Saturday, May 18, 2013

book review--The Future of Worship by Nathan Byrd

Christian Feng-shui

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

This is one of those books where the author makes a few valid points, but then goes completely loopy when it comes to his solutions.

For example, he's right to be concerned about things in the church today, such as how churches have become overly concerned with entertainment, being seeker-friendly, and basically becoming places for raising funds. When he recounts a time he did not give when a speaker insisted he did not want bills as small as $5, I agree with him completely on that decision.

But then he talks about his cures for these things, and they're every bit as wacked as anything any seeker megachurch is doing.

"There is a sound for worldly music and another sound for holy music, and the two shall never mix." p. 62. I think we may fairly ask where the Bible teaches this about music? He also tries to make this kind of comparison: flesh = rhythm, soul = harmony, and spirit = melody. Nowhere does the Bible teach such a thing. "Melody appeals to the spirit and fosters entry into the presence of the Almighty. Melody doesn't necessarily need harmony and certainly doesn't need rhythm." p. 77. So, anyone have any Scriptural passages saying that melody fosters entry into the presence of God? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

"I believe timeless music is divine and brings a heavenly context with it because there is no timing in Heaven. Since Heaven is a timeless environment, there is no need for percussion instruments in Heaven." p. 78 Who knew that the music closest to Heaven's music is Enya's? Or that God didn't have drums in Heaven? I certainly can't think of any biblical passage telling us that Heaven is a percussion-free zone.

One favorite NAR trick is take something good, and then add so much unscriptural stuff to it, that it's almost unrecognizable. This author does this to worship. Worship is a good thing, but by the time he keeps adding one unscriptural thing to it after another, one hardly recognizes anything biblical in his worship. "Spiritual continuity and a commitment to perfection bring the worshipers into one accord; when that sound and type of worship is presented before the throne, it takes on a "one-ness" quality in the spirit realm." p. 124. Funny how the Bible doesn't teach this at all, nor can he find anything about it in the Bible, only tries to shoehorn it into the account of Solomon's dedication of the Temple.

"The third dimension of worship is a place where there is no music provided by a human. There is no pastoral encouragement, no apostolic oversight, no prophetic impartation, no singing inspiration, but just the glory of the Presence that Israel experienced throughout their days in the wilderness." Well, talk about something the Bible says absolutely nothing about. See, something added on, completely without biblical support, but merely something this guy's making up from his own imaginations, and completely wacky.

Perhaps his worst ideas have to do with the reason this review is called "Christian Feng-shui", his ideas about church buildings that what should be included in them.

"...we need to redesign, renovate, and realign the church building to be transformed into the house of YHWH. We need to design the interior according to what is prescribed specifically in Scripture so that the Presence can come and remain in our midst forever." Oh, really? Do tell. "What I scripturally advocate is that we make YHWH preeminent by giving Him His proper and prominent space in the sanctuary. The only way I know to do that is by providing a Most Holy Place with the Ark and the cherubim." p. 245. What!!! Is he claiming to have found the Ark of the Covenant? Did he contact Indiana Jones to learn where it could be found? "If that barrier is truly removed and we truly have access to the Father through the Son, then the Church needs an opportunity to prove that out with a tangible location. The Church needs a Most Holy Place!" So, churches need to be laid out so that they have a Most Holy Place, complete with an Ark of the Covenant?

The supposed Tabernacle of David is the current big cause celebre among NAR worship leaders. They all want to establish this kind of place, in some way, shape, form, or fashion. Byrd, for example, says that Amos 9:11 tells us that God will rebuild this Taberacle, though reading that verse in context seems to say otherwise. He says that David established 24-7 music at this tabernacle, though he can offer no scriptural support for this claim.

Finally, he goes to a place that I can only think of as being Gnostic. "G-d is a Spirit, the Scripture says. He made me out of Himself in such a way that I, in a very small way, represent Him in this earthly container. So in essence, He is calling me to present the most authentic part of my being back to Him for true fellowship. He doesn't want me to present my corrupted and corroded flesh, nor does He desire my wayward and distracted soul; He desires that part of me which best represents Himself, my spirit." pp. 228-229. This is Gnosticism--God isn't interested in our bodies, but only in the spirit. Read I Thessalonians 5:23 and Mark 12:30 to see how wrong this guy's teachings here really are.

This touches a little bit on the bizarre things this guy is putting out there. Trust me, there's more.

So, where in the New Testament does anyone say that the churches need to provide some kind of literal space for a real or metaphorical Most Holy Place or Ark of the Covenant? Maybe Paul mentioned to Timothy or Titus that they needed be careful about the buildings they used when their congregations would meet? That it needed to have a certain kind of layout, that it needed to have a room that they would call a Most Holy Place? That they something they would call the Ark of the Covenant? That they needed to be careful that the music they played didn't sound too much like the music they heard outside the church? That they needed to make sure the rhythm section didn't get too loud, and maybe that it wasn't necessary since there are no rhythm sections in Heaven?

