Monday, April 25, 2016

Music 16 - Dancing in Church?

With increasing frequency, American churches are incorporating dance into their worship services. And IP1120908large understand why. Music and dance are closely related and church services are full of music. Churches are full of artistic people who want to express their love for the Lord in the ways they know best. And most importantly, David danced before the Lord (II Samuel 6.14). Such things lend themselves easily to the justification of "interpretative movements" and "artistic expressions" in worship.

There is one gigantic problem with such an approach – the church service is not a worship service.  In 2015 I wrote six posts totaling 9000 words laying out the case for that last sentence. At the risk of quoting myself let me give you a handful of them. "The stubborn truth is that the church service was not designed or purposed to produce worship. God does not live in a building. You do not need to go to a geographical location to meet with Him." As a matter of fact, there is not a single public worship service discussed, exemplified, commanded, or instructed in the New Testament church age. The only reasons we have entwined the two so closely are tradition and lazy hermeneutics. There are lots of preaching services but zero worship services.

I wrote in that series that misunderstanding this principle produces a wide variety of the mistakes we see in contemporary America's approach to church. Dance is simply one of those mistakes. Yes, David danced before the Lord. But a church service is not about appearing before the Lord. It is not about worship. It is about edification.

As members of New Testament churches we realize that our religion, Christianity, has its roots in the Old Testament. We also realize the Old Testament is not normative for how we conduct church. After all, I seriously doubt your church slaughtered an animal and burned it during the morning service last Sunday. The church was not even imagined in the Old Testament. Yes, men worshipped the Lord then and men worship the Lord now but there is a clear and evident shift in that worship in the New Testament. 

11123I agree you can show me worshipful dance in the Old Testament. But you cannot in the New Testament. You can ransack it from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 and you will come up with nothing. But the bulk of my reasoning against involving dance in a church service is not just this argument from silence. It is my carefully considered understanding that the church service is not a worship service.

Church is not about expressing, in an artistic and entertaining way, your worship of the Heavenly Father. It is about pointed preaching that confronts us personally and corporately and in so doing transforms men and women and boys and girls into the image of Jesus Christ. But when your underlying grasp of how and why church is supposed to be done is wrong, and when your spiritual culture rejects separation from the world, then sooner or later I expect dancing to show up in your church services. And when it does you will be wrong.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Available Immediately - Schizophrenic: A Diagnosis of the Independent Baptist Movement

9781498465489 front

Almost a century ago the independent Baptist movement was born. From its beginning it was deeply marked and widely identified with doctrinal orthodoxy and a vigorous practice. Over the last thirty years that vigorous practice has seriously degenerated in a number of rather alarming ways. The results of this degeneration are increasingly seen in two mistakes. The first mistake is the tendency on behalf of the brethren to dig in, to admit nothing publicly, and to attack any who assert that something is wrong. In so doing they are simply exacerbating the problem. The second mistake is to overreact. Some overreact by leaving the independent Baptist movement altogether for contemporary Christianity. Others are attempting to transition to some "new" kind of independent Baptist model. In so doing they are abandoning much that is good and ingesting much that is dangerous.

Schizophrenic seeks to take a balanced approach. On the one hand it boldly shouts, "We're right!" On the other hand it unhesitatingly confesses, "We're wrong." It points to the banners of our strengths and calls on us to lift them high. At the same time, it lifts the rug covering our dirt and calls on us to clean it up. At all times, it seeks to do this with a careful adherence to Scripture and a well-researched eye on the facts all bathed in a spirit of charity.

It is available beginning today in all e-book formats as well as hardback and paperback. See for more information, some initial reviews, and purchasing information.

…and don’t be shy. When you finish it tell me what you think, agree or disagree. And tell others, especially online. As an independent author it is the only real hope I have to get any traction.

Thank you, my friends.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Music 15 - What About Dancing?

Music and dancing are closely entwined. This is true in a limited way in Scripture and eventh more so in popular culture, and especially rock music. For instance, Elvis Presley in his early years never stood still. He moved constantly. As rock exploded in popularity and became synonymous with pop culture in the 50s "American Bandstand" took over television. The 60s brought us "Upbeat", the 70s produced the legendary "Soul Train", and the 80s metamorphosed both music and television at the same time with MTV. The 2000s have only advanced the popularity of dance and music with hugely popular shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars."

