Leaven, Capitulation, and Christian Compromise

It is hardly surprising that the secular culture is constantly working against the Christian faith, seeking inroads into the churches, and working to bring wholesale compromise and carnality. This happens all the time, and is to be expected. Jesus and the apostles warned about this frequently.

What is more surprising however is when people and organisations and churches claiming to be Christian do the same thing. Of course this too was warned about in Scripture. But it is still a shocker to see it actually occurring with such boldness and reckless abandon, and with such contempt for biblical truth.

If I were Satan seeking to destroy the church from within, I would especially target its young people, and get them to doubt their own Bibles and their own core teachings. Using popular Christian singers and concerts would be a great way to do this. I have written before about this very thing: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/08/17/a-great-way-to-destroy-the-faith-of-millions/

There are sadly too many examples of this all around us. A recent one involves some Christian music festival held in NSW called Black Stump. It has been going for around two decades now, and bills itself as “a Christian Music, Arts and Teaching festival held annually”.

gosfordSadly however, next month’s festival is proudly featuring as a major speaker someone who happens to be a well-known apostate when it comes to the clear teachings of Scripture on the issue of human sexuality. He is in fact quite proud to tell us that God is wrong about homosexuality, and that he knows better. The festival site offers this blurb about him:

Fr Rod Bower is an Anglican priest and Rector of Gosford where he has served for 16 years. Fr Rod is a passionate advocate for a number of social justice and human rights issues. He believes that our treatment of Asylum Seekers, denial of marriage to gay and lesbian people, the lack of action on climate change and the lack of recognition of First Nations people damages our corporate soul. Fr Rod is married to Kerry, also a passionate advocate for Asylum Seekers, they have two married children and two grandchildren.

So far out of sync is he with biblical Christianity that I have written various articles about this guy. See these two for starters:

He proudly calls himself “progressive”. This is not just a generic term, but actually has a quite specific meaning. There are various “progressive Christian” organisations around and they clearly tell us where they stand on things. It is obvious from their own words that these progressives are fully apostate. See here for more detail on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/…/23/progressive-christianity/

One person already complained to the festival organisers about having this false teacher being billed as one of their main attractions, and quickly received this reply:

Thanks for your email.
It’s a shame you are going to boycott our event due to one member of our line up.
We hope you have a good October long weekend regardless.
Black Stump Admin

Um, what? If these conference organisers actually believe that a little false teaching and a little apostasy is perfectly acceptable, then they know nothing about biblical Christianity, and seem instead to be simply pushing trendy leftist agendas and just interested in making money.

How in the world can they even think like this? “He is just one speaker”. So what? Just one bit of leaven can spoil the whole affair. The Scriptures in fact make this perfectly clear. And if they are happy to promote this apostate and his appallingly unbiblical views to these young people, then who and what else will they be dishing up here?

Consider just a few biblical passages on leaven. Generally in Scripture leaven is used as a metaphor for a harmful and negative influence which must always be shunned and rejected, not winked at or put up with. Here are just a few texts on this:

Mark 8:15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Galatians 5:7-9 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

1 Corinthians 5:5-7 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.

Sure, on rare occasions leaven can be used in a positive sense, as in Matthew 13:33: “He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened’.”

But generally it is used in a very negative fashion – the idea being that a little sin can seriously impact the whole lot. Yet these conference promoters think it is no big deal at all, and don’t seem to give a rip about it. If that is how they think about the Christian faith then it sounds like we should avoid this festival like the plague.

Indeed, everyone should contact Black Stump and let them know about your grave concerns here. They can be contacted through this link: http://blackstump.org.au/?page_id=23

Such cavalier and blasé replies to something as serious as this is very telling indeed. As I said earlier, if I were the devil, seeking to nullify the faith and get young Christians off the rails, something like this would be an ideal strategy: hold a “Christian” music festival with a mishmash of teaching, some good and some bad, and then sit back and enjoy the results.

No wonder so many churches and organisations are becoming ineffective for Christ and the Kingdom. No wonder so many young people are abandoning the faith, or living completely compromised and carnal lives. With Christian friends like this, who needs enemies?

Fifteen years ago ex-homosexual Joe Dallas warned about how the churches would crumble over the issue of homosexuality. He said this: “The debate over homosexuality and the Bible – specifically, whether or not the Bible condemns homosexual acts in all cases – will do no less than rip the body of Christ apart within the next decade. It will force believers to declare, in black and white terms, where they stand on issues of sexuality and biblical interpretation.”

