Sunday, March 5, 2017

Worship in Song

At the risk of sounding like I am ranting, I have to express my deep disgust at what passes for worship songs today. All worship must be directed at God, the LORD of all, the creator and ruler of the universe. From the Call to Worship until the Benediction, all that is said and done is to be a proclamation of God's glory, His greatness, His mighty works and His gospel. There is no room for acknowledgement and praise of our own good works. God isn't interested in our protestations of our love for Him or promises to praise and worship Him.

Let's have a short grammar lesson. Do you remember learning the parts of a sentence? If so, you know that the subject tells us who is acting in the sentence. The says it like this:
The subject of a sentence is the noun, pronoun or noun phrase that precedes and governs the main verb
So, if you are singing a song during the service of worship that includes the word "I", you are most likely singing a song about the works of man. You and/or your fellow worshipers are the subjects of those songs. You are telling God about yourself, as if He doesn't know. What is even worse is that you may very well be telling God lies, which is an abomination. Do we want our worship to be an abomination to God?

Let me give some examples.
Here I am to worshipHere I am to bow downHere I am to say that You're my GodYou're altogether lovelyAltogether worthyAltogether wonderful to me
If you are saying right now, "This is from Hillsong. No one should be singing songs from Hillsong in church." I will agree with you. If your congregation never sings this song, more power to you. Unfortunately, it does happen in others, such as the one where I worship. So let's analyze what is wrong with it.

This is the chorus and is repeated several times. It is basically a personal statement about what a particular person is doing/feeling right then. Let's pretended that the person is named John, and instead of saying "I", we will just substitute John's name and have the congregation sing it like that. Ready?
John is here to worship
John is here to bow down
John is here to say that you're his God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to John
 Does that seem appropriate for worship? Gathering as a congregation to tell God how John is holy and committed to God? If you don't think God wants you to sing to Him about John, what makes you think that God wants John to sing to God about John? Or, more exactly, that God wants you to sing to God about you?

There are other problems with this song. God is God. Or, as He might say, "I am that I am." It doesn't matter to Him, or anyone else if we say our God. That sort of leaves it open that someone else might have another god. But there is only one God. We don't make Him God, we don't make Him Lord of our lives. He IS all of those things by His own existence. God is also lovely, worthy and wonderful. Full stop. This is true. Full stop. To add that God is all of those things "to me" is to say that His character is somehow dependent upon my belief or upon me recognizing or allowing those things to be true. That's like saying gravity is powerful "to me." No. Gravity is powerful. I don't have anything to do with it. There is no need to mention John, or me, in a worship song.

Another problem with this song is that it turns the congregation into a gathering of individuals, each worshiping in his or her own little emotional wonderland. It doesn't recognize the communal nature of of the Church or the unity of that particular congregation. It is coming together on the Lord's day to worship communally, not as a bunch of individuals. The feelings of one particular person might not be representative of the whole, so singing about our feelings, or our individual actions or motives is not appropriate for congregational worship.

These types of worship errors are not only found in what we might call modern worship songs. They are common in many of the gospel songs written after 1850, which are commonly called hymns in many churches. Here is another example, written in 1892:
I'm pressing on the upward way,
New heights I'm gaining ev'ry day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
"Lord plant my feet on higher ground."
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith on heaven's table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
How does that song speak of the glory or the works of God? Who is the subject of that song? Again, what if we substitute the name of John for the I's in that song? How ridiculous would it be for us to sing it in worship? "John's pressing on the upward way, new heights he's gaining every day;"  Pretty stupid, huh?

Now let's look at an example of a true hymn, one written by Martin Luther:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great
and armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.

This song tells the story of the gospel and continuing powerful work of God in the lives of His church. It is about God's power and what HE does.

Here is another from around 1800:
O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
 Both of these songs are sung from the perspective of the whole church, not one individual, and they focus on God, His character, His attributes and His works.

