Grace Upon Grace

Currently listening to: “Suddenly” by BT
I actually only started listening to BT because Celldweller did a remix of this track for the Suddenly EP. Once I checked out some of his catalog, I discovered a lot of really great electronic stuff – and honestly, that’s about as specific as I can get, because this guy runs the gamut – trance, techno, house, etc. etc. etc. Good stuff for sure.

Things have been hopping. Between the looming Harvest church plant this coming September in Durham, our soon-coming daughter (or son, if the tech’s wrong!), juggling three part-time jobs, looking for a full-time job, and all sorts of other things… writing has really fallen by the wayside.

It hasn’t been from a lack of things to write ABOUT. There’s an abundance of that. Here, lets bust out some of it. Rather than my usual routine of apologizing for being inconsistent, lets just get right so some of the thoughts and ideas that have been hard at work in my head lately, by God’s grace.

First, something that came up out of my recent studies in John:

John 1:16 ESV
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

How true is that? I think the old adage was “count your blessings”, but lets be really honest – they can’t even be counted.

I love this phrase – “and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”. The Apostle John was no theological slouch (if that weren’t clear from his epistles), nor was he crusty, and so it should not surprise us to find a remark of sheer praise and exclamation here amidst such profoundly theological statements. To think of the ‘grace upon grace’ instilled in my own life is remarkable if I spend any small amount of time bringing to mind the things of the past, or even the things of the prior week.

God’s grace (ie. things I don’t deserve) literally floods my life: Salvation through the gift of faith, a loving wife whose desire is to be useful to our Lord Jesus (full of “theological astuteness” and gentle wisdom), a child in her womb whose development has been (evidently) ideal and healthy, the blessing of godly leadership at Harvest York Region (whose leadership is both humble and authoritative!), a surrounding of friends who spur us on to love and good works, a series of God’s people to counsel and aid, a healthy God-fearing Bible-preaching church of small groups to be part of, the input of godly men in my life, a juggling of jobs to keep me productive for my family, the hope of full time and stable employment on the horizon as God provides, and so much more. I am inundated with grace upon grace – undeserved blessing is a hallmark of my life in Christ Jesus. His fullness is poured out in and around me with alarming regularity amidst both the glorious circumstances and the horrific events of present history.

Yet, just as often as I consider the abundance, I’m wholly mindful of the solid fact that I don’t deserve any of it. I’m a lawbreaker, a mutinous rebel.

I deserve hell, not all this grace upon grace.

The Gospel is an amazing thing – to think even briefly on the fact that the Holy and Righteous God who created me, the God whose laws and standards I spurned and spat on… entered human history, took on human flesh, and took my hell on the Cross. I don’t deserve it. Grace upon grace.

Second, a bunch of quotes that have been ricocheting around my noggin:

“There is no correlation between new and good.” (CS Lewis)

“Duty is a poor substitute for love.” (CS Lewis)

“Joy is a deep, durable delight in the splendor of God that ruins you for anything else.” (Sam Storms)

“Christians who understand gospel logic should be, taking one thing with another, the most accomplished and least envious people in the world.” (Douglas Wilson)

“Curse the scalpel, if you must, but kiss the Surgeon’s hand.” (John Piper)

and, most of all:

“It is written.” (God)

How incredible is it that God has communicated himself to us through a book – the written word? Grace upon grace, all over again, times infinity.

…man, machine, and progressive christian death metal worship

Title: Dichotomy
Artist: Becoming The Archetype
Label: Solid State
Length: 10 Tracks / 43:22
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If you’re as old as me, you remember third wave ska. In Christian circles, that meant Five Iron Frenzy, The OC Supertones, and The Insyderz – the band that turned out some (admittedly decent) ska worship records, appropriately entitled Skaleluia!. On one of those records, at the beginning of a decidedly non-metal song, one of the band members introduces the track by saying “Christian Metal never dies, baby!”. I remember when that record came out, and I remember my friends repeating that quote ad-nauseum (of course, when I was a teenager, it was cool to “be metal” – whether you actually were or not). Either way, I appreciated the sentiments – Christian metal really never does die. Thus, although the source is suspect, the addage rings true.

Becoming the Archetype (hereafter BtA) burst onto the metal scene in 2005’s Terminate Damnation. At the time, the record was quite a departure for label home Solid State, who hadn’t had an honest-to-goodness metal band on their roster since the legendary Living Sacrifice folded a year or two prior. Full of great riffs, solos, and varied and complex orchestration, Terminate Damnation was a bright spot the year of its release. The band followed up with The Physics of Fire in 2007 and it was largely more of the same – lots of metal riffage, lots of great solos, a great mix of pacing, and more of the interesting orchestral accompaniment. Throughout both records, BtA explored traditional metal, progressive metal, death metal, doom, metalcore and other various styles within that spectrum.

This past year, 2008, brought BtA’s third and most recent outing – a collection of ten songs by the name of Dichotomy. Borrowing some of its lyrical themes from the science fiction “Space Trilogy” of C.S. Lewis, the titular ‘dichotomy’ lies between biology and technology – man and machine. Fairly typical sci-fi fare, but rather atypical for metal fare. Of course, seeing as this isn’t a concept record, and seeing as this is Becoming the Archetype, there is also a good smattering of biblically inspired lyrics to round out the content. Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark comes through with some great guest vocals (clean and scream) on a handfull of tracks. Topics covered range from considering the superiority of the things God has created relative to the things man has made (“Artificial Immortality”) to a retelling of one of the Bible’s most damning passages (Romans 1 – on “Dichotomy”) to an imaginative and powerful account of seeing Christ’s empty tomb (“Self Existent”). The best song on the record, though, undoubtedly goes to the one track that BtA didn’t write – namely, their dominating and intense take on the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art”.

Becoming the Archetype follows in the lyrical footsteps of some of the great “Spirit-Filled Hardcore” of the 90’s – bands like Focused and Unashamed… and rides the musical wave that started with Living Sacrifice’s legendary album Reborn. In 2008, the result is bone-crunching progressive death metal (real metal, not a hybrid) with unabashed Christian lyrics whose primary source is Scripture, whose primary tone is worship, and whose voice is unapologetic, direct, and bold. Highly recommended, high-quality metal. The music is great, the vocals are great, the production is great, and the solos (yes, the solos) are great. This is this band’s best album to date. All of that being said, the thing which most impressed itself upon this reviewer is that Becoming the Archetype has finally arrived at a place where they write really catchy songs – the kind that get stuck in your head. The technical proficiency and musicianship has always been there, but this time around BtA really nailed their sound, their content, and their focus. Dichotomy is amazing. Christian metal never dies, baby.

Curious about the name? The band’s website says this: “According to Genesis 1:26, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image'”. Since Jesus was the only person to ever live a sinless life, He is the ultimate archetype (or original design) of humanity. As a result, the life of a [Christian] is all about being conformed to the image of God or in other words; becoming the archetype.”

I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who loves metal and is becoming like our archetype, Jesus.

Four Classic Hymns out of Five.

Standout Tracks: How Great Thou Art, End of the Age, Ransom, Self Existent.

Jerry Bolton – for The Phantom Tollbooth.
September 22nd, 2009