A Worship Style Primer, Part 3

This is the third and final installment in a brief series outlining a few basic guidelines for worship style. In this series, I am countering the idea that worship style is mere preference, as promoted by Josh Teis and Robert Bakss.  If you have not yet read the first two articles on this subject, you really ought to before reading this article.  The two previous articles are available here and here.  In this article, I will lay out some practical considerations.  Please note, this article does not give a detailed list of Scriptural standards for worship.  The goal here is to give general principles.  In the future, I hope to address more specific answers to the contemporary style of worship now embraced by a growing number of Independent Baptists who hope to move others away from reverence in worship.

A “cowboy church” has a bull-riding arena in the middle of the “sanctuary.”  Another church hosts a “fight club” to reach people for Jesus.

Based on what Josh Teis argues, I wonder Continue reading “A Worship Style Primer, Part 3”

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Gothpel Style

Contemporary Independent Baptists like Josh Teis and Robert Bakss insist that style is a matter of preference, that God says nothing about style. You prefer traditional hymns; we prefer contemporary. You prefer a suit and tie; we prefer casual. You want the lights bright; we like them dim. You use a pulpit; we prefer an open stage. Potayto; potahto.

But not so fast. These men make some major leaps based on assumption.  They do not attempt to prove their major premise.  They beg the question; they assume what they should prove; they rely on “special pleading” to make their case.

Their major premise, that style is merely a matter of preference, exposes a serious worldview flaw.  It does not faithfully represent Scripture. Ultimately, their principle of musical style undermines the worship being offered to a holy God. In response, I offer three points to consider.

First, Style is not Neutral

The idea that style is neutral, that style choices are merely preference choices, reveals a deep worldview flaw that cannot be ignored. To argue that style is a matter of preference is to say that there are areas in this world over which God makes no claim, over which Jesus Christ is not Lord. If in fact, the Lordship of Jesus Christ does not extend to our style choices, then anything goes. Why not host a Pajama Sunday?  After all, how else will we reach late-night WalMart shoppers?  Better yet, Continue reading “Gothpel Style”

Gone Contemporary

Recently, several pastors reached out to me about a conference in the Northeast where both Southern Gospel and Contemporary Christian music were a major part of the program.  As a result of their call, I began to look into the use of contemporary music among Independent Baptists.  For quite a few years now, a segment of Independent Baptist pastors and churches have been “modifying” contemporary worship music, attempting to use the music without the characteristic soft rock beats and rhythms.  Over the past few years, some have thrown off their inhibitions, so that we now have a group of men who do not conceal their whole-hearted embrace of contemporary worship music.   They don’t water it down.  They don’t deny it or downplay it.  They have in fact launched a campaign to correct what they see as the “unscriptural” view of worship held by so many stodgy Independent Baptists.

Though I find their position appalling, Continue reading “Gone Contemporary”

A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity

Dear Friend,

Over the past 21 years of ministry in Utah, I have enjoyed the robust discussion we have on issues surrounding doctrine and the church. More than a few of you have made the attempt to “convert” me, and in fairness, I have not been coy about my desire to see you converted either. So what I am about to say comes out of the numerous conversations about God and the Bible we have had in my living room, in my office, or at a restaurant.

It seems to me that you believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be my Achilles’ heel. You might even believe the Trinity to be the strongest argument against orthodox Christianity. I will admit that I am relying more on anecdotal experience than hard evidence or statistics, but every time a Mormon friend – and over the years I have been blessed to make many friends here in Utah – attempts to convert me, the Trinity is always the starting point of the conversation.

Let me just say that I think I understand why you want to start there. The doctrine of the Trinity is absolutely the most difficult of all the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. You have probably noticed that even those who claim to believe in the Trinity struggle to explain exactly what they believe about the Trinity. I will not deny that the doctrine is difficult or even counterintuitive – you might think it untenable. And along with that, you probably recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity is the sine qua non of the Christian faith, the point on which all other points depend. Unless we know Who God is, we have nothing.

As a friend, I want to offer two things in this short epistle. First, I want to give you a brief sketch of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity held by the historic Christian faith. This doctrine, by the way, was held long before Nicea. The word Trinity itself is found more than 100 times in the writings of the ante-Nicean fathers who date all the way back to Continue reading “A Note to My LDS Friends about the Trinity”

Utah’s Sex Change Bill – SB 138

The Utah Legislature is considering a bill that paves the way for the transgendered to seek a legal sex change. I have been in contact with the author of the bill, Senator Todd Weiler, since the bill was first introduced. Initially, Senator Weiler told me that the bill was simply meant to provide guidance to judges for these matters, rather than allow the judges to legislate from the bench. Believe it or not, Utah has had a law in place for 43 years that about half of our judges interpret to allow a legal sex change. The language is somewhat obscure, but it is in place.
 
As this bill has progressed now through 3 substitute bills, it has followed a normal course for a controversial bill, first tipping in favor of one side in the debate, then of the other. However, the 3rd substitute of the bill, available at https://le.utah.gov/~2018/bills/static/SB0138.html, offers 3 options – “male, female, or other,” and requires nothing more than a “sincerely held belief” of a sex change.
 
The biggest problem with this bill is the risk to conservative churches like ours. Our church would not accept a homosexual couple into membership. That would violate our deepest convictions about the nature of marriage and God’s view of sexuality. Currently, state law protects our right to take this position. Of course, if a homosexual couple came to faith in Jesus Christ, we would accept them into membership once they dissolved their marriage and the homosexual relationship.
 
