Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dr. Peter Masters' False Separation of the Body from the Mind in Worship

We are told NEVER to be under the power of anything. This is an important principle, and this CONDEMNS most modern worship forms. The Apostle Paul makes this absolutely clear: "I will not be brought under the power of any"- not alcohol, not drugs, not rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, thumping out multiple instrumentation. These are drug-friends, to get people into what they want- an altered state of consciousness for the time being- making an impact upon the body so that joy and excitement- it's sensational, it's bodily, it's fleshly- massive volumes of sound. Let alone the culture, the style, the very volume, and the rhythmic nature of it- that's what it's designed for, that's its clever intention, that's what people want- whether you do it with alcohol, or with drugs, or to get into the big pop concert and let it get right into you and feel it: a state of ecstasy, as it were. And that is being brought into worship; when your mind should be crystal clear, when you should embrace and understand- the mind is the palace of faith- wonderful sentiments, wonderful things about the Lord. No wonder (isn't it interesting) that contemporary Christian worship wants to simplify all the words of worship too and sing endless, repetitive, simple choruses, and so on. EVERYTHING is a dumbing down, because you've yielded yourself under the power of what the world does for pleasure, for sensual pleasure, and for impact on the body. WE lead with the mind- we love Him, we appreciate the doctrines, we direct our thoughts- worship is words. Worship is words- whether sung, whether said, whether thought- and we've permitted music, simply used, to keep us together, and to suggest, if you like, the mood of the words, and to wind those words heavenward. WE get our principles from the Scripture; THEY DO NOT. Many of them are good Christian people who've been fooled into adopting all this. We're never to be friends of the world, never to be under the power of anything of this sort. (Dr. Peter Masters, Morning Teaching Service, 21 June 2009)

As clear from his above statements Dr. Peter Masters believes that the use of rhythm and volume in music is a sin. What command can he point to back his position? The only biblical proof that he can offer is a citation of 1 Corinthians 6:12- "I will not be brought under the power of any" ("brought under the power of" is better translated "mastered by" or "enslaved by," as in the NASB, ESV, and NIV). But does the use of any rhythm necessarily lead to enslavement? Dr. Masters allows for the use of music "to suggest... the mood of the words." If the "mood of the words" is celebration over the resurrection or if the words are about 'dancing before the Lord,' as some biblical texts mention, then might not rhythm and volume be appropriate? The answer is, 'yes,' as demonstrated below.

Dr. Masters' critique seems to be less based on any Scripture and more based on some kind of wrong-headed philosophy in which anything to do with the body is viewed with suspicion. Dr. Masters literally sneers at music that has an "impact on the body." (Upon hearing the sermon I've quoted from above, my wife wondered if Dr. Masters would be upset if a person was moved to tears over a classic Christian hymn- I suspect that he would not, but her question is legitimate if one takes his words at face value.) Though much of Reformed worship has separated mind and body- the worshipers stand very still, with eyes turned down to a page, singing joyous truths in somber tones- worship in the Bible is different. For example: Psalm 63:4 and Psalm 134:2 teach that we should raise our hands in song; Psalm 47:1 and Psalm 97:8 teach that we should clap [quoted from HERE]; Psalm 149:3 speaks of dancing and playing percussive instruments (!) in worship; and, of course, there is Psalm 150, which will be examined in posts later this week.

Is it true that some contemporary worship music is 'dumbed down,' using rhythm and volume to make up for lack of content? Certainly. But the Reformed ministers criticized by Dr. Masters in his earlier article are aware of this problem, and are actively engaged in combat against it.

As C.J. Mahaney writes in The Cross Centered Life:

Not all worship songs are created equal. Many today are man centered, not cross centered. They focus more on what we need, or what we want God to do, than on what Jesus has already done.