He was 100 per cent correct, and what we see at this festival is just another example of this. As I said, please contact them and share your concerns. And also please pray for them that they have a change of heart and mind, and realise that the Word of God must always trump trendy lefty social issues and anti-biblical agendas.


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23 Replies to “Leaven, Capitulation, and Christian Compromise”

  1. Very concerning Bill. I wonder, with all the rampant adultery today, whether Black Stump organisers might also consider anti-adultery views as ‘damaging our corporate soul’?

  2. Funny that – the Rev. supports all things that directly and indirectly weaken the foundations of Western society’s biblical foundations – he’s anti-marriage and anti-family, anti-national, and anti-capitalist.

  3. My question is, Will there be any strong Christian pastors also attending who could and would counteract or, at least, neutralize the false message of this “one” apostate? It does appear to be an decision that is clearly separating the “wheat from the tares” in a demonstrable way.

  4. G’day Bill,

    Thank you for drawing this to my attention. Tragically, a visit to the Black Stump website will show that (among others) the sponsors include Baptist World Aid, Morling College, and the TEAR Fund. I leave to your readers what to do about that.

    Andrew Campbell

  5. Hi Bill

    I just checked out the blackstump lineup of speakers. It is not just Rod Bower who is of concern. Most of them seem to be flaky ‘christians’. have a look at their profile Anna Dohnt, Cadence Poetica, etc.
    Would like to send an email to the Baptist work Aid and see what their response is.

  6. I agree with Venita, a lot of the lineup are bio-ed as “no different to the world.”

    In fact the whole site looks the show is no different to a non-Christian long weekend concert or music/arts festival. There is almost nothing specifically Christian about it.

  7. Thanks Bill.
    However, apart from the false teachers there is another issue here that is all too often swept under the carpet, and that is so-called “Christian music”. What passes for that in today’s Christian communities and churches is nothing more than the world’s “music” dressed up in Christian drapery. So-called music taken from the rock scene, the disco, the secular celebrities and pop stars. Much of this “music” is thoroughly depraved, and is part and parcel of the drug scene, the sex culture, occultism, and New Age notions. And what has no such associations is allied to endless repetitions, and vacuous lines showing little grasp of Christian truths. The musical fare of “Christian music” is in reality a pot pourri of the world’s beat and thump on one hand, and the often rather mindless, melody-less, and highly syncopated bars from professing Christians, trying to be ‘chic’ and “with it”, on the other.

    I can hear already the defence of such musical fare: “Charles Wesley took the ‘honkytonk’ tunes from the tavern and the burlesque theatre and married them to his hymns so as to appeal to the masses. He did this, therefore so can we.” This type of line has been attributed to Martin Luther, Wesley, John Newton, and Frances Ridley Havergal among others, and has been noised around so commonly that no-one really knows where it came from originally. HOWEVER, IT IS A MYTH! And it is high time it was demythologised. My forthcoming book, “Through the Christian Year with Charles Wesley” will devote a whole chapter to debunking this myth. And a pernicious myth it is. It has dragged Christian music and praise down to the level of the world, as well as to its immorality. And so in this festival, discussed above, I have no doubt it will more of the same: the world’s music, and the world’s morality going hand-in-hand, but both dressed up in quasi-Christian clothes.

    I know that I am sticking my neck out, but principles are what they are, whether supported by many or by few. I am not saying that Christians must of necessity embrace classical music, but that said the music of the great Christian composers such as Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, and Sir Arthur Sullivan would be a good way to start. Whatever, get the world’s music right out of Christian psyche.

    And one other thing, don’t come at me with the statement attributed to General Booth, “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?” No, he does not! And General Booth is not infallible! The devil has seduced the Christian community that he does have good music, but in fact, like the lie to Eve, “You shall not surely die”, this seductive shibboleth has brought about the death quality music, whether in the sacred sphere, or in the more general sphere.

  8. Excellent article Bill. I thought after the last few you might have been putting yourself under too much pressure. Yes Matt 5:19 suggests that we might, through ignorance, get away with minor infractions but I think that it is obvious that teaching that homosexuality is not fornication (I.e that it is not a sex act condemned under both the OT law and NT teachings) and thereby actively promoting fornication and lawlessness , is a very obvious and very big one. I recall one Anglican comparing it to wearing cotton and wool together. Another one when first asked about the possibility of marriage redefinition in NZ, said he didn’t know – he’d have to look it up.

