Monday, March 31, 2008

Some More Assorted Ideas on Liturgy

--adapted from Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Kemper Crabb

At the center of every culture is a "cultus," a form of worship. Culture is always driven by cultus -- how worship is conducted. Thus, liturgical order leads to cultural order and likewise, liturgical chaos leads to cultural chaos.

Apparently our current culture of death must have a cultus that worships dead idols instead of the living God. Wisdom says in Proverbs that "all who hate her love death" (Prov. 8:36). And too many Christians do not worship the living and triune God in a manner that is capable of giving incarnational shape to a life-affirming culture. And that is why the desperate need of the hour is a liturgical and doctrinal reformation.

In worship, we ascend into the heavenly places (Heb. 12:22-29). We gather there to glorify and worship the Lamb that was slain. Then we may ask (with boldness) for the name of Jesus to be glorified on earth in just the way that it was in heaven (Matt. 6:10). We pray "thy kingdom come," not "thy kingdom go." Throughout the book of Revelation, we see the same thing. The worship service conducted in heaven drives all the events on earth.

Abraham's response to God's promises to him (besides faith) was to build an altar (Gen. 12:7). In other words, he showed his faith that God would give him the land by establishing a place in that land for worship.

Before going any further, it must be noted that worship is not praise and it does not consist of "feeling worshipful." In both Hebrew and Greek, worship means service. When Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, he said that he was going to worship. He did not mean that they were going to go to Moriah, break out the guitars and overhead projector for a little P & W. He meant that he was going to serve God, by doing what was commanded. When Isaiah said, "Here am I, Lord, send me," that was worship. And this helps make sense of Romans 12:1-2 -- the presentation of our bodies to God is our spiritual worship.

We also must beware of reading individualism into the text. "The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Ps. 87:2). God values the worship of the great congregation over private devotions.

As we worship, we become more and more like the God we worship. "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:17-18). (Notice the "we all.")

And here is why 'seeker sensitive worship' will never change our culture...because it aims to imitate the culture to make "church" more palatable. Christians cannot ape and mime the "worship" of the world, and then expect the polytheistic culture around us to pay any attention to what we say. A recovery of true Christian worship (and wonder) of the Triune God will bring us into a profitable conflict with the current principalities and powers. But right now, they don't need to listen. Salt that has lost its savor is not fit for anything but to be thrown out and trampled upon by men.

'Seeker sensitive worship' leads to two possible conclusions...
1.) ineffective Christians or
2.) very bored Christians.
And many times, both results show up in the same person. In the end, why bother to go to church at all when I can get the same thing all week in the world? Liturgical life leads to cultural life. Liturgical boredom leads to cultural boredom. Liturgical chaos leads to cultural chaos.

The liturgy of the worship service is the most fundamental catechism we have. And this demands repetition. But it must be repetition of the "right" things. Repetition of scriptural things. Repetition is inescapable, and many who object to weekly commemoration of the Creed or the Lord’s Supper have no problem whatsoever with comparable repetitions in other settings.

For some Christians, repetition means that we will necessarily drift into religious complacency, sloth or deadness. This does happen, and so the Word and Faith must always drive and accompany our liturgy.
(see this too: )

Repetition of the "right" things also means that we re-evaluate, and perhaps even abandon, the repetition of much of modern and post-modern practices. Much of it is marked by mindlessness and our preaching, prayers and praises. Therapeutic and self-esteem-building, you-can-do-it-cheerleading sermons and "Jesus is my girlfriend" or "Jesus is my buddy" praise choruses are destroying the church. So are ineffective songs that contain little actual praise of God, but instead simply talk about praise, the intention to do so or our enjoyment of it...which is worshiping worship and praising praise.

An over-emphasis on the Immanence (the nearness) of God has caused an over-familiarity with Him and His Presence. This in turn has bred contempt, contempt for the Fear of God, the Judgment of God, the "God-ness" of God and the seriousness of sin. Restoring MYSTERY and the TRANSCENDENCE of God into our corporate gatherings, and then as a result, into our private devotions, will send us equipped and ready into the rest of our week.

The right worship of God informs, drives, and inspires all our efforts. What we experience in the Presence of God together is the template for, and defines what will we do, Monday through Saturday. Here's the math: No Wonder on Sunday Morning = No wonderful works on Monday morning.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Last Big Thing

"If you simply want a crowd, the seeker-sensitive model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it's a bust."

Who said it you ask?

Bill Hybels, that's who. Incredible.

HT: George Grant

Friday, March 28, 2008

And From Peter Leithart

"Manasseh" is derived from a causative form of the verb "forget" - hence, cause to forget. So then, the name "Manasseh" means "Forgetful" or even "Causing to forget." Judah went into exile because of her forgetfulness, because King Forgetful made her forget her Husband and Lord, forget the covenant and its commandments, forget the fact that the Lord had placed His own Name, and not the name of Asherah or Baal, in the house in Jerusalem.

