Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Critique: Worship Wars by Robert Bakss, pt. 2

Intro   Part One

Before I start, I encourage you to read a second post by Dave Mallinak along the same lines as the first he had written on his blog, the first was "Gone Contemporary" and the second, "Gothpel Style."

Like any counterfeit, Bakss book, Worship Wars, has truth in it.  As a subtitle for chapter one, for instance, he asks, "Did you know you were made for worship?"  That's true.  Then after testifying that he is a worshiper, he writes:
The issue is not whether we know how to worship but rather it is about Who we worship.
In his introduction, Bakss said he just wanted to be scriptural, because he isn't any kind of expert, but this statement is divorced from scripture.  The issue is not just Who we worship.  Cain worshiped the right God in Genesis 4.  He brought fruits and vegetables.  Most often false worship starts with the error on the "how," which leads to the wrong "who."  God doesn't accept the wrong "how," hence the death of Nadab and Abihu.  Very often the most important question is whether the worship is holy and acceptable unto God.

Bakss says that because everyone has been made to worship, "there's an internal homing device inside of us that perpetually longs for our Maker."  Romans 3:11 says "no man seeketh after God."  Whatever homing device man started with, made in God's image, died because of sin.  Bakss says,
We have an internal Godward magnet pulling our being toward Him.
I don't believe that.  It's just the opposite.  Being made in the image of God doesn't assume anywhere in scripture that after Adam's fall, man by nature wants to worship God.  The best Bakss does to prove that is to tell a story of a Roman Catholic woman who saw Jesus in a piece of toast, followed by thousands who also came to worship before the toast.  Romans 1 says that men know God, but they glorify Him not as God.  Because of general revelation men know God, but they by nature rebel against that knowledge.  It makes sense that a faulty view of the nature of man lies at the root of Bakss's false worship.

Bakss then tells another illustration, which he introduces with this statement:
Sadly, for some people the only type of church worship they have experienced is similar to the humorous story of a young boy's first time in church.
The little boy couldn't understand dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing at a pew in an old church building, maybe it was Roman Catholic, the kneeling the only clue.  The implication by Bakss was that these circumstances -- dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing -- are what turn people away from true worship.  He follows the story:
The amount of time we spend focusing on worship music styles is a strong indicator that many have little understanding of the heart of worship.  If we get so focused on how we worship, it's easy to forget why we worship or even, at times, Who we are worshiping.
Huh?  There's almost nothing to connect that conclusion from that short illustration.  The first sentence is almost impossible to decipher.  Who is "we"?  Is "we," "many" that have little understanding of the heart of worship?   His own story focuses on worship style.

True worshipers will focus on both "how" and "Who," and perhaps better put, "what" and "Who."  Worship must recognize Who God is, but it also must give Him what He wants.  The "how" relates to what God wants from worshipers.  He doesn't accept something that He doesn't want, so that's why true worshipers consider style.  You can't focus on Who God is without focusing on what He wants, or how He wants to be worshiped.

Bakss says something very important and true, quoting 2 Chronicles 29:30, that is, worship is about God.  He says that the worship wars will end with 'better understanding what worship is all about.'  Then he explains that the English word, worship, means 'to ascribe worth,' and "we worship the One who is worthy," then quoting Revelation 4:11.  He defines worship as "acknowledging that God is worthy of all praise, from all people, for all time," a definition, I believe, that falls short of sufficient.

Worship acknowledges Who God is, and then it gives Him what He wants.  If you don't give Him what He wants, it's obvious that you are not acknowledging Him for Who He is.  Bakss though continues with his incomplete understanding by saying that "true worship is simply catching sight of the greatness, majesty, and glory of an infinite God."  That's less than half right.  However, it is a definition that the reader will see buttresses Bakss next point.

Bakss says 'that our worship is small, because our concept of God is small.' It is true that God deserves great praise.  That would also say that someone can know what is great.  Isn't that style?  All the way through, Bakss makes an obvious contradiction.  It's the norm for men like him today.  Bakss obsesses over style while saying that style either isn't important or doesn't mean anything.  The men who think and then teach like Bakss does, all of them, are the most sensitive people that I see to style.  Style is almost everything to them.  It's definitely not content, which is easy to see by reading Bakss's book.  The little boy in his story got turned off by a worship style he experienced, one that Bakss says occurred because of a preoccupation with style.

The focus, writes Bakss, must be on God and he quotes Isaiah 6:3, the verse on the angelic worship Isaiah witnessed  with the angels chanting, "Holy, holy, holy."  From that Bakss says, "Worship is declaring, with our lips and our lives, that God is more important to us than anything else."  That's not what the angels were declaring.  They declared that God was holy, not that He was important.

To that point, Bakss writes:
This is why, when we think of worship wars, we must ask ourselves, "Who really wins?  The answer is, "The devil?"
It doesn't connect with what he's been saying.  It doesn't follow.  I don't see that as the answer either.  I say, "If we don't war, the devil wins."

As if to explain that point, Bakss then says:
As I said, we are all worshippers.  In fact, some of the greatest forms of worship are found outside the walls of the church and have no reference to the God of all creation.
No.  The greatest forms of worship are not found outside of the church.  No worship of God is outside the true church.  No Christian should look to the world to learn about worship.  Scripture is replete with examples of men, who moved to false worship, because they looked at the world for worship.  Think at least Jeroboam and Solomon.  However, he defends this by providing an anecdote.  He says that "all you have to do is drop in on a rock concert or go to a sporting event at a nearby stadium to see amazing worship."

Bakss's point is that kids at rock concerts and athletic contests are really putting their heart into what they're doing, valuing these events highly, as seen in their passion and enthusiasm.  As much as anything, they're not worshiping anything or anyone but themselves.  These are entertainers and they're being entertained.  The entertainment makes them feel good.  It's something akin to the passion that a dog shows when someone puts out its bowl of dog food.

Another example was Oprah's interview of Michael Jackson with the most viewers in television history.  Jackson's fans, he says, waved "their hands in the air," "some fell on their knees," and "others strained with outstretched hands."  He continues, "Seared in my mind is the image of one young girl with a look on her face of total awe."

In each of Bakss's descriptions, he focuses on how people acted or the style that they used.  If someone thinks really highly of something or someone, the way they do that is by using these types of methods.  He writes, "This clip was an amazing picture of worship."  The problem according to Bakss was not the style.  That was amazing and wonderful.  The problem was the "not-so-great a god," "Michael Jackson."

In addition to singing, Bakss says that people worship with singing, giving, prayer, preaching, etc., all of these focusing on "how."  Those are all legitimate he says, but he's going to focus on music and singing.  After a few more illustrations, he ends his first chapter with what seems to be his main point:
So, when we truly understand Whom we are praising with our songs and our actions, then it takes the focus of worship off us and our preferences and directs us to be united in our worship of God.
His last sentence of the chapter reads:
It is certainly a privilege to be a part of the Rise of Music in our churches.
I have no idea what he means by that.  The "Rise of Music?"  Written in capitals.  No idea.

Overall, you can see where Bakss is headed.  Warring over musical styles can be stopped by focusing on Who we praise.  The people who have preferences, the ones who think that only certain music is acceptable to God, that occurs solely because they're not considering Who they are praising.  If they would just start doing that, everyone would be united around God.  So, musical preferences are what causes war in music.  Perhaps this particular practice, accepting all musical style, as long as the focus is on God, is the "Rise of Music."  He does nothing to prove that point, but it's the only explanation that made any sense to me.

Bakss says he's a lawyer and implies in the introduction this as an advantage for him.  He says that his goal is to rely on evidence, which for him, he says, is scripture.  He does nothing close to making his points from the evidence of scripture.  His conclusions are nothing more than his own biased assertions that he sets about to defend.  It's possible that a lawyer let's evidence lead him to the truth, but I've noticed this is hardly the case of all lawyers, maybe not even most of them.

The problem for Bakss, like he expressed in his introduction, continues to be the warring.  And it isn't even so much the warring.  As I said, Bakss is warring with this book.  He wars.  However, what he calls warring is not allowing him and others like him to have their position tolerated.  He gave me no reason to think otherwise.  The false worship he propagates deserves war.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Actual Sensing of the Holy Spirit or God and then the More Prominent Fake Kind, Which Is a Lie

Part One

My first part in this series was due to many varied circumstances, primarily spurred by a letter I had read, but this is something that I've basically been putting up with for years.  If you don't put up with it, much like with Charismatics, you are in trouble.  You've got to accept these subjective, mystical, esoteric feelings or experiences as something legitimate, or you are against the working of God or the Holy Spirit.  I'm not going to be in on it.  Count me and our church as out.

I cared about what I wrote about in part one, but the reaction was bigger than what I expected.  I want people to think about it, and I do think it actually is important, so I'm glad that it has received attention.  I said I was going to write an answer to some comments, and this is part of it.  It won't be all, because I don't think it will answer everything.

Think about the Day of Pentecost, the one 50 days after Passover, the year Christ died, was buried, and rose again.  The church there in Jerusalem, 120 baptized believers, was waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, they couldn't sense His presence.  What was the means of sensing God's presence?  We know what it was, so if we are basing the ability to sense God's presence from scripture, that actually given to us by God, by the Holy Spirit, this is what would inform of that.  What was necessary to know the presence of God is what God says is necessary to know the presence of God, and we find out in Acts 2.

Jesus promised the presence of the Holy Spirit, but those saved people in Jerusalem wouldn't know He had come, because this wasn't something that you could know without being shown.  If there wasn't anything needed to indicate the presence of God, then the way God would show He would come also wasn't necessary.  But it was necessary, and it was external, obvious, and verifiable.  It wasn't an inkling, a hunch, an impression, related to something natural, what anyone could just make up.  Not only did the verification of the presence of God occur, but it was recognizable by everyone at once, not just by some type of unique caste of spiritual specialists.

Acts 2 makes specific mention of the experiencing of the presence of God.  Here's the description (Acts 2:2-4):
2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
First, the feeling or the sensing of the presence of God came audibly with a sound of a rushing mighty wind without actual wind present.  Everyone could hear that.  The word "wind" is a unique word in the New Testament, found only here and another place, and it is a blast, unprecedented.  They heard wind like a hurricane without there being wind, just the noise, minus the blowing.  Hearing wind with wind present is something many have experienced and that would have signified nothing.  Hearing a cyclone-like wind sound without the wind is highly impressive, swaying, convincing of something, especially in conjunction with the promise that God the Holy Spirit was coming soon.

Before I move to number two, understand that this was the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover.  This event was sovereign.  It was under the power of God, as God did it when He wanted.  Jesus died at Passover, He rose again at Firstfruits, and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.  These are not haphazard.  This was the plan of God.

Some might say, it was an answer to their prayer.  I think they were praying for this event.  I have no non-ambiguous proof that they were praying for this event.  I think it is what Jesus taught them to pray in Luke 11.  We know they were praying, it just doesn't say anywhere they were praying for this event to occur.  This event was going to occur, whether they prayed for it or not.  It also occurred with everyone.  The presence of God is sensed in an unambiguous way by everyone.  It isn't isolated.  Everyone knows it.

Second, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came visually with the appearance of tongue-shaped cloves of fire.  It wasn't fire.  It was the appearance of fire.  The appearance of these tongue-shaped cloves of fire was on every single one of them.  Each person knew he had this.  This is how he sensed.  He could see it.  Everyone else could see it.  Everyone would know it.

If God is going to be sensed in a lesser way, that someone testifies he got in his own individualistic manner, that would be the absence of sensing God's presence.  That would be not to sense God.  Sensing God should be like sensing God in the Bible, or that sensing would mean nothing.  The expressed sensing of God would void scripture, make it as nothing.  God exalts His Word, says it is sufficient, but we would be saying that, no, our experiences supercede or surpass the Bible.

God's Word is truth, and saying that it is true means that it should not be contradicted.  If the sign or the manifestation of the presence of God is what scripture says it is, we should expect to get that.  If we don't get it, we should reject our experience and go with what God says in His Word.

Third, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came through speaking in an actual foreign language that the speaker did not naturally know.  God gave men the supernatural ability to speak to people in a different language.  They suddenly knew a language or their mouth just moved in that language while their brain fed it information in their own language.  Acts 2 does a lot to establish these as actual languages, but this is sensing the presence of God.

There will very often be claims of the presence of God or the sensing of the presence of God.  No one should just assume that is going to occur.  If it was something that someone could sense, he should expect to sense it like the Bible shows someone senses it.

You might ask, is there any other way to know the Holy Spirit is there?  Sure, but it isn't characterized as sensing it, like people claim to have done.  If they were sensing it, it should be verifiable on the outside.  Claiming that in a subjective, individual way someone senses God's presence is not what scripture teaches.  Scripture is sufficient and God isn't a liar.  Let God be true and every man a liar.

There are ways that we know the presence of the Holy Spirit is there, which are biblical and sufficient.  I see four ways in scripture.  I'm going to list them and say nothing about them:  fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5), spiritual giftedness (1 Cor 12, Rom 12), changed relationships (Ephesians 5:18-6:6), and boldness in proclamation of the Word of God (Acts 4:31).  What I've noticed most often is that the actual ways scripture says you will know someone has the indwelling Holy Spirit are not there, not witnessed, but the very individual, subjective feelings are there, and the latter is elevated above the former, which is the norm today, it seems, for the discernment for true spirituality.  That doesn't honor God -- it is wicked and adulterous.

Because men are not satisfied with actual knowledge of the Holy Spirit, I have witnessed them going about to manipulate situations to fool people about the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, I suspect, they themselves are fooled while they fool others.  However, through the use of music, speaking style, and other external stimuli, they give a wishful public their placebo experiences.  They can produce crowds through a gimmick and then say it was the Holy Spirit.  They use emotionalism for tear-jerking altar calls, and then when people come, they say that's the Holy Spirit.  Things that are not miracles are called miracles.  It is one thing after another.  If you say that you don't have or do these things, they say you don't have the power of God.  They are lying.

I don't expect to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit through the Acts 2:1-4 type of occurrence, because that experience is complete.  If it was an ongoing experience, I would expect Acts 2:1-4 authentication.  Here's what I've witnessed though.  A preacher says something like the following.  "Our whole church fasted all day and then our men got together and prayed all night for the outpouring of the Spirit of God, that He would come and meet together with us.  It's no wonder that I have felt the presence of God in this meeting.  You can sense the presence of God, a movement of the Holy Spirit in numbers of ways:  how that the hymn choices have matched the sermon choices, the obvious power that has been there in the preaching, and that others have told me they sensed God's presence."  Have you heard that?  I've heard it numbers of times among independent, even unaffiliated Baptists.  Every time, I either feel something, sick to my stomach, angry, or the blood drain from my face.  That is in reaction to something that is not true.

This last paragraph I've called "soft continuationism."  I don't know anymore.  Maybe it's just continuationism.  They aren't seeing some wacky Charismatic manifestations, but they are seeking and having experiences that are lies.  I'm not saying they don't have the experience, but their interpretations or stories are lies.  I wish they could be satisfied with what God says, since He wants that faith in His Word.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Sixteenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen   Fifteen

Monday, June 11, 2018 was a very busy and stressful, yet exciting day.  We got very little sleep, arose very early, and then we had all the running due to our customs error at the Edinburgh airport, not getting checked off on the passports before security.  There were so many parts to the day, because we arrived in Bologna, bus to train station, train to Mestre, and walk to our condo.  One advantage so far may be that we hadn't walked over ten miles.

Almost every Italian neighborhood is near some piazza, a common feature of Italian towns and cities.  Our place of stay was near one with a fountain in the middle.  Venice is a nighttime city, but in hindsight we slept longer than we should have for the rest of the parts of this day.  We walked back to the train station to go the final leg into Venice, which is only about ten or fifteen minutes.  It was nice to be rid of the luggage.  Where we stayed, we walked east, passing many bicycles.  Italy is filled with bicycle riders, peddling along as their actual mode of transportation.  Almost all of these bikes look like the retro 1940 simple, plain bike.

The track to Venice is upon a narrow land bridge to a group of islands, so it looks as though you are coasting along on top of the Mediterranean as Venice grows larger in front of you.  The Venice station is a giant one in the very north and west.  You walk a short way south and east, down some granite steps to the grand canal.  Nothing is like Venice.  Wherever you look is different than anything you've ever seen.

I led my family to a ticket office right on the canal, where I purchased four vaporetto passes.  The goal here was to ride the entire grand canal from the very beginning, past Piazza San Marco.  Our host, Massimmo, suggested it.  It was probably a good suggestion if we had left two hours sooner, which itself would not have been the right move, because we needed the nap.

To ride the vaporetto, the water bus, you wait on a little platform, they call a ferrovia.  The vaporetti travel both ways.  Just to be honest, when I stepped on to the ferrovia, I thought I was on a square vaporetto, because I had never seen one or ridden one.  So much of this trip was a first time for whatever it was.  We were the first onto the platform, waiting then for the actual boat.

