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 lets 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.


Jeff Voegtlin said...

I don't know about in Austrailia, but many courtroom lawyers today are not much concerned at all about the law, itself. Even "Constitutional" lawyers do not refer to the Constitution in their arguments. They are mostly concerned with precedence or previous cases. In this way, Bakss is using other peoples' experiences to prove his point rather than going to the Law (and the Prophets, Psalms, and NT).

Kent Brandenburg said...


I agree. The lawyer mention IMO, also mentioned prominently in the interview with Josh Teis, seems to pander to a crowd that might think that being a lawyer makes someone more qualified. It could actually result in someone being more clever in deceiving someone, but there is no special quality of a lawyer, like the rich young ruler, to get it right. Paul counted his old lawyerly acts as dung.

One interesting point of the chapter that I didn't say anything about, because I don't think I should say every possible thing in a review (I would have liked to have been even shorter, but it takes time to edit it down), but in this chapter Bakss quotes Presbyterian evangelical theologian John Frame, longtime instructor at Westminster. In evangelical circles, Frame was famous for arguing against the historical presuppositional view of the regulative principle. In a progressive way, Frame tries to fit CCM into the regulative principle in conflict with the historic and scriptural view.

It is tell-tale that Bakss quotes Frame. It does show he has some knowledge of those agreeing with him among theologians in evangelicalism and their attempts to defend. It would have been hard to have included that Frame quote in the review because (1) it was out of the blue, not even congruent with what he was writing, which is typical of Bakss, a line of thinking difficult to stay with, and (2) I didn't see how the particular Frame quote contributed to any point he had just made. It was a very long quote that didn't make any scriptural point to further Bakss thesis, which seems to be, don't war over music styles. At the same time he is heavily warring for his own music style, while acting like he has no skin in the game.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing on Frame, the way the Frame quote fit in seemed to be the usefulness of throwing in a random quote, to look scholarly and documented and expert, well-read. Most of the Bakss readers, I'm assuming, wouldn't even know who Frame was, and Bakss doesn't identify the aptness of quoting Frame. No connection is made between Frame's background of attempting to justify CCM to his reformed crowd, and Bakks attempting to do that for independent Baptists.

By the way, I hate calling Bakks a Baptist, because he reads like an evangelical. He should just drop the Baptist name like guys like Josh Irmler have done. Maybe "Baptist" is still handy in Las Vegas and in Australia. I don't know. Maybe it's too much pressure from his circle.

James Bronsveld said...

I haven't read Bakss yet, but the bit I'm gleaning here suggests his arguments aren't actually different from what the CCM movement has said all along. Also, Peter Masters interacts with some of John Frame's arguments in a meaningful way in his excellent book Worship in the Melting Pot.

As an insignificant side note to the posts here and on the Village Smithy, I am so glad to finally see someone (Bro Mallinak) use the phrase "begs the question" appropriately. He must be into classical education or something!

Brendon Dunn said...

Hi Kent

I appreciate you taking the time to expose the false teaching in Worship Wars. Bakss has had some success here in Australia in corrupting other churches with his idolatry, being a somewhat influential figure here. I know him personally and have to confess receiving training from him. Certainly I learnt many good and helpful things from him, but I have had to unlearn an awful lot also. For instance, in Old/New Testament Survey course back in the early 2000's, it was suggested that God may have established a precedent in being silent for 400 years between the Testaments, and since the last time God spake to mankind was in 1611, there was the possibility that on the 400th anniversary of the KJV, the Lord may again speak through the Second Advent. Of course you then had to subtract 7 years Tribulation which made the Rapture, well, imminent.

My Pastor at that time (an American missionary) said to me, "Brother Bakss is one of Australia's premier preachers." He pronounced "premier" with a long 'e' - PREE-mee-air. Aussies say it with a short 'e'.

I was at the 2005 meeting that Bakss mentioned in the video, where the Bluegrass Incident occurred. It was mainly the BJU pastors and their allies who voiced their opposition to the music, so credit to them. The BJU folk have something of an enclave in northern Queensland. Incidentally, at those same meetings, one of the guest preachers was Greg Locke, the so-called 'auctioneer preacher' because of his fast delivery. He mentioned in his sermon that he named his sons Hudson Taylor and Evan Roberts. He is no longer a baptist.

