A Great Man has Fallen
Van Cliburn Has Died
Probably many of our readers know of the world renowned pianist by the name of Van Cliburn. Fort Worth, Texas has been generally known as the place where the west begins and probably many think that everyone wears cowboy hats and rides a horse. The city pridefully boasts of its stockyards where tourists congregate, its rodeo where national contests are regularly held, and its horse shows that attract thousands. However, the city has also been known as the home of Van Cliburn and the Van Cliburn piano competition.
In case some of our readers never heard of Van Cliburn, we must ask something about him. (By the way, when we have titled this as “a great man” falling, this is the estimation of millions–and not this writer, personally.)
Cliburn began his career about age 3. One reference states:
His mother, an accomplished pianist who had studied under a student of Franz Liszt, discovered him playing at age three and mimicking one of her students. She began his own lessons. He developed a rich, round tone and a singing voice-like phrasing, having been taught from the start to sing each piece.
Van Cliburn toured domestically and overseas. He played for royalty, heads of state, and every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. He was the first classical recording artist to have an album, his recording of Tchaikovskys Piano Concerto No. 1., sell more than 1 million copies.(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Cliburn).
At the age of 23 in 1958, the tall and thin Cliburn traveled to Moscow for the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. Surprisingly, this young pianist won the honors! The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave him the first prize of the competition. The Russians loved him! And this was at the height of the cold war when thousands of warheads in Russia and the United States were aimed at the respective countries.
When Cliburn returned home, a parade was held in his honor in New York City. His cover story in Time magazine proclaimed him “The Texan Who Conquered Russia. (Ibid.). The issue referred to him as Horowitz, Liberace and Presley all rolled into one. Since that time, Cliburn has traveled the world, presenting his talents before presidents and kings.
Now Van Cliburn has died at age 78, succumbing to dreaded bone cancer. Some 1,400 people crowded the large sanctuary of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Dignitaries spoke of this beloved mans gentle and quiet ways and his being an agent of peace in the world. One report spoke of a man who never lost his humility and concern for others, despite his frequent acquaintance with the powerful (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 4, 2013).
Governor Rick Perry spoke, along with former President George W. Bush and the Fort Worth mayor. The Russian leader, Putin, sent a letter of condolence, calling Cliburn one of the most outstanding musicians of modern times. A chorus of 300 singers from across North Texas performed to the vast audience. Hymns and works of Russian composers were presented.
Cliburn never married but he was entirely devoted to his mother. They lived together and the great organ of the church was named after her. This pianist cared for her until she died at an advanced age.
Lets break into this description of Cliburns fame and accomplishments to read Pauls words at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, not homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
None of us will misunderstand these very plain words of the apostle. He says that if one is a fornicator, he cannot inherit Gods Kingdom. This is settled. There can be no doubt. An idolater, an adulterer, and an effeminate person cannot enter the kingdom of God. If one dies as a thief, a covetous person, a drunkard, a reviler, or a swindler, that person will not inherit Gods kingdom. And the same is true of a homosexual. A practicing homosexual will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But isnt it true that God can forgive such people? Yes, for Jesus said, Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people (Matthew 12:31; cf. Mark 3:28). In fact, in the very context of the passage we examined, Paul says, Such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Some of the Corinthians had been fornicators, but they had been washed from their sins. Some had been adulterers, but they had been sanctified or set apart from their sin to the Lord. Some had been thieves, but they had been justified or declared righteous before the Lord. The experience of the Corinthians demonstrates that sinners can be forgiven of their sinsand enter the kingdom of God! We have all been saved from various kinds of sins for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Thanks be to God for His marvelous grace and thanks be to Christ for His sin-bearing sacrifice!
But in order for someone to be washed, sanctified, and justified, he must repent of his sins. He must turn away from those sins and begin to live a holy and pure life apart from known, deliberate, unrepentant sin. This is a promise to each of us. And it is also a warning to each of us. The promise is that we may be forgiven of all the sins we have committed if we are willing to repent of them (Acts 8:22-24) and confess them to God (1 John 1:9). The warning is that we must be willing to turn from those sins to the Savior. Otherwise, we must face (death), Gods wrath (Romans 1:18), and the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8) or hell (Matthew 5:29-30).
The reason why we quoted the passage from 1 Corinthians 6 is this: Van Cliburn was a life-long homosexual. He was a practicing, deliberate, and unrepentant sodomite. He lived as a sodomite and died as a sodomite, without any repentance of his deliberate and known sin. Everyone admits this. All of the sources acknowledge this (although most dont really care).
The homosexual sources acknowledge this, with pride.
