Dr. Peter Masters' False Exaltation of Historic English Culture Above All Others
You constantly read this: 'Culture is neutral- morally neutral. So if culture changes, we can adopt it. We can do what we please.' Well, wherever do you find in the Bible that culture is morally neutral. Nowhere it's in the Bible text- it isn't in the Bible at all. The Bible says the opposite; it says there is a great world system, 'the system of this world,' which is under the sway and the rule of Satan. Culture of this world is often demonic- it's written in the vaults of Hell, it's wrong, it's antagonistic to Christian thinking and the standards of the Word of God. But no, they say, 'culture is neutral.' So whatever cultural form comes about, even if it's invented in the entertainment business by people who did it while on drugs and who are emphasizing rebellion against God and just about everybody, and sexual liberty, that's a culture which is morally neutral. And we should do the same. This is what people want, this is what the young wants, this is what the worldly wants.
Point of Agreement
Dr. Masters makes a good point in debunking the false idea that culture is morally neutral. He alludes, I believe, to Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (KJV).
Just as no human person is morally neutral, but we have all become naturally "dead in trespasses and sins," opposed to God and His Law unless born again by the Holy Spirit, so no human culture is morally neutral.
An argument for particular worship styles based on an idea of the moral neutrality of cultures is, then, biblically indefensible.
Greater Application Needed
However, it is not acceptable that Dr. Masters would fail in applying the biblical idea of all cultures as naturally under Satan's sway TO HIS OWN CULTURE. One of the great things I previously noted about the Metropolitan Tabernacle is the ethnic diversity among the congregation that one finds when visiting there; pews are shared by people of every skin color and many different accents. Why, then, are ALL the hymns sung at Met Tab written by Watts, Wesley, Rippon, and almost no one else? There are many good things about the songbook used at Met Tab– especially the section of Psalms, as the singing of Psalms is sorely neglected in most churches today– but are we really to believe that the only godly songs were written in 18th century England?
A major reason for the limited selection of songs at Met Tab is that Dr. Masters has (illegitimately, as I have argued) defined “worldliness” in such a way as to exclude music styles originating from many cultures throughout the globe. In other words, if rhythmic music is inherently “worldly,” then African or Latin-style music, which tends to be more rhythmic than European music, is inherently invalid for worship. On the other hand, if Dr. Masters is incorrect, and rhythmic music is not necessarily “worldly,” then such a prejudice is unnecessary.
It is true that African and Latin cultures (to stick with the examples just mentioned) are not morally neutral, but neither are European cultures. THUS, THE PIPE ORGAN IS NOT INHERENTLY MORE SPIRITUAL THAN THE CONGA DRUM. Someone will say, ‘but Latin instruments and African instruments such as the djembe have pagan associations.’ These objectors forget that it was Jubal, from the cursed line of Cain, who is named as the father of those who play the harp and flute (Gen 4:21), and yet the Lord redeemed these instruments, commissioning their use in the temple. [Likewise, occupations such as cattle-herding and working with bronze and iron originated among Cain’s descendants, yet these occupations were redeemed by the Lord and used among His covenant people.] Cultural artifacts such as musical instruments or styles may be redeemed for the Lord and may be used by His people in worship; consideration of how these artifacts are to be utilized for the glory of God while retaining focus on Him and on edifying others does require careful inquiry into biblical wisdom, but we must not take the easy way out by imposing restrictions on worship that are ill-founded in Scripture, which restrictions limit the diversity in worship that God desires (Rev 5:9).