Mahaney continues:

I have to admit I'm spoiled when it comes to great cross centered worship songs. Some of my friends are very gifted songwriters who create incredible, contemporary worship songs that are filled with the gospel. (You can find out more about these songs and albums at

Whereas the Sovereign Grace churches have benefited and continue to benefit from the classic hymns preferred by Dr. Masters, Dr. Masters has done himself a great disservice by snubbing contemporary gospel centered hymnology simply because the music accompanying these hymns employs rhythm.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Dr. Peter Masters' False Identification of "Worldliness" with a Multiplicity of Instruments

Should we worship with bands and instruments and rhythm and loud, many decibels, modern songs, modern style of praise? Or should we worship in the historic, reverent manner with a distinctive style of song and praise and thoughtfulness and reverence? What is right: that we should cover the platform with instruments and put on a performance for God, or that we should worship Him with words, from our hearts? (Dr. Peter Masters, Morning Teaching Service, 21 June 2009)

With the above rhetoric, Dr. Masters condemns everything from Handel's Messiah to Sovereign Grace Music as inherently "worldly." Dr. Masters gives a false identification of a multiplicity of instruments with worldliness, and a false dichotomy: should we worship God with many instruments, or should we "worship Him with words, from our hearts"? Many Christians would affirm, "both."

Elsewhere in his sermon, Dr. Masters asserts that only four instruments are biblically mandated in worshiping God [although he should say four types of instruments and it should be noted that none of the biblically-mentioned instruments are used at Metropolitan Tabernacle: they only use an organ in their Sunday service], and he asserts that the instruments used in worship in the Old Testament would be barely audible. Both of these assertions, as well as his identification of a multiplicity of instruments with worldliness, are contradicted by Scripture. In 1 Chronicles 25, David establishes 24 orders of musicians for the service of the temple; should the reader imagine that this number of musicians was barely audible? That many instruments were used in temple worship seems inescapable from an examination of Old Testament texts.

In this regard, Psalm 150, which mentions many different kinds of instruments, is also relevant. Later in the sermon quoted from above, Dr. Masters seeks to avoid the relevance of this text (he charges those who think Psalm 150 relevant to this matter as being biblically ignorant), but the way that he seeks to avoid Psalm 150 is quite unacceptable- leading him to posit contradictions in the Scripture that aren't there and to take up an allegorical mode of interpretation- as will be seen in subsequent posts.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Worship Wars" Alive and Well at MetTab

This past Sunday- the final day that my wife and I were visiting family in England- we attended the morning teaching service of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The Metropolitan Tabernacle was completed in 1861 and first pastored by C.H. Spurgeon. As a great admirer of Spurgeon's ministry- as well as the ministry of the current pastor- Dr. Peter Masters, I anticipated that worshiping at the Metropolitan Tabernacle would be a great highlight of our trip to England.

There is certainly much about which Reformed Baptists should be thankful to God in regards to the Metropolitan Tabernacle as it presently exists. As previously mentioned, there is much to be applauded concerning Dr. Masters' ministry- in particular, his book Biblical Strategies for Witness is remarkably helpful for anyone seeking to emulate Jesus' methods of evangelism. Visiting the Metropolitan Tabernacle and observing what takes place there, one is struck by how Dr. Masters has led the Tabernacle Fellowship in upholding the best features of Spurgeon's ministry: a strong commitment to biblical doctrine and a fervent passion to see people come to know Jesus Christ in a saving way. But, as blogger Dan Phillips mentioned in a recent post, Dr. Masters is also currently leading the church in following some of the less commendable aspects of Spurgeon's ministry: specifically in regards to censoring others due to stylistic differences; in this vein, Dr. Masters has recently written an article, "The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness," in which he casts doubt on a variety of Christian leaders from John MacArthur to Joshua Harris, charging them with promoting unbiblical worship practices. Similarly much of Dr. Masters' sermon last Sunday was devoted to giving a rant about "worldliness" in contemporary worship.

Whereas Christians must certainly seek holiness in all areas of life- and especially in our worship, and whereas no leader mentioned in Dr. Masters' article can claim infallibility, the specific charges made by Dr. Masters ring false on a number of counts. Dr. Masters' charges of worldliness towards fellow gospel ministers are:

  • False in identifying a multiplicity of instruments with worldliness;
  • False in separating the mind from the body in worship;
  • False in positing a contradiction between a straightforward reading of Psalm 150 and earlier biblical texts;
  • False in promoting an allegorical reading of Psalm 150;
  • False in exalting English culture above all others.
In upcoming posts, I plan to carefully examine Dr. Masters article and his rant from last Sunday in light of the biblical text, and to demonstrate the fallacies in his reasoning as asserted above.