Memory is nourished by liturgy; forgetfulness by liturgical perversion.

This forgetfulness was induced largely by liturgical innovations. Judah forgot who she was because Manasseh changed the way she worshiped. He built altars and an Asherah pole; made altars for the hosts of heaven; consulted with mediums and spiritists instead of with the Lord’s prophets; and led all Judah astray to do the same.

Through these liturgical innovations, King Forgetful caused Judah to forget.

Worship is many things, but worship is in part about cultivating and nourishing collective memories. Each week, we are reminded of our sins and our need to confess. Every week in our worship, we recite the Nicene or some other creed of the church, a summary of God's history with the world, and a reminder of our place in that history. Each week, we hear the Scriptures read to remind us of what He has done for us and what He expects of us.

Nourishing and cultivating our collective memory is one of the things that forms us as a people.

Your own individual sense of self is partly a product of your memories; you know you are the same person who got into a playground fight in fifth grade because you remember doing that. Families are shaped by their collective experiences, and by recounting those experiences. A church is shaped by having a common memory.

Above all, this collective memory is shaped by the Lord’s table.

Jesus said that we are to do this rite – taking bread, giving thanks, breaking, distributing, eating; taking wine, giving thanks, distributing, drinking – as a "memorial" of Him. A "memorial" in Scripture is primarily directed toward the Lord: When we do what Jesus told us to do, the Lord remembers His covenant promise and acts on our behalf. But the memorial is also for us: We are to remember the covenant, to remember that God remembers, and to be stirred to faith that God will remember and act.

The Eucharist, in short, is one of the ways that the Lord preserves us from becoming Manasseh.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

And Now This From RL Dabney

"The best argument for any creed is the godly living of its professors. Protestantism used to have a grand and victorious advantage on that point. She is ceasing to wield it. The wealth begotten by her very virtues of industry, thrift, and probity has debauched many of her children. 'Jeshurun has waxen fat, and kicked.' And unbounded flood of luxury sweeps Protestant families away. A relaxed and deceitful doctrine produces its sure fruits of relaxed and degraded morals. Church discipline is nearly extinct. Meantime spurious revivalism, relying upon all species of vulgar clap-trap and sensational artifice, upon slang rhetoric and the stimulating of mere animal sympathies, instead of the pure word and spirit of God, is hurrying tens of thousands of dead souls into the Protestant churches. These evils have gone so far that a profession of faith in these churches has come to mean nearly as little as a professed conformity to Rome means." (R. L. Dabney, Discussions: Secular, Vol. IV, p. 545f)


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

---by Kemper Crabb

"Do this in remembrance of me."
The word “remembrance” is the Greek, “anamnesis

Reminding worshipers
Anamnesis is a re-presentation, ritually, or a remembrance, or a memorial, to invoke God to action. But it's also a memorial and a remembrance to move us, the worshipers, to act in conformity to the covenant, to what God has asked us to do in light of Christ's saving actions towards us as a community and as individuals.

More than bringing something to mind
Anamnesis doesn't really have a true English equivalent. It is not, as Zwingli and his followers would say, simply a passive bringing of something to mind. That's not what it means in the context of the Covenant. It's not that alone. It's meant to be connected to resultant action, both by God and by the worshiper.

Effected & Affected on Every Level
The Enlightenment attempted to reduce all true meaning and value to only the things we can comprehend with our minds. This has made it extremely easy for us to accept the false notion that all that the anamnesis is meant to do is to bring what God has done in Christ to our mind. We are the children of the Enlightenment. Rationalism has infected our institutions and the way we think about reality, therefore it is very difficult for us to see that there would be anything higher than any kind of mental activity, or that there would be anything that goes beyond that. However, the remembrance, the anamnesis, is meant to affect the worshiper on every level, not just the mental level, although the mind is also involved. And effect in him the work of Christ.

An Action, A Reality, A Mystery
Anamnesis denotes not just calling to mind, not simply going back and remembering now something that was done in the past. It's not just a repetition of a past act in the present, doing it over and over again. Anamnesis is a ritual act celebrated now, in the present time, that makes an act an action, a reality, a mystery present in God's time, now. It's an invocation.

In anamnesis, the past, the present, and the future are all involved at the same time. The past, because it is remembered, becomes a present reality. The remembrance is a small picture of the future, and indeed, it realizes that future vision of what we will inherit in Christ in worship.
When we go into worship, we see Christ. When we do a remembrance of what he has done, it brings to mind where he is directing reality. That's the future.

One of the functions of a symbol is to bring the past and the future into the present through remembrance. There's a prayer in the liturgy called the epiclesis, the invocation of the Spirit. That prayer, in a ritual symbol, is that the transcendent God will come to enable anamnesis to be more than just something that happens in our mind. That God will come and act and his action will invoke in us a resultant action as we experience God's presence.

