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Neglected Battle Fronts

And the most notable era of Scottish preaching was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they had great power. In fact, the strongest reformational preaching going on in Europe at that time was in Scotland, the great preaching of the Reformation in Scotland. For two centuries it lasted. And Blakey writing in 1888 points out that what made the difference in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in the preaching in Scotland was that the preachers viewed themselves…I like this, I never heard the phrase before…as warrior preachers…warrior preachers. And he says by that they meant that they believed that they were guardians and that any place where an assault came against the truth, they went to battle. They went to battle. I always wondered where I got this. But I guess some of that warrior mentality got down through the MacArthurs to me because that’s just how I think. If I see some area where I believe the truth is under assault, I feel like I need to run to that area and go to battle. That’s just the way I’m wired. At the same time, Blakey writes about the fact that there were more moderate preachers who wanted more love and tenderness and compassion and kindness and tolerance to be preached. They finally took over in the eighteenth century and you know the history, down went the church. And today in Scotland you’d look a long time to find anybody who preached any gospel at all. They were warrior preachers and they were guardians of the truth. And wherever the truth was being breached, or wherever the truth was being assaulted, they went to that front and engaged in battle. And this is one of those fronts for me. I run from front to front, as you know.

 - John MacArthur, “Personal Commitment to the Church, Part 1″, sermon preached November 18, 2001

John MacArthur has been one of the important influences on my ministry, preaching and thinking. When I was still in college, I found out he was a hot potato amongst independent Baptists, and this made me even more curious about the man. For the most part, his ministry has edified and challenged me.

His approach of doing battle where the truth is under fire has also influenced me. I am thankful for the battles he has fought, particularly against easy-believism, seeker-friendly pragmatism, charismatic chaos, and attacks on the sufficiency of Scripture. In fact, I am thankful for many men who have fought battles against error: Mark Dever against aberrant ecclesiology, Wayne Grudem against egalitarianism, Kevin DeYoung against emergence, John Piper against New Perspective, and a host of others who have stood against some threat to the faith. Though I seldom mention them when blogging, this is not because I do not appreciate their efforts. I have benefited from them, and some of their books sit in our church library. Far be it from me to try to say better what these men have already said. I’m happy to let their books and sermons do the most eloquent talking on those areas.

Instead, I have spent my blogging time trying to do battle on that front which seems to get less attention from these heavyweights: the trivialization of Christian worship, the warping of the Christian imagination, and the secularization of pulpit and altar. I choose a supplemental approach: I attempt to say what is seldom said, or said so quietly as to escape notice. I know that for those who know only my blogging voice, it can seem as if I have only one string on my banjo, and care to speak of nothing except worship. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, because blogging is not pastoring (though I do not cease to be one when I blog). For the wider Christian world, I would rather go to war on the front I think is neglected: the Christian affections, and the development of right judgement about these things.

I am not naïve enough to think that worship is a neglected battleground altogether. However, what I see developing is a growing indifferentism to the battle. Some of this may be battle-weariness; some of it may be because some of the recognized names of evangelicalism, with widely divergent views on worship, have chosen to publicly partner in other causes. The message that some take from this otherwise healthy cooperation is that the worship wars do not matter, even though some of these men would not necessarily agree with that conclusion.

This urges me, as MacArthur puts it, to run to that front. And part of the lot of those who do battle on this front is to convince others that this is a real threat, and a battle worth fighting. Tough to do, when men of far greater brilliance and influence than this writer are seemingly not exercised over this. When the movers and shakers of evangelicalism don’t discuss the elephant in the room, it’s easy to dismiss people battling here as extremists, legalists, hyper-separatists or schismatics. If the growing hegemony of the day is that the worship wars are nothing more than arguments over morally neutral preferences, you start to sound merely alarmist. If people are abandoning the battlefield in droves, you begin to appear pugnacious and belligerent.

I am heartened that I am not alone. On this particular front, apart from the writers on this site, men like Ken Myers, D.G. Hart, Paul Jones, Calvin Johansson, T. David Gordon, Ligon Duncan, Calvin Stapert, Peter Masters, and Carl Trueman  are saying some of the same things. No, we are not identical in our criticisms or applications. But we’re on the same side of the trenches, at least.

There are plenty of other battles to fight, and I praise God for the soldiers leading the charge there. I may not be a brilliant marksman, but until convinced otherwise, I’m going to add my limited firepower to the fight for ordinate affections and appropriate worship of our God .

David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn currently pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Towards Conservative Christianity.

