serving the nazarene

PC&D and the Trinity

I ran across an article a couple days ago about the Christian music industry, with a particularly unsettling discovery (on my part) about the group Phillips, Craig, & Dean. It’s gotten me thinking a bit.

Here’s a link to the article, which includes the discovery I mentioned. The bottom line of the article is the suggestion that the CCM industry (Contemporary Christian Music), and what is “Christian music” and what is not, is driven more by business considerations – namely, what makes money – than by any spiritual or doctrinal standard. The evidence of this fact given in this particular article is the difference between Sufjan Stevens and Phillips, Craig & Dean.

You see, Sufjan Stevens is not a “Christian artist.” His CD’s have been produced by mainstream labels. His agents and promoters are CCM outsiders. And yet his orthodox Christian theology is immediately recognizable in his music (Countless other examples could be offered, but this is the one the writer of the article chose.). He even has a soulful rendition of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (which you can check out at this link; don’t pay any attention to the goofy animal pictures – just listen to the music.).

Phillips, Craig & Dean, on the other hand, as you probably know, are highly successful and prominent artists within the CCM family. Unless you live under an evangelical rock or you can’t change your radio dial from KHCB, you’ve likely heard many of their songs, even if you didn’t realize it (“Crucified with Christ;” “I Want to Be Just Like You;” “Mercy Came Running;” “You Are God Alone” (which, I should add, they didn’t write), etc.). And now the discovery: They are modalists – which means they deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Each of the three men are pastors and music ministers in (different) Oneness Pentecostal churches, which teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit motifs are simply different “modes” in which the unipersonal God has revealed himself in various periods of history. In other words, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons comprising one unified Godhead – rather, they are each an alter ego (that’s my term, not theirs) of the one person who is God.

This is deeply troubling to me. Of course you won’t find the word “trinity” anywhere on the pages of holy Scripture, but its concept is nearly impossible to miss! Jesus prays to his Father. He says “I and the Father are one.” He tells the disciples that after he goes to heaven he will send them “another Comforter, who is with you and will be in you.” When he gives them the “Great Commission,” he tells the disciples to baptize people “in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (plural).” In the event of Jesus’ baptism, all three persons of the Trinity are seen performing separate tasks at the very same time. Is this unipersonal God of Oneness Pentecostals seriously delusional, or is something else happening here?

Add to this isolated issue the loads of sappy drivel that pass for Christian art these days, and I think we have a pretty substantial problem on our hands. After all, in one very real sense, this is the image of Christianity the world is receiving. Is this what we want to communicate? That we don’t really care that much about what people believe, and the closest we can come to art is to imitate what non-Christian artists are doing?

I don’t have good answers at the moment. Just those questions and concerns roaming about my mind. Perhaps some of you have thoughts to share. That’s what the comments are for.

Grace.

April 1, 2008 Posted by | theological pondering | 2 Comments