Something nice about Evangelicalism?!

[W]hen people whose parents loved them and expressed that love, cared for them and prayed for them, encouraged them in goodness and consoled them when they were hurt, tell me that their upbringing was terrible because those same parents were legalists and fundamentalists, well … let’s just say that I have a somewhat different perspective. I am not referring, of course, to those who suffered genuine abuse, and I see how abuse done in the name of God can be especially traumatizing. But those whose parents were merely legalistic and moralistic, narrow in their views, suspicious of mainstream culture, strict about movies and music — sure, all that’s not cool. But it could have been so, so much worse.

To those people, I say: While you’re rejoicing in your discovery of a more gracious and merciful God than your parents taught you to believe in — which is indeed something to rejoice in! — try to extend to them some of the same grace and mercy that you’ve received. And while duly noting what they failed to teach you, seek to have some gratitude for what they managed to provide. It was more and better than a lot of us get.

Alan Jacobs

Yes, I blogged about another part of this little essay recently, but in my haste to engage with Hannah Anderson’s claim, I had failed to engage Alan Jacobs’ reflection on it.

Then I decided that my thoughts could be a good stand-alone Sunday posting.

It occurred to me that one seed that eventually bore Orthodox fruit, may well have been the (inconsistent, but frequently) solid hymnody in the church of my youth and childhood.

Above all others, I remember this (which we could count on singing as the opening hymn every time a particular Purdue Professor (the late Paul Stanley) was picking the hymns:

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Maybe I could find fault if I fly-specked it, but I’m not even going to try.

Apart from that, a hymn I adored, but we rarely sang, was Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Apparently, it is an Advent hymn in whatever corners of Western Christendom still know it, and from the words, that’s understandable:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand.
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descending
comes, our homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of heaven now incarnate
in the body and the blood,
he will give to all the faithful
his own self for heav’nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
streams before him on the way,
as the Light of light descending
from the realms of endless day
comes, that pow’rs of hell may vanish,
as the shadows pass away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the Presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”

But it is extremely ancient, dating back to the Liturgy of St. James, and sung in solemn Byzantine chant — and is appointed in Orthodox Churches of my acquaintance not for Advent, but for Great and Holy Saturday, where it surely is predicated on Christ’s descent into Hades and Harrowing of Hell, alluded to in the third verse.

Such hymnody captured the imagination of this no-longer-young man, but it’s my impression that you’ll have an exceedingly hard time finding either of these in any Evangelical Church today. For that, you’ll need to go to some "high" (and yes, disconcertingly liberal) church like the Episcopal Church. (And that insight made me understand how some Evangelicals might end up in liberal "high" Churches: they can ignore the doctrinal laxity of Episcopalianism, but not the debased worship in most of Evangelicalism.)

Or come to the Orthodox Church, where hymnody is held in such regard that several hymnographers are canonized Saints.

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.