Worship Wars: What the Bible Says about Worship Music, by Robert Bakss. Port Orchard, WA: Ark House Press, 2015. 271 pp. $19.99.
Do “worship wars” still exist in evangelical churches? The answer is yes. While many would argue that the “worship wars” of the late 1900s solved this issue, Robert Bakss argues that “worship wars” have occurred over many centuries and will always continue as long as personal opinions occur in the local church. Robert Bakss, Senior Pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Australia, explores this topic in his book Worship Wars: What the Bible Says about Worship Music. Bakss creatively develops this journey of biblical worship through the lens of George Lucas’s Star Wars series by using chapter titles such as “May the Music Be With You.” After having a personal “worship war” within himself, Bakss writes this book to investigate music and singing as it pertains to use in the local church after a careful observation of biblical texts (6–7). He intends this book to be “a biblical guide to worship music spanning early church history to the present day; providing clear, concise guidelines, Biblical principles and practical suggestions to support the implementation of a balanced blend of traditional and contemporary worship music in churches” (Back cover).
Bakss accomplishes the part of his thesis, which encompasses the majority of the book, to be a “biblical guide to worship music spanning early church history to the present day” in the first section of the book “The Rise of Music.” He does this by providing the reader a biblical foundation of why people worship because, “If we get so focused on how we worship, its easy to forget why we worship” (12). This statement is vital to today’s discussions on worship because often the “why” takes a backseat to the best way on “how” to worship. Bakss begins this discussion on why people are to worship by examining specific commands of Scripture relating to biblical worship, paying special attention to the Psalms. Secondly, Bakss provides the reader with a philosophy of worship in the second section of the book. In this section, Bakss discusses topics including drums in church, the morality of music, and if rock music is appropriate for worship within the context of biblical worship. He pays specific attention to the role of drums in biblical worship by tracing their function from early Hebrew worship in chapter seven to the present, further supporting the first point of his thesis. As additional support, the third section of the book focuses on new music in worship by taking a historical approach to new music in worship, examining the movement from psalmody to hymns, to a more modern shift from hymns to Contemporary Christian Music.
In support of the second statement of his thesis, “providing clear, concise guidelines,” Bakss provides these guidelines in chapters fifteen through twenty. He covers topics including “When does the worship music become entertainment?” and “What should I do if my choice of music offends my brother?” Specifically in chapter twenty, Bakss provides biblical guidelines for selecting worship music.
Bakss covers the final section of his thesis, “biblical principles and practical suggestions,” in the final major section of the book. He does this by providing examples from the Psalms and other biblical passages discussing music in the service of the church.
Overall, there are many positive aspects to this book. Bakss does an excellent job in his research for this book because he approaches the topic of worship from a legal perspective (6) much like Lee Strobel does in his book The Case for Christ. Bakss also understands that “the need to focus on the biblical texts is especially needful in the area of music, since subjective feeling and cultural bias have historically clouded the truth” (7). Because of the legal approach to his writing, he writes with a level of objectivity, which is missing in many contemporary books on the topic of worship, especially the preferential treatment on worship. He fully supports his thesis by providing the reader with a historical, biblical history of worship, biblical principles to abide by, and practical suggestions for implementation in worship services.
Worship Wars provides the church a dialogue of topics that are still debated in the local churches. Bakss gives a good, solid foundation for churches to look at a biblical model of worship. This book is an excellent entry-level book for pastors and lay people to begin a conversation about worship, its foundations, and many of the problems that churches encounter today.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary