Theology That Actually Knows Him For a Change

First off, I have to say I wrote the following late last night in a text editor. I don’t presently have internet at home, but I was stirred to stay up very late and get some of this stuff down. I’ll probably leave it raw as I originally wrote, instead of doing my normal dozen or more edits. This writing is mostly for my own personal growth and learning, and who knows if it’s valuable for anyone else. I simply need to “write down my ideas” as Mrs. McCormick would say – as I have learned it is necessary for my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I’m a fragile man, and I need this sort of process.

Here’s some links:

http://www.amazon.com/Shai-Linne/e/B001LHI0V2

http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/shai-linne/id166107762

http://lyricaltheology.blogspot.com/

http://www.myspace.com/shailinne

http://twitter.com/#!/shailinne

http://www.lampmode.com/artists/shai-linne/

I am proud to call Shai Linne “brother”, and my primary hope through someone reading this is that you will decide to buy his incredible album(s). After doing a quick search for an image of this impressive dude, I’m pleased to place a face with a name for the first time. Something about his appearance makes me glad I investigated. His face shines with the same energy that blasts through his lyrics. Yup, he’s surely authentic! So on with my stream of consciousness rambling already…

I hesitate to post a review of Shai Linne’s latest album release, “The Attributes of God”, for no reason other than the sense that my description will be very inadequate. I will attempt to use my words to express how my heart and mind feel about this album. After the messy cloud of letters spills onto the screen I will have said basically nothing. If anyone comes across this and reads a bit, the shortest way of expressing what I want to say is, “Buy the album”.

No joke. Everything I can possibly write will sound childish, as if I’m regurgitating what has already been said. I can’t form sentences that describe the depth of how I feel after having listened through the tracks several times today. Just know that if you purchase “The Attributes of God” by Shai Linne, the spiritual rewards available for you to reap are so plentiful that you might actually feel guilty for trying to find the cheapest format, be it CD or MP3 download. It is a masterpiece of epic proportion.

My good friend Dave lent his early purchase copy of “The Attributes of God” a couple days ago. He knew I would probably like it because the first time he let me borrow “The Atonement” by Shai Linne, and I immediately bought my own copy and raved about it for a long time. Though others might disagree (I can’t really see how this is possible, but we are all unique), I would argue this newest album easily eclipses the other.

Yes, as in Shai Linne’s “The Atonement”, “The Attributes of God” has an immediately recognizable Reformist Theology tinge or persuasion. I don’t wish to make it sound I am against this movement, because I really am not. I won’t necessarily outline if I agree with all the movement’s theological points because I think that is horribly unimportant.

I can say, however, that I have had a run in with a pretty large number of Reformist Theology ruffians through social networking. That exposure left a horribly bad taste in my mouth because the majority of these people exert what appears to me to be a desire to exert or prove oneself pridefully through off-putting pragmatism, rather than what might be called the “sweet and irresistible aroma” of what in my opinion is a sure evidence of the presence of the Spirit in Word and resulting action.

Sometimes these same well-meaning fellows (they are almost invariably men, often young) speak with such passion in their dogma that even the Scripture they claim to hold in high regard is tainted and profaned through these brothers’ use of raised tempers, words of hate, elitism, and even curses (yes, I’ve witnessed such :(). It makes me sad to see something so beautiful corrupted in application. I don’t understand how a high reverence for Truth could result in such a antithetical and prideful attitude. It is because of this pungent, flaming cloud surrounding many of Reformist Theology’s peon followers (the leaders tend to be more gracious from my observation), that I myself cannot with clear conscience blindly follow or jump on the bandwagon. Anything sourced in the Truth should also have visible manifestations of character that are in line with the very Truths, for example the fruit of the Spirit, humility, grace, and other Biblical virtues.

I do not deny the truth found in many of Reformist Theologians’ statements and what they think to be unique or enlightening angles. The very same are even valuable for faith, practice, assurance and discipleship – if employed properly. I highly respect the expressions and ideas that come straight from the Bible, but not those that are “mere” Calvinism, Reformist Theology, or any other named thing that seeks to claim equality or supremacy over the Word itself, or rather Himself. Such exaltation of men’s words is nothing short of idolatry. I don’t speak this way because I wish to exalt myself above these brothers. It is more a loving correction that I hope can be taken well. I cherish the faithfulness these brothers have to preservation of doctrinal truth. I just wish it could be done across the board in a more loving, and pardon the cliche, Christ-like manner (not that His holy Name can ever truly be cliche).

