Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


In the current issue of Faith For All Of Life (January/February 2010) Martin Selbrede recommends Johann Sebastian Bach as a model for Christian excellence because Bach's music was composed in accord with the principles of the Biblical world view. Selbrede also warns that violating these principles leads to the composition of inferior music.

The article also warns us to be aware of two strategies which have been formulated by humanists vis-a-vis Bach. One of these, the obvious one, advocated by Christopher Small, is that of discrediting Bach and thereby removing him from competition. The other strategy, advocated by Susan McClary, is the co-optation of Bach to make it appear that he is on the side of the humanists!

Selbrede fails to mention that the co-optation strategy was already used forty years ago by Anton LaVey, who played Bach's music in the background of his notorious Church of Satan, which attracted a lot of attention back then. To appreciate the significance of that, you really had to hear it, as I did, on an audiotape made there by Westminster Theological Seminary professor C. John Miller as he interviewed LaVey. At first it sounded unbelievable -- why would a Satanist play Bach's music? Then the answer became clear -- he was doing it to associate his church with something majestic, something with real class so as to gain some credibility for himself and his view. Anyway, presumably this is the sort of thing meant by the co-optation strategy, which would redefine Bach as a champion for the humanistic world view.

Selbrede calls upon Christians to prevent this "illicit seizure of precious Christian capital". He also bewails the slothfulness of Christians for their failure to follow Bach in applying the Biblical world view to music. Although there may indeed be some slothfulness involved, I believe that the greater problem is the widespread erroneous notion that we must reach the world by using the kinds of music the world likes. So, instead of composing music in accord with the standards of excellence Bach used, we compose degenerate "music" like so-called "Christian Rock" because this stuff will be more popular.

This deplorable state of affairs is analogous to the degeneration which has occurred in the literary quality of contemporary Bible translations, as I pointed out recently in my review of Leland Ryken's latest book. We have become followers instead of leaders. Instead of the literary excellence of Luther's translation and of the KJV translation, which set the standard for excellence in German and in English and resulted in a burgeoning of great literature in those languages, the modern translators employ the mediocre language commonly in use today. The same principle is followed in music -- we give people the junk they like instead of following God's standards of excellence.

As long as this deplorable policy is followed we will not need to worry very much about the humanist enemy out there: the real enemy is the false thinking adopted by Christians, which makes us act like the enemy. Or, we could say of these compromisers, in the immortal words of that humorous cartoon, "With friends like this, who needs enemies??!!".

The only solution is the wielding of the Van Til Tool which highlights the radical antithesis between the Biblical philosophy of music and the humanist philosophy of music. There is no neutrality here, as is supposed by the popular notion that the only thing needed for a piece to be considered Christian is the words, and that the music is neutral. God cares about the music as well as the words. Amen!

For further reading on the importance of Bach I recommend the excellent book entitled Godel, Escher, Bach written by Douglas Hofstadter which recognized the genius of Bach and compared him with the genius of Kurt Godel, probably the most brilliant logician who ever lived.



Monday, January 11, 2010


In the current issue (January/Feburary 2010) of Faith For All Of Life on pages 19-22 Lee Duigon has written an article about the views of the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan which he aptly entitles "Messianic Secretary Calls For Messianic Schools", which indicates that R. J. Rushdoony's classic work The Messianic Character of American Education is even more relevant now than when it was first written.

Rushdoony was the Founder of The Chalcedon Foundation, which publishes Faith For All Of Life. Information is available on its website