Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Wretched Podcast

Once or twice weekly, I open up my computer and go to hit up my favorite websites to see what's been added in the past several days. One of these websites happens to be Wretched Radio, hosted by Todd Friel, a guy who used to be a pastor, discovered he was a false convert, and now is a true convert who spends his time combating various heresies through the medium of the air waves. Being an unemployed almost-grad, I don't have the privilege to watch his show on t.v. or to subscribe online, but that's okay, because there are free goodies to be found there anyway.

Specifically, the 15-minute excerpt of the 2-hour daily radio show is something I've made a habit of watching. Here's the link to this Tuesday's episode: 

The Wretched Segment of the Day -- March 12, 2013

Now I'm going to proceed to give my two main thoughts on this episode.

1. They start out by mocking (a valid method of correction if done right) what I guess could be labeled as "mainstream Christian pop," by playing sections of the lyrics of popular songs that don't hold up to theological scrutiny. I recognized one of them from my own music album, so this hit home a bit for myself as well.

I didn't recognize all the songs, though "we say yes lord, yes lord, yes yes lord" were the lyrics on one, "I am a friend of God (x3), He calls me friend" was another, and then there was the disturbingly-too-much-like-a-romance-song "I love the way you hold me, whoa oh oh oh oh oh" that I heard on the radio a year or so ago. Catchy tunes, no doubt. But they hardly compare to these examples:

"Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me" -- The old worship hymn, Before the Throne of God Above

"I will not boast in any thing, not gifts nor power nor wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection." -- The hymn How Deep the Father's Love for Us

Notice a difference in terms of the theological 'meatiness' of the lyrics? Mmh hmm.

Mockery is supposed to be embarrassing when you realize that you or something you like is being mocked. That's how it motivates you to change your behavior if you're in the wrong. Assuming, of course, that the mockery is given in love and not intended to hurt more than your feelings. And I think Todd's mockery of these songs is well-intentioned, and effective.

That's why it was awkward for me to again notice that another one of the songs he mocked was the Newsboys rendition of "God's Not dead." Consider the lyrics: 

"My God's not dead He's surely alive
He's living on the inside
Roaring like a lion
He's roaring, roaring
Roaring like a lion (2x)"

Catchy tune, and it gets you pumped to blast it through your car speakers, but it doesn't have a solid theological message. At best, its message is emotional. So I acknowledge Todd's criticism, but I'll keep this one song in my album, and here's why:

I don't think Todd is saying that this music is evil or should not be listened to. I believe the concern is that when songs with watered-down lyrics like these make up the vast majority of music played over the radio, and when there are comparatively very few songs that exposit a Biblical truth, then those who are listening to this music are not being fed with good "soul food," if you will. They're getting candy for three meals a day and no vegetables. It can sure taste sweet to your ears to hear MercyMe sing "you're beautiful" to the tune of delightful guitar music, but if all you hear is about you and not about God, over time you'll develop a jaded impression. MercyMe's other song, "All of Creation" does more to exposit the change in the relationship we have with the Father because of the Cross. I have both in my music library. Some music just sounds good, and you're allowed to get your "fix" every once in a while. But our evaluation of whether Christian music is good Christian music should not be based on how it sounds, but on what it says. I think this is Todd's big push.

I happen to have a lot of "theologically meaty" songs in my collection, and hence I haven't been negatively affected by vague lyrics. It's a matter of balance, I believe. You can listen to "Draw Me Close To You" by Nicole Nordeman, which is a wonderful song and helps to emphasize that God should be all we want, and nothing else, but make sure to complement it with a song like "Children of God" by Third Day. Just like with real food, you've got to eat a balanced and healthy meal or you'll get sick to your stomach.

So ask yourself, is most of what I listen to wishy washy emotional music? Or do I listen to enough  solidly theological music ("Manifesto" by City Harmonic, for example) that I can listen to the other stuff without also washing down my own personal theology? 

As a general rule, consider: if a song can be sung by a muslim, mormon, catholic, Jew and jehovah's witness, as well as an 'Evangelical Christian,' then that music is not Christian music. It's far too vague to qualify. That doesn't mean Christians can't listen to it. But it's nothing special on its own.