    So can we bring pressure to bear on the sponsors? It seemed to work with World Vision.

  9. This guy is so progressive we could have found him anywhere in Sodom or Gomorrah.

  10. Seems like few organisations have the spine to stand up and openly declare they are going liberal, or to back down when challenged. If they go liberal, it is sneakily rather than showing their hand.

    Fewer organisations that I trust to exercise good judgement. Even our local church is starting to rely on the books/teachings of guys I’m not at ease with.

  11. This just makes me unbelievably sad. This is not just a matter of musical or artistic taste. Either God knew what He was doing when He created male and female, or He is incompetent, and Jesus a liar.

    Rod Bower only persists with his aberrant theology because he refuses to engage with challengers to his twisted ideas. I wrote a strong email to BlackStump, but they seem to only be sending out form letters at this stage, which I also responded to. Disappointing, but it might be helpful if more people contacted them as well.

    As an aside – and I realise this runs the risk of sending this thread off-topic – I must say, I reject Murray’s thesis above on the simple basis that most music that is not specifically discordant or lacking in a reasonable balance of melody, harmony and rhythm can easily be employed to bring honour to God. I have far too many examples of such in my collection at home and submitting the blanket concept of ‘the world’s music’ is neither biblical nor useful. The reality is all music could be called that. In many cases modern music today is simply a meshing of creative ideas developed over the course of human history. I find it difficult to attribute moral values to something ultimately neutral.

    I respect that people have different tastes in music, and I agree that lyrically much shallowness is in preponderance currently, but I find rejection of most modern music with such arguments – the music specifically – almost as useful as me saying that boiled broccoli or asparagus is satanic. At least music I don’t like usually doesn’t make me involuntarily dry retch. Blah.

    I’ll sing hymns a cappella or happily tap my feet to an Irish jig or stand amazed at a scorching guitar solo in a song written to invite the Holy Spirit’s presence – I don’t think it serves the gospel to confuse clear moral issues with personal tastes. BlackStump’s problems are much deeper than that and it isn’t a good idea to get sidetracked.

  12. Thanks Mark. Yes their form letter reply does not deal with our concerns at all. If they were indeed biblical Christians, they would not be defending to the hilt a guy who believes God is wrong about homosexuality, and believes we must actually promote this sin. By inviting this guy to speak means that they endorse his views. It is that simple.

  13. My virus software, McAfee, has a red warning on the blackstump websight, and says it is a phishing website. Has anyone else discovered this?

  14. Thanks Mark.
    While I respect your view, and it is fairly common one, I must nevertheless demur. Before trotting out the usual line that music is “ultimately neutral”, you should read Dr Masters’ book, “Worship in the Melting Pot”. It is a closely argued book, with constant reference to Scripture, by one who is in a position to know, and with long pastoral experience.

    I reject the view that music is essentially neutral. For starters, there is such a thing as genre. To take an extreme example, do you think a Strauss waltz would be appropriate at a funeral? Would “heavy metal” (if we are going to dignify that with the term “music”) be appropriate during a communion service? Of course not! (Well, I hope not). This only serves to underline my point that genre is real.

    Another point is beauty. This is not, as fondly imagined, merely subjective. It is real, and in both the serious music of our times it has gone out the window. God created beauty, and invested His creation with beauty, whether a colourful flower, a mountain scene, a pretty mother with a new-born baby, or a piece of melodic and harmonious music. Can one seriously say that what passes for music, with its performers screaming and screeching, is in any way beautiful? Can one say that the renditions of the “musos” in so many modern churches, as they strum guitar chords but seem to have little idea of melody and rhythm (as I have often personally heard), is really beautiful? I submit that it is not.

    This leads me back to the topic: Peter Master’s book is built around John 4:24 and true worship. Paul indicates that false worship leads in turn to homosexual and other forms of depravity (Rom.1:18-32). Although I won’t be attending the festival discussed above, I have witnessed the sort of thing which will doubtless be the fare on this occasion, and frankly, I find quite a deal of it worldly, and even blasphemous. It is no wonder that it goes hand-in-glove with the grossest immorality.

