead of comparing themselves to their competitors with ridiculously inflated numbers. I'm sure that it sounds like I'm glad to see the world burn, but it's quite the opposite. I want to see the playing field leveled so that fair remains fair.
I want to see justice for the artist.
By Tim McGrew
The Four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – provide us with a wealth of information regarding Jesus of Nazareth. But skeptics have long charged them with both internal contradictions and external historical blunders. How can we tell whether they can be trusted?
Merely answering criticisms, though that task is important, will not give us a reason to take these documents as reliable historical works. To build a positive case we need to look closely both at the documents and at our other sources of information about Palestine in the first century. And when we take that close look, several patterns emerge. First, the four evangelists get hard things right. They display an intimate knowledge of the physical geography and of the shifting political landscape. And we can tell how difficult that is by seeing how badly early forgeries fail that same test.
Second, we can test our four Gospels for consistency by looking at the way the character of Jesus comes out in the narratives. Each Evangelists has special interests and emphases. If they were merely relaying legends or making up myths, we would not expect any more similarity in their portraits than we could find between two fictional characters – between Legolas and Robin Hood, for example. But in fact, Jesus as the four Evangelists reveal him is the same character, with the same manner of teaching, the same habit of drawing examples from the physical surroundings, the same likes and dislikes, and the same way of driving home his key points. Where myth and legend would tell us to expect many different characters wearing the same name, the Gospels present us with only one.
Third, we can check our methodology by looking at how other religious books fare when we bring them to the test. The Book of Mormon affords a good point of comparison. It purports to give us accounts of historical events, and we can check to see whether our other historical evidence confirms or disconfirms those accounts. How will it fare when we evaluate it by the same standards we use for assessing the four Gospels?
This article and others like it can be found over on our good friends and partners website Growingdeeperroots.org.
Growing Deeper Roots was born in 2017 through observation of powerful synergy among three fields: Christian discipleship, theology, and apologetics. The Growing Deeper Roots conference has became an annual event in Western Michigan and Growing Deeper Roots now brings other life-changing events and content, attracting a growing and influential community from many different walks of life and disciplines united by their curiosity and passion for God, — and also by their shared discovery of an exciting secret to boldness.
They have some fantastic content on their website so be sure to check it out!!
As a music artist, facing criticism is inevitable. Even the most successful, most talented artists will see “dislikes” on their videos and be met with less than stellar feedback from record execs, peers, fans and music critics at almost every point in their career. I’ve read surprisingly negative reviews of classic Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson albums, and critics have mercilessly panned songs in recent years which have gone on to be huge hits. Now, you may be expecting a “criticism is good, embrace it” sort of message here, but in my experience as an artist and producer, I find that to be far too simplistic an explanation.
There are many potential reasons for and motivations behind harsh critique and negative feedback, and all critique is not necessarily valuable or beneficial to an artist. I believe there are at least 3 basic categories into which criticism falls, and failing to differentiate between these categories or levels of criticism could result in an artist taking poor advice, becoming confused, shutting down, or missing an opportunity altogether.
The first kind of criticism is criticism that SHOULD be taken into consideration and applied if possible. How would one identify such criticism? There are a few things to look for. We should keep in mind that as artists, we are much closer to our work than anyone else. For this reason, we sometimes are unable to look at our work with the sort of objectivity necessary to improve upon it. It is therefore important that we be open-minded when we first receive feedback on our work. Here are a few clues that might indicate we should listen carefully to a review or criticism and learn from it:
1. Is the feedback coming from more than one independent source? If the advice is coming from multiple people who likely have not had time to confer with one another, that is a good indicator that what’s being said about your work is based solely in the quality of the work itself rather than in any personal feelings toward you or individual expectations. Unfortunately for artists who see themselves as innovators, we live in a society where herd mentality abounds and people are often afraid to be ridiculed for holding opinions that are not popular even when it comes to musical preferences, so understand that if a lot of people are saying the same thing, there is a very high likelihood that many of those individuals have simply hopped on the bandwagon after waiting to hear what the crowd is chanting. That’s why I say numbers are only good evidence when you have several INDEPENDENT sources expressing similar opinions on some aspect of your work. Might be a good idea to have a group of people you trust who you can show your work to before it is released and share your music with each of them individually and privately.