From that time, IB pastors have separated from Bakss as he has become more and more contemporary. He was led into this idolatry by the radical young people in his church, including his son who was Worship Leader. 'Worship Wars' is an attempt to justify the course that the youth have taken his church in, but also to take others in the same course. When the book was completed, he mailed to all the IB pastors a Complimentary Copy of the introduction and first chapter, PLUS a 10% discount if you ordered the full copy within a certain time...

Our church severed ties with Bakss some years ago. I exhorted him to repent of his idolatry, and I still hope that will happen.

I think they will drop the name Baptist within a few years. The young people refer to the church as "The Lighthouse". It may take longer to abandon the KJV though, as there is a persisting Ruckmanite influence there. They had Sam Gipp there a few years ago to teach on Bible versions. Apart from the KJV, they are just another bog-standard evangelical church.

And with regards to approaching the subject as a lawyer, I think this is indeed what he has done. Lawyers are not interested in objective facts, but in defending the case of their client, portraying him in the best light, and discrediting the opposing view by any means they can.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your stand. It won't stop without separation.

Capitulation to young people, the youth culture, very often causes these changes. Pastors might be disqualified by the lives of their children. I've seen the church change instead.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for doing this series. We are in Australia and have seen the effect of his heresy in the IB churches. Its unfortunate that any of the IB churches who disagree with him are not clearly and boldly separating, just a quiet and soft ineffective form of "separation". And those that do, only do so based upon this "major" and outlandish abuse of sacred music was exposed, when in reality they should have been separating from him from many moons ago. There are many more churches here that hold to the same perverted and concocted gospel (which is obviously why they wouldn't separate) and its sadly only a matter of time before they capitulate. This sort of separation reminds me of Jack Hyles. Only when the blatant sexual sins of his and his sons were exposed, did people start separating and exposing him, but not when he was preaching a balatantly obvious false gospel and false Jesus.

So you began this series right where it should be started: with the gospel and salvation-- thank you for that. Not only is his gospel corrupted (II Cor. 2:17a) and perverted (Gal. 1:6-9), but like the pig and dog he is returning to the vileness of what he was prior to his supposed profession of faith (II Pet. 2:22; cf. Eph. 2:2-3). He is fulfilling the true proverb: "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly." (Pr. 26:11). Clearly, he hasn't moved past "the principles of the doctrine of Christ," and "unto perfection" still "laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God," (i.e. salvation, the gospel) and is in "need that one teach [him] again which be the first principles of the oracles of God;" (Heb. 5:12-6:1). Those, like Bakss, who continue in their false doctrine (Rom. 16:17-18; Phil. 3:18-19), inevitably expose their unregenerate condition by their love of the world (I Jn. 2:15-17; Jam. 4:4) through such means as embracing contemporary "worship" rock n' roll music and contemporary dress standards. Rather than being overcomers of the world (I Jn. 5:4-5)--which begins at salvation and is an absolute guarantee in every true believer--the world overcomes them, proving themselves to still have the "spirit of the world" and not "the spirit which is of God" (I Cor. 2:12). Their fruit is corrupt, brought forth from a corrupt tree (Matt. 7:15-20; 12:33), "trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;" (Ju. 1:12b), who lust after the things of the world (I Jn. 2:16), but not after the will of God (I Jn. 2:17; cf. Matt. 7:21), demonstrating themselves to be "ravening wolves" dressed in "sheep's clothing" (Matt. 7:15-20), "speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Ac. 20:29-30; cf. Rom. 16:17-18)--a precise fulfillment and objective of that interview by Bakss and his book Worship Wars. The Lord Jesus said that His redeemed are not of the world just like He isn't of the world, and thus do not love the world; rather, they are hated of the world (Jn. 15:18-20; 17:14-16).

With that said, I am not convinced that “He was led into this idolatry by the radical young people in his church, including his son who was Worship Leader" as Brendon Dunn commented (though I sincerely appreciate all his comments and his stand). According to his false gospel and apostasy, Bakss was always an idolator (cf. I Th. 1:9; Ac. 14:15), and it only took children (his own and others) to bring that clearly to light--the very children that are the fruit of his perverted gospel. Judas it was money, Simon the sorcerer it was power, but Bakss it was music. The love of the heart (Pr. 23:7a).