Posted by: Mike Willoughby | June 29, 2010

Hi-Fi Faith

Back in the day, one of the signs of ultimate coolness was found in the dash of your car and in your stereo cabinet in your house.  Everyone wanted a Hi-Fi stereo with a Dolby cassette player in their car and a Hi-Fi stereo receiver with cassette deck and a variable speed turntable in their house.  Size mattered when it came to speakers and bigger was definitely better!  You knew you had a nice system in your house if it had back-lit meters and if you could turn the tuner dial and a counter-weight would continue to carry the indicator further after you let go of the dial.  The turntable was equipped with a diamond stylus and a belt drive with a visual strobe meter that would indicate when you had tuned the mechanism to a precise RPM.  In addition to the show-off factor for your friends, the point of all this fancy equipment was to reproduce the sound of the original music as accurately as possible through the playing of the vinyl albums and magnetic tape cassettes.  The term Hi-Fi is short for “High-Fidelity” indicating the system was able to use the vinyl or tape medium recording to accurately reproduce the original live performance.  I believe RCA-Victor was involved in coining the phrase and the iconic RCA-Victor logo with Nipper the dog listening to a recording of his master’s voice illustrates the point.  Apparently the dog couldn’t tell the recording from the real thing.  I suppose the term Hi-Fi started to fall out of favor with the introduction of digital media such as CDs, DVDs and now purely electronic media recorded on magnetic and solid-state drives.  My iPhone+Bose-headphone combination reproduces the unique sound of Tom Scholz’s guitar better than my old Pioneer tape/album system with Boston Acoustic speakers ever could.  Still there was something comforting about setting fingers to dial and feeling the resistance of that counter-weight that is not replicated by the fancy glass interface on my iPhone.

How about a definition?  Fidelity is the extent to which a reproduction is faithful or accurate compared to a standard.  In the case of the Hi-Fi stereo system, the reproduction is recorded on the medium and reproduced through the system.  The standard is the actual performance of the musical piece or actual vocal performance.  I think it’s too bad that the term High-Fidelity has fallen out of common use in our language.  Perhaps we are less discriminating than we used to be when it comes to recorded music.  It is more likely that we have just come to expect consistent high-quality from our Dolby and THX powered digital devices and our amazing little speaker systems, headphones and ear-buds.  I clearly remember the difference between my scratchy cheap turntable with its built-in cardboard speakers and the amazing silky sound that came from my new Pioneer system with its towering three-way speakers and sub-woofer.  High-Fidelity made a real difference when the recording was on vinyl and magnetic tape!

Fidelity makes a difference when it comes to faith too.  When I evaluate myself in my walk of faith, I have to start with a standard that I can use to measure myself.  Just like I would compare the sound of my favorite Dire Straits recording to an actual concert in an acoustically tuned performance hall, I need to understand the expectation I should have for myself and then compare my faith performance to an appropriate role model.

I need to start with the realization that I am in the image of a perfect original and therefore my expectations for myself should be perfection.  Genesis 1:27 reads:

So God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.

Next, I need to look for a role model that can serve as the standard against which I can measure myself.  Since we are all made in the perfect image of God, I need to find a man who lived a perfect life and is worthy to serve as the standard for comparison.  I need to find the ultimate in High-Fidelity Faith!  Fortunately, God sent Jesus Christ to live with us and set the standard for measuring High-Fidelity Faith.  Hebrews 4:14-16 reads:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Now comes the problem – this reproduction is so unfaithful to the original!  I would be embarrassed for the maestro of the universe to listen to this performance.  I would be in fear that he would toss the imperfect scratchy recording in the trash where it belongs.  The maestro sits next to the perfect standard right now – how could he stand to listen to me and observe my pathetically imperfect performance? 

First, the maestro is also a gentle teacher.  He is working on tuning up my performance through a process called sanctification.  Slowly (too slowly for me), he is sanding off my rough edges, refining the impurities out of me and steadily improving my faith performance.  Over time, he is changing me spiritually to look like Jesus.  I’m thankful to the maestro for even spending time on me.  It would be something like Mozart agreeing to give piano lessons to a tone-deaf student with no sense of rhythm who stubbornly refuses to practice his lessons.  That’s me!  In spite of myself and even through the set-backs that happen every day, he continues to work on me. 

However, even the maestro can’t bring me anywhere close to the performance of the perfect standard.  The first half of my life-performance has been on par with a typical 3rd grade recorder band (ouch) and the second half is still pretty rocky.  Some days are good – most days not so good.  I still say and do things I regret and for which I have to repent and apologize.  Sometimes (as recently as last week) my bad behavior is out there in public for all to see.  My apologies to my friends for being cranky last week.  Talk about a Lo-Fi performance!  Thanks for your understanding and forgiveness.

Want to hear the most amazing part?  Even when my performance is the most out-of-tune and scratchy, God hears something different.  When the maestro hears me and observes my performance, he chooses instead to hear Jesus and see his performance.  Jesus has agreed to substitute his perfect performance for my flawed performance and God has agreed to listen to me as if I were him.  Because of Jesus’ willingness and ability to sub for me and my trust in him to take my place and be my judge, I get to be a perfect Hi-Fi Christian in the eyes of the only one who matters!  I leave you with this encouragement from I John 3:1-3 concerning the transformation that God is working in us.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

* RCA and Victor are trademarks of Sony Music Entertainment


  1. Great analogy – especially for those of us who remember Hi-Fi…travel safe, brother.

  2. Mike,
    Thanks for the article. Have you ever thought about being a mentor?

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Chris! I suppose I’m a mentor with varying degrees of formality depending on the setting. I think anyone with relevant experience should be willing to share. I suppose one side benefit of getting old is that relevant experiences start stacking up! : )

  3. […] Back in the day, one of the signs of ultimate coolness was found in the dash of your car and in your stereo cabinet in your house.  Everyone wanted a Hi-Fi stereo with a Dolby cassette player in their car and a Hi-Fi stereo receiver with cassette deck and a variable speed turntable in their house.  Size mattered when it came to speakers and bigger was definitely better!  You knew you had a nice system in your house if it had back-lit meters and i … Read More […]

  4. You never cease to amaze me! Thank you for being such an inspiration to me every day!

  5. […] week, I wrote about developing a Hi-Fi Faith that is focused on being true in thought and behavior to my perfect standard, Jesus Christ and […]

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