One source speaks of his past homosexual relationship: In 1998, Cliburn was named in a lawsuit by his domestic partner of seventeen years, mortician Thomas Zaremba. In the suit, Zaremba claimed entitlement to a portion of Cliburn’s income and assets and went on to charge that he might have been exposed to HIV, claiming emotional distress. The claims were denied by a trial court, and that decision was then affirmed by an appellate court, which held that palimony suits are not permitted in the state of Texas unless the relationship is based on a written agreement. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Van_Cliburn). Cliburn went on to another sexual partner: Thomas L. Smith.
But the question comes: How could this happen in a Baptist Church which is generally known as being part of a relatively conservative denomination? Broadway Baptist Church has been harboring known homosexuals for years and not many years ago voted to continue this practice. Van Cliburn was one of their well-known members. The state convention rejected the congregation when they gave no evidence of repentance or change, thus this local church continues as a sodomite church even though it cannot properly be called a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.
But how could Cliburn be eulogized by so many public figures? Apparently because people have become so lax in their spiritual understandings and so careless of their views of Scripture that they can accept nearly any sin and perversion if there happens to be some religion attached to the person. Although we are not the judge of anyone and Jesus Christ is the only Judge (2 Corinthians 5:10), we do have Gods Word and this should settle all questions of what is true or false.
The newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reported:
Each hymn and piece of classical music performed Sunday otherwise had special meaning to Cliburn, a deeply religious man who for decades had quietly slipped in and out of Sunday services at Broadway.
At the end of those services, Cliburn always embraced the pastor, the Rev. Brent Beasley, in one of his famous hugs, Beasley said during his homily.
Beautiful, Beautiful, Cliburn would tell Beasley.
On Sunday, Beasley said he imagined Cliburns embrace with God, and God saying, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.
So we give beauty, beauty, beauty back to God, Beasley said.
But merely saying that God will embrace Cliburn doesnt make it so! Is the Scripture correct in saying that unrepentant practicing sodomites will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do you think that perhaps Paul was mistaken in this? Could it be that he didnt know what God would do and only imagined that practicing sinners will be forbidden entrance into Gods kingdom?
But Paul said, We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). He said, The things which I write to you are the Lords commandments (14:37). He spoke and wrote with the authority of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:2). It is better to revise our mistaken views and accept what God has revealed to us than to try to justify our beliefs by rejecting the Word of the living God!
The news report went on to refer to Cliburns longtime companion, Thomas L. Smith. He gave his eulogy with these words: For me, its the loss of my soul mate and my deepest friend. It seems unimaginable that a sodomite partner would be given public acknowledgement in a church, but this is the 21st century!
The report continued, Many in the congregation dabbed away tears during the final hymn, God Be With You Till We Meet Again. But when Cliburns casket was taken from the church, it was a haunting Russian folk melody. In a musical send-off for the ages, the final note was Russian. But lets ask ourselves: Can merely singing a song with the sentiment that God will be with us until we meet again in heaven really make it so? Is this how we determine right from wrong, truth from error? Does a teary hymn override the Word of God? We know the answer.
What can we say about this poignant account? Without doubt, Cliburn had talent and displayed this talent to presidents and dignitaries around the world. He promoted musical talent of pianists at his regular contests in Fort Worth. He apparently was loved by many friends and acquaintanceand even Russians adored him throughout his life.
But none of this has a spiritual bearing on ones relationship with God. We can love hymns and still be lost. We can play hymns and yet be in our sins. We can attend church regularly and reseparated from God. We can even have a reputation of being religious, but this can be empty and vain.
All that matters is the truth. And what does the truth of God reveal to us? The Word of God plainly says that if one dies in sinknown, deliberate sinhe will be lost. If one departs this life without repenting of sin, he will not go to heaven; he will go to hell. This is the stark truth whether it is palatable to our views or not.. Scripture says that God is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Christ Jesus declared, Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3). Repentance is the key. Repentance is not optional. Repentance is absolutely necessary. Without repentance, one will be lost, he will not be saved.
What can we learn about this lamentable incident? A church can be wrong and often is wrong. In this case, the leadership of Broadway Baptist Church that accepts unrepentant sodomites as members is wrong, irresponsible, and sinful. The pastor is also guilty of great wrong in giving Cliburn any hope of heaven. The celebrities who spoke great words of acclaim about this pianist and assured us that he is now in heaven are totally irresponsible and wrong. The 1,400 guests who had a hope of the pianist now being in Gods presence in spite of his known disobedience to God are wrong. In fact, surely millions of people who knew of Cliburns sodomy and perversion and still thought he was saved are showing their disrespect of God and His authoritative Word.
Reader, lets not place our faith in man or the views of man. Human opinions have often been mistaken. And in the case of sin and righteousness, heaven and hell, human views may be deadly wrong. Lets place all of our faith in what God has revealed for we cant be wrong to accept the truth and reject the wrongregardless of who accepts or who rejects the Scriptures.
Will you take this view yourself, regardless of your past view of Van Cliburn or any other person on earth? Jesus declared, He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings [words], has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day (John 12:48).