9 Responses to Neglected Battle Fronts

  1. David:

    You wrote, “Instead, I have spent my blogging time trying to do battle on that front which seems to get less attention from these heavyweights: the trivialization of Christian worship, the warping of the Christian imagination, and the secularization of pulpit and altar.”

    Earlier in your article you praise aspects of the ministries of MacArthur, Piper, Dever, DeYoung.

    IMO, one of the most egregious forms of “trivialization of Christian worship” is the spread of CCM/Rock types of music in the . I trust you are aware of MacArthur’s Resolved Conference, and event Peter Masters described as, “…featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere…. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

    And I trust you are aware of John Piper and Mark Dever’s personal affinity for and use of the CCM/RAP genre in their worship services.

    These are not examples of trivializing Christian worship, but isn’t it possible these are examples of a harmful direction for Christian worship in which the holy and profane (Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23) are joined at the hip?

    Kind regards,

    LM

  2. David:

    You wrote, “Instead, I have spent my blogging time trying to do battle on that front which seems to get less attention from these heavyweights: the trivialization of Christian worship, the warping of the Christian imagination, and the secularization of pulpit and altar.”

    Earlier in your article you praise aspects of the ministries of MacArthur, Piper, Dever, DeYoung.

    IMO, one of the most serious threats to “Christian worship” is the spread of CCM/Rock types of music in the worship service. I trust you are aware of MacArthur’s Resolved Conference, an event Peter Masters described as, “…featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere…. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)

    And I trust you are aware of John Piper and Mark Dever’s personal affinity for and use of the CCM/RAP genre in their worship services.

    These are not examples of trivializing Christian worship, but isn’t it possible these are examples of a harmful direction for Christian worship in which the holy and profane (Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23) are joined at the hip? Isn’t it possible that these are contributors to “the secularization of the pulpit and altar?”

    Kind regards,

    LM

    *Initial version of this comment was accidently submitted prior to final edit. Delete previous at your convenience.

  3. David David says:

    Lou,

    Perhaps you misunderstand me or I misunderstand you. In my post I specifically mentioned the areas in which these men have done good work. I also noted that there is some silence from well known evangelicals on these matters, and very divergent practices. What then is the relevance of highlighting their worship practices? Surely you do not expect an expression of appreciation to be an all-or-nothing matter? After all, you often cite Peter Masters without mentioning the areas in which you would not find fellowship with him. I mentioned by name the men whom I regard as worship warriors. If I understand you correctly, to be consistent, am I to identify and name all the areas in which I find disagreement in doctrine and practice with Hart, Myers, Duncan, Trueman, etc.?

  4. David:

    I have no problem with and can appreciate some of some of those mens' contributions. Elements of what most of those men teach/do, however, leads to New Evangelical compromise, John Piper most prominent among them.

    You asked, "What then is the relevance of highlighting their worship practices?"

    Because, in part, their worship practices, in the form of CCM/Rap, contribute to the "secularization (worldliness, if I may) of [the] pulpit and altar."

    That's all from here.

    Thanks for hosting me.

    LM

    (Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23)

  5. David,

    I agree completely with your point. Where you'll get push-back, as you know, is your equating your front to the fronts that these men have battled. They sort of relegate your front to the back, battling for higher quality of food back in the chow hall, something of a food fight. It would seem that your first battle would be for recognition that this is a front and not a back, not just a distraction from the real battle at the front. Even worse, many would say you're hurting the cause of the front, more than helping it, by causing interference with the actual battle.

  6. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Kent, I think you've nailed it. That is exactly what causes the heat in this debate.

  7. David David says:

    Kent,

    this is true. And since we've had so many cry wolf on this very front, it's a hard-sell these days.

  8. Taigen says:

    I realize I am late to the party in this discussion, but I actually had time to read this post. I agree with Kent's assessment. I remember when I was in college, a man told me he believed that all men seeking ordination into the gospel ministry should include in their doctrinal statement a section on Music. I didn't think much of it at the time, but since then, I would agree, as well as including a section on worship. Unfortunately, these two issues have not historically been viewed on par with the core doctrines of the faith. I am not arguing that they are, necessarily, but they would be worth discussing in that context, much like other issues not included in the doctrinal statement.

    We are living in a period of time that relativism has infiltrated virtually every part of life, including our worship practices. If God views how we worship him as important, so should we.

    I am thankful for you men who do write about this subject, as it both challenges me and encourages me. Keep it up. You are not alone in the fight.

  9. Scott Aniol Scott Aniol says:

    Thanks for your words, Taigen. They are a great encouragement to us!

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