So we are being shaped by the Supper. Which is also a shape for covenant renewal worship. In worship, in the anamnesis, we "live it again" through Him as we enter heaven to the center of all events.

Jesus does a five-fold action in the Supper
Jesus does a five-fold action in the sacrament. He takes bread, he gives thanks, he breaks it, he says, "This is my body," connecting it the symbolic value, and he shares it to effect change. The same thing with the wine, essentially.

1. He Takes the Bread…
You need to see that five-fold action as a "microcosm" of the world as it relates to our call and vocation. First thing Jesus does, is he takes the bread. He grabs hold of something in reality, not something super-spiritualized that doesn't have anything to do with reality. Something that's common, it's central to our existence, that's material.

2. He Gives Thanks…
He takes this material thing and he gives thanks for it. He recognizes that all good things come down from the Father of Lights, as James says. [James 1:17] He recognizes the world for what is in it, for its potential. He thanks God for it. He recognizes that the world is what it is in God's estimation. That it exists and defines its meaning in God's creative purpose. God made it, he sees the value in it, "Thank you."

3. He Breaks It…
Then, he broke it. He changed it by deconstructing it and by subjecting it by reshaping according to his will and purpose. Takes the bread, thanks God for it, he breaks it and changes it. It's not the same. It's different.

4. He Renames It…
Then he says, "This is my body." He renames it and shapes it, changing its reality to shape its accomplishment of its highest destiny. The highest destiny of a piece of bread is that it symbolizes Christ. The highest destiny of everything that is created is that it symbolizes Christ. As Genesis 1 and Psalm 19 and Romans 1 and many other places tell us. So he deconstructs it and subjects it to the interpretation of God and he names it what it is, what it has the potential for.

5. He Shares It…
Then he says, "Take it and eat it," and he shares it to help reveal Himself and to show the possibility of its transformation into what he proposes. And he effects change in the people that he shares it with.

So again we have a Five-fold pattern, within a larger Five-fold pattern:

What happens between coming in and going out (both of which are part of the pattern too)

He Takes the Bread…Calling\Convening…Apostolic—gathering together...apostolic assemblage

He Gives Thanks…Cleansing\Confession…Prophetic—see 1 Tim 4:4,5...prophetic potential

He Breaks It…Consecration\Conditions…Evangelistic—ministry of Word...the evangel effect

He Renames It…Communion\Covenant…Pastoral—re-member-ing...members become one body…pastoring pasture

He Shares It…Commission\Continuity…Teaching—He shares with us, we share with world...teaching all tribes...Teaching them to observe, demonstrative discipleship

The building blocks of Sunday corporate worship.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Liturgy...How Then Should We Worship?

OK, now that I've sufficiently harped on worship for a while, (pun intended,) the next several posts will be devoted to liturgy. A pattern for worship, derived as much as possible from scripture. These posts will be adapted from books, articles & teachings by Jeff Meyers, Kemper Crabb and Peter Leithart.


Biblical Worship, which means viewing the Lord’s Day as the Day of the Lord, is the time when God comes and renews His covenant with His people. Covenant renewal is characterized by God’s calling us to worship, His forgiving our sins and restoring us, His teaching us from His Word, His feeding us at His table, and His commissioning us to go forth and conquer.

Calling-Convene, Cleansing-Confession, Consecration-Conditions, Communion-Covenant, Commission-Continuity

From Lev 9:7,12,18

Each sacrificial animal is always 1) killed and its blood splashed on the altar (cleansing), then 2) washed, skinned, cut up, and arranged on the altar grill (consecration), and finally 3) turned into smoke and incorporated into God’s presence as food (communion). This is the sacrificial pathway/liturgy that every animal/worshiper experienced as God brought him near.

God Calls Us, We Gather Together and Praise Him

God Cleanses Us, We Confess Our Sins
God Consecrates Us, We Respond in Prayer and Offering
God Communes With Us, We Eat God’s Food

God Commissions (Blesses) Us, We March Out to Serve God

(1) The Purification offering highlights and expands on the cleansing or purification dimension of sacrificial offerings. That’s why it is called the purification offering. The act of the slaughter and the display of the blood is accented. For example, Lev. 17 (the day of atonement) is an elaborate purification offering where the act of confession and forgiveness is highlighted. The other two aspects are there, but downplayed.

(2) The Ascension Offering expands on the element of consecration and ascension of the animal/worshiper into God’s presence. That’s why it is named ‘olah (Hebrew for “ascension”). The offering is caused to ascend. That is why the ascension offering highlights the acts of skinning, cutting up, washing, and then the transformation of the entire representative animal by fire and its incorporation into the cloud of God’s special presence at the tabernacle.

