I find that I still believe much of what I picked up growing up as a conservative Adventist, although for completely different reasons. Conservatives have a tendency to exaggerate; to take something potentially dangerous and portray it as absolutely evil and insidious. It’s basically a misguided attempt to protect the membership, especially the young, by keeping them miles away from the source of danger; a strategy that unfortunately backfires more often than not.
Much of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is to worship what Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) is to theology. It’s Pentecostalism without glossolalia. It’s an attempt to manufacture a sense of security absent surrender.
Over the years I’ve met many godly OSAS Christians. I have no doubt whatsoever that such people will be in heaven. OSAS theology acknowledges that we are saved by grace through faith and that we must accept Christ as a personal Saviour. It guides a person to the new birth from where the Holy Spirit can take over in spite of bad theology. If my child had to be raised by foster parents, I would much rather these parents were OSAS Christians than Catholic or any non-Christian religion or philosophy.
None the less, OSAS theology still has its dangers. It effectively turns off a part of our psyche that was intended by God to protect us from temptation:
‘Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall’ 1Cor. 10:12
Some might be familiar with a disease called Congenital Analgesia where someone normal in every other respect lacks the ability to feel pain. This condition is considered very dangerous because such a person can suffer serious damage and not know it. Similarly, OSAS theology allows a person whom the Holy Spirit is attempting to convict of sin to say,
well, even if God does want me to change some aspect of my life, I will not be lost if I don’t. They can thus continue to ignore or discount important, potentially-spiritual-life-threatening warning signs.
For the less sophisticated, Pentecostalism provides a similarly-false sense of security, although the grounds are now experiential rather than theological. The ecstatic, seemingly-supernatural manifestations, are often perceived as a divine endorsement. ‘Sure the Scriptures are convicting me of sin, but the manifestations of the Spirit are still with me and therefore, I must still be right with God.’ Although the mechanism for security is different, the end result is the same: when there is a problem, the individual is prevented from recognizing the seriousness of the Holy Spirit’s warnings.
Pentecostalism itself however, has not been very successful crossing the boundaries into mainstream Protestantism. To the average Christian, Pentecostalism remains ‘kinda weird’ belonging to the fringes. What did cross the boundaries into the mainstream has been the charismatic worship style of the Pentecostals. Today, this seems to be the status quo among Protestants, more so the younger the congregation. And, a glossolalia-less Pentecostalism still carries with it much of the same dangers.
Worship today has become an emotionally-induced spiritual high giving participants a false impression of God’s approval. While God seeks to speak to individuals through the ministry of the Word, the rest of the worship service often speaks even louder. Conviction is dampened by the sense of already obtained divine favor.
Adventists should make every effort to resist Pentecostalization. We should guard our music and worship process in general not because it offends God but because it distracts and confuses the participants. The worship part of our services, like John the Baptist, should decrease so that the Scriptures might increase. If the Holy Spirit has something to say to the individual, He should not be hindered by this person having already ‘so connected with God’ through the music that they can no longer hear His rebuke. Anything potentially gained by switching to a contemporary style of worship is just not worth all that will be lost.