I realize this is a horrible tangent from the album review, but that’s how I write, and I feel it’s important background information for what I’m about to say. No one reads my blog anyway, so it doesn’t really matter how disjointed my writing is.

Back to Shai Linne. “The Atonement” had a very, very trace scent in my nose of that whole elitist, look at my revelation bent. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Shai Linne ever crossed the line that I spoke of above. In fact, I think he was incredibly judicious and wise in the way he applied his theology and wrote his songs. Amazing, in fact. But that earlier album did have a bit more of that whole Reformist aura (but in a generally good way, by my entirely subjective assessment).

“The Atonement” might have got a little sidetracked in its mission (to present Christ and His work as awesome as well as irresistible), but only a little. “The Attributes of God” didn’t do this at all. In fact, this second album is an absolute masterpiece. I’ve rarely encountered something more beautiful. I’m not exaggerating. This is my honest opinion, nothing held back.

Every aspect of “The Attributes of God” makes theology transparent, which in my opinion is genius. Theology is clinical and stale in its modern form. It’s just fancy words really. It’s stuff to stimulate the mind and make a person want to impress others with “higher understanding”. Not inherently bad, but shouldn’t be the goal. “The Attributes of God” offers some of the highest and purest theology I’ve ever seen. Just as true religion is not a list of does and don’ts, but rather faith, righteousness and charity in action… so too is theology not merely knowing OF God, but knowing the taste of His love and presence.

“The Attributes of God”, in every carefully crafted word, transported my heart and mind into the presence and love of God and His Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit present in the work. No, this album is not to be glorified as canon next to Scripture… but it cannot be denied that God was present in helping Shai Linne and his friends craft it. It’s too wonderful a work of art to be entirely of human conception. Shai Linne is careful to both take credit if it fails and give glory to God if it succeeds. And let me tell you, friends, it brings GLORY to God. Woah!

It’s kind of interesting. After listening to the whole thing several times I started making a mental list of things it does magnificently. Basically, you could say that I “reverse engineered” the mission statement of the album instinctively, without effort in doing so. I’ve never tried to do such a thing, it simply happened. All I was doing was describing to myself and thanking the Spirit directly how the songs blessed me.

Without going into great detail, this album ushered me into a higher love of God through a remembrance of all the core, powerful truths of His message and being. From the very first utterance I was literally in tears and almost transported to a different plain of reality. I’m not getting mystical, cuz that’s not how I roll. I’m just saying that the truths were so powerfully and concisely stated in the songs that I was completely blasted, losing sight of ordinary and mundane things. Kinda like the old song, “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of Your glory and grace” (one of my favorites, by the way, especially he Newsboys version).

I could go on and on about this, but the most interesting thing is that I’ve never seen anything meet its goals so well. I only know this because after making a mental list of the things this album “did to me”, I went back and read the CD insert. The first page is Shai’s statement about what he was trying to do. I was astounded that my mental list was nearly identical to his list of goals. I almost wish I would have written them down before I read his statement, because the resemblance was uncanny. Well done, man. I’m truly shocked at how you’ve been used in this production – as well as all others involved. The Spirit is present in your work.

A couple specifics:

Undoubtedly, my favorite song is the first track, “Perfection of Beauty”. It’s not even a song, really. I’d call it more of a poem, or perhaps prose. It is the most masterfully written and performed thing I’ve perhaps ever heard. I’ve listened to it several times, and each time from word one I’m transported into an emotional wreck I cannot describe. By wreck I mean crushed, convicted, and yet full of hope, joy and light. It’s something I’ve only experienced before when in close communion with the Spirit. It’s something I cannot reproduce by effort. He simply allows Himself to be encountered in unexpected ways, and this was one of those great times. I have a LOT to say about this first song, but I can’t bear to hear how many are my own words. I hope people will just listen to it and be graced in a similar way – or in a different but just as beautiful way to your own unique soul. Those that know me closely will probably understand why this song affects me so. Probably a different song, or “attribute of God” will speak strongly to you, because we are all so uniquely made. I’m happy and thankful for that! If you listen to the CD, I’d be very interested in hearing which song strikes you most and why. I love to learn from other’s personal impressions, experiences and insights.