But suppose we are discussing a gay couple, and one of the partners in the marriage sought and obtained a legal sex change. Would the law still consider the couple to be a gay couple? Would the law require us to treat them as a heterosexual couple?
 
By conviction, should a couple like that profess faith in Jesus Christ and apply to our church or a church like ours for membership, we would make the same stipulation as in the case of a gay couple. But would the law accommodate us in this position? I say that it is impossible to know. Certainly, the legal standing would change, and no doubt this would be tested in court. Cultural pressure is already decidedly against us. I see this as a losing situation for our church and every church that takes the same stand as ours.
 
For our LDS friends, a similar question must be considered. If an individual were to seek and obtain a legal sex change, would they then be qualified for a priesthood position in the LDS church, and would the LDS church be at risk if they denied them that position? Again, we are too early in this process to know the answer to that question. But I believe that the LDS church or perhaps a church like mine would eventually find themselves dragged into court over this issue.
 
For this reason, I am urging all Utah residents to contact their Senator and urge them to vote against this bill.

Trumpmares

This week’s Trump scandal of the week is that our President allegedly referred to countries like Haiti and several African nations as, to use a little circumlocution, outhouse wells.  Whether Trump actually said that or not is unclear. With Dick Durban as the only “reliable” source, who really knows. This wouldn’t be the first time Dick Durban flat out made something up about a private meeting, as has been documented here.

But since the possibility exists – and it is a plausible story – that Trump may have said this, the media is outraged.  Again.  That makes, I think, 52 weeks in a row that the media has been in an uproar about Trump; 52 weeks in a row that we have been told that this was Trump’s worst week yet; 52 weeks in a row that we have been reminded that Trump is a racist and we are all doomed and Trump will be impeached by… who knows.  The date keeps getting pushed back.  People just can’t keep their commitments these days.

Since the media narrative has been that Trump is a racist, we are happy to believe Dick Durban.  Even Steve Bannon gets his moment in the spotlight, so long as he is bashing Trump.  And this morning, I heard the latest Trump scandal – he woke up breathing.  Which I think is the real problem.

Trump’s toilet analogy of some third-world countries has predictably unleashed a stream of hit pieces on Trump’s racism.  Reporters asked Trump to respond to those who say that he is a racist.  Trump (predictably) answered, “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”  Wow.  Didn’t see that coming.  His answer prompted editors at The Atlantic to interview their big room of experienced reporters and ask them “Who was the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed?”  You can read that here.  Their answers are very revealing, in case you had any illusions about reporters at The Atlantic.

My favorite answer came from James Fallows, who said

Claims that begin, “I’m no bigot, but…” “I’m no chauvinist, but…” or “I’m the least racist person you’ve ever met, but…” always mean, and are always universally understood to mean, the exact opposite.

Ah, yes.  We trapped you again, Donald.  Haven’t you learned yet?  Answering our questions is proof, as is not answering our questions.

Meanwhile, yet another “big name” celebrity is taken down by the #MeToo movement.  I suppose I will demonstrate what a rube I am, but I had never heard of Aziz Ansari before this weekend.  Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of pop entertainment.  Anyway, The Atlantic also has an interesting article on the subject.

Here is my take on the larger issue.  For decades now, Christians have been mocked and ridiculed for teaching abstinence, for holding high standards – especially when it comes to “dating” standards, for preaching that a man ought not to touch a woman and that a man and a woman should not be alone together without a chaperone.  In response, we were called prudes.  We were accused of suppressing our raging sexual desires and hiding our secret fantasies behind our high standards.  Now we learn that actually, women don’t want to be treated like a conquest.

But now men aren’t so sure how they are supposed to go about this great mating free-for-all.  The girl goes on a date with a guy, alone.  She goes to his apartment with him, again alone.  She sits up on his countertop and makes out with him.  What part of “no” doesn’t he understand?  Wham-O: sexual misconduct.

And now we are faced with a quandary.  How are we supposed to know whether the green light really means “go,” and what are we supposed to do when it skips the yellow light and changes suddenly to red.

One thing we all know: the world is not about to say, “Maybe the Christians had it right about this dating thing for all these years.”  I was reading an article a month or so ago – I can’t seem to find it now – but the author was wrestling with this thing of “consent” and how to separate the stalking creep from the flirting stud.  She had some pretty convoluted ideas about these things, but, interestingly, she wasn’t in favor of bringing an end to men hitting on women.  As she explained, her boss hit on her, and she married him.  They were still married too, which is to their credit no doubt.

I couldn’t help but think about the grace and kindness of God, Who has given us His law of holiness as a mercy to us, in order to spare us from the pain of lived out horror stories.  “Flee fornication” is not God’s way of handing you a boring life in a cardboard box.  “This do, and thou shalt live.”  At God’s right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

While the world ponders what “consent” really means, Christians should show them – it means a wedding dress, a father walking his daughter down the aisle, flowers and bridesmaids and groomsmen and rings and vows exchanged.  It means wedding cake and maybe a limousine and most of all a promise – no, a covenant: “Till death do us part.”  That is consent.  And until that consent, the consent of a father giving his daughter in marriage, there can be no other.

P.S. After writing this article, I came across an article Kent Brandenburg wrote about Trump, one I wholeheartedly agree with.  Let me encourage you to read it.  I have linked to it here.  When you finish, make sure you watch the CRTV video at the end.  Very satisfying.

Blessings!