    I restate emphatically that so much of what passes for music in today’s churches is borrowed from the world; it has the genre, and ugliness of the world; and it fails to differentiate the church from the world, but instead sends the message that we are basically the same as the world. No! Let the world have its music; let the devil have his so-called “best tunes”. Let us instead reinstate the concept of “sacred music”!

  15. Murray- I think you are on to something there. Much of the “contemporary” songs seem to have strange melodies and repetitious words. Some have good words along with singable melodies, but the church music debate has a long way to run. It’s hard to beat the old-style hymns (not all actually old) which have verses which tell a story or develop a doctrinal subject and have straightforward melodies which can be sung without glissandos and other affectations. Some of this is personal taste but the subject needs to be thoroughly looked at and discussed from a devotional point of view.

    When I hear people applauding at the end of a song I know there is something seriously wrong.

    As for drums used all the time- in case there are any drummers out there I’ll finish my comment now. Then again, I am old.

  16. Thanks guys. Recall that this post is about a pro-homosexual activist being invited to speak at a Christian festival, so let’s try to stay on that topic for now. Perhaps I will pen a piece on music, then a full debate on this can be done there.

  17. A final word, if I may. Murray, I am not arguing that music is neutral in terms of tone or genre. That would defeat a major purpose of music. As a video editor, I am more aware of most of how critical the right music track matters for different visual subject material. I have used everything from fast screaming guitars to solo cellos and it pleases me greatly when I find a track that is fit for purpose. I’ve also been a church sound mixer for over 26 years on everything from rock concerts to very quiet prayer meetings, and I consider everything a work unto the Lord – so long as God is actually being honoured. In fact, currently the only work I’m doing exclusively involves hymns!

    But is music neutral in terms of morality? Absolutely. Even ‘ugly’ music has its uses. Even a heavy metal track (definitely not my favourite genre) can communicate themes of God’s judgment and wrath for sin, or Satan’s fall, and I have heard it used for such. I could play you countless examples of exceptionally strong and doctrinally sound Christian themes woven into various types of modern music that would probably not fit into any other ‘container’.

    I maintain, ALL music can be considered ‘worldly’ in some form being of human origin and that ultimately defeats your core thesis. I think the problems with Christian music stem more from a motivational focus of the people involved being directed by celebrity culture, not the sound of it as such. If classical music was the most popular genre, the problems would essentially be the same. I only mentioned a contrary view to highlight that this is a controversial distraction from the main issue here; we agree about BlackStump’s error and Rod Bower’s heretical views, and the focus should be on that.

  18. What a comedown. Sad. I recall a year at Black Stump when the hero was the late Keith Green and a major theme was his life story about ‘No Compromise’ (with sin & the world) for the sake of Jesus Christ.
    People who started Black Stump 30 years ago did so with a vision of sharing the Gospel and raising a new generation of young Jesus-followers. They were humble but passionate self-sacrificing Bible believers. Many of us have loving memories of them. Some of them might grieve about its current direction – a worrying thing to be sending your kids away to for the weekend.

  19. Well I think we can discuss the whole festival here because the whole concept look decidedly very odd from a Biblical perspective, even if the issue you wanted to discuss wasn’t at the festival at all. The whole festival is contemptible.There are so man issues we could talk about this festival that we shouldn’t just limit it to homosexuality. I doubt Christ will get one mention there.

  20. Thanks Mark.
    Just a short note before I go on holiday to New Zealand. I note your long experience with the music scene. Just remember that while you might have been heavily involved on the production side of things, it is people like me who have to listen to the stuff – albeit not in my church. I well remember going to the New Year’s eve party in Federation Square in Melbourne, when a rock band was screaming out its “music” through powerful amplifiers. It was nothing less than sonic assault as the ear drums almost caved in under the attack. I exclaimed, “Who has the audacity to dignify this sonic assault with the name “music”?” I have never gone again.

    Morally neutral? NO! I disagree with you, and as long ago as the late 1980s John Blanchard in his book “Pop Goes the Gospel” argued on the basis of extensive research that there definitely IS a moral dimension to modern pop culture and music. I see modern pop music as one sign of the degeneracy of our culture at large, and that goes for “serious” music too (the productions of John Cage, or Paul Hindemith, etc.). That there is a moral dimension to today’s music was my whole point in raising the subject in connection with the festival discussed in Bill’s article. But as Bill pleaded, let’s leave it until he puts up an essay on the subject.

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