What first struck me about the “Perfection of Beauty” track was the intonation of the words and phrases so beautifully uttered. What a stunning voice! Ironically, though this is a Shai Linne album, my favorite song is written and performed by Shai’s wife, Blair. There’s something magical about the way she communicates this concept of beauty. It is also somehow way more fitting to hear these words from a woman. It becomes more real and powerful. Yes, men could have similar thoughts I suppose. But women, who often struggle with attacks at their image, are SO in need to hear this song… and to hear it spoken by a woman breaks my heart and heals it at the exact same moment. Tears fill my eyes again just thinking about it. This song might very well be the closest thing I’ll ever witness to “beauty, personified”, except that moment when we actually see Jesus Himself. This song restores what is broken, as do all the songs. We have our misguided thoughts about God and His ways, and these songs remind us of those basic truths we all state… but forget to actually believe and act upon. Oh hope, that we can actually be impacted again by things that have become too common in our religious vocabulary. Experience them again fresh in this astounding album!

The other thing about this song that is kinda weird to say is that I hear the voice of a mother. I’m not going to exude much from that odd statement other than this: The voice I hear sounds like a mother who would love you and correct you in love, no matter what bad and difficult things happen to you as a child. Like the voice of someone you can admire, someone you can aspire to be like when you grow up. This is not necessarily detected in the words of the song (though perhaps that too), because that’s not so much the subject matter. It’s more the voice itself. The intonation, influx, passion and character of the syllables somehow communicate the care, compassion and nurturing spirit of not only a Spirit-filled woman of beauty, but the same who is or should be a mother. Curious by this unprecedented impression, I looked at Shai’s opening statement to find that he and Blair are newlyweds. Congratulations! (not that they’ll likely read this) I assume no kids yet. But let me tell you, I hope this impression is some sort of discernment delivery system… and if so, I’ll bet the couple will have a beautiful family – and that Blair will be an exemplary mother. I will pray to this effect, a blessing of sorts on this new family.

After that favorite track, I can’t necessarily say which is my second favorite. Each of them has “hit me” really hard/gently (like t’ai chi… grounded and powerful, yet simultaneously flowing and graceful). Sometimes I’ll notice something different that absolutely crushes and builds me, and next time through a different song will do it. Probably the most consistent for me is track 7, “Lord of Patience”. I am absolutely struck by this song, dumbfounded even. I don’t even know what to say. There are countless lines that are masterfully crafted and heart blasting. One of those lines is, ”

Ironically, there a couple “reactive” moments that are among the most strong lyrics. For example, some of the casual echoing “yes”s and “yeah”s are abnormally powerful (normally they can be obnoxiously overused to me… like Kirk Franklin’s “primary role” in many of his songs… sorry, Kirk! Brother!). Because the whole time you can’t help but say the same agreeing statements… or perhaps just “wow”. I’m a timid and quiet person, but I want to dance, shout and jump because it’s so ridiculous! “We truly need Your Holy Spirit!” “So patient, Lord!” “Why?!” “Help us!”(examples of echoes that strike me, wow! Um, power?). Another of those similar surprising moments is when a guy (Shai? not sure) starts laughing goofily. Normally it would seem out of place, but it is clearly just an authentic, inevitable reaction to the truths eloquently and worshipfully expressed… and the laugh is infectious! I smile, even laugh in joy when I hear it. Awesome.

Now some about the art form of choice. Hip hop. I don’t know CRAP about any music, much less hip hop. Seriously. I’m the least trendy, least hip and least educated person on earth when it comes to music (and fashion, and whatever else). I listen primarily to pretty old stuff. So it surprises me to be so struck by this form. Not that hip hop shouldn’t be respected. Much the opposite. In fact, from cursory observation I’d argue it is one of the highest literary art forms known to man. If you think differently, I think you can be convinced otherwise, especially if you listen to people like Shai Linne.

Seriously, the rhythms, meter, rhymes, word pictures, advanced structures potentially utilized in hip hop? I’m not even joking or exaggerating when I say these are considerably more advanced than most poetry, prose, song-writing, literature, whatever written form, whatever age of human history. Basically think of an advanced drum solo. All those hits perfectly timed. Replace each of those detailed taps with syllables and sentences that flow and have deep meaning? I studied basic English in school like everyone else. Boring “famous” poetry, even Shakespeare with his advanced structures… I wouldn’t put hip hop below any of that. None of those fogies could scratch the surface of what is done by wordsmiths like a few select hip hop artists.