(3) The Communion Offering expands on the element of union and communion with God which is present in all the sacrifices, but highlighted in this offering. The food aspect of sacrifice is emphasized. In the communion offering fellowship and peace with God are not merely symbolized by the sacrifice being turned into smoke and assimilated into the glory cloud. Here fellowship with God is communicated by means of a common meal.

to be continued...

Monday, March 24, 2008

God Centered Worship

Check out this article over at Ken's blog:


Unmasking The Pressure For Informality

---by N.T. Wright

My first point is that we must unmask the present pressure towards informality for what it is. It has virtually nothing to do with the Christian gospel and virtually everything to do with the spirit of the age. This is not of course to say that informal worship in all sorts of contexts is not right, proper, and honoring to God. But when informality becomes the rule it becomes just as dangerous as the wrong sort of formality. Let me tell you what I think has happened.

The Reformers protested, rightly in my view, against the way in which the mediaeval church had turned liturgy, and much else besides, into a quasi-pagan system of magic ritual, which enhanced the power of those who operated it and did little or nothing to let the true gospel shine out. And the Reformers used Paul's attack on the so-called "Judaizers" to make their point. Since the Reformation, however, three great cultural movements have occurred, none of them owing much directly to the Bible or the gospel, but all of them in various ways providing a new spin for how we hear the Reformers, and hence, alas, Paul, today.

First, the Enlightenment, with its ugly ditch between ideas and facts, the eternal truths of reason and the contingent events of history. The split of religion and real life grows from this, giving the clear impression that what matters in religion is the ideas you have in your head rather than the things that happen, including the things that you do, to and through your body. Luther's antithesis of faith and works suddenly becomes the antithesis between internal faith and external events, allied to the Enlightenment's subtle pressures towards privatization of faith and hence its removal from the public arena—which, as we have seen, constitutes a direct challenge to the New Testament. There is a great deal of Enlightenment rhetoric, hiding under Reformation language, in the church today.

Second, the Romantic movement: what matters now is feeling rather than form, the heart rather than the head or the body. Of course this plugs right in to the New Testament's language—which is there in Judaism as well, not least in the Scrolls and some of the Rabbis—about the necessity for the heart to be in tune with God, rather than going through outward form. That goes back at least to Amos and Isaiah, and is reinforced by Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and others. But what the Romantic movement was saying was subtly different from what the New Testament had said: it invited you to look within, to see what feelings you had, and to make them the center of your world, rather than seeing the love of the heart for the true God as the gift of God through gospel, word, and spirit. The trouble with the Romantic movement is that it never took account of Jeremiah's warning, repeated in the New Testament, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.

Third, the existentialist movements of the twentieth century have taken us back to gnosticism. Each of us has inside ourselves a true self which, though long buried, is now to be discovered and enabled to flourish. This, ironically, is actually a form of Pelagianism: what you need, if you are an existentialist or a gnostic, is not to be confronted by the gospel and redeemed from your present state, but to be helped to discover "who you really are." Huge swathes of our contemporary culture are built on this premise, and churches both liberal and conservative have bought it hook line and sinker.

(Perhaps I might add as an aside that one of the great triumphs of the film The Lord of the Rings is that it takes precisely the opposite line, urging us to find our true selves by following and staying loyal to the vocation that comes from outside, challenging us to do and be what otherwise we would not have.) But the snare of existentialism is that, as in the theology of Rudolf Bultmann, it appears before us wearing the robes of a sixteenth-century Reformer, telling us that all pressures from the outside are "Law," which must be abolished if we are to attain authentic existence.

The Enlightenment, the Romantic movement, and existentialism have all thus used the rhetoric of the Reformation to press their own quite different agendas. And the result is that today in many churches, not least those within evangelical Christianity in its broadest senses, we find in all kinds of ways a complex of agendas which owe everything to these three cuckoos in the nest, especially the last two, almost nothing to the Reformation, and nothing at all to the New Testament.

Let it be said loud and clear that there is nothing in set forms of worship which is of itself opposed to the gospel; that abolishing robes, liturgies, ministerial offices, and the like has nothing to do with getting back to New Testament worship; that spontaneity and lack of preparation, though God can use them powerfully, can just as easily be marks of laziness and captivity to spurious philosophies.

Iconography can lead to idolatry; but iconoclasm can easily be a sign of dualism, of an anti-creational emphasis that is actually opposed to the creator God and the redemption of the world in Jesus Christ. We need to think through the cultural and sociological roots of what we do in church, lest we suppose ourselves to be advancing the gospel while instead merely turning the church into a sub-branch of the world.