Another type of song that is common to the congregation where I worship is a focus on the misery of life and how great it will be to die. Perhaps those songs are comforting to an old or terminally ill person on death's door. But to young, healthy believers, those songs are depressing and don't represent what the Bible teaches about life and its abundance. Christ didn't save us just so we could sit around and wait to die. There is kingdom work to be done here and now. Christians should embrace the gift of life and rejoice in it. Songs like this don't belong in the worship of God:

Oft times the day seems long
Our trials hard to bear;
We're tempted to complain,
To murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear,
To catch his bride away;
All tears forever over
In God's eternal day.
 This goes for songs that have bad doctrine and untruth in them, as well. If the song talks about us having harps in heaven or how God is going to take us by the hand and lead us around the promised land (which is not ever mentioned in Scripture)  it should be eschewed in public worship.

I'm not saying that these songs have no place in the life of a believer. Fanny Crosby's song My Savior First of All is uplifting and not totally doctrinally bereft. But it is about her hopes for heaven, God is not the subject, and it fails as a worships song.

Worship should be participatory for all of the congregation. That is why it should include reciting creeds, responsive readings from Scripture and singing. The Word is proclaimed to the entire congregation and we all enter the worship gates together. Every element of worship should be directed at God or be God's words to His people. There is no place for directing our focus inward and towards ourselves. Every word spoken or sung must be true.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Douglas Wilson on The Fear of Women

I have a love/hate reaction to the writings of Douglas Wilson. Mostly love. He says things really spot on the truth, and he says them in a way that is poignant and humorous.  Occasionally I read of him doing things that seem to contradict what he has written, and that is where the hate reactions come in to play. Not so much hate as frustration.

Anyway, I think this blog post is excellent in every way. I hope you like it, too.

The Fear of Women Bringeth Two or Three Snares

Friday, December 23, 2016

Good News!

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a proclamation. It is not a sales pitch.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Even if no one believes it, it is still true. There is no need to convince people of the gospel. Jesus said,
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. John 10:27-28
We don't preach the gospel in order to convert people, we do it so that the sheep can hear the voice of their Shepherd and follow Him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Marriage God's Way - A Book Review, part two

This is part two in my series reviewing the book Marriage God's Way by Scott LaPierre. Part one can be read here.

Right at the beginning of the book, Pastor LaPierre attempts to establish a foundation for the rest of the book. On pages 4 and 5 we can find what I believe to be the most important things said in the entire book. In fact, the principle related there, if followed, is the key to a wife finding fulfillment and success in her role as a wife. (I won't spend as much time discussing what husbands can learn from the book because I dislike very much the notion of a woman immersing herself too deeply in a husband's duties before God. I may comment where I think the author has totally missed the mark or stated something that is outright unbiblical in this area). Here are some examples:
A wife cannot submit to Christ without submitting to her husband.
Likewise, a wife submits to her husband not because he is a wonderful spiritual leader, or because he loves her the way she wants to be loved. A wife submits to her husband because she wants to submit to Christ.
Pastor LaPierre is hitting the target right in the bullseye with these statements and it isn't hard to find Scripture passages that teach this exact thing. (1 Cor. 11, Eph 5:24, 1 Peter 3:1-6, and others)

The first chapter left me hopeful because the foundational principles were so clearly stated and it seemed safe to assume that the rest of the book would be affirming of this. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. There are many places in the book where it reappears, but there are other places where it is outright contradicted. I believe the book could also benefit from real life examples of wives submitting that don't involve the author's own marriage. He and his wife are too young and lack the depth of understanding that comes from decades of practicing submission.

The undermining of the principle that a wife submits to her husband in obedience to God begins in a footnote right on page 4 that says
1  Chapter thirteen addresses the "what ifs" of submission: "What about an abusive husband? When does a wife not need to submit?"
I think I may have groaned out loud when I read that. Conspicuously absent is a chapter devoted to the "what ifs" of love. "What about an abusive wife? When does a husband not need to love?" No one EVER writes a book on marriage and includes instructions on when a husband is relieved of his duty to love his wife like Christ loves the church. And yet so many authors feel somehow compelled to let wives know that they don't always have to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.

