Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Cross, Glory, and 80's "Christian" Rock

If you had the privilege of being a Christian in the 1980's, and if you found most of that era's Christian rock deplorable (with the possible exception of the Altar Boys), then my guess is that there were two "secular" bands that you desperately tried to convince yourself were actually Christian in order to appease your conscience.

Those bands were U2 and The Alarm.

As an avid fan of both, I remember it being easier to make the case for The Alarm's Christianity than for U2's. After all, they were so blatant, confident, and outspoken about their faith. They sang things like, "When the nails are biting into your hands, and the cross is heavy on your heart, now's the time to really make a stand," or in their ode to the devil they sang, "You are the Deceiver, you are not welcome in my life, and I will break your hold."

U2 on the other hand? Well, they were somewhat less convincing: "You broke the bonds and You loosed the chains, carried the cross and all my shame... but yes, I'm still running. For I still haven't found what I'm looking for." Not exactly the confidence I was hoping for. Or consider this line: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow, yet I will fear no evil. I have cursed Thy rod and staff, they no longer comfort me. Love, rescue me."

And remember, this was before the 90's when Bono left his Father's kingdom "by the back door, and threw away the key."

But looking back now from a more mature and educated perspective, my diagnosis has flip-flopped. Having come to understand Luther's distinction between the "theology of glory" and the "theology of the cross," it would appear that the spiritual doubts expressed by Bono were never doubts about God's existence or his ability to save, but doubts about his own ability to hang on to God's hand: "I try to stand up, but I can't find my feet. I try to speak up, but only in You I'm complete." Bono has never thought very highly of his own Christianity, but he certainly thinks highly of the Christ in whom he has professed faith for the last 25 years.

In short, I think the music of The Alarm and U2 furnish us with a perfect illustration of the difference between the theologies of glory and the cross, respectively.

And what's more, since the theology of glory is more consistent with postmillennial eschatology while the theology of the cross is more consistent with amillennialism, it is only fitting that a Two Kingdoms advocate such as I would still be a die-hard U2 fan after all these years.

The Alarm's still great, but my own sinfulness requires that I be reminded every few days that "Grace... travels outside of Karma."

And thank God....