I think those questions almost answer themselves. Among the many concerns the epistle writers had for the churches, they make no mention at all of the need for churches to be careful of the types of buildings they met in, what kinds of music they put their songs to, the need for them to have a Most Holy Place, or any other thing that Byrds wants us to fret about.

What Byrd is doing is much the same thing that happened in the church in Galatia, where some came and tried to put the believers back under the Law. Paul's response to this was not weak or unclear at all, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?" Galatians 3. His words of warning are as applicable against Byrd's form of legalism as against the kind that was infiltrating the Galatian church, "10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." 12 But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."

Byrd's book is all legalism, and even he himself does not live up to his own rules. His church has no Most Holy Place, it has no Ark of the Covenant. He can call some room or space his Most Holy Place, he may even have some object he calls the Ark of the Covenant, but they aren't. He picks and chooses aspects of the tabernacle of ancient Israel, and put us under bondage to his ideas, but he himself makes no attempt to obey all the things taught about that tabernacle.

All of this is basically spiritualized busywork. The church has far more important concerns than about whether our buildings are designed correctly or incorrectly, and these kind of teachings do little more than distract the church from it's mission of preaching the Gospel and encouraging believers to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world.

The things taught in this book are unnecessary, and even dangerous.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

book review--On Earth as it is in Heaven by Peter Wagner

Everybody wants to rule the world

Or, at least, Peter Wagner and those like him do.

Wagner's books is interesting, at least in an academic sense; after all, it's rather helpful when those who want to be our future overlords give us their game plan, along with their motivations.

Concerning motivations and reasons, bibllically, I can't buy into what Wagner is trying to sell. "Hunter, to the contrary, says, "Most Christians in history have interpreted the creation mandate in Genesis as a mandate to change the world."" (Kindle Locations 455-456). Not sure why we should accept the word of this Hunter guy, or what evidences he gives to support that claim. But concerning this suppose "mandate to change the world", you can find it Genesis 1, "28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Notice, please, first that this mandate was given before the Fall. Notice, again, that nothing is said in that mandate about changing the world, or people having dominion over each other. It is all about mankind having children and filling the earth, and mankind having dominion over fish and birds and animals.

The other big way he tries to find dominionism in the Bible has to do with a few words in Jesus' prayer. "My basic premise is that God's kingdom should come and that His will should be done here on earth as it is in heaven. This is clearly a Christian principle because, as I have said, these are the very words that Jesus taught His disciples to pray every day in the Lord's Prayer." (Kindle Locations 89-90). Now, are the words in the this prayer suppose to be a covert command for the Church to take charge of the world? Considering that no place else in the Bible hints at such a thing, that Jesus never told the Apostles to try to gain control of the world, that no epistles tell the churches to act in such a way, I think we can safely be skeptical of Wagner's spin on this phrase.

But, as the book makes plain, Wagner is all about power. Christians should be in charge, Christians should take over the supposed seven mountains of society. And how is that done?

"The second pillar is the great transfer of wealth, which God has been promising through His prophets for several years." (Kindle Locations 192-193). Yeah, that's right, money. Or, as Wagner rather crassly put it, "If you check back through human history, you will find that three things, more than anything else, have produced social transformation, namely violence, knowledge and wealth. The greatest of these is wealth!" (Kindle Locations 2200-2201), and "One of the apostles present said, "If you want to take a city, you need to buy it! Own businesses, property, and whatever other opportunities you can find to build wealth."" (Kindle Locations 2233-2235).

Wow. You know all that stuff the Bible says about the dangers of wanting wealth, about being content with what we have? Oh, but Peter Wagner is sooooo much smarter than those fuddy-duddy biblical writers! Who needs contentment, when Peter Wagner wants to rule the world! There have been modern-day prophets, whose prophetic accuracy rate has probably been much less than the biblically required 100%, who have been going on about a transfer of wealth! People like Joel Osteen tell you that God wants to your life to improve, God wants you to be prosperous! Who are you going to believe, the Bible or Joel Osteen!!!

"Apostle Pat Francis of Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Toronto say that her goal is to help every member of her church become a millionaire." (Kindle Locations 2323-2324). Wow, why didn't the Apostle Paul, or any other biblical Apostle for that matter, think about that? Their main concern was preaching the Gospel of Christ dying for the sins of people and rising again, and that the Christians should live holy and godly lives. Why, if they'd told them to become millionaires, or whatever the equivalent was at that time, just think about what the church would have been like.

There's more weirdness in this book, such has Wagner's claim that we are in some kind of Second Apostolic Age, which the Bible says nothing about, or his claim that Rick Warren and Joel Osteen are apostles (even if they don't use that title for themselves), which is simply hilarious.

I will thank Wagner for one thing, though. At one point, he writes this, "For example, one of my self-perceived badges of honor is to have had a whole book written to criticize my (and George Barna's) pragmatism!" (Kindle Locations 1927-1928). A footnote tells the reader that the book in question is Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur. I've read that book, since reading Wagner's, and found MacArthur's book to be orders of magnitude superior to the drivel in Wagner's book. I will recommend MacArthur's book to you, instead of Wagner's. You'll learn far more of biblical value in that book, as against Wagner's imaginings on how to take over the world.