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Perspectives on Christian Worship: Five Views Paperback – March 1, 2009
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Pinson sets the stage for the book in the introduction, where he presents a brief sketch of the history of worship. He makes note of the "tension between the need to remain faithful to the gospel and the Christian tradition while at the same time faithfully communicating that Evangel in a changing and complex cultural milieu that presents mammoth challenges to the continued witness of the Christian church." It is, in general, this tension that each contributor addresses in their essay. Five views on worship are presented by leading pastors/theologians in their various traditions: liturgical (Timothy Quill), traditional evangelical (Ligon Duncan), contemporary (Dan Wilt), blended (Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever), and emerging (Dan Kimball). After the presentation of each view, the other contributors are given a chance to respond to the said view. Below is the conclusion of my review followed by a link to the review:
"In conclusion, this book is an excellent introduction and addition to the worship debate. There are a few things we would have liked have seen in it. First, while it is admitted that this book is not a complete coverage of the spectrum of worship traditions, a charismatic view would have been an excellent addition, particularly if the chapter included some information about their view of gifts in worship. Second, we would have liked it if each contributor had been given a chance to do one final response to the rebuttals. Of course, both of the previous desires would have added considerable length to the book and probably more time to its construction, so it may not have been feasible. Third, we would have like some kind of wrap up from the editor—something that would pull major strands together and emphasize points of agreement. A final chapter of this sort could have potentially added to the overall contribution of this book to the worship debate.
"Those who would like to read this book might find it helpful first to read H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture. Some of the underlying issues of the debate in this book stem from a theology (conscious or not) of how Christians should engage culture. Niebuhr’s five views would be helpful in thinking about the philosophy that drives a representative’s theology of worship. Of course, that adds a lot of extra reading.
"We would recommend this book for pastors, seminary students, or any other believer who wants to thoughtfully consider their worship of God. The views set forth, while not representing the complete spectrum of Protestant worship theologies, give a great introduction to five of the major theologies of worship extant in the Protestant Church. In addition, the endnotes of each chapter provide an excellent resource for further study on a particular topic, if the reader is so inclined."
You can read the whole review <a href="https://docs.google.com/open?id=0ByhsP0_ubSVpSFBZNkVrTldTWlU">here</a>.
This book provided 5 perspectives on worship, specifically the worship service most churches have on Sundays. I learned quite a bit about how churches outside my tradition practice or express their worship as a congregation, and challenged my own.
Of course there could be more perspectives, as a couple authors noted, but I see this as a broad enough to where I can begin my research on others, and question more so why we/they do what we/they do. From what I've gathered I will use to help make wise, better decisions, and provoke me to have a solid biblical foundation and reason as to the outcome of those decisions.
J. Matthew Pinson is the president of Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Yale University and Vanderbilt, and he has been the pastor of several Baptist churches. In Perspectives on Christian Worship Pinson has collected a sample of views on worship in the Christian church today. Determining the general categories of worship philosophy, two historic approaches and three that arose out of American evangelicalism, he presents views on liturgical, traditional, contemporary, blended, and emerging worship. Each approach is attempting in unique ways to remain faithful to the gospel and to communicate that gospel faithfully to the present generation.
Timothy C. J. Quill presents the liturgical view from an American Lutheran perspective. He teaches Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, so he is very capable of presenting the reasons why Lutherans advocate a liturgical approach to worship. What is fundamental for Quill in the liturgical approach is that worship is grounded in theology, specifically Lutheran theology. For Lutheran theology, what is vital is how God has chosen to deliver his gospel to his people, and Lutheran theology has a clear answer: God delivers his forgiveness in Word and Sacrament (19). Quill presents the theological underpinning of liturgy contra evangelicalism's emphasis on an immediate experience of grace, which he argues is the theological reason for why other groups have rejected liturgical worship (20). Lutheranism, in contrast to evangelicalism, believes that grace is always mediated by preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments. Lutheranism's rigid distinction between law and gospel also provides the reason for understanding worship as divine service, God serving us with his sacramental presence and grace (22-23). This Lutheran way of distinguishing command and promise in Scripture creates an emphasis on the objective work of God and a radical de-emphasis on the subjective work of grace in the heart of the believer; the focus in worship is almost completely on what God does outside of us, not what God does in us (23-24). The whole liturgy is systematically ordered according to this theology of God's sacramental presence. The liturgical order is evangelical, Christological, sacramental, apostolic, and eschatological (55). It is evaluated according to the doctrinal criterion of justification by faith alone as a sacramental event. As Quill states, "[Justification] is the basic event in the church. Justification takes place in the sermon, in the means of grace through God's two-fold acting in law and gospel (55)." On the basis of this sacramental theology, the liturgy is understood to be catechetical, a place of divine action, and the fulfillment of the mission given to the church (67, 71-76).
