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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Have you ever read a passage in the Bible and wondered how it applied to your own life? I have. All the time! But sometimes (many times) this can actually be a very harmful ‘first-principle’. The Scriptures are not a collection of moral stories which we can mine for ethical principles. If they were, what could we do with stories like Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Jephthah’s daughter, etc.?  Calvin helpfully comments on what he calls “thoughtless imitation”:

… a false, and ill-regulated, or thoughtless imitation; that is, when we, though not endued with the same spirit, or authorized by the same command, plead as our example what any of the Fathers did; as for instance, if any private individual resolved to revenge the injuries done to brethren, because Moses did this, (Exodus 2:12;) or if any one were to put fornicators to death, because this was done by Phinehas, (Numbers 25:7.) That savage fury in slaying their own children originated, as many think, in the wish of the Jews to be like their father Abraham, as if the command, Offer up thy son Isaac, (Genesis 22:2,) were a general command, and not rather a remarkable trial of a single man. Such a false imitation is generally produced by pride and excessive confidence, when men claim more for themselves than they have a right to do; and when each person does not measure himself by his own standard. Yet none of these are true imitators of the Fathers, most of them are apes. That a considerable portion of ancient monachism flowed from the same source will be acknowledged by those who shall carefully examine the writings of the ancients. And, therefore, unless we choose to err of our own accord, we ought always to see what spirit each person has received, what his calling requires, what is suitable to his condition, and what he is commanded to do. (Commentary on John 4:20).

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What about it? Well, do we or don’t we keep the Sabbath as Christians?  Many Evangelicals in our day believe that the Sabbath was only for Old Testament Israel and thus don’t allow it to factor into New Testament Christianity with any particular importance. Interestingly enough, however, this hasn’t been the position nor attitude of the Christian church throughout history. And especially during and after the Reformation, Christians indeed had a very high sense of the Sabbath and its integral place in Christian practice and piety.

Dr. R. Scott Clark digs into this issue as it especially involves the so-called “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement in Evangelicalism:

It’s interesting to see where the Young, Restless, and Reformed fellows depart from the Reformed confession. What exactly in the Reformed confession animates them? So far as I can tell the only aspect of the Reformed confession that they really like is the doctrine of divine sovereignty (predestination and providence). Everything else seems to be negotiable. They don’t accept our hermeneutic (covenant theology). They don’t seem much animated by our Trinitarian doctrine of God, our anthropology (do they even think about the covenant of works?), our Christology (two natures, federalism). They seem divided over the Reformed doctrine of justification (even though the confessions are unanimous), and certainly they reject our ecclesiology (including our confession of the sacraments). So it shouldn’t be surprising to see them rejecting the Reformed confession of the law of God.

…The Reformed churches all confessed and practiced the Christian Sabbath. The Germans, the French, the Dutch, the English, the Scots all set aside one day a week on the basis of the creational pattern and on the basis of the resurrection of our Lord on the first day of the week.

Read the rest here.

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T. David Gordon just wrote a new book entitled Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. I read a bit of it and it looks pretty good.  We need good books on this issue.

One of his points is that we often approach the topic of corporate worship while getting off on the wrong foot. We ask the question, Is it lawful? And then if the answer is yes, we assume that it is also, therefore, beneficial. According to Paul (1 Cor. 10), we must realize this isn’t good theology or methodology.

Next, there is the concept of contemporaneity.  Gordon makes the point that all throughout church history certain scriptural, literary, and musical criteria were involved in determining whether music was to be acceptable for worship. In fact, even in Charles Wesley’s day, the criteria were so rigorous that only one half of one percent of all his songs were published in the hymnal for the Methodist Church. Unimaginable one might think! Well, I guess we just have a lot better writers today.

So what has changed? Why is contemporaneity esteemed as the end-all-be-all? Gordon asks:

Why are there not signs outside churches that read: “Theologically Significant Worship,” or “Worship Appropriate to a Meeting between God and His Assembled People,” or “Worship That Is Literarily Apt and Thoughtful”? Why do the signs say “ContemporaryWorship,” as though that criterion were itself worthy of promoting?

To be sure, some tough-hitting (but much needed) questions are to be found in this book.

One last point, however, is worth noting. Gordon says the significance this issue is compounded when we recognize the emotional intensity we can feel about the music we love, and secondly, that this emotional intensity is connected to the worship of God — something we care very much about. Bring our sinfulness into the mix and we have nearly instantaneous and unavoidable combustibility.

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What really is true preaching?

Is it basically teaching on doctrine? Or is it moral exhortation? What’s the difference?

Michael Horton digs into this question in his excellent book, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship:

Doctrinal lectures and inspirational how-to motivational talks dominate both traditional and contemporary approaches, but both tend to undermine the even-character of the service. It is one thing to talk about the doctrines of sin and grace and another to actually be faced with God in judgment and justification. It is one thing to hear exhortations to victory and quite another to actually experience the power of being drawn into the plotline of God’s victory over our enemies (the world, the flesh, and the devil). Doctrine and exhortation will be involved in all good preaching of Scripture, but preaching can never be reduced to either…

Preaching is not merely the minister’s talk about God but God’s talk–and not just any talk. It’s the kind of talk that produces a new people. It is the encounter through which God himself takes the judge’s bench, arraigns us as sinners by the standard of perfect justice, and then finds a way, in Jesus Christ, to be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. All of this happens to us before our very ears. It is worked upon us and in us by the Holy Spirit as the Word is preached (and is confirmed visibly for us by the sacraments).

– Dr. Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, (2002), p. 38.

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