As we stood and sat and others followed us, a couple from Chicago walked on, and started the most memorable, hot argument of the entire decoration.  She asked a fairly inane question about the direction of the vaporetto and he took offense at the simplicity, so he insulted her.  She went back at him, he at her, the volume elevated, and then my wife and I were actually trying to help settle it, calming them both down.  They stood then in silence looking different directions.  There was plenty to look at.

Our vaporetto came into the ferrovia, and it was clear what was happening. This is where people got on and off, off first, of course.  The stop has an official and the vaporetto has a captain.  They keep their rules strict, and it's easy to see how offended they are at tourists.  Tourists in general just want an advantage for themselves to be and go where they want to go.  It was different in the U.K.  This showed up to the maximum in Italy and France.  As much as you might think, Americans are not the worst.  Others are by far worse than Americans, and I'll let you know as we go along.

Everything in Venice is unlike anything and that includes the grandness of the Grand Canal.  As much as we left late, the colors at around 7:30pm are marvelous.  There is so much activity:  gondolas, gondoliers, other vaporetti, water taxis, the bridges, and the buildings with the water, the spires, the windows, the little alleys and miniature canals, and surprises everywhere.
Venice is very odd.  Why would anyone live like this?  I get it, but it is still weird.  Security.  Safety.  Protecting money.  It started, kept going, built up, and then just became what it is, like anything different in the world.

We went from stop to stop to stop, taking in the views and at the end of the canal, it opens up into something wider, more spacious, and majestic.
We took our hosts advice, and went a stop past Saint Marcos, the most famous area of Venice.  We walked back from there along the canal.  Massimmo also told us that we could just keep heading that direction, and zigzagging, and we would make our way back.  That was not his best advice, but we were fine for now.

The lamps came on, and the temperature was perfect, the breeze coming off the water.  We were hungry now, and there are restaurants everywhere.  Venice isn't known for its food, but the atmosphere was terrific.  We liked the price and selection of a place, so we sat down outside with a view, watching the people go by.  It wasn't crowded that night in that special location.  We ate pasta of various types and it was wonderful.
I liked the service in Italy.  It was almost always men, and they were masculine.  The waiting seemed to be a craft with them.  They weren't doing it for a tip, so it wasn't ingratiating.  They didn't attempt to chat you up.  They were fulfilling a duty, it seemed, with a time-honored artistry with every movement.  They were there to help you, not impress you.  I didn't find it different any time in Italy.

When we rose to leave, it was dark.  There are lamps and lights everywhere.  The shops are open.  Venice is a maze of alleys and canals, sometimes very, very narrow.  At moments you walk into a very narrow alley that has no exit.  Sometimes it ends at a canal with no way out.  Some of these had very shallow water over the stone walkway, wetting the bottom of your shoes, splashing along.

Every view was fantastic, but we were very, very tired.  It would have been nice to have beamed to the end and started over fresh on Tuesday.  It took me about 45 minutes to figure out that the zigzagging advice of Massimmo was not the correct one, when I started using my GPS.  You can put in your destination and make it through in Venice -- just a tip.  I did that from then on.  It will tell you how long it should take on foot.  You have to watch very carefully especially at night.

If you remember, I told you about not having walked ten miles.  We took care of that with our walk through Venice late at night.  It was a long, long walk.  My wife was a trooper, because all things considered, this was a painful march.  Once we were in the middle of it though, it was too late to turn back. We saw some amazing things that night, that were overshadowed by the exhaustion.

We were late for the last train, arriving at the transportation hub where we started just after midnight.  We caught the bus though, which traveled all the way right next to where we were staying.  You might think that people everywhere would know English.  They don't.  You are in a foreign country at a bus stop.  However, there isn't the feeling of a threat that you might feel in the United States.  The main suggestion is keep track of your purse and backpack, your belongings.

Before we left on the trip, I bought two cargo pants, and a new billfold, one easy to carry in a front pocket, and I kept it in the zipped pocket on my thigh.  My wife and daughters had security purses and backpacks, anti-theft versions of these.  Everything we brought was easy to carry.  We always had our passports and they were in rfi safe holders.  We didn't have a problem the entire trip with that.

We slept well that night, and late morning we would make our way back to Venice on Tuesday.  I'll talk more about the Venice experience.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Merneptah Stele: Proof for Israel's presence in Canaan


Skeptics of the Bible sometimes doubt that Israel was present in the land of Canaan during the time period specified by the Bible.  They allege that the Biblical record was made up many centuries later.  The Merneptah Stele is powerful validation of the accuracy of the Biblical narrative's account of early Israel's presence in Canaan.

The stele was placed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (who ruled c. 1224-1214 B. C.).  He claimed to have defeated a variety of foreign nations to his north, specifying, in his list, “Israel” in a series of comments about victories over groups in “Canaan.”[1]  The Stele thus constitutes “an official recognition of a people called Israel in extra-biblical documents.”[2]  Furthermore, the word “Israel” is preceded by the Egyptian determinative for “people” or “ethnic group,”[3] while Israel’s presence on the stele indicates that the Israelites were a significant nation at the time, one important enough even at this early date for Egypt's Pharaoh to boast about a victory over them.  Thus, even at this early period  “Israel was well enough established by that time among the other peoples of Canaan to have been perceived by Egyptian intelligence as a possible challenge to Egyptian hegemony.”[4]


