Monk, Ambiance, and Apologetics
Then, tonight, I listened again, but this time through headphones in my reading study in the basement. The magic reappeared; it is one of the first with Charlie Rouse's on tenor sax, one of Monk's most apt interpreters (although not a virtuoso in his own right, as was Monk's most famous, if short-lived, collaborator, John Coltrane). The collaborative genius, the incomparable Monk feel of the his compositions, the gentle swing, and quirkiness of his sense of time were all there in their glory. How did I miss it before?
Monk doesn't play that well in the car. One is too distracted by driving, and the music cannot be heard, cannot be appreciated, for its subtleties in that ambiance. Joe Satriani can; Thelonious Monk cannot. (Yes, horrified jazz fans, I do appreciate Joe as a master of his--admittedly lesser--genre: instrumental heavy metal guitar.)
The same is true for the best apologetics (or Christian witness in general): it requires the proper ambiances to be received properly. One needs to carefully listen, to weigh ideas, and to discern connections between thoughts. That is, one must attend critically in the proper environment. Certainly, God is his sovereignty can convince a ruined soul of the truth and attractiveness of the gospel in any setting, but an engaged discussion--with a minimum of distractions--makes the most sense for apologetic interactions.
It may be that much of our defending and commending the gospel--when we attempt it at all--rings hollow because the setting is wrong. We need to bring apologetics into the home, into conviviality and into deep conversations. And apologists need to develop their chops, such that they are worth listening to in the first place.
Monk found a voice that was uniquely his and that was true to the art of jazz. But one must listen hard to hear it. When you do, the joy follows. How many apologists have found a voice that it theirs (given their spiritual gifts), is true to the Bible, and in which one hears the joy and beauty of heaven?