H&S: T. David Gordon

A very special H&S has now come and gone. T. David Gordon was his typical incisive self, and gave a very thought-provoking overview of his book Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. A little different format than usual, the main course kind of blended straight into the Q&A, so I left it as just a single .mp3:

  • Download (15mb) (previously corrupt, it should be better now, please drop a comment below if you have problems)

If you want to read some more, there’s a ton of great material on Dr. Gordon’s website, especially the articles on the Media Ecology and Theology tabs (note in particular the articles about Worship). Also, if you want to hear more on Gordon’s views on worship, I highly recommend this four-lecture series: Reformed Worship in the Electronic Age (and of course, you can’t go wrong with either of his popular books, Why Johnny Can’t Preach, and the sequel Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns!)

And some more audio from Dr. Gordon’s same trip. Thursday he lectured at WSCAL, Friday he lectured at the Cambridge School Parent Academy, Saturday he was with us, and Sunday he preached at Christ URC, Santee.

Here is my introduction:

If you were diagnosed with cancer, and a 25% chance of survival, what would you want to say to the world? Tonight’s speaker, T. David Gordon, was faced with just that question, and the result was the remarkable little book Why Johnny Can’t Preach: How the Media have Shaped the Messengers. With clarity and urgency, Gordon diagnoses the cancer that has reduced the landscape of contemporary homiletics to a wasteland, and even offers an effective cure, which if I can oversimplify, boils down to three elements: learn to read (to deeply engage texts of all kinds: sacred and secular), learn to write (to retrain the mind into the habit of composition), and preach Christ (resolve, like Paul, to know nothing but Christ and him crucified). Every preacher should read this book. Moreover, every Christian should read this book, to learn what preaching should be, and to encourage and pray for their pastors to attain to it. (Incidentally, you can’t imagine the pressure I am under, trying to compose a text to introduce a man who wrote a book lamenting the scarcity of the craft of composing text)

(Anyways), thanks to God’s smiling providence, Dr. Gordon survived, to turn his critical attention to the state of worship music in the church today, in the book about which he will speak tonight, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal.

At this point, I could bore you with a litany of Dr. Gordon’s scholarly achievements, publications, and positions; but such biographical data is readily available online, and I would much rather allow more time for Dr. Gordon to speak, than waste anymore myself. So please join me in welcoming Dr. T. David Gordon.

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14 Responses

  1. I attended the event tonight for the first time. (Re: “Why Johnny Can’t sing the Hymns: How Pop culture rewrote the hymnal”) on April 14, 2012.

    Regarding the event tonight as it pertains specifically to our Host:

    Rule #1 – Make sure you and the keynote speaker are on the same page in terms of time of the event. Don’t assume. (courtesy follow up phone call a day or 2 before as a general rule)

    Rule #2 – Don’t embarrass your keynote speaker as he is walking up the driveway and saying he is “finally” here over the mic. I mean C’mon, the guy already I’m sure feels bad he was considerably late. Show a little sensitivity to the already obvious by not highlighting it.

    Rule #3 – Don’t talk while the keynote speaker is talking. If you need to talk to someone that badly, move away from the driveway to another location so we don’t have to listen to the host talking in the driveway and the keynote speaker at the same time. (this happened toward the beginning of the keynote speaker’s remarks)

    Regarding the keynote speaker:

    – I actually appreciated some of his content and his argument of this notion that the melody of the hymn has a very powerful role in our hymn singing. It plays a crucial role in bringing out the emotional content of the hymn. There is something to be said about a congruency of thought and emotion relating to the music and text. They need to work together to accomplish a “powerful” expression in our hymn singing. Thanks for highlighting this specific point tonight.

    – I thought the keynote speaker could be a little more animated or simply engaging behind the mic. I would have liked to heard a little more passion in your voice regarding your convictions/thoughts on this subject matter. Was I expecting something in the order of a moving Charles Spurgeon speech? “No”. However I felt like I was attending a classroom lecture much of the time when reflecting on the overall presentation.

    Final Thoughts:

    – When you have a keynote speaker who arrives considerably late (regardless of who’s fault it is) the result is a keynote speaker who has to cram a lot of information in his speech in a very short amount of time which is what happened. Maybe this is an anomaly in terms of the lateness of a keynote speaker to a “Hoagies & Stoagies” event, but to someone who is evaluating whether to come back again it does factor into my thinking.

