Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Paradox of Freedom

Card.jpgMichael Card, known mostly for his lyrics and music and concerts (and one of my favorite Christian musicians), has explored how it is that Christians find freedom. And what he has discovered is that freedom comes through slavery, which is the subject of his new book: A Better Freedom: Finding Life As Slaves of Christ

Can’t resist: What’s your favorite Michael Card song? Your favorite lyric? 
What I have liked most about Card over the years is his study of Scripture that leads to lyrics rooted in a biblical imagination. What I like about this book is that it deftly handles what the Bible says, what is known about slavery in the ancient world, and how the image of slavery to Christ is the most liberating message the early Christians used for new life in Christ. 
Who could read this book? I recommend it for college students and Sunday School classes and for pastors who could do a 3-4 week series on the image of slavery as the paradoxical image of freedom.
There is here then a liberation theology, but it’s a liberation theology rooted in the notion of becoming a slave to Christ — and that is the heart of the early Christian theme of liberation. It’s not just liberation from, but liberation to — to God, to Christ, to a live of loving service to others. Freedom in the NT is seen in the image of a basin and a towel.
Now a bonus: Michael Card’s book is laced up with themes from African American slavery, a lens that anyone in America must (or should) wear — and Michael Card’s own experience in African American churches gives the whole book a concrete reality that few can have. I’ve read books by singers before; I’ve read books by Christian singers — and most of them were published because the person was known. This book deserves to be published, even if Michael Card is known as a Christian musician. It’s that good. He knows his sources, the facts, and he knows how to put it all together in a compelling book.
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Clint W

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:39 am

“God’s Own Fool,” from Scandalon, 1985
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well

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John C

posted September 30, 2009 at 4:43 am

Thanks for highlighting this one, Scot – looks good. I’ll be interested to see how Michael Card handles African-American perspectives. Does he address the fact that black slaves (like MLK) read Exodus as a political story of liberation from slavery (not simply as a foreshadowing of our spiritual deliverance by Christ)? From what I can tell he doesn’t engage with liberation theologians. Is it possible to combine the NT (and Exodus) emphasis on freedom as service to Yahweh/Christ with the idea that God works within history to liberate people from earthly bondage?

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Your Name

posted September 30, 2009 at 7:37 am

Could it be You make Your presence known
so often by Your absence?
Could it be that questions tell us more
than answers ever do?
Could it be that You would really rather die
than live without us?
Could it be the only answer that means anything
is You?
I love, love, love Michael Card’s lyrics.
I look forward to his book.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 7:38 am

3 = Alice

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posted September 30, 2009 at 7:50 am

Ok, at risk of exposure – I have never, to my knowledge, listened to Michael Card’s music. Suppose I wish to start – what is the best album or song?

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posted September 30, 2009 at 7:57 am

I am a long time Michael Card fan and will get to this book soon. I also recommend “Unveiled Hope”. It is an un-hyped, sensible, devotional look at the book of Revelation.
Michael is in a class by himself in the sea of pretty-faced, shallow CCM artists. A breath of fresh air indeed.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 30, 2009 at 8:14 am

The theme, of course, is different: slavery to Christ brings genuine freedom, and is slightly different than being liberated in a holistic way. What I see in Card is an emphasis on freedom in Christ through slavery to Christ that the fuller implications at the social level are not explored.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

what does that look like?

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posted September 30, 2009 at 9:36 am

I’m a big fan of Michael Card’s older music. Scandalon and Present Reality are my two favorites that seem to have a prophetic voice that calls the church to look at Jesus as he really was (Scandalon) and experience his life in the church (Present Reality). “Is the reason we’re not still, to hear him speak, because we don’t believe he will?” The first half of Poiema is excellent, too.

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Stephanie Seefeldt

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

Fave book of his: Parable of Joy
Fave music: The Life, a 2 disc set on the life of Christ — it’s my companion for Advent and Holy Week each year.
It’s not an overstatement to say that Michael’s music was one of the most important pieces of my early theological development– InterVarsity in Wisconsin in the 1990’s, The Quiet Time Companion [daily inductive Bible studies], Wesley and Watts, and Michael Card. Pretty much all I needed. :) I still use his music often when I travel as a worship leader for different speakers – often times a Card song will respond to the teaching in a way that nothing else can.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 11:30 am

Adults without children might overlook the Come to the Cradle album. The song “Light of the World” has this line.
“How can there be any hunger in me if you are the bread of life?”

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posted September 30, 2009 at 12:06 pm

So difficult to choose one. Michael Card was the contemplative prophet and poet among the showmen when I was doing commercial Christian radio throughout the 80s. I have always been very partial to “The Final Word.”
He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son
His final word was Jesus, he needed no other one
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine

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Dana Ames

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:38 pm

“The Beginning”, 1989.
And so the Alpha brings to us this moment to commence-
to live in the freedom of total forgiveness with reckless confidence.
The Beginning will make all things new, new life belongs to Him.
He hands us each new moment, saying, “My child, begin again;
my child, begin again- you’re free to start again.”
Michael has a great heart.

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Vaughn Treco

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm

WOW! I can remember the morning that you introduced me to Michael Card’s music, way back in 1985!
After listening to “The Voice of a Child” and “Now that I’ve held him in my arms” I couldn’t listen to contemporary Christian music in quite the same way. Here was a young man conveying profound theological and spiritual truths in story and song. Shortly after that class, I bought MC’s “Scandalon” was even more deeply impressed.
I have loved his music ever since, and for reasons similar to those that you pointed to in your post. It shouldn’t surprise you to discover that identifying my favorite MC song is a difficult task. Even so, I think his “Song of Gomer” continues to speak to me in ever deeper ways. I am continually amazed by God’s generosity, and Michael card’s “Song of Gomer” gives voice to that wonder.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I met M. Card many years ago–just as he was beginning his professional music career. In light of his substantive lyrics, it shouldn’t surprise us that he was planning to be a biblical studies prof. I think he had started his doctoral work, studying under Bill Lane (when he was at Western Kentucky). Amy Grant recorded Card’s song, “El Shaddai,” and a record company offered Card a recording contract. If I remember right, he said he was quite torn about leaving behind his dream of teaching on a college level, when his mentor (Lane) encouraged him to use the gift God had given him to teach through song. He signed the contract and we enjoy the result of Card taking Lane’s sage advice.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I really enjoyed “A Sacred Sorrow.” The church needs to do better at informing about lament.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 10:17 pm

RJS, the link under my name on this post should show a collection of his albums. Click on an album to hear songs from it.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 10:19 pm

hmm, the link didn’t show card&type=album
And this post will probably get caught by the spam filter…

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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm

I like any and every Michael Card album. And thanks, Scot for your thoughts on his latest book. I agree with what you say about his song writing, and he is definitely among my very favorite of Christian artists.
“The Final Word” might be my favorite of all of his songs, though it could be “God’s Own Fool,” etc. And his album on the book of Hebrews, “Soul Anchor,” is to me vintage Michael Card. I do like his later work in mixing in African-American spirituals and with some of that influence.
It was great to meet him at RBC Ministries in the recent past, and I had just finished reading Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” a few times, at least twice, and he was then listening to it being read. So we talked a little about that. It was fun.

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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:24 pm

…I mean African-American spiritual or soul TYPE of music and song.

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