Thus, “Israel was definitely in Palestine by ca 1220 B. C.”[6]  In the words of the agnostic, anti-inerrancy scholar William Dever: “The Merneptah Stele is . . . just what skeptics, mistrusting the Hebrew Bible (and archaeology), have always insisted upon as corroborative evidence: an extrabiblical text, securely dated, and free of biblical or pro-Israel bias. What more would it take to convince the naysayers?”[7]
            Further evidence for Israel's presence in Canaan exists.  An inscription from the time of the Ramessess II (1303-1213 B. C.) refers to “Israel” in a captive list also mentioning Ashkelon and Canaan.  Furthermore, two captive lists found in the Egyptian Soleb temple in the time of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B. C.) mention a people in a “land” that is associated with characters that “represen[t] exactly the way the Hebrew divine name would appear in hieroglyphic . . . leading many scholars to associate these inscriptions with Israel.”[8]  (This last piece of evidence also supports the traditional and conservative date for the Exodus in contrast to the later date adopted by many more liberal scholars.)
            The Merneptah Stele and other Egyptian sources provide “documentary extrabiblical evidence for . . . a ‘people’ called ‘Israel,’ living in Canaan, and [their] God” as  “known in the Egyptian sphere of influence no later than Merneptah and probably much earlier . . . the pre-Amarna period.”[9]

           Christians should be aware of the existence of the Merneptah Stele and refer to it when appropriate in apologetic encounters with non-Christians.





[1]           For the text of the stela, see James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 376-378.
[2]           Davis, John J. New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), “Israel Stele.”
[3]           Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider & William H. C. Propp, eds., Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective:  Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. (New York:  Springer, 2015) 203.
[4]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2006), 206.
[5]           Picture from Billington, Clyde E. “The Curious History Of The “Editor” In Biblical Criticism: A Review Of The Edited Bible, By John Van Seters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006).” Bible and Spade 22 (2009) 115.
ca circa, about
[6]           C. F. Pfeiffer, “Israel, History of the People of,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 911.
[7]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 206.
[8]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 143; cf. e. g., Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 272–273.
[9]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 142–143.  See also Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis, & Manfred Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merneptah?  A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2:4 (2010) 15-25.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Critique: Worship Wars by Robert Bakss


Christians have to change.  They are predestined to conform to the image of the Son (Rom 8:29-30).  Not all change is good though.  Conforming to the image of the Son in Romans 8, good, but conforming to the world in Romans 12, bad.  Robert Bakss talks about changing in his book, Worship Wars.  The way he changes is not what I expect in the Romans 8 type of change, the kind authored by God.  He conforms to the world and he doesn't want you to judge him for it.

The Title

Bakss starts in his introduction explaining his title, Worship Wars, with the emphasis on "wars."  In his first sentence, he says it's sad that grappling over "the 'proper' style of music for church" becomes a worship war.  His next two sentences read:
Like the movie "Star Wars", the battles rage from episode to episode, with Bible verses being used as the proverbial light sabres to attack and defend each other.  It is with this in mind I have used a "Star Wars" theme for the sections of the book, with a little bit of "tongue in cheek"! [He's Australian and British punctuation can go inside or outside of quotation marks.]
A secular, blockbuster movie provoking a Christian book title doesn't bode well for an edifying or spiritual conclusion to a theological or biblical treatise.  He had Star Wars on his mind as he considered the sections of his book.  Star Wars itself is antithetical to true worship.  The world does a good enough job promoting itself without professing believers to come along and give it some help.

James 4:1-2

Forthwith Bakss gives his own reasons why music is "divisive among Christians, especially pastors."  Their (not his) "opposition" arises from their "preferences" and their "own self interests."  He says that since singing is personal, even more than preaching, a point that he makes with no evidence, men are "sensitive and desire music to suit [their] personality and temperament."  He says worship wars ensue from the "want to be comfortable with what we are participating in."  Those do sound like horrible reasons, ones that would motivate equally terrible positions on music if that's the way it really occurs.  His basis for this explanation is James 4:1-2.

Bakss reveals here his tack for the book, which is, music isn't worth fighting over.  The fighting itself is the problem, a violation of James 4, he surmises.  Everyone who divides over worship style, that is, causes war, does so because of fleshly reasons, vis-a-vis James 4. They're all wrong also with improper motives.  No particular music itself is the problem -- only the fighting over music is the problem.  Bakss makes a bad application from James 4:1-2 right from the get-go.  How?

James in his epistle explains why wars occur.  He's not saying that everyone who wars does so for the same reason.  No war would occur if there were not people living according to lust, essentially characterizing unsaved people, the proud who will not humble themselves, so that they do not receive saving grace.  However, war itself isn't always wrong, or else Paul would not have called for warring in all the places that he did.  David warred.  Were his righteous wars?  God calls for war.  Sombody's got to fight back when things are going wrong, justifying the fighting.  Both sides of a fight are not always wrong.

I'm not going to go further in exposing Bakss's point, but he messes up right off the bat.  If Bakss directed his application at himself, he wouldn't have even written the book, because he's warring against something by writing it.  That is obvious.  Instead of writing the book, he could have prayed, and not to consume it upon his own lust as James suggests and as a necessary conclusion to Bakss's own viewpoint.  On the other hand, I believe some war is justified, so I'm fine with criticizing his book and rejecting how he worships. I think war over worship is worth it.  Nothing is more important to fight about.  If he doesn't think that's true, he should have never written the book in the first place.  He's not following his own interpretation, albeit a false one, of James 4:1-2.

Music Is a Language

Next Bakss makes a valid point, "music is a language."  He's going outside of scripture to make that point, but I agree with it.  Then he contradicts his own point.  He says, "just like in our spoken language, we are more comfortable to speak one over another."  He compares different languages to different musical styles.  He's saying that the language we speak, our native tongue, is like our most comfortable musical style, as if each musical style is its own separate language.

Musical styles are not parallel or synonymous with different languages.  Music itself is a separate, singular language and the various styles of music are not individual languages.  Musical styles are like styles or forms of the same language.  Language can be used in a moral manner or in an immoral manner.  Paul commanded:  "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" (Eph 4:29).  Like language, music can be corrupt.  Like language, it can be and should be judged.

Bakss isn't clear in the rest of this section of his introduction, but he seems to be saying that the affect of music comes from its associations.  In other words, music has no objective meaning without association.  The associations of music, he says, are what triggers people or stirs people up to war.  There is inherent meaning in language irrespective of association.  God forbids corrupt communication.  He prohibits corrupt music.

The Lord Jesus saw the corruption brought into God's house and became indignant.  He warred in John 2.  His disciples saw it and thought of Messianic texts, those bearing witness to His identity.  Corrupt music brought into the house of God should cause indignation to righteous men.

Sacred Music

Bakss puts "sacred music" in quotes, questioning the existence of sacred music.  He is arguing that no form or style of music is sacred.  This contradicts his "music is a language" statement, because language can be profane or sacred.  Jesus said it was a primary way by which a person manifests the condition of his heart.

If someone is going to say that music is a language, no manifestation of humanity has more of an opportunity to be corrupt than language.  The Bible itself says this.  Like with language, there is a range of acceptable moral music, but there is a threshold where one enters into immoral language or music.  This immoral music is what should not be used in worship for God and righteous people should war against it.

Change

Bakss testifies that he wrote Worship Wars "born out of a worship war within me."  He had preached against the position on worship music that he now promotes.  First, he confesses that he had sinned by preaching against the music he now favors.  Second, he rationalizes why he did such.  He didn't know any better, just like his parents didn't think there was anything wrong with painting his crib with lead paint.  He parallels his former position on music to  slave owners in early United States history.  The idea here of course is that those people could change on slavery and so could he about music.  People can be wrong.

It is true that large groups of people are often wrong all at one time. The Dark Ages are witness of this with most saying the world was flat.  What Bakss tell us unique about him for his approach of the subject is that, one, he could use his legal training as a lawyer to dig this one out, and, second, he studies both sides of the issue for objective sort of witness.  Furthermore, he isn't going to depend on anything outside of scripture (except for perhaps that music is a language and I'm going to guess many, many other things throughout his book), like "psychology" and "assertions of the musically elite," but just the Bible.  He's implying that this is going to be a new approach, just looking at the Bible, and nothing else, like "subjective feelings" and "cultural bias."

My own personal testimony is that I grew up in Southern Indiana with bluegrass, country, or just plain popular music, and I in time rejected those as fitting for worship of God, that is, they weren't sacred.  I changed.  When I changed, the assumption here as posited by Bakss is that I, among others like me, it was because of the illicit influence of psychology, musical elitists, non-lawyerly types, and people who were experts on music, rather than lay people, who have an edge over someone who knows more.

No Expert

In recent days, before he died Harold Camping promoted his hermeneutic and theological positions by bragging that they were not under the influence of any kind of special training.  Bakss writes:
Whilst I write with a measure of candour, it is certainly not my intention to portray myself as an unquestioned authority on this subject, nor do I want to be slanderous or malicious in the presentation of my research.
He started his book by impugning the motives of those who differ, then also later writing, "We simply must get to the point when we can talk about these issues in a calm way without assigning malicious motives to those with whom we do not agree."  It would be best to keep the discussion to the music itself and not judge motives, even if Bakss already failed at that stated goal.

Bakss continues:  "I simply desire to be a musical layman's voice of balance and reason."  You can write at a layman's level, but you've still got to write what is right.  And if expertise doesn't matter, why does it matter that you are a trained lawyer?   He insists his motive is "to help bring about a cease fire" in the worship war.  His "heart's desire is not that worshippers become liberal, but rather that they become liberated from man's traditions, to worship God with a fresh liberty from the Holy Spirit."

If music isn't amoral, it can be used as false worship, so the war is against false worship. A cease fire would the wrong decision.  Bakss has already failed at showing the amorality of music.  Christians don't have the liberty to sin.  False worship is sin.

"Fresh liberty," I surmise, is one discovered by someone once oppressed by Pharisee-like additions to scripture.  Judging worship style, he is asserting, is a Pharisee-like addition.  The offer of, shall I say, "a fleshly lust" or a "lying vanity," isn't a "fresh liberty."  Satan told Eve she had liberties that she really didn't have.  The Holy Spirit doesn't manifest works of the flesh.  What Bakss poses as liberty really is lasciviousness, something that we can and should judge according to scripture.

Next:  Chapter One

Monday, September 10, 2018

The First Worship War

I had introduced the intention to review Worship Wars, which I will, but this is a start.  I want to use this little space as I often do before I start writing, to point you to a sermon by a man who stood with me in my wedding 31 years ago.  I had 4 or 5 good friends in college and graduate school, and one was Dwayne Morris.  I was also a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown, WI for 12 years, between the age of 12 and 25, one of which I pastored Immanuel Baptist Church of Elkhorn, WI, so I wasn't there at Calvary that year.  To me a big irony, Dwayne is assistant pastor at Calvary now and he preached there this last week. It's a sermon that ought to be common knowledge of every Christian (I put at least one disclaimer on running buses and handing clothes from a clothes closet as preaching the gospel -- they're not -- almost everything else though is terrific).  He titled it, The Metanarrative.

A war started in the Garden of Eden and continues for the souls of men.  God calls it a war all over scripture (2 Tim 2:4, Eph 6:10-18, 2 Cor 10:3-5).  I'm saying it's a worship war, because the first act of worship, accepted by God, is the offering of one's soul to God by faith.  He will restore your soul (Ps 23:3).  Satan would have us hang on to (keep) our soul (psuche, translated life in Mt 10:39) for ourselves, which will result in losing our soul forever.

One major component of the first worship war is "giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1)  The "god of this world" blinds men's minds (2 Cor 4:4), keeping the gospel hid to the lost (2 Cor 4:3).  People stay lost because their minds are blinded by error, by false teaching, what are called "doctrines of devils."  Satan uses men to spread a false message, so that God isn't worshiped.

Paul beseeches brethren by the mercies of God to present their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1).  Brethren are besought because they can offer their bodies to God.  Until someone has offered Himself to God, God doesn't accept His worship.  Those in Macedonia first offered their own selves to the Lord (2 Cor 8:5).

If someone has or gets the first act of worship wrong, he won't get any of the proceeding acts right.  This is where anyone should start in the worship wars, is at the gospel.  Robert Bakss has written the book, Worship Wars, where he argues for contemporary music for independent Baptists.  From where does this kind of thinking arise?  Before anyone arrives at music, he should arrive at the gospel, and here's what Bakss says the gospel is at his church website.
Are you going to heaven? 
Have you ever wondered where you would go after you die? Or have you ever wondered what it would take for life to really make sense? The answer to those questions are found in personally accepting Jesus Christ as your Saviour. My friend, there is only one way to get to heaven and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ who died and shed his blood for your sins. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Going to church is not the way, being good is not the way, being religious is not the way. Only simple faith in Jesus is the way to heaven. The Bible says “ye must be born again.” You need to admit you’re a sinner and in need of forgiveness. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” You must believe that Christ died and shed his blood for YOUR sins and rose again from the dead and be willing to turn from your sins. You need to call upon the Lord in prayer to forgive you of your sins and save you. 
The Bible says “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Simply put, if you will personally ask Jesus Christ to save you and give you His gift of eternal life…He will! Why don’t you make this simple decision right now. It makes all the difference in the world…and in eternity! Why don’t you settle the matter now. Simply call upon God in prayer and pray something like this; 
“Lord, I know I’m a sinner and if I died tonight I wouldn’t go to heaven. I now repent of my sin and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross in my place, shed his blood for my sin and was buried and rose again from the dead. With all my heart I turn from my sin and receive Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour right now. Thank you Lord, Amen.” 
Let us know if you have prayed this prayer and trusted Christ as your personal Saviour. We have some free material we would love to send to you to help you in your journey with Christ.
The terminology "accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour" is not language of salvation.  It falls miserably, horribly short, which is to pervert the gospel by giving a half truth that is a total lie.  Is "faith in Jesus" "the way to heaven?"  Of course, but what is faith in Jesus?  It isn't accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour."  It isn't admitting you're a sinner and in need of forgiveness.  No  Plenty of people do that, who do not believe in Jesus Christ.

Essentially everyone will admit he's a sinner.  I've had only four people in my entire life who wouldn't.  What does that mean?  What is sin?  Who is he sinning against?   Almost everyone says they need forgiveness.  Bakss reduces everything in the end to praying a prayer.  That's the application of everything else written above it.  Praying a prayer isn't enough to take from Romans 10:13.

Missing in the presentation is Lordship and repentance.  Someone can still be the boss of his life with what Bakss teaches.  He can still be a rebel against God.  His faith is nothing more than intellectual assent to these facts.  Almost all of them are great facts to assent to, but that's not enough.  John ends His gospel by saying He wrote it so that people would believe that Jesus is the Christ.  The Christ is the Messiah.  He is King.  True repentance goes along with this identity of Jesus Christ.  Bakss partitions Jesus into what's effective in his presentation and leaves out necessary parts.

Jesus is the way, it's true, but He must be Jesus, not a particular Jesus who is convenient.  This brings this back to worship.  It does start with recognition of worth, but Bakss false short even of the proper recognition.  This will continue after this decision he's calling for with a prayer.  This person is not worthy of someone's life, because it isn't recognizing Him for Who He is.  These independent Baptists seem ashamed of Jesus, unwilling to tell the lost Who He is, leaving crucial parts out.  How is that worshiping God?

Worship is offering something.  The first act is presenting yourself by faith.  Someone isn't going to give God what He wants, when He won't acknowledge Him for Who He is.  The god you make up in your imagination is fine with rock music.  The actual God of the Bible isn't.

If someone gets the first act of worship wrong, everything goes down from there in the worship war.  The war has been lost.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Fifteenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen

I've got several posts that I want to write.  They don't run out.  There is always something, even if most out there in the readership world don't think so.  However, I want to do a series of posts with a critique or analysis of a book entitled, Worship Wars, by a man named Robert Bakss from Australia.  What drew my attention to this book was a post written by Dave Mallinak at his blog, The Village Smithy, with the title, Gone Contemporary.   Please read it.  It's excellent.

I haven't read Worship Wars, but I watched the podcast posted by Dave on his blog between Joshua Teis and Robert Bakss.  I won't write my answer right away here, because I need to read it first, but, Lord-willing, I'm going to. When I went to find the book online, the first link was from a site called Goodreads, and there were written reviews and ratings, and I saw, positive ones.  Surprising some, not entirely, but some, even from a recognizable unaffiliated.  This is where we're at.  What is unique here is a book by a professing independent fundamental Baptist, defending the amorality of music.  He's saying amorality is scriptural.  Many others are supporting this.  They want it.

The interview posted by Dave in my opinion is, first, inane, and second, full of one straw man after another.  It is face palm inducing and nauseous.  It's also very sad, sad to what these independent Baptists have become.  Truthfully, they already preach a false gospel, because if you look at their doctrinal statements, they don't include biblical repentance.  It's easy prayerism.  Bakss talks like what he's saying is completely convincing scripturally without at all being convincing.  It's hard to think he could believe himself, especially the part about Gnosticism.  It sounds impressive, but it is fiction, spoken about as if there some crucial scholarship, when it is a fraud.  You can't just call something Gnosticism without making connections, which they make none.

Anyway, I'm going to cover Bakss's book a little at a time.  I haven't read it yet, but I will.  I know it's not right, just from listening to him explain. I'll also come back to "sensing" or "feeling" the presence of God, mainly in answer to comments in the comment section of that one post.  I had not finished my coverage of Overmiller's attack on the preservation of scripture to justify using a modern version.  I have other subjects I want to address, but these are going to keep me busy.  Now I'm going to write another installment of the trip to Europe.  If you want to comment on this editorial, feel free.

As we were leaving our flat on Monday morning to drive to the airport, many problems presented themselves.  The first was how strict the airline would be on our luggage.  I had never flown to a foreign country from the United States, forget flying from one foreign country to another foreign country.  It was a difficult getting out of the airport in San Francisco.  It was slow upon our arrival at Heathrow.

We had bought some things that were not fitting in our suitcase.  This can be a mini-stressful moment, sort of a first world stress, but I decided to leave a sweatshirt that I didn't think would be necessary as we moved south.  That created the space.

When I left our flat, I had to find our car, which I had parked a long ways away.  I'm glad I left early, because I can't believe how long it took to find it.  The streets of Edinburgh are often crooked and narrow, and everything in the darkness starts looking the same.  It was not a familiar car.  I walked and walked, covering the same ground again and again.  I stopped in front and picked them up with no parking available.  We stuffed everything in and took off.

We arrived about twenty minutes later to the airport.  I can't tell you how relieved I was not to be driving anymore on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car.  We parked the car.  I brought the keys to the drop off point, and we kept walking.  It felt all over there, but this really was the start of it.

As we entered the Edinburgh airport, we had time.  It seemed safe.  We had checked in. We were flying Ryanair, a budget European airline.  We went through security very well.  When we scanned our passports, we went right through.  We went in and ate something.  Then we got in line, getting close to departure, someone from the airline looked at our paperwork and said we missed something.  We needed to go back through security to have our passports checked in person.  It was something on signs around, but nothing that meant anything for us foreign travel rookies.  I didn't foresee us making it through security, checking our luggage again.  The anxiety and adrenalin were high.

I led the family first into a shop and asked somebody in the shop to watch our luggage.  That was a big, no.  Wouldn't, couldn't do it.  We had a friendly conversation at the restaurant with a Scottish couple.  We begged them with fear in our eyes to watch our luggage, while we went through security again.  They were very sympathetic and did it.  They were a life saver.  A young Filipino woman was moving with us every step of that way, because she had done the very same thing we did, so she just followed us.

We exited, were shown the way to security.  People were helpful.  We were running.  The plane was already being boarded.  It is a pathetic, weak looking run.  Our passports were checked easily.  We got through security very very fast, because it was still early.  Our flight was to leave at 6am.  We didn't have luggage.  We met the Scottish family, got our luggage from them, thanked them profusely.  The Filipino young nurse was very happy with us, because we led her to success.  We were sitting on the front row of the plane.  That was nice.  You should always thank the Lord, because these things are part of His providence.  We did.

Our flight was from Edinburgh to Bologna.  We were traveling to Venice, but we flew to Bologna, because overall it was less expensive to go from Edinburgh to Bologna by plane and then from Bologna to Venice by train, then to go the straight shot to Venice.  It was more adventurous anyway, because we got to include a look at Bologna briefly.

The flight went fast and we were in Bologna.  This was going to be the new experience of a new language on this trip.  I didn't know how much of an effect that would have.  I had heard that Europeans knew English, so I wondered.  Italian security was easy.  The border guards didn't even look at us as we showed ours.  They just stamped them.  We got right through.  This seemed like a common sense situation that isn't felt in the United States,  It made me happy.  Airport security sent us right through because we did not look like a threat.

We made our way to public transportation, which was a bus, actually more expensive than I expected, almost the cost of the train ride to Venice, to travel to the Bologna main train station.  We got there and then it was a matter of finding our train.  We found out the track number from someone in the middle of the station who knew English.  In a place like Bologna, Italians don't know English.  You can't talk to almost anyone.  You need someone helpful in the train station, and you can find it, but you have to look for it.

After knowing the basic information and knowing right where we needed to be at about 1pm or so, we went close by to get food in an air conditioned location, where we could wait.  Bologna looks like a third world country, just saying.  It doesn't feel dangerous, but it doesn't feel that safe either.  It's dirty, compared to what I would like.  I have to say that lots of places in the United States are just as dirty or dirtier and have less a feeling of safety, including where I live in California.  We have far worse crime.  Once you get past the initial look, Italy seems safe.  The worse of it are pickpockets and we knew that, but there isn't the feeling of violence, especially in Northern Italy.

At the little restaurant, something you might see near public transportation, we got Italian food.  Every Italian food in Italy is Italian.  No risk there.  Some is going to be better than other.  It was cheap Italian food, but we liked it because it was our first in Italy.  It was hot there in June, not like Arizona, but quite a difference from just being in Edinburgh.  The jackets and sweatshirts and sweaters were gone.  We were to our train in time, right place, right seat, and very comfortable and very fast from Bologna to Venice.  We made it to Venice in no time.
The place we were staying in Venice was very close to the Mestre train station just north of Venice. We had planned on going there first.  We were tired.  We could walk to our place and we did.

This was the most fantastic place we stayed our entire time on the trip.  The owner's name was Massimmo and he himself was a world traveler, who seemed to know every language in existence.  We spent time talking to him about Venice and Europe.  He was a Venice native and considered Venice to be its own region in Italy, very different than the South.  He understood what was happening in the United States very well.

We rested, and if there was anything about this point in our trip, we stayed too long before we got on the train into Venice.  I'll bring that to you in the next post.