Country music always reminds me of Yandall Woodfin. Don’t bother googling to find out what hits he had; he was a theologian, not a country singer. Woodfin was one of the brightest men to ever wear the label ‘Baptist.’ In addition to earning degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Seminary, and the University of Edinburgh, he studied under C. S. Lewis at Cambridge. He taught philosophy for many years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and that’s where we met. I admit that I was anything but excited about taking the required course ‘Philosophy of Religion,’ and even less enthused when my schedule forced me to take it from the professor whose reputation preceded him–Yandall Woodfin. I’ll never forget his intimidating silence and glare at us wet-behind-the-ears ‘preacher boys’ on the first day of class, but over the next fifteen weeks something unexpected happened–I found myself hanging on every word. I read Dr. Woodfin’s textbook, “With All Your Mind,” like a starving soul savors the flavor of food, and devours it in small portions because of the rich content.
Woodfin shocked the class one day by stating that preachers should regularly listen to country music, reasoning that country music reveals what America is thinking. He believed that preaching is as much for the mind as it is the heart, and challenged us to unlatch our brains from autopilot and engage in serious cultural exegesis. This, he felt, was the great benefit of country music. All of this came back to me last night as my wife and I watched the second half of the CMA awards on ABC. If country music clues us into American thought as Yandall Woodfin taught, we have reason for concern about our culture. The big hits of last night included “Day Drinking,” “Smoking and Drinking,” and “Drunk on a Plane.” More cause for concern came as artist after artist then gave God credit for their success, leaving the impression that he places his stamp of approval on the whole ménage. At this point, Woodfin would have pushed us to draw our own cultural conclusions, and I leave it to you to do the same. As for me, “I Saw the Light,” so I’ll let “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” until I “Go Rest High on that Mountain.”
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 KJV)