Friday, June 26, 2009

The Michael Jackson Post I Wish I'd Written

I thought it appropriate to offer some words at the passing of the King of Pop, and was struggling to think of what I could say, when I found that Andrew Sullivan had already captured my best thoughts (and more!) exactly. His article follows:

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Responsive Reading Recited at the Southern Seminary Sesquicentennial Service

(Yesterday The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated its sesquicentennial with a special service of thanksgiving to God for His blessings upon this Seminary. This thanksgiving service included Bible readings, appropriate hymns- such as "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" and "Soldiers of Christ in Truth Arrayed," a presentation to Dr. Greg Wills for writing an official history of the seminary, and an account of the Seminary's history- with special focus on God's faithfulness to the Seminary- by Dr. Al Mohler. Also included was the following responsive reading, composed for this occasion. Mark Dever led the responsive reading: I'm not sure whether he also composed it, or if it was someone else, as the author was unannounced. UPDATE: I saw Mark Dever at the SBTS campus LifeWay store this morning, and he told me that Dr. Mohler composed the responsive reading.)

We gather to celebrate the faithfulness of God that is demonstrated in the founding of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859 and its preservation until this day.

It is right and good to give praise to the Lord for this day and for the legacy of faithfulness that links past, present, and future in the secure purposes of Almighty God.

We celebrate the vision of the founders, who saw the need for a theological seminary that would serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are thankful for their commitment to scholarly excellence and learning for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.

In this light we commit ourselves anew to their vision, affirming that our commitment to scholarship is a commitment to discipleship. May those who learn and teach in this school love God with heart and mind and strength.

We celebrate the convictions upon which this school was established, and claim these as our own, affirming the doctrines of our faith without hesitation or mental reservation and standing with boldness in the declaration of Christian truth.

In this generation, we are required to affirm anew our commitment to the faith once for all delivered to the saints and to stand with our churches in the propagation and defense of these doctrines. We affirm the unqualified truthfulness of the Bible even as we affirm the trustworthiness of Almighty God.

We reflect upon the name of this school, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and celebrate the identity of this school as an institution serving the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches. From its inception, this school was to find its identity in a confessional covenant with these churches and this denomination.

With gratitude we affirm the mission of this Seminary as a servant of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. We humbly accept this charge even as it is handed to us by those who came before us.

We return to the historic founding of the Seminary in order to remember the rock from which we are hewn, the story that expresses the glory of God in our calling, and the vision for establishing Gospel churches that would take the saving message of Christ to all the nations.

With eagerness we return to our founding in order to be more faithful in the present. We reflect on the legacy we now celebrate in order to be reminded of the great charge that is now assigned to the generation of the living. May Southern Seminary serve so that our churches are built up in the faith, so that our preachers proclaim the Word with power and faithfulness, and so that the nations will rejoice in the name of Jesus.

May the Lord keep, preserve, and lead The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary into ever greater faithfulness until Jesus comes, to the everlasting glory of the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Notes on Dr. Danny Akin's Founders Breakfast Sermon (6/23/09)

Sermon text: 3 John. Sermon focused on the necessity of both “creeds and deeds” in the Christian life. Dr. Akin examined three persons mentioned in the text: Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius. Focus of the text is the Great Commission (i.e., the spread of the gospel in making disciples) as related to the lives of these three individuals. Key recurring words in this text are “truth” and “love.” Dr. Akin spent some time exhorting us from 3 John 2 in which the elder prays that Gaius may be just as physically healthy as he is spiritually healthy; if someone prayed that for us as individuals, as a ministry, or as a Convention, how would our physical health fare? Dr. Akin spoke of the reputation of the individuals in this book; what is our reputation as individuals, as a ministry or as a Convention– what do others think of us– what are we most known by? Excellent exegesis and exhortation was given from 3 John.

Dr. Akin closed by noting 10 things that he appreciated about Founders Ministries and by giving 7 warnings to Founders Ministries. The list of things Dr. Akin appreciated about Founders Ministries included items such as: the fact that the vision statement for Founders Ministries detailed clear commitment to the idea of “creeds and deeds” Dr. Akin had been exploring from 3 John and the long-standing commitment of Founders Ministries to regenerate church membership. Warnings that Dr. Akin issued mostly involved admonitions that we should not be unnecessarily combative, that we should focus on Christ Himself rather than Calvinism, and that we should be always passionate for missions and evangelism. Dr. Akin’s appreciation for Founders Ministries seemed sincere, and his warnings were given with utmost respect– for these reasons and because of the excellence with which he had handled the biblical text, he seemed very well received by everyone in the room.