Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Peter Masters puts the cart before the horse

Commentary on the church of Jesus Christ can be found all over the internet. Sometimes they are really good, and well, sometimes not so good. The one thing however, that a commentator must remember, is that when such commentary is made, that it has to be driven by Biblical exegesis. When personal feelings and ideas drive such commentary without it being based on actual Scripture, it might as well be written on the beach at high tide.

Of course, it is a given that no commentator on church issues always keeps to Biblical commentary of such issues. We are sometimes influenced by our backgrounds, and sometimes culture plays a bigger part than we would like to admit! This is where I believe Peter Masters fits in.

Well, here goes! Stepping on toes! Some holy toes! Oops... was that the sacred cow?

In his critique of the so-called new-Calvinism in his article The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness, Peter Masters starts with:
"When I was a youngster and newly saved, it seemed as if the chief goal of all zealous Christians, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, was consecration. Sermons, books and conferences stressed this in the spirit of Romans 12.1-2, where the beseeching apostle calls believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world. The heart was challenged and stirred. Christ was to be Lord of one’s life, and self must be surrendered on the altar of service for him.

"But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed, by Collin Hansen tells the story of how a so-called Calvinistic resurgence has captured the imaginations of thousands of young people in the USA, and this book has been reviewed with great enthusiasm in well-known magazines in the UK, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, and Reformation Today.

"This writer, however, was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before."
This is about as much substance in his critique as you will get, except for a thing here or there. Masters' critique is against the "syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, [] mixed with Calvinistic doctrine." What is it with legalists that always want everybody else to keep to non-Biblical laws? BTW, how do you define worldly music? One beat to many? Drums? Perhaps too loud?

What is worldly worship? Perhaps it is when we sing a U2 song in church! (This should never happen!) The Bible does not give us any indication of the style or sound of Biblical music! To make claims this way or that way is to make extra-Biblical claims. What does worship sound like? Has anybody ever heard it?

Maybe I am a bit facetious right now, but c'mon! Are we really supposed to only use music that was written four centuries ago? Shouldn't we also only use instruments that were made back then? Should we sing hymns and psalms as they were written by a bygone era only? How far back should we go? To the 19th, 18th, 17th or 16th centuries? Perhaps their music was not good enough? So, let's skip the Dark Ages altogether and go back to the time of Augustine. No? Ok, what about all the way to the time of Jesus? Can you see how frivolous it can become?

In my opinion, Peter Masters is using a cultural norm (his own) as a litmus test to differentiate between old- and new-Calvinists. Does he really believe that a style of music can make you do immoral stuff? Maybe it'll make you use drugs or lust after lewd women? This is truly preposterous! An evolutionist, or perhaps a quacky psychiatrist, can believe that, since to many of them humans are but the sum of their chemicals. But, as a human being, made in the image of God, and able to think and make choices in life, I believe that I do things because I can think and make choices, not because a style of music makes me do things!

Music is a medium, and it is up to us what we do with that medium! It is like saying television is evil, so, all Christian programming by extension must also be evil.

What we can say with absolute confidence, is that worship has content! Biblical content! We can say that if music, any music, has content in it that is not true to the Bible, it would be worldly music, or at leat non-Christian. IMHO, when someone claims that a certain style of music is unbiblical or worldly, their knowledge of that fact was acquired by the thumb-sucking method. The fact is, that as much as people try to build laws for worship music styles, those laws are man made. They are not the laws of God. May we worship loudly? With lots of decibels? Can I use rhythmic music? Yes on all counts! When reading through the Psalms, you will notice that all classes of musical instruments were in use to worship God.

What is also amazing is that Peter Masters even attacks John Piper for "proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments" during the Passion conference in Atlanta in 2007. "Calvinistic sentiments?" John Piper is one of the clearest preachers on Calvinistic doctrine. Must he expound each and every Calvinistic doctrine to its fullest extent each and very time he preaches at a conference? That is simply unreasonable!

Of course, I do not disagree with Masters on every point. Such as Mark Driscoll's "'edgy' language and gravely improper humour." I agree with Masters' commentary on this. But you see, Scripture clearly tells us that dirty language and such is wrong! However, on musical style and lighting the Bible says nothing!

Peter Masters writes of the Puritans a lot in his critique. He clearly admires them, which is a good thing! The Puritans taught Christianity a lot. However, the Christian community is not called to emulate the Puritans! We are called to follow the Scriptures! "You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification." That is true, but once again, we are not to seek Puritan sanctification! We seek Biblical sanctification. As far as the Puritans are in line with Biblical teaching fine, but we must depart where they differ from the Bible.

Masters makes an attack on several men of God, such as John Piper, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, etc. Some of these attacks are made indirectly, such as through Together for the Gospel.

This attack critique by Masters give us no definitions to work from. He claims that these Calvinists are leading people to worldly lifestyles, worldly worship, and basically for not being properly sanctified. What is a worldly lifestyle, in the opinion of Peter Masters? From his article, it seems to me to have a lot to do with his own cultural preference and very little to do with actual Biblical decree!

In conclusion, Masters wants everybody to live like he does, with his cultural norms. He has not shown me at all from a clear Biblical standpoint, why different music genres/styles could not be used in worship. He simply is not convincing at all in his criticisms on the men and ministries mentioned in his article, except for Mark Driscoll.

Is Peter Masters letting his cultural likes and dislikes be the guide to his Biblical ideas on this issue? Our cultural norms should be informed by the Bible, not the other way round.

Update:
After writing this post I was busy reading through some new blog posts that Google Reader picked up for me, and I found Dan Phillips' blog post on this issue with links to other commenters on Peter Masters' article. Here is more.

6 comments:

Steve said...

You might find the following blogs of interest about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads:

http://www.sgmsurvivors.com
http://www.sgmrefuge.com

Hope this helps.

William Dicks said...

I just had a quick look at the first link.

It strikes me real odd that the person complaining there mentions SGM's hyper-Calvinistic tendencies. This person obviously does not understand Calvinism and neither hyper-Calvinism. SGM is not even close to being hyper-Calvinistic.

Read Phil Johnson's A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism.

Concerning these people's experiences at SGM, I'd rather say nothing.

What I'd like to say is that I have been looking for the perfect church for years! The bummer is, everytime I think that I have found one, I spoil it with my presence.

Anonymous said...

I am reading a book by Peter Masters called 'Worship in the Melting Pot'. You may find it helpful in understanding Peter Masters' viewpoint on 'Contemporary Worship'. I don't think you understand why Peter Masters makes his stand against what is passed for worship. Have you read it?
Regards, Robert, NZ

Anonymous said...

I just wish Christians would drop the labels - "Puritans", "Calvinists", "Evangelicals", etc. They just complicate matters and divide people.

However, being from an African background with different styles of music from Dr Masters, I share your sentiments. That we worship with loud drums and trumpets does not make us any more "worldly" than people who worship from hymns. I think like you said, what is worldly or not should be judged by its content not by its style.

William Dicks said...

Hi Robert (NZ),

I have read the book, and in my opinion he overstates the case. Peter Masters tries to make his cultural milieu the measuring stick and in no way proves his point from Scripture.

Paul Fitzpatrick said...

I too have just read the book.
Peter Masters cites Scripture everywhere.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin