Play It Again, God

Years ago, I was part of the editorial team for a magazine published by a conservative Christian organization. Because the organization’s name was on the masthead, its reputation was linked with the ideas and authors that appeared within the magazine’s pages. Some of our readers were also donors who occasionally complained when an author’s pedigree or the nature of the ideas expressed did not appear to conform to the organization’s distinctive theological perspective.

The result was a kind of predictability. Some of my friends joked that our slogan should be “The magazine you don’t have to read to know what it is going to say.”

Writers, like composers and other artists, are chided if they repeat themselves too much. Especially today, novelty is prized above nearly all else when it comes to creative expression.

But to focus too much on originality misses a fundamental principle of what enables originality in the first place: namely, the fundamentals. It’s why top-tier cellists still practice hours of scales and other technical exercises, why Michael Jordan practiced free throws until he could shoot them with his eyes closed. Only in the confidence built through endless repetition are great performers free to improvise melodies or dazzle on offense in ways that showcase their unique, individual giftings.

Where faith is concerned, repetition is also a virtue. This is precisely what Scripture demands of the church. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the apostle commands: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

In the Greek, the idea is that we should “all say the same thing.” This language, drawn from the political realm, does not call for us to speak in unison so much as it calls for harmony through agreement with the truth. There are certain fundamentals of the faith, and we are to work together to internalize them, to reinforce them, if the church is to have its full effect on the wider world.

In an age that celebrates diversity, that might seem like a handicap. But it would hardly be a new corrective. In Letters to Malcolm, C. S. Lewis complained that churches in his day were overly interested in innovation. “I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it,” Lewis said. “And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.”

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

One thought on “Play It Again, God

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: