- The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.
The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book -- large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.
We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, "Christian" hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Masters concludes, "The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world." That seems rather harsh.
Consider the following, written by Dr. Masters back in 2001:
- C. H. Spurgeon would never have an organ at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in his day, because he saw how so many of the larger churches had become carried away by the sound of their magnificent instruments, and the expert capabilities of their organists. They were tickling the ears of the people (as Spurgeon put it) with beautiful musical items other than hymns. He was concerned that people would go to church to be entertained rather than to worship, but even more seriously, he saw how the skill and beauty of the music was itself likely to be regarded as an act of worship, and an offering to God.
Today the Tabernacle uses an organ, but we endeavour to keep its deployment within bounds, so that it provides an accompaniment only, and does not become a medium of worship. We would never say, for example, that the organ "enriches" worship. It disciplines the singing, and teaches and maintains the tune, but we know very well that in spiritual terms it can contribute nothing.
Has Dr. Masters even listened to the music he is so quick to condemn? Has he considered the theological and biblical soundness of the lyrics? Or is it the music itself that's bad?
Of course, his article doesn't just focus on music. Masters sees a problem in that "the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time." For example, he isn't too thrilled with the fact that the "charismatic" C. J. Mahaney is being embraced by big-name Calvinists like John Piper and John MacArthur. Talk about nitpicking.
What's interesting is that Masters apparently sees no problem uniting his own church with the world in other ways. For example, the Tabernacle's television ministry shares the airwaves with secular broadcasts. It maintains a web site on the porn-filled Internet. You can get books by Dr. Masters on Amazon.com, a site which also peddles sexually explicit, graphically violent, and anti-Christian material. Just where are we supposed to draw the line?
It is true that we aren't of the world, but we are still in it. Just because some of our musical tastes and preaching styles have changed over the years doesn't mean we are becoming one with the world.