I might suggest, too, that the more good theology you listen to, the less pleasant the wishy-washy stuff will become to you. I've found myself weighing the theological merits of a song before downloading it, more and more, recently. So I think Todd has a point. Surround yourself with "the good stuff" and it will improve your spiritual life.

If you want me to suggest further theologically sound music, beyond the tracks I've made mention of above, you can contact me through my email (or leave a comment below) and I'll be glad to offer you more suggestions if you want to spiff up your Christian music album.

2. Penn Jilette, in correcting Piers Morgan on what Catholics believe, gives glory to God

Towards the end of the Wretched podcast, Todd plays a clip of Penn Jilette, a famous atheist, on Piers Morgan's talk show. Piers is apparently Catholic (who knew?), but he questions many of the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Penn Jilette corrects him by pointing out that true Catholics have to believe everything the Pope says, because that is an article of the Catholic faith. Since Morgan wanted to question the Pope, Jilette pointed out to him that that was what Martin Luther started, when he said that he believed everyone had the right and ability to interpret the Bible themselves.

This reminds me of what Paul the apostle wrote in Philippians 1:

15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice."

I think we can rejoice that God saw fit to use a kindly atheist to correct a lapsed Roman Catholic and to point the entire viewing audience (in the hundreds of thousands?) to the fact that it is Protestant Christianity that asserts that everyone has the freedom to read the Bible on their own, to seek after truth.

There are many who are caught up in the false religious system of Roman Catholicism, which teaches many things that are contrary to the Bible. The fact that this exchange between Piers and Penn may give occasion for some Roman Catholics to question their supposed faith, and to read the Bible for themselves, is a cause for us all to rejoice.

~ Rak Chazak


  1. Great essay! Have you ever listened to Keith and Kristin Getty? Irish modern hymns truly in a league of their own. Give em a try!

  2. Should we be endulging to "get our fix" every once in a while? Or should we be striving to make edifying choices throughout the day?

    While I don't think it is outright sinful to listen to some of those songs (with anything, depends on your heart), I'm not sure the idea of "balancing" edifying and non-edifying (or "less" edifying) activities is sound.

    1. In update, I've never listened to "My God's Not Dead" again since this, and it's because the "roaring lion" imagery in the Bible is most strongly tied to sin and satan. I had to read my article again to make sure whether I said "get your fix" -- I suppose I used less than perfect language in that portion. I'd write it differently today. But contextually, I do make the case that what is of concern is what one's focus is when listening to music. It should be to meditate on the Word, not to look for clever beats. I am definitely not trying to defend poor choice.

      1. The balance I speak of is not of good v. bad but of high-density truth (see the hymns mentioned above, or Lecrae's Truth for example) with simpler songs that may set up to expound just one theme (Laura Story's Blessings, Andrew Peterson's No More Faith). As we all balance hard exercise with calmer activity, all balance work, school, and relationships, or more specifically: balance "getting to know" a person with "just being there" and bonding through physical presence without needing to explicate every detail of our relationship verbally at every moment, in a similar way there is value in meditating on God's beauty (Chris Tomlin's You Are Amazing God, or the Newsboys' In Wonder) which doesn't detract from the more intellectual and essential doctrinal aspects, while still being necessary as part of 'the whole counsel of God,' that we may be well rounded and neither hot-tempered or vainly spiritual from emphasizing one part of our spiritual growth over another.

      2. Someone is "allowed to have their fix" in something that isn't sinful, in a Christian-liberty sense. It doesn't mean it's wise or good, or the wisest or best. It just means it's not inherently wrong in itself. I think that's a valid point to make, and I did not want to major on it lest someone be encouraged to claim Christian liberty as license for stagnating in emotionalism.

      Hope this clarifies me -- There is no reason to engage in something "less edifying" by definition: but whereas engaging in witnessing edifies your confidence in your salvation (not to be confused with salvation itself, only your assurance), fellowship edifies you through encouragement that God is working beyond where you are, and study edifies your mind, a song which is "less edifying" than another in concentrating references to the doctrines of grace might be more edifying in the sense of emphasizing or elaborating on one Scriptural truth. Only in that sense does it make sense to engage in something 'lighter.' But there is no ying-yang false-religion philosophy in my thinking and you won't see me promote the idea that evil is inherently good/necessary in some sense of being required for cosmic balance. Don't worry. Thanks for your comment!