Dordt College News

Metal music in Church? Pastor John Van Sloten says ‘yes,’ and finds ways to engage society.

February 4, 2011

“No. They don’t want to sue you. Lars [Ulrich–the band’s drummer] heard about your church service this week, and all they want is to see it for themselves,” the rep for Metallica said to the worried Christian Reformed Church pastor from Calgary, Alberta. The band wanted to hear for themselves what Pastor John Van Sloten would say about the Good News after his examination of the hard-hitting lyrics of the heavy metal band.

Van Sloten will share at the B.J. Haan Auditorium what he has discovered about how God works in popular culture, even in something as “secular” as the music and lyrics of Metallica. He will rock the Dordt chapel service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 16. He will also speak on the topic “Engaging Culture: Knowing and Understanding Your Kids’ Pop Culture” at the Dordt College Science and Technology Building room SB101 at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17. Both events are free and open to the public.

Van Sloten has stirred up some controversy with his book, “The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything,” in which he draws parallels between the angry cries of the band and those of Jeremiah of the Old Testament, even calling Jeremiah “an ancient Hebrew headbanger…a prophet who despairingly shook his fist at God.”

As a Reformed pastor, Van Sloten draws on the teachings of John Calvin, saying, “In my mind, it was Calvin who first gave me permission to explore the truth found in so-called secular culture. It was his worldview that led me to read the band’s lyrics with an ear for God’s voice. ‘All truth is inspired by the Holy Spirit,’ Calvin once wrote. All truth–where it really is truth–comes from God, according to John Calvin. Which makes sense when you think about it; where else could truth come from?”

Van Sloten sees the Spirit alive in all kinds of places, and many times it’s not where we might expect. In his discussions at Dordt College, he will help shed light on popular culture and share what he’s learned about how to encourage people to become involved in the church.

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