To be clear, the commands to both husbands and wives in the Bible are unqualified. And just in case there was some question about whether the wives are really supposed to submit to their husbands in EVERY THING, Paul says this in Ephesians 5:24
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
There is no exception clause. No exceptions are given anywhere. And, just in case there is still some question, Peter goes on to explain in chapter 3 of his first epistle that when a husband is being disobedient to the word of God (abuse perhaps?) the wife is to be subject to him. He even gives the example of Sara obeying Abraham at a time when he was not obeying the word. Now, I am assuming that Peter didn't have some supernatural knowledge of the life of Sara, but was basing his argument on what he knew about Sara from the Scriptures and on what his audience would have known about Sara. When did Sara obey Abraham? When did Abraham disobey the word? It was when Abraham told Sara to say that she was Abraham's sister (not wife) so that she could be taken to wife (adulterously) by two different kings. (Gen 12:13 and Gen 20:5) You can read what I wrote about that passage here.

On page 122 of the book, Pastor LaPierre entitles a subsection Submission Does Not Mean That Wives Submit to Sin.  I disagree, based upon what Peter said about Sara making herself subject to Abraham. IF Sara had been taken as a wife by Pharaoh or Abimelech it would have been sinful. But the sin would have been Abraham's, not Sara's. God caused both Pharaoh and Abimelech to rebuke Abraham for his lie. No such rebuke was aimed at Sara, on the contrary, God preserved her obedience as a memorial to her in 1 Peter 3.

By telling wives that they don't have to submit to sin, they are set up to be continually in a position of judging their husbands, deciding whether what the husband wants to do is sin or not. The wife is granted a veto power over her husband with her trump card of "I believe it would be sinful." When the wife has the final say, it is SHE that is the head and ruler, not the husband. It turns the whole meaning of submission on its head. God is not the author of confusion, and this is a doctrine of confusion. Instead of telling wives, as the Bible does, that they are free to offer their unconditional submission to a husband and to trust God for the results (Committing themselves to him that judgeth righteously, 1 Peter 2:23) this author would have a wife judge every command of her husband, putting a burden on her shoulders that God did not intend for her to carry.

Sometimes submission will lead to suffering. That is the entire context of 1 Peter, which is particularly applicable to the present discussion in chapters 2 -4. Peter admonishes different people to submit to those in authority, even if it involves suffering. Then Peter offers the example of Christ's suffering and death on the cross and says to the wives "LIKEWISE..." like what? Like Christ suffered, so should a wife, if that is what her situation requires. Keep reading chapter 3, all the way to verses 17 and 18 which say:
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
In part one of my review I stated that one of my criticisms of the book is that when Pastor LaPierre uses Scripture, he doesn't look at it within its entire context and this is a perfect example. He deals with each of the first 6 verses of 1 Peter 3 as if they were standing alone, rather than being sandwiched right in the middle of chapters 2 through 4. 1 Peter 3:1-6 is not a recipe for a happy, peaceful, easy life, free of suffering. It is a description of one of the ways the people of God are called to follow Christ in His sufferings, which will sometimes occur within marriage.

It is unfortunate that in attempting to find a biblical example of a wife submitting to sin, Pastor LaPierre uses Ananias and Sapphira, whose story is told in Acts 5. There is no mention in this story that Ananias told Sapphira what to do or that she was submitting to him by lying to the apostles about the money. It says that Ananias kept back part of the price and Sapphira was privy to it. There is no mention that she was against it, or considered it sinful. So it really does fail as an example of why a wife shouldn't submit to sin. Again, the proper example, the one used by God, is the example of Sara, who was praised for her submission.

