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When Mary came to visit, Elizabeth's child leaped in her womb. Mary's spirit, too, jumped to a higher plane. In the inspired exchange between the cousins, the pregnant virgin sang a prophetic hymn of praise for God's salvation. In that ...

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Displaying 1–28 of 28 comments

David Van Lant

December 28, 2012  1:04am

"Think of 'Simple Living' as the musical equivalent of Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo's Red Letter Revolution." If "Simple Living" really is the musical equivalent of the so-called "Red-Letter Revolution," it might be better not to think of it all that much. The "Revolution" is a simplistic treatment of Jesus' sayings in light of His claims; namely that Moses wrote about Him and that He was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. This one falls somewhere below present imperfect.

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Claire Guest

December 26, 2012  12:55pm

Welby Warner, I agree and disagree with your comments. First, I agree that I misspoke when I used the word "most". I should have said "some". Second, I did say "I think" - I did not relate my thoughts as fact. Third, I realize now that my comment was a leap because I did not address what I believe to be the foundation of the attitude I mentioned. The reason for that leap is that I was typing in a hurry, was in the midst of a very busy day. Thus, I deleted that comment in hopes that I can post more lucidly. I took your suggestion and looked up "class warfare" in my big dictionary copyrighted 2000. It is not listed. Obviously, it was not in common usage then, has only become so in recent years. So I looked up a definition at a couple of online dictionaries and got this: "conflict between social or economic classes". That, of course, is a bare-bones, rather cut-and-dried academic definition, but it does give a general idea, also without mentioning any clarifying foundational issues.

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Claire Guest

December 26, 2012  1:40am

(cont'd) Based on what I've observed in recent years, I believe that Obama's "spread the wealth around" ideology has stirred up sentiment promoting the idea that what rich(er) people have should be taken away from them and given to those who are poor(er). This is also a brief description, but I believe it is accurate because I've been hearing people who advocate this ideology cite Robin Hood as inspiration (I've wondered at times if they realize Robin Hood was a fictional character). The reason I mentioned earlier the idea that government should take the place of the church in providing for the poor (something Christ Jesus never taught nor endorsed) is partly because I have read numerous comments at this site promoting this idea. A number of people here have taken Jesus' teachings and applied them to the government instead of the church. I realize this ideology has been preached in churches for years (at least since the mid-1900s), particularly by those who preach a "social gospel".

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Welby Warner

December 25, 2012  11:27am

@Claire Guest, you have attributed a concept about the meaning of "class warfare" to "most people", and I know no one, except for you, who actually believes that. It would be helpful to not attribute ideas that you have to others, or at least let us know where you got the idea from that "most people" believe that. It appears that you are making assumptions about what others believe without giving the source of your information, which can be misleading at times. I cannot imagine anyone who understands the function of the church in the world saying anything like that. Check the dictionary on what class warfare really means.

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Welby Warner

December 24, 2012  8:24am

I applaud the writings of David Neff with his focus on the words of the scriptures! My only lament is that he does not write often enough. Thank you, David, for your continued focus on following the Master. I have enjoyed your writings since you were at Inter-Varsity writing for His magazine.

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prem Kurian

December 23, 2012  11:32pm

Hats off to David Neff for pointing out what is clearly written in scripture but which most Christians tend to ignore. For those who consider this class warfare etc, my suggestion is that you take that up with Christ who made the statements which David Neff only quotes. I would like to add that nowhere else in this world other than in the US is talking about supporting the poor or giving to the poor seen as class warfare - especially by the Christian community.

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Jim Ricker

December 21, 2012  2:34pm

Injecting human-focused political stances into the Magnificant is just as wrong-headed and anti-biblical as doing it with any other section of the Scriptures. His words are the standard and not just words we're to use to push our political biases. The social gospel is just as evil as the prosperity gospel - both are bastardizations of the actual gospel.

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JAMES BRITT

December 21, 2012  7:06am

My initial reaction is defining the "one percent"--are not the working class in this nation even among the top "one percent" compared to most of the world? Why are we more worried about our cell phone or tv connections then the hungry, the homeless and the naked?

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Michael Constantine

December 21, 2012  2:46am

I seem to find a resonant chord in my heart to the tone of some other comments. Was the message of Jesus really the same as that of Occupy to the (so-called) one percent? Was he the first communist, or the founder of a Kingdom that eclipses all other ideologies and includes people from all strata of society? I understand the rich whom the Bible condemns as those who ignore the disadvantaged, build their own wealth at the cost of their integrity, and subvert justice with under-the-counter payoffs. They are financial bullies. But we all know rich people who are not like that. They give lavishly, as well as carefully. They maintain integrity. And they defend the disadvantaged. I know some like that and you do too.

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Hugh Wetmore

December 21, 2012  2:25am

I comment with approval on Neff's principled paradigm: "As a worship musician who tries to fine-tune what we sing with the Scriptures we read," as this is one of the most important principles by which I try to write many of my songs. I was affirmed in this commitment by Timothy Dudley-Smith's kind words in his Preface to my "Lyrics to Lift your Life" compilation when he wrote: "The strength of these songs and hymns lies in their faithfulness to Scripture (sometimes, as with Charles Wesley, a biblical reference is, or can be, set against every line of a text) ... I hope they become more widely known beyond South Africa." May I invite David Neff and any others with a similar commitment, to write to me at wetmore@singingtheword.co.za ?

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c k weaver

December 20, 2012  11:37pm

It always interests me when we warn against being rich. How many of us are not rich? That question can only be answered by the bar Jesus set, will you give up everything to follow Jesus?

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J Thomas

December 20, 2012  11:11pm

Very nice, Claire. Thanks for clarifying for everyone. As someone who has spent many an hour serving the poor where the rubber meets the road, I can attest to the Godliness and faithfulness of many fortunate individuals, many of whom used their positions of influence to allow an outreach center to exist...using their influence to push back against Progressives who did not want the poor coming to the downtown area where I lived and being served there. Without their obedience to God and commitment to the call on their lives to serve the poor, these folks would not be hearing the Gospel and having their needs met by people who pray with them and provide them council. Let's not vilify the fortunate. Who are you to judge them? Lets not encourage greed, covetousness, and jealousy among believers...rather lets encourage others to pursue the will of God.

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Claire Guest

December 20, 2012  9:41pm

May I humbly suggest that we do indeed misread the Magnificat when we take one phrase out of context, as was done here? Not only in the fact that Mary said MUCH more than this in this prophecy which was given to her by the Lord, but also because one must take into account all the Messianic prophecies given to (and by) the OT prophets too. There's a LOT more to this than the one phrase highlighted here.

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Claire Guest

December 20, 2012  9:40pm

Matthew 19:23 And Jesus said unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 And when the disciples heard it, they were astonished exceedingly, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 And Jesus looking upon them said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. NOTE the facts here: Christ Jesus did NOT say that rich men could NOT enter Heaven. He DID say "it is hard" for them to do so. NOTE the incredulity of the disciples -- "WHO then can be saved?" And NOTE Jesus' answer -- "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." R. G. LeTourneau was a rich businessman who loved God and people. He was active in ministry, gave 90% of his income to the Lord and lived off 10%. I highly recommend his autobiography: Mover of Men and Mountains.

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J Thomas

December 20, 2012  6:14pm

Mr. Allen is correct. The Social Gospel is simply worldliness masquerading as spirituality.

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Annie Weatherly-Barton

December 20, 2012  5:42pm

Well written Mr Neff. Well said Annie Kirby.

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Annie Weatherly-Barton

December 20, 2012  5:32pm

You shouldn't have to ask how much "rich" is. There is enough in the Gospels to explain what rich is and what poverty is. The Social Gospel? Why is it that folk use that term when something is said about wealth? You are speaking about Scriptural verses but that is not Biblical. I could of course point you in the direction of so many verses that deal with the rich reclining in their wealth whilst the poor have yokes on their backs too heavy for them to carry. Jesus spoke to the multitudes of poor people with compassion, understanding but had little kindness for the rich who thought nothing of anyone but themselves. OT is full of it and I would suggest you read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was rich in spiritual terms but poor in material terms. For one that tells us that our theology is askew, I find it that this kind of anti-poor theology very strange indeed. I think that this may be a serious case of needing to read the whole Bible not just the bits one likes.

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Grady Walton

December 20, 2012  5:06pm

Some Christians call it a Social Gospel with vitriol dripping from their tongues, but the reality is the Bible is full of cautions about accumulating excessive material wealth. I know that concept flies in the face of our American culture. I get that! But I can no longer look the other way and ignore the truth that our Lord had a special place in his heart for the poor, and he wasn't just talking about the spiritually poor. By the way, read Proverbs; it is full of admonitions to speak up for those who have no voice and pursue justice for the oppressed. The fact that there is even an argument on this demonstrates that the poison of avarice has likely infected too many churches . . . again. Gotta sign off now . . . need to check my IRA account.

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J HENRY ALLEN

December 20, 2012  5:04pm

I don't deny that Scripture condemns materialism, avarice, greed, etc. And I also don't deny that individual Christians and the Church corporate, in light of the eternal message of the gospel message, have the privilege of serving their neighbors in this world...Especially the poor. My objection to this article by Neff (and other rhetoric that I hear in evangelical circles) is the clearly political angle being taken. Neff deliberately invokes such rhetoric here (e.g. "the 1 percent" and "to borrow Occupy language"). The earlier, mainline/liberal Social Gospel movement clearly equated activism on behalf of the poor by the secular state (government) with their understanding of "the Kingdom of God." This made the Kingdom a this-worldly goal to be accomplished mostly by the passage of "socially just" political platforms (e.g. FDR's New Deal or LBJ's Great Society as supposed engines of Christ's kingdom). To oppose this misguided doctrine is not a symptom of "avarice infecting the Church."