2. Does the source of the criticism understand you as an artist? If I’m a jazz musician, and the source of the criticism only really likes metal and wishes you did metal and complains about the lack of face-melting electric guitar solos and keeps suggesting you listen to some Avenged Sevenfold, then you are encountering the 2nd kind of criticism. This is criticism based on personal preference rather than what is best for YOU as an artist. They are imposing things on a song that do not naturally flow from the song based on what they like to listen to. These sources of criticism are probably well-meaning, they don’t mean you any harm, but adjusting your music and style based on their critique will require you to impersonate some other artist, more specifically, their favorite artist. If their ear WANTS to hear Drake, but you’re not intending to create the kind of music Drake makes, you’ll have to take what they’re telling you with a grain of salt and remember that your goals are not the same as theirs. You need criticism from peers, experts and mentors who, one, understand what you’re going for and accept your vision for what it is, and two, want to see YOUR songs reach their greatest potential based on that vision. That does not require them to like your songs more than their own preferred style or genre of music. They are looking just at what your songs are trying to communicate both musically and lyrically and then giving suggestions on how to enhance the clarity and presentation of those unique songs without trying to turn your songs into something they simply aren’t based on personal taste.
Now… am I saying that if you suspect someone’s criticism of your work falls into this 2nd category that you should ignore everything they say? No way! Perhaps you’ll be surprised and find something in the music they like that speaks to you or inspires you, maybe just not in the way they intended. The key is understanding WHY they are giving you the feedback that they are giving you and not assuming your music is lacking something simply because it doesn’t fit into their playlist.
3. Does the source of the criticism have your best interest at heart? Do they stand to gain something from speaking negatively of your work? Did they pass up a chance to provide you with this feedback at a more opportune time like, say, before the music was released for example? The third category of criticism is criticism for the sake of criticism. Negative feedback seems to be significantly more entertaining to most audiences than positive or constructive commentary. There is a reason Simon Cowell HAD to be a part of the original American Idol panel. Be honest, were most of us tuning in to hear the two other judges point out the positive aspects of the performances and find the coolest, friendliest, nicest way to tell hopefuls they would not be advancing to the next round? Yeah, that’s gonna be a “no” from me, dawg. We were waiting to see how Cowell would rip them to shreds and how harsh his criticism would be. The fact is, critics have fans too, and negativity almost always draws more attention. Followers of a particular critic’s YouTube channel or magazine column tend to get most excited about the reviews and articles where the critic strongly disliked the song or movie or show etc. The audience wants their favorite critics to be as “savage” and “unfiltered” as possible, and as a result, critics will often generate negative reviews to appease their fan base or, at the very least, exaggerate the degree to which they disliked something. Take a look at the Rolling Stone article about past reviews that… didn’t stand the test of time to say the least. In this article, Andy Greene highlights examples of albums, now considered classics, some of which actually have a 5-star rating in Rolling Stone magazine, that received SCATCHING, and in hindsight, SHOCKINGLY negative reviews upon their release from, you guessed it, the very same Rolling Stone magazine. Negative reviews usually have more jokes in them, and for some it is more exciting to see how much somebody dislikes something than to see how much they like something. Those looking for attention stand to gain more of what they are looking for by writing a negative review than they do writing a positive one about something they thought was just great.
It is also unfortunately true that many may respond negatively to your art because of their own insecurities or jealously or competitive nature. Not everyone you encounter will necessarily want to see you succeed. Christ commands us to show love to those who mistreat us, and we mustn’t harbor bitterness or unforgiveness in our hearts. Even this third kind of criticism can be an opportunity, just maybe not one that has anything to do with music. With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s strive to show understanding and compassion to those who present us with this third category of criticism. Perhaps the things they have gone through and the criticisms they have received hurt them in a way you or I couldn’t even imagine, and hurling insults back at them accomplishes nothing. If we slap back, we play right into our enemy’s hands, but if we turn the other cheek, we may see something far greater than a positive review in a magazine. You may not be able to change minds, but the love of Christ is known to change hearts.
Don’t allow this negativity to distract you either. We can’t allow ourselves to rise and fall with the praise or criticism of others. As difficult as it may be for us as artists who are very attached to and passionate about our work, we have to examine all these forms of criticism without emotion in order to best interpret, categorize, and if necessary, apply it. Emotion can cloud our judgment and keep us from completing any of these tasks. Criticism has its place in the journey of any great artist, but not all criticism belongs in the SAME place.
I was born in the 80's. I grew up watching some of what I consider, the best cartoons ever made. Transformers, Voltron, M.A.S.K., Thunder Cats and of course, G.I. Joe. A phrase that seemed to stick with me was always found at the end of each episode of G.I. Joe. There would be some life lesson that a kid had to learn and one of the characters would say "Knowing is half the battle." As a kid I would often repeat that in the deepest voice I could and I thought it made me sound smart (don't judge me), I never really thought much about the phrase, I just thought it was cool. One day when I was reading the book of James the phrase popped back into my mind. I laughed at first but then it hit me. James is literally stating that knowing is only half the battle and that applying that knowledge is the other half. James chapter 1 verses 22-25 states; "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."
It is one thing to read the word, hear the word and know the word, it's another thing to apply that which you are reading, hearing and know. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser (by the grace of God go I), I feel that G.I. Joe sort of let us down or if anything, left the quote incomplete causing us children to fill in the blanks based on the application of the end scene. I think the quote should have been "Knowing is half the battle, the other half is applying that knowledge." Now, that doesn't sound nearly as cool as the original and even in the most manly of voices it might come off as nerdy but it is no less true. This is often how we go about life though. In this day and age we have access to so much information and we are constantly bombarded with things seeking our attention.
I was at a mens retreat not to long ago and there was a quote shared by the speaker that leveled me. He said that he was talking to a Pastor of a church overseas and that Pastor's observation of the western church was that when it comes to knowledge we "are 3 years ahead of our obedience." It was as if the air was sucked out of the room. This caused me to immediately begin an introspective examination of my life. God used that moment to slow me down. I realized that I was on a quest for knowledge much more than I was on a quest for obedience. My Bible study method changed exponentially, I began simply meditating on one passage or one verse at a time and not moving on until I felt that I understood the verse(s) and have been actively seeking to apply what was being taught in my life. God is good at revealing what you need to deal with, what needs to go and areas where you walking in out right rebellion. James stated that if we hear the word but don't do what it says we are disillusion. The example he uses of the man looking at himself in the mirror, walking away and forgetting what kind of person he was is pretty powerful. The NLT translates this section by saying you look at yourself in the mirror and forget what you look like. The word of God is like a mirror in that when we read it, it is going to show us who we are. It is going to reveal to us that we are in desperate need of Jesus. Hebrews 4:12 states "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work."
God's word is going to draw out those areas that are wrong in our life, those things that need correcting. We have a choice, we can either simply know that they need to be dealt with and leave it at that or we can know and deal with them. May we be a people that dig into God's word not simply for knowledge but asking Him to draw the sin in our life out, to transform, shape and mold us. May we not simply be hearers of the word who delude ourselves but be effectual doers. May we look into the mirror of God's word and not forget what we have seen.
We are very much in this together. If you would like to chat more about this or have any thoughts you would like to add, please leave a comment. If you are struggling with something and you aren't comfortable sharing it publicly you can certainly email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note that we will likely direct you to your local church Pastor/body but we will reply and begin a dialogue as well as pray.
As always, thank you for taking the time! God bless!