Before Christ’s birth, Plato and the Stoics discovered a great deal of the knowledge of God. The Jews had far more light since they had prophets, priests, Scripture, etc., yet they often worshipped idols whereas the heathen had only general revelation to guide them. The Greeks and the Romans should have inferred a sovereign God far greater than themselves, One who created everything to whom they owed worship. They refused the general revelation all around them and, in the case of the Jews, rejected special revelation when Christ offered Himself as their promised Messiah.
You do not think Dallas Willard “strays into universalism” with his teaching but he does. Some Universalists believe even Satan will be rehabilitated while others believe that all humans, who have not been atheists, will be saved even if they have never heard of Christ. Of course that is universalism.
You mentioned that Joseph Smith, Muhammad, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, David Koresh, and Kenneth Copeland “are all great examples of heretics in the past 200 years whose teachings can lead their followers toward damnation.” However, the teaching of Willard, Schuller, Graham and others can have the very same effect. Moreover, what about your earlier statement, “Perhaps God might save those who have not heard Christ simply through general revelation.” Why should your list of religious leaders not be saved especially if they were sincere—even sincerely wrong? If God would extend His grace to heathen, then surely He would do so to those sincere “Christian” leaders.
Your next statement is astounding when you said, “I would venture to say that a person could drink a pint of beer everyday with dinner, smoke a pack a week, play poker with his buddies every Friday, go swing dancing with his girlfriend every Saturday, listen to heavy metal rock music, cover his body with tattoos and piercings, grow his hair down to his waist and dye it purple, grow out a beard to his chest, play video games with non-Christian friends, literarily use the F-word, wind-down after work each day to an hour of television, and still have a thriving relationship with the Almighty Triune God of the Bible. The big question is whether he is living a life of complete subjugation [Surely you did not mean to use this word. Maybe you meant ‘subjection.’] to God—by serving God and serving his neighbor. While I do not advocate these activities, I will also not make a list of activities not expressly condemned in the New Covenant. The question is because everything is permissible, how is what I am doing with my life glorifying to Christ?”
How in the world can you even suggest that such a person could be living “a life of complete subjection to God”? And how could such a person be “glorifying to Christ”? On the one hand, you wrote, “I will also not make a list of activities not expressly condemned in the New Covenant,” but then you stated, “everything is permissible.” It is astounding that you would consider acceptable for a Christian anything not specifically forbidden by Scripture. (Does the New Covenant forbid cannibalism?) Then your “everything is permissible” statement is contradictory. Moreover, what did Paul mean when he told the Romans (and us) not to be conformed to this world? If the above hypothetical “Christian” was not conformed to this world, then what must one do to qualify as doing so? Additionally, I cannot ignore the teaching of the Old Testament in this discussion.
God demands that His work be done in a godly way. Remember when God killed Uzzah in II Sam. 6:6-7 when he tried to do a good thing in the wrong way by reaching out to steady the cart that was carrying the ark of the Lord. I would have killed the oxen for being so clumsy but God punished Uzzah for his “error” (or rashness).
What do you think it means when Paul said in II Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”? If a man is a new creature, how can he live like an old creature?
Moreover, getting tattoos and piercings are unscriptural as per Lev. 19:28: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Is that “legalism” or is it as compelling (although not as serious) as “Thou shalt not kill”?
Furthermore, is Paul’s statement in I Cor. 11:14 still germane? “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Is it legalism to expect men to obey that teaching?
Regarding music, you said, “Many of the tunes to the beloved hymns we sing (including our national anthem!) were originally from drinking songs set with Christian lyrics.” Then you listed songs that were not “drinking songs.” Surely you do not equate Beethoven’s music with drinking songs! Moreover, you did not mention any “drinking songs.” It is alleged by many that Luther and Wesley took saloon melodies and put Christian words to them but that is not true. It is believed that this misconception developed because some of the tunes used by Luther were in German “Bar form” which means a three-part stanza–not a location where the songs were performed. Luther did take some of the old Roman Catholic tunes and put Scriptural words to them. That did not make the Pope a happy camper! But Luther didn’t care and neither do I.
You wrote, “I do not find any indication of God’s musical preference in Holy Writ,” but just before Calvary, Christ and the Disciples sang a “hymn” according to Matt. 26:30 and Mark 14:26. Paul told the Ephesians in 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” He also encouraged the church at Colosse (Col. 3:16) to teach and admonish each other with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” There is no doubt that the early church sang the Psalms; in fact, the Psalms were the hymnbook of the early church.
You suggested, “In many circumstances, antiquated musical styles can become a hindrance to those who desire the freedom to worship God. God provided such wonderful diversity in the Church just as he created such wonderful diversity in the world; it brings us to our knees and makes us realize that this worship is not about us.” This seems to be your justification for the use of any style of music in church services. Christians should not see how close they can get to worldliness without offending God, but how far away from worldliness they can get without unnecessarily offending men.
You opined, “It seems as though many Protestants who are against contemporary church music use some of the same reasons that the Catholics did during the Protestant Reformation.” The Catholics were offended because Luther’s new lyrics were offensive to Catholics. Of course, Catholics were offensive because the new lyrics ridiculed and opposed their false doctrine. However, some Christians today are offended by some of the new music, not because it is new, but because it is loud, raucous, unscriptural, shallow, vapid, etc. If the lyrics are so loud or garbled that no message is perceived then it is useless and out of place. If the band or orchestra is so loud that it breaks streetlights in front of the church, it is too loud and disgraceful. Furthermore, it also damages the hearing.