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J HENRY ALLEN

December 20, 2012  4:19pm

Steve Weatherly-Barton says, " ...there is an exciting and refreshing tendency in the world of evangelicalism to look again at the whole of Scripture - not just the nice bits we evangelicals used to underline." The "used to underline" comment perfectly fits the profile of 19th-century, Finney-ite evangelicalism....And the subsequent taking up of that banner by Washington Gladden and the 20th-century mainline/liberal Protestant tradition. All of this is why I no longer identify myself as an "evangelical" by American cultural standards. I rather embrace the original meaning of the term...ala the "Evangelicals" of 16th-century Germany. American methodistical/pietist evangelicalism these days is mostly promoting the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch et al....And this is a false gospel....A gospel of this-worldly political activism. It is not from the Lord. I'll gladly fight against such nefarious false teaching with all of my efforts.

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Steve Weatherly-Barton

December 20, 2012  3:50pm

Quote above - "There's a scary trend that I see throughout the world of evangelicalism these days....I..e everything now comes back to the Social Gospel.". Well no, J Henry Allen, there is an exciting and refreshing tendency in the world of evangelicalism to look again at the whole of Scripture - not just the nice bits we evangelicals used to underline.

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JOHN

December 20, 2012  3:39pm

Just thinking that the rich are attacked (how do you define rich? ) Jesus was rich and became poor - the reversal of the rags to riches story....all through the Bible is the idea: God hates the proud (even if they are POOR) and is near the Broken hearted (even if they ARE RICH). I hate the social gospel. It's not THE GOSPEL. Check out 1 Corinthians 15 or Isaiah 53 in order to reboot your theology.

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J HENRY ALLEN

December 20, 2012  3:28pm

At my Advent church service last night, the congregation chanted the entire Magnificat as part of the liturgy (I'm a confessional Lutheran)...But I had no idea that I was actually chanting about class warfare and social injustice: Neff is supposed to be an intelligent guy....But give me a break! Misreading the Magnificat? So I guess the mainstream, historic focus on the "rich" as signifying the self-sufficient, stubborn, prideful world which refuses to acknowledge their sin and their corresponding need for the Savior soon to be born in Bethlehem.....And the "poor" as signifying those who in repentance mourn their sin and who give up their prideful, idolatrous reliance up themselves as pseudo-gods and who joyfully embrace the Savior born at Bethlehem....Well, I guess that was all just a titanic case of "misreading" the Scriptures. There's a scary trend that I see throughout the world of evangelicalism these days....I..e everything now comes back to the Social Gospel. Mainline Redux.

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Rick Dalbey

December 20, 2012  3:03pm

Amen J Thomas and Joseph R! Refreshing!

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J Thomas

December 20, 2012  1:14pm

Here's a bit of advice to the author...write your worship music for edification rather than for vilification. Infecting the church with the greed and hatred fomented in the Occupy movement is probably not the best idea.

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KEN BIBLE

December 20, 2012  12:59pm

Here's a link to a contemporary hymn that deals with the rich as a "we", not a "they". http://lnwhymns.com/products/hymns/292.htm

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JOSEPH RIBEIRO

December 20, 2012  12:16pm

True, the scriptures warn about the dangers of wealth just as it warns about thw dangers of being teachers of God's word .I however fear that it is the writer of this article who is misreading the magnificat. If any one wishes to take the "sending away of the rich" in a literal sense, such interpreters will have to think of Abraham, God's friend, I saac and Jacob , David, the man after God's own heart being sent away empty handed by God for they were EXCEEDINGLY RICH . There can be no argument whatsoever to sustain a position that God wanted his people in the OT to be rich and his people in the NT TO BE SCRAPPING FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL! If people imagine the rich man in Luke went to hell because he was rich while Lazarus was saved because he was poor they totally misunderstands the teachings of Jesus ,the apostles and the prohets.poverty does not commend us to God any more than riches can alienate us from him.our attitude towards God is the deciding factor.

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Annie Kirkby

December 20, 2012  11:23am

In the early 1900's Charles Villiers Stanford (who apparently wrote a setting of the Magnificat in every major key) wrote the best-ever music to this wonderful psalm--his most-popular Magnificat in G, which features an etheral boy soprano with robust adult choral backing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7UorDdRg60 The musical lines even give added emphasis to the phrase "and the rich....he has sent empty". Maybe our fear of the plain meaning of Scripture is a more recent phenomenon.

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