The Theology of Worship and the Tomatin 15-year-old Scotch Whisky

20150925_175935Strap yourself in. I can tell you right now that this will be the longest whisky review you’ve ever read – even longer than my philosophical crucifixion of Scoresby.

I would imagine that there are folks who, at first, may have investigated the whisky prattlings here because of the highly asymmetrical source of the information. In other words, the whole whisky/pastor thing just seemed so strange, so curious. I get it. And while I am becoming somewhat bored by the intrigue, I must continue to remember that whisky is not the typical topic for pastoral contemplation, and as I have mentioned in so many other locales, I know that this intrigue is built upon a fundamental misconstruction. Still, I won’t go into that now. To learn more, I’d suggest reading my reviews of The Dalmore 12 and the Ardmore Traditional Cask. You’ll learn that I’m not being rebellious. I’m just not.

Now, before I get to a review of the Tomatin 15, I want to acknowledge something else, something that follows a similar vein and relates to the introduction.

I’ll bet a good number of folks from the same grouping noted above, while genuinely interested in what a clergyman may or may not say about booze, they are relatively sturdy in their disinterest in religious things altogether. In fact, I’ll bet they look in upon modern mainstream evangelical Christians at worship, they behold the happening, and it just seems so silly.

Well, it makes me laugh, too. It looks ridiculous, and in the famous words of Hank Hill (the main character from the animated television show “King of the Hill”) to the contemporary Christian rocker Pastor K: “Can’t you see you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making rock n’ roll worse.”

And here’s where I anticipate losing some of my Christian readers. Oh well. Thanks for stopping by.

You anti-religion folks have good reason to laugh at contemporary Christianity, especially if the worship services you are observing look and feel more like rock concerts than a gathering of people who believe they are in the presence of the holy One giving holy things. I’m in your boat. That worship is just lame. No, wait. Let me be a little more direct: It’s stupidly out of place.Contempo 001

I would say that anyone who is even remotely serious about worship as it is defined in the Bible will know, God willing, that worship is something enunciating a divine language, a holy vernacular that is by design quite foreign to this world. In other words, the anti-religious and I will probably part ways when the temptation to lark at what many would label as “traditional” or “confessionally liturgical” worship shows up. This kind of worship is altogether different. It isn’t amusingly spending its energy trying to be “relevant” in order to fit in with the world around it and yet failing miserably. In fact it may appear to be seeking after a strange cultural irrelevancy, and this fact alone, I dare say, probably won’t stir you to laugh, but rather to be inquisitive. I say this because such worship, by nature, isn’t about what man is doing for God but what God is doing for man. Look up the word “worship” in any dictionary, society’s cultural lexicon, and you will see that this isn’t how worship is understood. How the Bible defines worship is counter-intuitive to what you would expect.

In short, I would say that if the world looks in and sees the heartbeat, the emphasis, the epicenter of worship (and everything emerging from it) as anything that resembles itself and its efforts, it most likely isn’t biblical Christian worship. Period. Real Christian worship brings people into a completely different sphere. And one more thing. The people it brings into this sphere are not bound by the timeline. In other words, if I picked up a 3rd century Christian and set him down into a 21st century worship service, would he know what was happening? If not, you’re probably “doing” worship (if I can even say it that way) incorrectly. Take a look at the New Testament book of Hebrews. From chapter 10 all the way through to chapter 12 is a pretty good discussion on worship. Consider what is happening in worship by way of Hebrews 12:18-24. Sounds an awful lot like it isn’t just about us right now in 21st Century America, but that others from other realms and generations are involved.

I know, I know. There are a gazillion opinions about this. You can pretty much go to any popular Christian resource from any denomination of your choosing and discover the dialogue, although I think the debate has become somewhat stale for most because fewer and fewer Christian churches have remained unscathed by the “praise band” approach. So, from a whisky-drinking clergyman’s “insider” viewpoint, let me fulfill your expectations as to my rebelliousness and shoot straight with you. Weak-kneed clergy are to blame.

“Would you just get to the review already?” No. Hold on a second. Before you can enjoy the Tomatin 15, you need to know some stuff. You need to know that there really are three reasons a pastor might embrace the “praise band” form.

First, he’s just being sort of awkwardly self-centered and dorky and he realizes, in a sense, that he has a captive audience and so he figures he can relive his rock and roll youth, drawing people to think they are followers of Christ but really are just pastor-groupies. Joel Osteen, anyone? (By the way, the pastor may not realize he’s doing this so, as an outsider, feel free to go to him and tell him to stop being so dorky. You aren’t impressed. Remind him that when you ponder “church” you want your first thought to be of Christ crucified for the sins of the world and not how cool the church is because of the pastor and his laser light show.) Second, the pastor is concerned about his struggling church’s finances and so he feels the need to do something to “attract” more givers. Most churches these days, I think, understand this problem. Third (and this point is very much connected to the second), attendance is dropping and the pastor mistakenly believes that if he can appear hip to the times and appeal to the youthful demographic, he’ll be able to reinvigorate the church with a new generation of core members. Of course he’ll most likely communicate this to his parish members as, “We need to do this because that’s what Jesus did. He was a man of the people. He went out and became like them in order to meet them where they were. We should do the same. I’ll play lead guitar and be the lead vocalist. Who wants to play the drums?!” Again, this kind of reminds me of the response that Pastor K gives Hank right after the comment I mentioned above. Pastor K answers something like, “You folks are all alike. You look at us and think we’re freaks. Come on, even Jesus had long hair.”