Bach, whom you praised earlier was right on the music issue. While serving as cantor at Thomas Church of Leipzig, Bach taught Luther’s Small Catechism. Bach stated: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.” That was an example of taking the correct position.
I agree with the prophet Amos when he wrote in Amos 5:23, “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.” (An instrument that preceded the guitar that was plucked.)
Also, much of the opposition to contemporary church music is not really about the music but all the change that goes with it, including doctrinal positions, ministry approach (entertainment vs. evangelization), attitude toward God, etc.
Then you got into deep weeds when you said, “I would not write off historical practices wholesale by the mere fact that Catholic mystics practiced it.” Of course not. Catholic mystics ate, took a bath (occasionally) and worked in their gardens. However, when the monks did things that are supposed to be religious, that is a different matter. There is no scriptural basis for self-flagellation, penance, not bathing, not cutting finger nails, sleeping on cold floors, long periods of silence, not eating meat, etc. They thought they were made good by feeling bad. It all goes back to works or seeking to satisfy a holy God. It is incredible that intelligent Christian leaders are trying to lead churches back into those days where church leaders should never have gone in the first place.
You wrote, “Too many times, however, [among Fundamentalists] the joy and love of Christ Jesus seems absent from their teaching; it becomes overshadowed by angry and harsh rhetoric lashing out against those who are not part of their community and living by their cultural expectations; it is not simply that they are loud.” I have noticed that there is more harshness, loudness, unfairness, and anger on the part of mushy evangelicals and liberals toward Fundamentalists than how Fundamentalists react to their critics. Among the Emergent Church people and megachurch people there is far more tolerance for homosexuals, Muslims, abortionists, etc., than for Christian Fundamentalists! Wonder why? Could we be a threat to them and their useless dogmas? Then again, maybe it is guilt because informed Evangelicals know that they are backslidden Fundamentalists! At least their parents were Fundamentalists.
Did you use Paul’s statement about his being willing to become all things so that the Gospel will be known to all people (1 Cor. 9:22) as a justification for fellowshipping and uniting with worldings and unbelievers? He was saying that he would not pursue something legitimate if his doing so might hinder a person trusting Christ. For example, if I am witnessing to a black man, I will not bring up Martin Luther King, Jr. as being a charlatan, adulterer, plagiarist, etc., since that is not necessary to that person’s salvation. However, after he trusts Christ and I am mentoring him, I may deal with King, Jackson, Sharpton, and other Blacks who rode to power on the backs of other Blacks. It is a matter of the uninformed Black becoming an educated person who accepts people as what they are not what race they may be. I can easily prove my contention about black opportunists but it could be unproductive, even harmful to the concerned Black, even though everything I tell him would be truthful. Paul is saying, “Why offend people when it will do no good? In matters of customs, dress, ceremony, I will conform to them, as far as I can, for the purpose of winning them.” I agree with Paul, not you.
As an aside, note that Paul spoke of saving “some.” If Willard, Schuller, Graham and Company are correct, then Paul would not have been concerned since all not “some” would be saved.
Your quotes by [Bryan Crawford] Loritts, (who chided Reformed Christians at this year’s Elephant Room conclave for criticizing T. D. Jakes for his heresy regarding the Godhead), “The goal of all ministry is transformation,” and, “Don’t ever stand in front of a group of people with a Bible in your hand and not expect change” are right on target. I certainly agree; however, if that means, as you wrote, “Christians need to be reading and interacting with books, movies, and ideas of the present age, for that is where the people are giving much of their attention,” then I disagree. When I got saved, I was not perfected but I was changed and all Christians are to be in the process of becoming in the image of Christ. Yes, it is important for Christians to be informed, but that requires discretion. For Christians to drink, share dirty stories, watch filthy television shows and movies and profess that they are becoming all things to all people and are engaging the culture is pure poppycock. They are, in my opinion, trying to justify ungodly, unscriptural living. You imply that such people should be given a religious “merit badge.”
You said that “I will engage in the corrupt culture as flavoring and savoring salt and enlightening and prophetic light by means of the Holy Spirit.” I don’t think that is Christian living as per the New Testament. I am not sure how you are using “engage.” I think your statement says you are not fighting the culture but participating with the culture. You seem to be saying you will “participate in the corruption” in order to be salt and light, i.e., to show that you are one of them, but II Cor. 6:17 tells us not to be “one of them” and to come out from among them and be separate. Paul adds also that we should not touch the unclean thing. Of course, personal and ecclesiastical separation is one of the major differences between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals.
It is my opinion that Christians should not love the world, talk like the world, dress like the world, nor act like the world. However, we should not withdraw from the world as the medieval mystics did to the extent that we are hermits and have no influence with the lost. I have discovered that those Christians who talk about being involved with the culture whereby almost anything is acceptable are simply trying to justify an ungodly lifestyle. Hence, those people can go to dirty movies, watch television (or videos) filled with obscenities and nudity, drink alcohol, read salacious literature, etc., without any feelings of guilt.
However, guilt is present whether felt or not and sin needs to be confessed and forsaken.
Thanks for writing.
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.