On pages 162 and 163, we read a pretty good description of Sara obeying Abraham in the matter of saying she was his sister rather than wife. But he is, again, separating verses 3-6, which are talking about Sara, from verses 1-2. In discussing verses 1 and 2, Pastor LaPierre attempts to make the case that Peter is talking about a husband who is an unbeliever. (pages 142-144) IF Peter was talking about an unbelieving husband, it would have been completely nonsensical to use Sara and Abraham as an illustration of the principle.

Also on page 122, Pastor LaPierre says that wife should not submit to her husband if he is breaking man's laws, which he equates to blatant sin. He mentions "cheating" on income tax and drug dealing. This is bordering on idolatry to claim that violating some arbitrary statute of men is a "blatant sin." What if the law of men prohibits home schooling or mandates sending children to state homes or boarding schools? This is just turning into dangerous territory for a wife who is now going to wrest the reins of family leadership from her husband by standing as judge over his every decision, ruling whether it is or is not sin.

On page 121 there is a subsection entitled Submission Does Not Mean That Wives Submit to Abuse. Again, why doesn't it mean that? Is abuse part of the "every thing" to which a wife is commanded to be in subjection to? If not, why not? Why does 1 Peter 2 describe the suffering of Christ as our example and then Peter says, "Likewise ye wives..."?  Pastor LaPierre gives permission to a wife who is being abused to separate from her husband. He asserts that God permits this based upon 1 Cor 7:11 which says:
But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.
But this is ignoring the context, even the command in the verse immediately preceding which states:
And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.
Pastor LaPierre gives permission for something God forbids, by direct command? Further, 1 Peter 3 clearly states that when a husband is not obeying the word, a wife is to submit -- not leave.  We also see on page 121 that he gives a wife permission to call the police on her husband. And yet, in 1 Cor 6 Paul instructs the church that it is better to suffer and take wrong than to go to law before unbelievers.

The overarching problem that I am seeing is that while Pastor LaPierre correctly states the principle that a wife should submit to her husband as an act of obedience to Christ, he then goes completely outside of the Bible to find exceptions to the rule. The Bible does not give an exception clause. If a wife decides to forego submission for any reason, she can't use the Bible to justify it, and no one should tell her otherwise.  If you want to label something as being "God's Way" then you must stick directly to what God has said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Origins of Courtship Plus Chivalry

I wrote here about my objections to the idea that Christians should court as a pathway to marriage. One of the most obvious problems lies in the fact that courtship behavior, historically, involved extramarital affairs. It would have been better if I had done more research and given some sources, as I was primarily relying on my memory and I don't necessarily know from whence the information came.

Here Dalrock gives more shocking insight into courting, including the concept of chivalry. As I stated in my blog post, courtship was an adulterous undertaking. The principles underlying chivalry weren't even related to the behavior of a man within marriage.

Courtship is not a valid model for marriage and Christians should eschew it in favor of pathways that don't involve romantic entanglements outside of marriage.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Questions to Ask About Vaccines

One of the most disturbing things I learned from this article is that people will accept government stats about decreased rates of polio, even if it means ignoring an INCREASE in paralysis and death. I've been saying for years that we have the same rates of paralysis in this country that we've always had, but we just don't call it "polio" so that vaccine companies can make false claims about efficacy and safety.

I hate that we put the agenda of vaccine companies and government fat cats above health and safety. It is evil.

Read this and share it with your friends and family who want to know more.

4 Questions that May Change Your Mind About Vaccines

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Contemporary Worship

I have started a couple of posts about the problem modern churches have with the songs they sing and the way they use singing in the service of worship. I can't seem to finish those posts, but I'm sure I will some day.

In the meantime I came across this post which I think is very good. I don't agree that a liturgical form of worship must follow the so-called church calendar, and I do not like the word "Eucharist" used in reference to communion or the Lord's supper. It is mostly associated (at least in the U.S.) with transubstantiation, where the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. This isn't technically the meaning of the word, but the associations are tainted with Roman Catholicism, so perhaps it is best avoided in an article written for a mass (pardon the pun) audience.

Anyway, here is the article. Feel free to comment, even though I didn't write it.

7 Ways Contemporary Worship is Starving the Church