Wednesday, 9 September 2009

In Christ Alone (Townend/Getty)

On Stuart Townend, one of the song's composers, from Wiki: "As of 2008, CCLI lists the popular In Christ Alone in its Top 25 CCLI Songs list. In 2005, Cross Rhythms magazine described Townend as "one of the most significant songwriters in the whole international Christian music field". The Christian website commented that, "the uniqueness of Townend’s writing lies partly in its lyrical content. There is both a theological depth and poetic expression that some say is rare in today’s worship writing. Townend, son of a Church of England vicar in Halifax, West Yorkshire, was the youngest of four children. He studied literature at the University of Sussex. Townend started learning to play the piano at age 7. At the age of 13, he made a Christian commitment, and began songwriting at age 22."

Theoretically, I shouldn't like this song, but whenever I hear it "my heart is strangely warmed", to borrow a phrase. It is undeniably a powerful combination of words and music that few contemporary Christian composers could match. In one of the congregations I currently serve I've inherited a contemporary music group and we've introduced this into their repertoire.

Some of my conservative Lutheran friends may think I'm wavering in the cause, but the best of Anglican evangelicalism - theology, music, churchmanship - has had an influence on me ever since I returned to the grace of my baptism as an adult, remembering that I was raised in an Anglican milieu, my paternal grandfather was even the chairman of a Sydney Anglican congregation. Also, unlike in the American mid-west, in Australia Lutheranism is a minority position which cannot help but relate to stronger allies in other confessions.

The evangelical Anglicans are strong on scripture, justification and the atonement, but weak on the sacraments, where they often don't even measure up to the 39 Articles, and often uncertain on law & gospel, despite adequate resources to recover this key to scripture within their own tradition. I've made up for these shortcomings by reading Walther on law & gospel, while Sasse was my tutor on the sacraments and Pieper opened me up to classical Lutheran dogmatics. So, I suppose nowadays I take anything Anglican in through Lutheran eyes and ears. Hey, even Sasse admired the work of a young Dr J.I. Packer on the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture!

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