Ligon Duncan is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and he argues for traditional protestant worship. This approach is characterized by simplicity and radical adherence to the worship elements of the New Testament. Duncan argues that there is a distinction in the New Testament between worship in all of life and worship in the gathered assembly of believers (100). Worship also is not the music to the exclusion of the sermon. Worship is not reducible to an experience, though experience should be part of true worship (102). Worship in the assembly is the corporate activity of giving glory to God (103). It involves the heart, but it also involves what we do (104). The authority for what we do is Scripture alone. "...[B]oth the form and substance of our corporate worship is to be suffused with Scripture and scriptural theology (105)." Duncan affirms the "regulative principle," arguing that all that is done in worship must have support from Scripture. The "elements," what is done in worship, are to have Scriptural validation, and the way in which these elements are practiced, the "forms," is to be in accord with the elements of worship, aiding the congregation in their understanding of the purpose of the elements. The incidental things of worship, the "circumstances," should be thought through wisely, considering what best focuses attention on the glory of God in the performance of the elements (110). According to Duncan, worship style is a circumstance, so it should never be treated as a fundamental determiner of worship; it is not an element found in Scripture. To treat style as a fundamental determiner or element of worship runs the risk of marketing worship to a particular niche, making the focus the worshiper's preference, not obedience to Scripture's norms (113). Nevertheless, the circumstances are not neutral vis-à-vis the elements instituted by Scripture (111). Everything is done "to aid the soul's communion with God in the gathered company of the saints by serving to convey the Word of God to and from God, from and to His people" (112). Lastly, Duncan emphasizes that public worship is communal and dialogical. "It is the covenant community engaging with God, gathering with His people to seek the face of God, to glorify and enjoy Him, to hear His Word, to revel in the glory of union and communion with Him, to respond to His Word, to render praise back to Him, to give Him the glory due His name (119)."
Dan Wilt, director of the Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, presents a case for contemporary worship. He does not argue that contemporary worship is more biblical than the other forms, because he believes that no approach in the book can claim to be more biblically correct. Worship is always influenced by culture, and every generation responds to God's grace in their unique way (147). Wilt's central concern is the power of new music and the importance of new songs in the life of the church. He gives biblical support for the singing of new songs, and he then explains the importance of singing new songs (151-54). Acknowledging that every culture's influence may have negative, unbiblical results on fresh expressions of worship, this possibility should not lead us to restrict our worship expression to songs of the past, every one of which was contemporary at some point (156-57). Rather, the church should transform the present culture by taking up contemporary forms of music, sanctifying them to the glory of God, not retreating from the present to the safety of the past (159-60). The church, according to Wilt, is part of culture, but since its origin does not lie within culture, it is called to engage and transform culture, redeeming every aspect of culture to the glory of Christ (164-66). This calling requires that the church remain relevant to present culture, remain faithful to its gospel heritage, and speak both to the whole person, to humanity in its cultural diversity and to all Christian believers in this postmodern age (175-97).
Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, pastors at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, present the blended worship approach. This approach is substantially in agreement with the traditional approach of Ligon Duncan, holding firmly to the "regulative principle." What distinguishes this view from the traditional view is the greater freedom in expressing the elements in worship. According to Dever and Lawrence, style is unimportant (218-19). In other words, they argue that there is significant freedom in how we perform the elements of worship. There is not freedom to add or take away elements of worship, but how these elements are performed is variegated (223-26). Clearly, worship is a matter of the heart, but the Bible is also concerned with what we do in worship. As we move, however, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the rigid instructions concerning the way we perform the elements is considerably loosened (227-30, 42). The forms and circumstances should serve the elements, edify the body, be orderly, unify the church, and promote reverence (244-55).
Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church, presents the emerging worship view. The purpose of gathered worship, according to Kimball, is to bring praise and glory to Jesus Christ, and we see this worship in the New Testament in basic practices of prayer, teaching, fellowship, sharing meals, healings, etc. We do not see, however, according to Kimball, very specific details on what worship looked like (290-93). To assume that how we practice the elements of worship today is how the New Testament church worshiped is culturally naïve. How the early Christians worshiped was unique to their own time and place, and it cannot be replicated (293-95, 299). Every culture is different, and worship is continually emerging as culture develops and shifts (297). As long as Scripture is not violated, the church is free to worship in its emerging cultural forms (298). As culture changes, the ways that people worship change as well, and as the culture shifts, the ways that people learn shift also. Such cultural differences must guide how we obey Scripture (301-04).
The purpose of Perspectives on Christian Worship is to present the general contours of the worship perspectives in contemporary Protestantism. Pinson has very successfully presented the most obvious landmarks on the worship terrain, and he has selected adroit defenders of each perspective. Any book of this sort suffers invariably from being a general discussion, but considering the restricted purpose of providing an introduction to worship, such a general approach is helpful, giving the theological novice a trusty map for future exploration of the issue. Believers needing such a guide will be well served by this collection of essays.
I found the blended worship position to be the most convincing position in the book. Since both the blended worship position and the traditional worship position are very similar, many of the arguments are common to both. Both affirm that Scripture alone is to be our guide in worship, but they differ in how much freedom there is in the performance of the required elements of worship.
Fundamental to the blended perspective on worship is the radical nature of human sin. When God created the world, it was good and was at peace with its Creator. After the fall humanity became corrupted by sin, and this corruption reached every aspect of human nature. Humanity and the world were set in hostility to divine reality, set in antithesis to God as rebel and enemy. We see in the chapters of Genesis after the fall that all human life was affected by sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every purpose or imagining of humanity was evil, despite humanity's building of cities and cultural achievements. All human life was in rebellion against God. And God judged humanity and all humanity's achievements in the flood, for humanity was in a state of rebellion against His kingly rule. If worship is a call, as Dever and Lawrence say, to worship God and serve Him alone, then the radical nature of sin and its power to pervert the worship of God must be adequately understood (219).
The divine subversion of humanity's attempt to make a name for itself at Babel also reveals the enmity between God and his creation. Humanity at Babel attempted to build a great name, but God destroyed this endeavor, and in Genesis 12 God promised to freely bestow a great name on Abraham. True worship is a divine bestowal. It is not a human project. True worship is grounded in the reality of divine condescension, not human willing or exertion.
Furthermore, God requires that we serve him in an upright way, and we learn what it means to worship rightly throughout the Old Testament. Dever and Lawrence make an important reference to Nadab and Abihu in Numbers 3:4. Nadab and Abihu approached God sincerely, but they approached Him in a way that he had not revealed. In the New Testament Jesus gives us a clear command for worship. We are to worship in "spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Worshiping in spirit means not merely worshiping from the heart, but worshiping from a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit sent forth by Jesus (229). We are not commanded to worship in "spirit" alone; we are commanded to worship in truth. Worshiping in truth means that we worship God as He has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Whereas worshiping in truth in the Old Testament involved worshiping at a specific place, engaging in very specific rites and rituals, and presenting a sacrifice to a priest, worship in the New Testament is transformed by the revelation of God in His own Son. This transformation does not mean that God is not concerned with how we worship. We are still required to worship in truth, but now truth is worship according to God's revelation consummated and fulfilled in Jesus, whose person and work is authoritatively revealed by the Holy Spirit in the apostolic witness. Worship is regulated by Scripture as it is interpreted in the light of Jesus Christ's new covenant work, and the work of Christ is revealed to the church only in the bosom of divinely inspired Scripture.
Because of the radical nature of human sin and the radical holiness of God, "we cannot assume we know how to approach God....If we assume that we know how to approach God, then our own preferences, predilections, and cultural biases will be major sources from which we draw when we ask the question, `How should God be worshiped?'" (232) Because of the deceitfulness of sin, we cannot let our cultural values, expressions, and preferences be our guide. There are specific elements of worship that God has revealed in Scripture: prayer, song, preaching and reading Scripture, offerings, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper (236-40). Unlike the Old Testament, the forms, or how these elements are performed, are not revealed in a detailed manner, so we are left generally free to perform these elements as we consider best (241-43). There are only some general principles that we must follow in our forms and circumstances of worship. 1 Corinthians 14 instructs us that worship should be intelligible to outsiders, yet we must also beware of truncating the message to the point that we excise essential Scriptural teaching (244). Here Paul also requires that worship be in an orderly manner; that is, it must be thought through carefully (246-48). Paul also requires that all worship be for the edification of the body, not just for the individual worshiper. This places the emphasis off of the individual's preference and on the body of believers (248-49). Dever and Lawrence also point out that worship should be unifying, not divisive. Preference and style, however, when considered an essential of worship, is divisive, not unifying (249-53). Lastly, Hebrews 12:28-29 teaches us that worship should be both reverent in recognition of the sheer holiness and grandeur of God and expressed corporately in a manner that shows how great God is (253-55).
The strongest criticism that I found against the blended worship perspective was offered by Dan Kimball. Kimball argues that style is always a part of how we communicate. To not recognize this fact leads to a naïve assumption that we worship just as the New Testament church did, not recognizing that the ways we communicate are different from the New Testament church (284-85). This point is important, and it should be thought through carefully. Nevertheless, while Dever and Lawrence do not focus much on culture and the culture specific ways of communicating truth, they do make some relevant points vis-à-vis Kimball's criticism. Culture is part of this fallen world, and thus culture itself is not neutral with regard to the proper worship of God. This distortion of humanity and culture requires that we submit all things to Christ as he reveals himself in Scripture. As Dever and Lawrence state, "We will always bring our own sense of taste and style, our preferences and aversions, to the table. But no matter how much we like or dislike a particular form, we want to submit it to [the elements commanded in Scripture]" (255). This submission of cultural expression to Scripture, as they rightly note, frees corporate worship from wars over preference and the marketing of worship to individual taste or a particular cultural niche (255).