Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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General News

April 27, 2004

The New York Times reported this week that Christian music is “disproportionately popular” in the online filesharing services. For example, last month almost 350,000 people downloaded songs by Relient K and over 2 million people are offering Switchfoot songs. This is Gospel Music Association week in Nashville and apparently “high on the agenda [of the industry] will be the findings of a new online marketing study commissioned by the Gospel Music Association that suggests that Christian teenagers are nearly as likely to download unauthorized files as their non-Christian peers.” Experts suggest that Christian music is so popular because “fans want to collect every song, and because they can’t always find them at the mall.” The perceived scarcity of Christian music seems to convince people they have license to steal it.

Isn’t it just like Christians to stab other Christians in the back? You can say all you want about the record companies making most of the money, leaving very little for the artists, but the fact remains that downloading music is every bit as illegal as stealing a CD from the shelves of Best Buy. If you wouldn’t walk out of the store with a CD you did not pay for, why would you download it? The answer is obvious - no one can see you! It seems like an invisible, victimless crime.

Michael Janke at CMCentral.com has written an excellent article about The Hard Truth About File Sharing. If you are unsure what to believe about this issue, I suggest reading his article.

April 27, 2004

The Vatican recently released a new document entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum which deals with “certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist.” Matt Hall has commented briefly on this document. As is standard practice for the Roman Catholic Church, the document goes into minute detail, mentioning even standards for the freshness of the wine lest the mass be rendered invalid by sour wine.

James White has written about the document in a substantial article you can read here. You will have to scroll down a little bit to his entry from April 25. Here are some relevant quotes:

There was a day, not too long ago, when you could assume that just about every well-read, theologically concerned “evangelical” would read those words with nothing but utter disdain and deep sadness for anyone who would believe such teaching.

Such terminology has not only become foreign to our post-modern world, but, sadly, has become foreign to many who claim to be “Reformed” as well. “Popish sacrifice,” “abominably injurious,” “repugnant,” “cause of manifold superstitions” and “gross idolatries” are not phrases born of compromise or a spirit that finds anything in the source of such teachings a ground for “getting along” and “dialoguing” about our “perspectives.” Such descriptions assume that the truth about the sacrifice of Christ is knowable and known; that to pervert that truth is to separate oneself from the very gospel of Christ; and that to refuse to speak boldly in defense of the very death of Christ on the cross is to show oneself a friend of the world and an enemy of the faith.

April 27, 2004

Now I am no prude and still enjoy wasting a bit of time playing the occasional computer game, but I can’t deny that the genre does attract some disgusting games. The latest in a string of brutal games is Manhunt which has just recently been released across several gaming platforms. The premise of the game is that you have been released from prison by the director of snuff films, the only catch being that you must survive a night of killing people for him. Naturally the game emphasizes bloody and disgusting acts of violence as you kill more and more people.

One review says “The earlier levels make you rely exclusively on the usage of stealthy tactics and primitive weapons to slaughter your hunters, from pieces of broken glass to plastic bags. Later levels will introduce you to crowbars and baseball bats, and finally, to the big guns. Whether you are sneaking or shooting, Manhunt’s intuitive controls make it a joy to play.” It goes on point out one of the most immersive features in the game - “the height of awesomeness comes when you use the optional headset feature, as you can lure your prey to their crimson-soaked doom using the microphone, as well as hear the Director talking to you through the earpiece. It’s all very immersive, a bit unsettling, and downright fun.” One of the twisted features of the game is that the more style you use to kill a person - the more original the act of murder - the more points you score as it makes for a better snuff film.

Call me old-fashioned, but that is just sick. It is amazing and disheartening to see how people use the power of the computer - a tool that can be used for such good is so often used for such evil.

April 27, 2004

Well I guess by now you have already realized that this site has a whole new look. Many of you were helpful in giving comments when I gave a preview of the new design. I am quite excited about this one and believe it will serve the site well. I decided to highlight recent posts and recent comments since that will help people find some of the ongoing discussions. I have also kept a large area on the main and archive pages so I can use that to highlight other things (such as the Purpose Driven Life discussion that I have highlighted at the moment).

I believe things are fairly stable right now, though I still have lots of work to do. Unfortunately I do not have a lot of spare time this morning so may not get to some of it until later today. Things I need to fix still are: misc graphic issues, a couple of dead links and the main archive page. I’m sure other little things will pop up too.

April 26, 2004

This is the best news I’ve gotten all day! Derek Webb will be releasing his follow-up release to She Must And Shall Go Free on June 8. His first album is one of my top picks from 2003 and has quickly become one of my all-time favorite albums. So naturally I am quite excited to learn his sophmore album is coming out so soon. It sounds quite unusual actually. “this will be a ‘must-have’ record - a bare-bones music and teaching counterpart to Derek’s critically acclaimed debut record, “She Must And Shall Go Free.””

If you order now from Webb’s Web site you will receive the album two weeks before the release date and it will be signed by the artist.

April 26, 2004

I have always felt that Ultramatic, the company that sells electronic, adjustable beds, makes some of the worst commercials on television. Incidentally, it seems they also have one of the worst corporate Web sites on the Internet. For years their commercials were targeted at seniors – they had these awful ads which were supposed to be reminiscent of the “film noir” genre so popular in the past. A man hiding behind his fedora would carry on a conversation with an elderly lady and through terrible dialogue tell her the benefits of the Ultramatic bed. Then elderly spokesman Gordie Tapp would show up and tell us about the free catalogue and TV offer. You could call and receive their full-color catalogue to learn more about their product. If you purchased from them they would send you a crummy little 20” TV to watch from the comfort of your new bed.