I’ve done a fair amount of writing myself. It’s all crap compared to most, but I’ve written poetry and other junk. It takes a lot of skill to keep a consistent beat, rhyme and other mechanics. Most of the time you find yourself having to throw in some dumb phrase or word just to keep it going, and you feel like you just graduated from preschool when you read it back to yourself… and you slam your face against the wall in shame until you shred the piece of paper or burn it so no one finds the evidence. The thing about Shai’s hip hop mastery… it reads straight through like flawless sentences, but not just regular ones. No, each line is stunning. Many are straight Scriptures or adaptions of the same truths. It’s nuts to be able to combine all those elements. It’s an astounding talent that should be revered. But of course to God be the glory!

I can’t say how many times I heard a line in these tracks and said, “WOW!” or “I can’t believe I just heard that!” or simply dropped my jaw helplessly. Such is the art form of well executed hip hop poetry. It really should be revered not downplayed.

Unfortunately hip hop has a bad rap (pun intended), and rightfully so. Even Shai or other Christian meter masters would admit their secular counterparts construct some pretty filthy and violent lines. The majority of this style of music attracts musicians who sing about sex, violence, cursing every other word. It’s offensive. I can’t even bear to listen to 15 seconds of it in fact. But when the skills are redeemed by those with higher skills AND Spirit power… you get something amazing. A true art form. I think even an old person could analyze the literary quality and agree fully… even start grooving to it like lame ole me!

I actually scanned the pages of the CD insert, traced them to vector, and printed them really small on my laser printer… to fit in my journal. I want to write more about it, but not bore you all with it. But it would be very profitable to reflect more on this stuff. It’s amazing. I also like to record life-altering writings like this so I can look back later and remember when/why I started growing and learning… and re-experience some of it when I later get rigid, cold and forgetful of spiritual things. It inevitably happens 🙁 I hate the human nature of flesh. I cannot make myself care or respond sometimes, no matter how much my spirit wants to break free to love the Lord of Hosts and give all my energies toward His call.

K, it’s getting late, and my writing is getting even worse… if that is even possible. I’m massively tired. I wanted to write a TON of other stuff, but my mind is barely grasping consciousness.

One of the other things I wanted to mention… now in sloppy note form… is that this album is one of the most concise presentations of the Gospel and general overview of the Word I’ve ever seen. It’s not “better” than Scripture by any means. But it takes a lot of the most powerful meat and condenses it in poetry form. Wow. It might even help me figure out how to share the things I have literally hidden in my heart and can never recall with nervous, stuttering lips, when I want to share the love I know with others… to my shame. Hopefully this can give me one step in the right direction… all because of the faithfulness of a highly respected brother in Christ.

contacts fusing to eyes… zzzzz….

7 thoughts on “Theology That Actually Knows Him For a Change”

  1. There was a place up in my post where I was trying to find a line from one of the songs. I thought the line I was remembering was from the Patience song, but it turns out it was from “Mercy and Grace”.

    Here it is. Can you appreciate the beauty and weight of this craft? So much theological transforming power and eye draining zing, I can’t even believe it:

    “When I speak of God’s mercy, I’m speaking of His tendency
    To tenderly express empathy towards His enemies”

    Seriously? WOW.

    I paid for and downloaded the MP3 version of the album. This is why it was hard for me to find the line. I was too tired to keep searching. Though every song is chock-full of this amazing stuff!

    Anyway, I just did a search and found that Shai Linne generously posts the lyrics to all his songs on his blog. Crazy cool! Here are quick links for you to review the songs of the album I described, “The Attributes of God”. Even if you read them, you’ll probably be impressed. But you should seriously just go buy the album because the presentation, emotion and spirit added in the performance makes the mere words pale.

    Perfection of Beauty
    The Glory of God
    Taste and See
    Our God Is In The Heavens
    The Holiness of God (Reprise)
    Mercy and Grace
    Lord of Patience
    All-Consuming Fire
    Perfect Love
    Faithful God
    Judge of All The Earth
    The Jealous One
    The Omnis
    Self-Sufficiency
    Triune Praise (Remix)

  2. hehehe … you have to know I would read it (in its entirety), but then I am pretty much a “nobody” in the world’s scope. Thankfully, God’s love encompasses me and I totally feel like a SOMEBODY !! 🙂 Wow. Good stuff.