There is another danger here which I just mention in passing. Protestantism, in protesting against magic, has often tried to do away with mystery as well. Liturgy of all sorts can often open up the mystery of God and the gospel like nothing else; and sometimes this can reveal and release powerful emotions, doing so within a safe and God-given context. Sometimes those who do their best to subvert liturgy, not least through chopping services about, adding and subtracting bits here and there, do so precisely in order to keep the mystery at bay and thus to hold the emotions in check. Sometimes when people protest against "bare rituals" which go on without the heart being involved (how do they know that, by the way?), they are in fact criticizing the exact opposite: the God-given ritual of worship through which the heart is precisely involved, with its wounds being exposed to the healing love of God. Within some Protestant circles today there is a rejection both of the sacraments and of spiritual gifts, a rejection which springs, in my judgment, not from a genuine Reformation insight, still less a Pauline one, but rather from the desire to control the emotions, and indeed the congregation, to protect them from the gospel rather than allow them to be exposed to it.

To insist on a free-flowing succession of worship songs at the whim of one leader is not to strike a blow against ritualism, but to put that leader precisely in the place where the Reformers saw the mediaeval priest, coming between the worshipers and God. Good liturgy preserves us from personality cults whether Catholic or Protestant.

Nor is it a matter of working out "what this congregation will be comfortable with." Who says you ought always to be comfortable in the presence of Almighty God? But, nor should one simply ask "what does this congregation need to wake them up?"; who says it is your place to shock and startle the people of God? There will be shocks, of course, and there also will be the deep comfort of the familiar. Good liturgy, planned carefully week by week and year by year, will bring the two together so that they complement and reinforce each other and, most importantly, build up the worshipers in the knowledge and love of God and send them out refreshed for their kingdom-tasks in the world.

We must, then, resist the culture-driven pressures to informality. Informality has its place, but it is not the be-all and end-all, and of itself has nothing specific to do with the gospel.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Speaking of Worship...

get this FREE mp3 file on The Gospel and Your Church by Doug Wilson

"The universal realm and rule of Jesus, the kingdom, has the Church at its centre and the Church’s job is to worship. In worship we go to heaven and ask God to glorify Jesus on earth as we glorify him in heaven. So if our worship in heaven is impotent or childish then it follows that the Church on earth will be impotent and childish and that the world will trample on the Church as on salt that has lost its savour.

Reformation in worship means different things in different settings:

a) where the liturgy is Christ-honouring in form but lifeless then we need resurrection
b) where (amongst lots of evangelicals) we have “liturgies designed for a child’s birthday party” then we need to grow up
c) where a) or b) are not possible then we need to plant churches."


And now after the Reformed Lessons, we're back to the subject of Worship. With this article on the Discipline of Corporate Worship. Next time we'll look at "Liturgy" and then the idea of "All of Life is Worship." The philosophy of corporate worship is found here: (Psa 87:2) the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

--- adapted from an article by John McFadden & David McCarthy

Coming together to lift up our praise to God in common worship is the central act of the church. As a church member, it is of critical importance that you share in worship on, at least, a weekly basis. It is in worship that we most fully experience our true nature as God's beloved creatures and our distinct identity as a called people of God. Over time, the experience of corporate worship has the greatest power to form your identity as a Christian and nurture a deep faith within you.

Many in our time suppose that private, individual devotions are far more important than worshipping with others. "After all," some will say, "it is my own personal relationship with God that is most important. If the church helps me with that, fine. If not, why go?" This statement misunderstands the very nature of faith and friendship with God. We are brothers and sisters called to a common work: to give glory to God. As human beings, we have been created by God for community with others, and the church is called to be a sign of God's kingdom. We are called to live together in justice and peace, and to offer God's hospitality to the world.

Corporate worship is not entertainment, although it may bring moments of great joy, solemn beauty, or profound emotion. The ministers, priests, or choirs are not "performers" and we are not the "audience." Rather, the clergy are serving in a priestly role in helping us to "perform" for our true audience: Almighty God. We do not motivationally enter into worship to "get our batteries recharged" or to "learn more about the Bible." Rather, we share in this experience in order to render our worship to the One who alone is worthy of our praise and worship.

Corporate worship brings transformation. As we learn how to worship God with all that we have and all that we are, we also learn how to safeguard ourselves from the very real temptation to worship ourselves, our families, our careers, our social privileges, nations and governments, or material goods. The church's worship places the rest of our lives in proper perspective. Corporate worship ought to be the central experience out of which our lives as Christian people flow. In corporate worship, we begin to gain wisdom and courage to live in a new way as God changes us.

Corporate worship brings transformation for the long haul. We worship week to week, year to year, as ordinary people. If worship is the center of our lives, it will NOT be an extraordinary event. On any given Sunday, it is not necessarily the status quo that worshippers will be rapt in ecstasy or have stunning moments of enlightenment. In fact, if worship is a deep part of our lives, it will become "routine" and "normal."

Compare the effect of physical exercise on the body. The "weekend athlete" will find a day of vigorous play extraordinary in two senses. First, his exercise offers an unusual bit of fun. Second, it is an unusual strain on his muscles and joints. Because this exercise is infrequent, his body will not weather the strain better the next time. The body is not strengthened because the "weekend" experience is quite distinct and separate from day-to-day life.