    Lastly – Invest in some natural gas stainless steel patio heaters. I was freezing my butt off even though I was dressed like an eskimo on a spring evening in Spring Valley. (obviously, maybe not too realistic but I thought I would throw that in there)

    Event Grade = C+
    (nothing personal, just call it as I see it; if you find anything in my remarks helpful, great. If not, Mr. Blog Administrator, please feel free to hit the “delete” button.)

    And to the very few of you who are reading this: if you were wondering, I am not some old man with an ax to grind trying to point all the “negatives”. Overall, I like the concept of “Hoagies & Stoagies” and have only good wishes that this event will flourish for the future.

    Soli Deo gloria!

    • Joe,

      Thanks for your feedback. As organizer and moderator, I do apologize and take responsibility for failing to make sure we were all on the same page wrt time. And you are correct, as soon as the word “finally” came out of my mouth over the mic I regretted it; it was ungracious. And I apologize also for being distracting over on the side.

      Anyways, I am glad you were able to savor some wheat despite the chaff. Please check out all of the recordings of past events, most of which went a lot smoother! And I hope you’ll come back out and enjoy H&S at its best!

  2. I, too, attended for the first time and had a different impression than this other “Joe.” There were a lot more people in attendance than I had expected, so I think the hosts are to be commended for their work as I am sure it was not easy to put it all together. Dr. Gordon’s lecture was fascinating, and he is to be commended for his willingness to come all the way out here to speak to us. And, there was a silver lining with the delay in his presentation which afforded (me anyway) an opportunity to reacquaint with some old friends and even meet new ones. Thank you for coming up with this fun and interesting concept. I look forward to coming to your future events.

    • I’m glad you stopped by to leave a positive review; even though the other Joe raises many valid criticisms, I don’t want anybody to get the impression that the night was an unmitigated disaster; on the net I think most of the guys went home edified despite my organizational snafus.

      It was good to meet you Joe, I look forward to seeing you at many future H&S!

  3. Thank you for organizing this excellent event. Dr Gordon’s talk was very interesting, making several fascinating observations. However, having read his book and now heard him lecture on the content of his book, I still think he misses the real reason for the clamoring for contemporary worship styles, viz. the evisceration and abandonment of the liturgy. There is a theology of worship (not style) at play with the divine liturgy. Liturgical components such as the Kyrie, Sanctus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, etc., and their plain song or chant forms set the ethos, mood, and theological horizon of dialogical expectation for the divine service or mass. With their loss, there are no liturgical boundaries other than that which is logocentric (the order of service). The music and to some degree its content become peripheral. It is actually the liturgy that sensibly preserves hymnody. The dissonance that one feels during the divine service when contemporary music is incorporated is due to the lack of a liturgical frame or, worse, when there actually is one.

    • Thanks for dropping by John, I think that is an important observation. If you look at the liturgy-free (or rather extremely low-liturgy, as no church can be liturgy-free anymore than any person can be presupposition-free) churches out there, there is actually no clash, because their music is trite, which fits perfectly with trite lyrics and trite liturgy. (The only clash would be with the grandeur of the content of the Bible, but contemporary “preachers” obscure that pretty well too, see Why Johnny Can’t Preach…)

      So it would actually create clash to introduce appropriately paired hymn lyrics and tunes into an anti-liturgical context where they don’t fit.

  4. […] it is necessary for me to revise the T. David Gordon hymnal. Due to some discussion coming out of Hoagies & Stogies, I have some new information that casts a different light on The List, the 150 hymns that survived […]

  5. “Magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt His Name together” – “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”!

  6. No, just a spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm… Sorry… As you were…

  7. Maybe we could add this one to the Gordon hymn book.

  8. Worthy is the Lamb, Seated on the throne… HALLELUJAH! Give Him praise. Magnify the crucified Savior with us!

  9. Not bad, I’m not sure how TDG would rate that. The words are ok, he’d probably object to the tune’s syncopation. I don’t see the need for a superstar singer to glorify himself with a mic above the congregation.

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