Thursday, September 4, 2008

Music - The Golden Calf #2 - A Response

(The second part of DP’s article can be found here, and I recommend you read his article before reading my response).

Continuing the discussion on musical styles in worship, DP asks a very valid question: Does God “accept any type of style or worship simply by my telling Him that this is for Him?” DP then takes us back to Gen. 4 to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel had brought their offering to God where Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected. DP’s main argument is that Cain’s sacrifice or style of worship if you will, was rejected because of the kind or type of sacrifice it was. According to DP, Cain figured he could bring to God anything he wanted and be accepted. The problem with Cain’s sacrifice was that it was not a blood sacrifice, but rather of the farm produce that Cain had grown. Cain subsequently got angry and killed Abel out of jealous rage, abruptly ending the world’s first “worship war.”

But was Cain’s sacrifice rejected because it was the wrong type? Let’s look a little deeper.

Commentaries differ as to the proper interpretation of this passage, in particular this very issue of why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected. Most agree that Abel’s sacrifice was symbolic, a foreshadow of the Lamb of God’s death on the cross for the punishment of sin. What’s missing in this passage is the reason behind Cain and Abel’s offering. Was it an offering to atone for sins? Or was it an offering to express gratitude to God? Further, as some commentaries argue, the sacrificial system of bringing an animal for the atonement of sin was not laid down until Leviticus 2, hundreds of years after Cain and Abel. Furthermore, God also instituted a sacrifice whereby the people were allowed to bring both animal and food for certain kinds of sacrifices. It is argued that God must have told Adam and his family what his requirements were; however, this is an argument from supposition and can just as easily be countered that God may not have said anything about it.

So if it wasn’t what Cain brought, then what was it? I firmly believe it was because of the manner in which he brought it. Instead of dealing with externals, God right from the start shows that he is way more concerned about the heart issue. In Heb. 11:2, Abel is mentioned as having brought his sacrifice “by faith” and his offering was more acceptable because of it. Cain on the other hand did not bring his through faith, as evidenced by his quick anger in having it rejected. Cain’s heart was not in the right place from the start and God knew it. DP would have us believe that both brothers came with equally reverent attitudes and wanting to worship God, when this doesn’t appear to be the case at all. It was not in what Cain offered that God had issue, but in how Cain offered it.

DP’s use of the account of Uzzah does not seem to apply to the discussion since this passage nowhere even mentions worship, but rather one man’s disobedience to what God had very clearly instructed.

Yes, I would agree with DP that there are churches today that expect God to accept their worship, while during the week living like the devil. Where I disagree is the broad brush that DP is painting with in his assumption that ALL churches who use certain kinds of music are doing so with this attitude. Again, we are not dealing with externalities but rather matters of the heart and DP is even hinting at that since he does not mention musical style but rather heart issues.

Here, DP leaves off attempting to support his argument with Biblical reasoning and instead resorts to emotional rhetoric. Emotion aside, DP has not yet shown from Scripture or even sound reasoning the difference between “worldly music” and “Christian music” other than to mention a few musical styles that he apparently does not enjoy. He seems to indicate that there is some sort of musical style that is distinctly Christian, but has not yet expounded on what that is exactly. Once again, I would point out a statement from Edward Dickinson’s Music in the History of the Western Church: “The vitality of ecclesiastical art has always seemed to depend upon retaining a conscious touch with the large art movements of the world, and church music has certainly never thrived when, in consequence of neglect or complacency, it has been suffered to become inferior to its rival.” That music is a part of culture no one can deny and this can be seen in the changes down through the centuries in church music. If this were not the case, we would still be singing with the same musical style as the early church fathers.

Lastly, DP would have us believe that the world is not seeing a difference in churches because they hear the same musical styles as heard all during the week. If this were true, how easy it would be to simply change our musical style to something unheard of during the week and to sit back and watch the curious world come to our doors to see what the difference is. No, John 13:35 does not say “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have a different music style than the world.” No, time and time again, the Scriptures consistently point to attitudes of the heart: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world is not looking for a different set of songs or musical style. They are looking for a difference in how people live and act toward one another. And only the power of the gospel will provide such a difference.

So far in his efforts, DP has not once shown from Scripture where God is concerned about the style of music or worship. In John 4, we read of Jesus’ encounter with a woman of Samaria. The woman, in trying to get the attention off her sinful lifestyle (heart issue!), asks Jesus whether true worship must be done in Jerusalem as opposed to “on this mountain” where they had been worshiping. Here would be the perfect opportunity for Jesus to lay down some ground rules for how worship should be conducted. But he doesn’t. Or rather, he does, but not in the way we would expect. He says “The hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” I’m sure that completely blew the mind of the woman – who fully expected him, as an Israelite, to insist on worship in Jerusalem, with all the trappings, sacrifices, order, etc of the temple. But Jesus once again goes straight to the heart – “if you want to worship me, you must worship in spirit and in truth.” Not, “you must worship me by doing it this way (externals)” but “you must worship me in truth (heart issue!). So to answer the original question of this post, I would say that yes, absolutely, God is honored and glorified in ANY style of worship so long as we are worshiping in spirit and in truth (God’s truth and not our own).

(Continue reading here...)

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