The selling feature of the bed is that it is adjustable, so those who have trouble sleeping can now sleep in greater comfort. It was sold as a solution to all sorts of health problems. The target group for this bed was obviously seniors. Gordie Tapp’s appeal certainly would not extend beyond that age group as he is north of 80 and I doubt many people of my generation, or even the boomer generation, know who he is!

The other day I saw, for the first time, a new commercial for the Ultramatic. I was surprised to see that the commercial featured a young woman, probably about 30 years old, slinking around the bed in negligee. After extolling the virtues of the bed, listing all of its wonderful features, she finished by mentioning a contest in which the company was giving away free beds. She raised her eyebrow, mentioned the contest and said, “who knows…you might just get lucky.” She then put on her pouty lips and looked longingly into the camera. I found myself wishing for the days of the senior citizen film noir commercials! It turns out that commercial was part of a series using three or four similarly dressed ladies. I guess the company decided to change its marketing efforts, hoping to draw in a whole new generation of Ultramatic users!

I began to think about other marketing campaigns. Pepsi once called itself “The choice of the new generation,” though it turned out that the new generation still preferred Coke. I believe Pepsi has since gone through 10 or 12 mottoes and has now simplified, saying only “it’s the cola.” Other mottos I remember are “Generation next” and “The joy of Pepsi.” As the times changed, so did Pepsi, always reinventing the look of their product to keep it fresh in the minds of the target demographic. They had some of the world’s most famous celebrities endorse their product, targeting one generation after another. McDonald’s told us it was the place to go for food, folks and fun. Who knew that clogging your arteries could be fun? It also asked “did somebody say McDonalds?” and “have you had a break today?” They introduced grown-up happy meals that included a lottery ticket and have recently added a wide selection of healthy foods just to keep up with these healthier times.

The church seems to reinvent itself every few years too. Sometimes we seem to feel the need to change the songs we sing or even just the way we sing them. Other times we want to make even deeper changes – we get rid of the sermon and instead have a message. Before long the message might just be dumbed-down to a time of sharing. Elders and deacons go the way of the dinosaur, being replaced by pastoral teams and ushers. Prayer is removed because people find it boring and doctrine is replaced by felt needs. Jesus goes from being the One who saves from sin to the One who can be our best friend and help us live a happier life.

Through all of its mottos, the content Ultramatic adjustable bed has remained the same. It still has all the same health benefits, still adjusts to any number of positions and still comes with a cheap little 20 inch TV. The contents of a can of Pepsi are the same to today’s young people as they were back when it was the choice of a new generation – a generation that has grown up by now. McDonald’s, on the other hand, has changed its product many times. The past years have seen new types of meat, new oil to cook the fries in and new menu selections. While the sign on the front of the store is the same, the food is different. It may look the same, but it is clearly different.

I wonder if the church changes its product as well as its marketing. When the church seeks to reinvent itself to a new generation of unchurched people, does it just change the packaging, or does it change the content too? Have we gone from preaching a gospel of sin, condemnation and salvation to one of mistakes, sadness and comfort? Have we turned our Lord and Savior into the great big shoulder in sky, always there for us to cry on, but never condemning us, never indicting us for our sin? Have we allowed ourselves to go from being led by the Spirit to being driven by purpose?

In theory I do not think there is anything inherently evil with changing the packaging, provided it remains respectful and accurate. But if we begin to change the message to match the marketing, that is where we run into no end of problems…

April 25, 2004

It has been a while since I did a Blog of the Week but I thought I would carry on an old tradition today. I began BotW so I could highlight some of the other Christian bloggers whose writing I have come to appreciate. Discovering blogs has revolutionized the way I experience the world wide web - it has made the experience so much richer and deeper. I love reading what other believers have to say and prefer to hear from lay people than from the “professional Christians.”

I recently found Rebecca Writes and have enjoyed the site a lot. Proudly and solidly Reformed, Rebecca has recently written about The Effective Call, seeking the Lord and infant vs believer’s baptism. The site is updated just about every day and makes a good daily stop. Check it out and I am sure you will come to appreciate the site as much as I have.

April 24, 2004

I had my whole day planned out. I was going to start the day by taking the car over to Wal Mart for a quick oil change. As they were doing that I would head over to the in-store McDonalds, grab a quick breakfast and read the paper. Then I would head home and spend a bit of time playing with the kids - perhaps take them to the park for an hour or two. I would watch some of the first round action of the NFL draft over lunch and then in the afternoon I was going to spend a good two hours writing. If I was feeling ambitious I might even read for an hour.

It was not to be. Last night after we had eaten dinner my wife said “It’s not the last weekend in April, is it?” She checked the calendar, confirmed that it was indeed the last weekend in April and realized that she had a conference to attend today. And just like that my plans vanished in a puff of smoke. There would be no relaxing breakfast in McDonalds and there would be no time to write. I took the kids along to Wal Mart, the oil change turned into a $300 job (two new tires, fuel filters, etc) and my breakfast was anything but relaxing! Of course there would be plenty of time to spend with the kids today, so at least some good came out of it.

So…I hope to do some writing tomorrow to prepare for next week. I am planning on moving to the new site design in the near future as well, so next week could be a busy one!