    Sure makes me want to get the album!

    How much is the MP3 “version”?

    I just noticed you posted on the 8th also. I guess I haven’t gone online for a few days; only e-mail and skype.

  3. I’m not sure much is more awesome than the thought of my own mom grooving to some hip hop music! Maybe the only thing better would be watching Grandma or Nana enjoying it! Ha!

    The funny thing is, it’s really a mindset issue. People picture big ole gangstas with bad reputations and the whole questionable subculture. But in reality, much of hip hop is brilliant poetry with a modern urban delivery, container or style. The way the words are spoken in my opinion is not “rebellious” or “subversive”, but rather quite beautiful and a display of shocking linguistic skill.

    So yeah, if you are willing to try it out, here’s a pretty cheap buy. $7.99 for the whole 15 track album! You got to use headphones and rock it up to consume all background noise. Oh yeah!

    http://holyculture.net/products-page/east-coast/shai-linne-the-attributes-of-god/

  4. I guarantee you would FULLY appreciate track 1, even if the hip groove of the rest of the songs is too much for you to handle (though I think you can adapt and love those too!). The first track is simply a beautiful woman’s voice passionately expounding amazing truth in poetic form.

  5. And by the way, you ARE somebody. You know all the people who appreciate you. But even that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that your best friend is God of all creation. We might have to tolerate feeling like nothing for a short while – because our fleshly minds, eyes and ears don’t fully “GET” the magnitude of the One who loves us and claims us.

    When we get to see Him, we’ll be SO GLAD we focused on being known in Him rather than being considered famous by many people in the world. Many who are famous and rich now will have their role absolutely reversed when they face God, and none of what they acquired in this world will avail them anything… instead, these very things will accuse and condemn them. I don’t wish this on them one bit. I’d prefer they, like Shai Linne, can be famous and have some worth AND follow God and spread the fame of the only One who matters! Jesus.

  6. Not sure how I cam across your blog but, dude, I totally agree & can’t praise The Attributes of God enough. After ripping through the CD & finding the “hot” tracks, the ones that are bangin’, speaking strictly of the amazing beats, I camped out on Self-Sufficiency & ignored the rest of the album that day. Not only does this track have an amazing beat but it masterfully describes the nature of God’s self-sufficiency.

    God’s eternality is, after all, the root of the creation vs. evolution debate. My favorite line: “How we love this profound discussion / That God made all things out of nothing! / Ex Nihilo! / How may tools did You use to create? Yup, it’s zero bro!”

    Ex nihilo, Latin for “out of nothing.” God created out of nothing… He SPOKE the universe into existence. “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:9)

    Funny thing is my favorite song on the album is not by Shai, but by a white dude named Timothy Brindle. Dude has amazing lyrical skills & voice.

    Second favorite track: Taste & See. The beat is off the charts, something like a hit single that remains on the Billboard Top 10 for weeks! I love this song.

    Triune Praise caused me to weep & break out in adoration. Three verses on this track, each describing the work of salvation in each Person of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Son, & Spirit. Powerful. I’ve read great books & commentary from skilled theologians about this profound mystery, but none have driven me to worship our God like this song.

    After being mesmerized by the artistic construction & beautiful composition of the album, each song spoke to me in a profound way. Theology on beats. Much, much more I could say but I’ll stop rambling on your blog now.

    One more thing that is worth mentioning… I bought the album online on Lampmode Records; they have various options. I got the “Ph.D” (The Attributes of God CD + book + instrumentals & acapellas) – my order arrived in the mail with my favorite Laffy Taffy inside (banana flavor), a sample packet of black tea, & a “Do You Know Him?” sticker. I’m currently reading The Attributes of God book by AW Pink that also came with my order.

    Thoroughly impressed by Shai’s ministry & I pray the Lord of Hosts continue to bless richly, him & everybody who listens to his music.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Alex. Great observations. It truly is amazing how rich the lyrics are on this album. My best friend is the one who let me borrow his album. He also got the Laffy Taffy and tea in his package. Totally and random genius! If I had a shipping company I’d totally pack random goodies with the shipments!

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