Hank merely answers with, “Only because I wasn’t his dad.”

But I think the better part of this whole episode happens at the end. I’ll play it out as a narrative for you…

“When I turn 18,” Bobbie, Hank’s son and Pastor K groupie, says rebelliously, “I’m going to do whatever I want for the Lord. Tattoos, piercings, you name it.”

“Well, I’ll take that chance,” Hank responds and then continues, “Come here, there’s something I want you to see.” Hank takes hold of a box and opens it up to show Bobby what’s inside.

“Remember this?” Hank asks.

“My beanbag buddy?” Bobbie says sort of surprised. “Oh, man, I can’t believe I collected those things. They’re so lame.”

“You didn’t think so five years ago,” Hank teaches. “And how about your virtual pet? You used to carry this thing everywhere. Then you got tired of it, forgot to feed it, and it died.”

Bobbie sees a picture of himself at Halloween wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume. “I look like such a dork.”

“I know how you feel,” Hank twangs. “I never thought that ‘Members Only’ jacket would go out of style, but it did.”

But then Hank gets incredibly catechetical and offers, “I know you think stuff you’re doing now is cool, but in a few years you’re going to think it’s lame. And I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.”

Well said, my animated friend.

Hey folks, be ready to say to your dorky pastor, “Um, no, Jesus didn’t really do what you just said. God becoming man and suffering all that mankind suffers and then some, that’s what He did in the “relating to us” department. After that, your argument becomes somewhat straw-like, burning up and dying a very swift but painful death when confronted by the Bible. Christ went down into the world of ‘people’ not to be accepting of or affirm and leave us in the everyday relevancy of our humanness, which essentially means to leave us trapped in sin, but rather to bring us to acknowledge our condition and then by His efforts to lift us up and out of such dreadful relevance through faith in Him and His conquering work on the cross. In that alone you can see how counter-cultural Christ was. I mean, whose death is ever considered a victory? Even further, it was the Pharisees who complained the most about how Jesus was so out of step with the expectations of the popular culture, and they themselves were iconic of the fact that the preferences of man always seem to have their dastardly way with the church. What did Jesus do in response to their pestering and persecution? Well, He pretty much told them to shut their pie-holes, calling them whitewashed tombs, giving their outward performances a sarcastic thumbs up but cluing them in to the fact that their inner substance was actually death. Hey, pastor, how about we follow Christ and His word up and out of the culture rather than giving culture the authority to do the defining?”

So, anyway… I suppose I should get to the review since I’ve more or less written a theological paper for folks who may or may not want to read one. Well, one more quick thing since you’ve made it this far.

I think I figured out recently that there is a possible fourth reason for the “praise band” infection in the Christian churches. I shared it with my friends on Facebook. Maybe it’s not just poor pastoring, but poor pastoring combined with bad German food. Quickly…

Two nights ago I had the strangest dream. In the dream, I had gathered together with the staff from our school to start a praise band. Yeah, me. Weird. Anyway, as the pastor, of course I was the lead guitarist. In the dream we sucked – badly – and I was getting incredibly frustrated with the band. The kindergarten teacher was on the drums and she couldn’t keep the beat at all. Our school principal, while she has a wonderful voice, kept trying to seize the lead vocalist position while I kept trying to convince her that one of our elementary level teachers should sing lead and she should help one of our junior high level teachers figure out the bass guitar. Anyway, these were the general contours of my dream, and while I should probably stress that this was more of a nightmare than anything else, the folks in my church don’t have to worry about a “praise band” ever being a possibility. I’ve proven myself sturdy in the face of such factions in our midst. I am not weak-kneed in this department. Nevertheless, I am chalking the dream up to the under cooked Bratwurst and Sauerkraut I’d eaten for dinner that evening. So, my point, if your pastor is already weak-kneed and then eats some bad German food, your liturgy may be jeopardy.

Now, the Tomatin 15.

Similar to the previous discussion, the Tomatin distillery appears to be quite unlike all of the other distilleries in the Scotch whisky realm. What I mean is that their whisky is beyond exceptional, but the price doesn’t reflect this. This is highly counter-intuitive to a Scotch connoisseur’s expectation. Essentially, the 15 year old edition is easily attainable at around $50 while many other 15-year-olds of the same quality will most often be found above and beyond the $75 mark. And as I implied, the Tomatin is just as good, if not better. It just doesn’t make sense to mortal man.

The nose of this edition breaths creamy vanilla and mild fruit, and this wafting is so pleasant that you may find yourself spending more time smelling it than usual.

At first, the palate will give you some seasoned oak with a subtle hint of the fruit and vanilla you experienced in the nosing, but in the next instant, the vanilla becomes even sweeter, giving over a leathery piece of sugar-rich caramel bussed by a spiced apple.

The finish, while shorter than other whiskies, is still quite delightful, bringing back the mild fruit but adding something buttery. Interesting. No, wait – incredible.

I suppose that I’ve made another theological discovery here. This is a really good whisky, and if you want to strengthen your spineless pastor so as to retain good worship, try bribing him instead. Make him the promise that if he will keep with the historic liturgy, you’ll visit him regularly with a bottle of the Tomatin 15. It’s both an affordable win-win for everybody involved.

Originally posted over at

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