This only makes sense. Music is intrinsically rhythmic. So is dance. The two have gone together as long as music has existed. In today's post I want to lay out a brief explanation of what the Bible says about dancing, and give you what I believe that means in practical terms.

Dancing is mentioned twenty seven times in Scripture. It reminds me a bit of wine in that it is mentioned in both positive and negative contexts. Most of the uses are positive. For instance, Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. (Psalm 149.3) But they are not all positive. For example, we see that the story of the golden calf involved dancing in its demonic worship. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. (Exodus 32.19)

Thus it is that I conclude that not all dancing is right nor is all dancing wrong. In other words, I cannot make a blanket statement in relation to dancing of either commendation or condemnation. But the lack of being able to make a blanket statement of approval or approbation does not mean we are each of us free to do as we will in relation to dancing. It means we must use Scriptural principle and example to inform our decisions.

A moment ago I said that both music and dance are intrinsically rhythmic. They are also both intrinsically emotional. In fact, I define dancing as the physical expression of the emotion your body is experiencing via the music you are hearing. And I think that definition is loosely borne out in Scripture.

When David and Saul returned from a victory against the Philistines the victory parade was a musical expression of the joy of the people. And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. (I Samuel 18.6) Likewise we see similar expressions by David and Jeremiah. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. (Psalm 30.11) Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with my tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. (Jeremiah 31.4)

This ties in quite clearly with the fact that music is an emotional language. Dance is the logical expression of this rhythmic emotion in a physical space.

…in which we begin to dimly see the danger built into dancing. It is so eminently physical. The problem is that this oh-so physical dancing can easily turn into oh-so physical sexual desire. In point of fact, almost all modern popular dancing is designed largely to provoke or emphasize the body's sexual emotions of lust inherent in immoral music.

dancing-with-the-stars-season-22As of this writing "Dancing With the Stars" has produced 374 episodes. I have watched exactly one. That one – which I was watching as part of my research into music – had not been playing for more than ten minutes before I heard the following statement given by a mentor to a trainee during a practice session: "Think of your body as a stick dipped into a pot of boiling sex." Why? Because that is exactly what dancing has become in our day especially as expressed in pop culture – sex.

Such dancing is all kinds of wrong. It is expressing or inculcating the inward emotion of lust in the heart and that violates the Ten Commandments. If you do not believe me just as Jesus. He made it quite clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

dancing1-lgIn response someone will surely say to me, "Well, there is nothing wrong with a nice slow dance on a Friday night down at the VFW hall." Oh, really? Are the dances accompanied by immoral music? Then they will not fail to influence you morally in the wrong direction. Are you telling me that you can spend all night hugging other men's wives and at the same time keep your heart pure toward them? If that is your position let me kindly and simply say that you are an idiot. The bar for sin is not just the act of adultery. Sin is in the first thought of it. (Matthew 5.28, Proverbs 24.9) Sin is also just as much in a physical contact that is sexually stimulating even if it comes short of the act of sex. Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (I Corinthians 7.1) [And, yes, before you fire off that comment I know it does not explicitly say "sin." Go read Genesis 20.6 and James 4.17 and get back to me.]

I can hear it now… "But my dancing doesn't involve touching. We stay apart from each other." Are the dances performed to immoral music? During such dancing do you watch others and get sexually stimulated or do others do so watching you? Are the outfits that you or others around you wear to dance in sexually suggestive and immodest? Then I do not buy your whole but-we-aren't-touching-each-other line.

Others assert that dancing is good exercise. I am sure they are correct. But so is climbing in and out of windows robbing the people in the second floor but that does not make it right. There are lots of ways to get good exercise that do not involve immoral music or have a high potential of provoking impure thoughts.

Having said all of that bear in mind I have also said that not all dancing is wrong. It cannot be for there are clearly good examples of it in the Word of God, especially in a worshipful context. Next week I will address that aspect in greater detail. Stay tuned.