In contrast, the athlete who trains regularly will not experience exercise as extraordinary for the body or spirit. Exercise will be routine; however, the trained athlete will have a deeper joy and a greater (and constant) desire for the sport. He will happily endure the tedium of practice and day-to-day struggles, and he will have very profound moments of insight and joy. For the "weekend athlete," a day or hour of exercise is extraordinary, but for the routine athlete, one's whole life is elevated to a higher level.

This elevation of our whole lives is the effect of worship. When new to the experience, the rhythms and patterns of worship will not fully disclose themselves immediately. They must be experienced over time before they reveal their riches.

The liturgy of the worship service has its own rhythm and pattern that only reveals itself fully as we experience it many times. The liturgy will be different in various Christian traditions, with certain portions of the service receiving greater or lesser emphasis, but always worship is a drama that flows in accordance with its own logic. The community gathers, sings praises, prays for one another and the world, hears God's Word in Holy Scripture, shares in the sacraments, offers its gifts to God in gratitude, and seeks to carry God's blessings and guidance out into the world. There is a specific purpose behind each component in the liturgy. There is a reason for its placement within the worship service. And we should strive to make these as Biblical as we know how. While these purposes and reasons can be explained, the liturgy must be experienced, again and again, so that the deep truths of our worship may grow in our hearts. The liturgy of the worship service is the most fundamental catechism we have.

Sadly, today many people think of even the Church in an individualistic manner, treating it as secondary to their personal faith. This makes of the Church nothing more than a collection of individuals who gather together because they share certain interests and wish to obtain certain services that a particular congregation offers -- Sunday worship, adult education, social fellowship, and youth groups. In our time, many people shop for a church in the same way they shop for a new car, searching for the one that “best meets our needs.”

But Christian faith is a communal experience, not an individual one. We should call the Church “a community of formation,” for it is only as we share in the life of a congregation over time that we are inwardly formed into the people of Christ. Jesus called his followers to be “in the world, but not of it.” The Church at its best is a God-culture-builder, participating in the life of American society while centering itself in a very different vision of how we are called to live our lives in the world. As we share in the life of the Church community over time, this vision begins to reside in us: Christ himself comes to dwell in our (collectively) hearts.

(Eph 3:16-21) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; {17} That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, {18} May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; {19} And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. {20} Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, {21} Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Corporate Christian worship is not an individualistic act; it is not something we can do alone. When we gather for worship, we each bring with us the Christ who dwells in our heart, uniquely expressed in us. We will not be magically transformed through occasional worship "experiences" or through an isolated hour each week. Worship is our common calling to give glory to God. When worship becomes regular and routine, we will come to know other members of the community in a way quite different from our more shallow social interactions. We go deeper because we have laughed and cried together, prayed and sung together, blessed one another's children and shared the bread and cup together. Worship is what makes us Christians. Worship is what makes us the church.

(Deu 4:6) Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Does God Elect Persons Based on Their Foreseen Faith?

---By John Hendryx

The Scripture teaches that everything related to the gospel is designed to glorify Christ and abase man's pride in thinking he can save himself. So it follows that anything that diminishes Christ’s glory is inconsistent with the true gospel. So my purpose in raising this issue is not to be contentious but to glorify God by aligning our thoughts with His. This short essay is meant to challenge the unbiblical position that some modern evangelicals hold regarding "foreseen faith". Specifically, I would like to confront the position, held by some, which believes that God looks down the corridors of time to see who will believe and then "predestines" them based on the exercise of their autonomous free will to choose Him. I do understand that one of the main purposes that some Christians believe this concept is that they wish to preserve God’s indiscriminate love to all and can't imagine a God whom would "arbitrarily" choose some and condemn the rest. If unconditional election were true, they reason, then why doesn't God save everyone? Wouldn't choosing some and leaving others make God arbitrary in His choice? These are understandable objections that I hope to address in what follows:

If I understand the "foreseen faith" position correctly, the following three ideas express the central concepts that this position holds:

1. The salvation of individuals is ultimately the result of their choice rather than divine appointment (alone).

2. Election is based upon God foreseeing the faith of certain individuals rather than only being in accordance with His pleasure and merciful will.

3. Election is conditional, based upon the acceptance of Jesus Christ and not the determination of God, even though God's grace is certainly involved in this process.

Before we enter a discussion of the merits of the reasoning (logic) itself we should first consider that Christianity is not something we derive from mere speculative philosophy. God has indeed given us reasoning faculties and the tools of logic, but as Christians, these are always to be used within the biblical framework He has graciously given us. To think Christainly is to recognize that we can only know God as He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, and the Scriptures themselves give no evidence of the "foreseen faith" position. So to base ones theology on unaided human reason alone is no less than deriving the deepest held presuppositions of our faith from extra-biblical sources.

Biblical View of Knowledge
While the Scriptures, in fact, do say, "... those whom He foreknew, He also predestined" (rom 8:29) but it would be poor exegesis to conclude that this must mean "foreseen faith". It is a stretch well beyond what the text actually says and plainly a reading of ones theological presuppositions into the Text. Even those of the foreseen faith position will admit that it is placing an additional concept in the verse that is just not there. In fact the text in question does not say that God foresees some event (our faith) or action people perform, but rather, says "those He foreknew..." In other words Paul communicates that God foreknows people. In the Scriptures whenever it speaks of God "knowing" people it refers to those objects He has set His personal affection on. It expresses the intimacy of personal knowledge within the framework of the covenantal relationship between God and His people. The relationship implies a commitment on God's part. There are many instances in the Scriptures where this kind of covenantal commitment is expressed by the word "knowledge". An example of this can be found in Daniel 11:32:

"By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Daniel 11:32

Here in Daniel those who broke covenant are set in direct contrast to "the people who know their God". In other words, the concept of knowing God in biblical terms is to keep covenant with God. God has an oath-bound commitment to His people, so "to know" is obviously a great deal more than an an intellectual awareness of impersonal data about a person.

The same concept is also carried over to the New Testament. Jesus tells certain individuals that He never knew them (Matt 7:23). When speaking of not knowing them, Jesus is clearly referring to the idea that some are outside His covenant and He therefore has no commitment to them. Romans 11::1-2 gives further proof that foreknow really means "previous covenantal commitment" rather than an historical event. Here it reads, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew". The obvious issue raised here is that God has not cast aside the previous covenantal commitment (those He foreknew) He made with Israel.

The Lord also says to Jeremiah, ""Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." God has determined beforehand to affectionately set apart certain people, but not as a result of their decisions (Amos 3:2; Mt. 7:23; John 10:14; Eph 1:4,5). In fact the Bible teaches that God's grace in choosing us is free, based on His gracious will alone and not influenced by the innate capacities, spiritual desire (ROM 9:16, John 1:13), religious merit, or the foreseen faith of the people He sets apart as His own (Eph 1:5, 2:5,8). Rather, God acts in accordance with his highest purpose, which is His own glory.

Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made..." Isaiah 43:7

Logical Inconsistencies
But aside from the lack of biblical evidence by the "foreseen faith" camp I also wish to point out the fatal flaw and inconsistent logic of the unbiblical presupposition itself. While some portray "foreseen faith" as giving great liberty to every man's free choice, upon greater reflection, this idea turns out to give no real freedom to man at all. For if God can look into the future and see that a person #1 will come to Christ and that person #2 will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed, they are already determined. God's foresight of believers' faith and repentance implies the certainty, or "moral necessity " of these acts, just as much as a sovereign decree. "For that which is certainly foreseen must be certain." (R.L.Dabney) If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which evangelicals all agree upon), then it is absolutely certain that person #1 will believe and person #2 will not. There is no way their lives could turn out differently than this. Therefore it is more than fair to say that their destinies are still determined, for they could not be otherwise. The question is, by what are their destinies determined? If God Himself determines them then we no longer have election based on foreseen faith, but rather on God's sovereign will. But if God does not determine their destinies then who or what determines them? Of course no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies. Therefore the only possible alternative is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do. But of what benefit is this? We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal and compassionate God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation. (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Furthermore, no one could then consistently hold that God foreknew who would believe and be saved and then also preach that God is trying to save every man. If God knows who will be saved, then it would be absurd for Him to reason within Himself that more persons might be saved than the original persons He knew would choose Him. It would be inconsistent to assert that God is trying to do something which He already knew could never be accomplished. Likewise no one could consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then turn around and teach that the Holy Spirit does all He can do to save every man in the world. In this scheme, The Holy Spirit would be wasting time and effort to endeavor to convert a man who He knew from the beginning would not choose Him. The unbiblical system collapses in on itself.

Some will answer that it is neither election not foreseen faith but somewhere in the middle. But this option is excluded, by definition, unless you believe that God is somehow ignorant of the future. In other words, the only way the “middle position” could be true in this case is if you limit God's omniscience, (an impossibility). Either God knows and decrees the future or He does not. If God knows the future and your position of foreseen faith is true, then God has left us in the hands of impersonal fate. Our choice would then be prearranged by an impersonal determinism. Your “middle ground” position could theoretically be true only if you fastened ignorance on God about the future, but then God would not know who would choose Him and your whole theory would break down since it was based on foreseen faith to begin with. To conclude, unless you are willing to believe that an impersonal force determines our salvation, and that God does not know the future (the Open Theism heresy), the foreseen faith position is both biblically and logically impossible. In order to honor God we must, at this point, derive our authority from the Scriptures and be careful not rely merely on what we have been taught at our church.

Is God Arbitrary
First I would challenge you to wrestle with the following verse. Paul encountered the very same argument against election; that it would make God unjust and arbitrary.

Romans 9:18-23
{18} So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. {19} You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" {20} On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? {21} Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? {22} What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? {23} And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

To begin with, Paul would not ask this hypothetical question unless He believed the ultimate determination of ones salvation to be in the hands of God alone. Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants. Will you deny Him this right? Furthermore, since we know the character of God we must not think that, on His side, God had no reasons or causes for saving some and not others - - “since the divine purpose always conspires with His wisdom and does nothing without reason or rashly; although these reasons and causes have not been revealed to us. In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics) Just because we don’t know why He chooses some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it. In the absence of relevant data, we, therefore, have no reason whatsoever to assume the worse, so there are no legitimate grounds for doubting the goodness of God here. Therefore, to doubt that God can choose us based solely on his good pleasure, is to doubt the goodness of God. The "foreseen faith" people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. Let's summarize then the response to the charge of God being arbitrary:

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29: 29
1. Election is grounded in God's moral character (i.e., goodness, compassion, empathy, integrity, non-duplicity, non-favoritism, justice, etc.)
2. God does have "causes and reasons" for His choices, though these are "internal" to God (i.e., not found in the creature). We know He is good and therefore can trust that He would make a better choice than we would.
3. He 'does NOTHING without reason' --- He 'does NOTHING rashly’. He has simply not revealed these reasons and causes to us--although they certainly exist. Since they haven’t been revealed, we cannot try to figure them out but since we know the trustworthiness of God we can rejoice in His wisdom. God does not 'lack just reasons’ for His actions. These 'just reasons' are merely hidden from us.
4. Salvation is not conditioned upon anything that God sees in us that makes us worthy of His choosing us. NONE of His decrees were done except justly and wisely".

We must always keep in mind that God is obligated to save no one and that we all justly deserve His wrath. Therefore, if God saves anyone, it is purely an act of His mercy. All evangelicals agree that it would have been just of God to wipe out all mankind in judgment, so why, then, would it be unjust for Him to judge some and have mercy on the rest. If six people owe me a debt, for example, and I forgive four of them their debt but still require the remaining two to pay up, I am totally within my right. How much more so God? (Read The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Matt 20:1-16)

“It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (ROM 9:16).

Sunday, March 16, 2008


---by Matthew J. Slick

If you're a Christian, you've heard of predestination. You must have because the Bible uses the word and teaches the idea. But what is predestination? How does free will fit in? What about man's sinfulness and God's sovereignty? Is predestination a fair doctrine or does it make God out to be dispassionate and tyrannical? In this paper, we will attempt to answer those questions.

Predestination is the doctrine that God alone chooses (elects) who is saved. He makes His choice independent of any quality or condition in sinful man. He does not look into a person and recognize something good nor does He look into the future to see who would choose Him. He elects people to salvation purely on the basis of His good pleasure. Those not elected are not saved. He does this because He is sovereign; that is, He has the absolute authority, right, and ability to do with His creation as He pleases. He has the right to elect some to salvation and let all the rest go their natural way: to hell. This is predestination.

In response to this definition, some will protest, "Unfair!" It may seem so at first, but you will see that it is quite fair. More importantly, it is biblical. To help you understand predestination, I would like to address several areas in order:
The Eternal Covenant
Man's Sinful Condition
The Result of Sinful Man's Condition
Man's Free Will
The Necessity of Predestination
God's Sovereign Election
Objections Answered

(1) The Eternal Covenant
Usually, the best place to start a study is at the beginning, and in order to understand predestination better we need to start at its beginning. Its origin can be found in what is called the Eternal or Everlasting Covenant. Hebrews 13:20 says, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

If you have never heard of the eternal covenant, then you need to familiarize yourself with it because it is vital to a proper understanding of one of the ways God deals with His people. Essentially, God works covenantally.

A Covenant is a pact or agreement between two parties. It is a contract. The Old and New Testaments are really the Old and New Covenants. Testament comes from the Latin "testamentum", which means covenant. In the O.T. the Hebrew word for covenant is always b'rith. In the N.T. it is always "diatheke." There are OT covenants that God made with individuals, i.e. Adam (Gen. 2:15-17), Noah (Gen. 9:12-16), Abraham (Gen. 17), the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28), and David (Sam. 7:12-16), etc., and in the NT there is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 7:22) that was prophesied in Jer. 31:31-37.

The Eternal Covenant, then, is the covenant made between God the Father and the Son with regard to the elect. This covenant was made before the universe was created and it consisted of the Father promising to bring to the Son all whom the Father had given the Son.

(John 6:39 ) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

(John 17:9 ) I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

(John 17:24 ) Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

In the Eternal Covenant, the Father would prepare the Son a body (Luke 1:35; Heb. 10:5); give the Son the Spirit without measure (Is. 43:1,2; 61:1); always support and comfort the Son (Is. 42:1-7; 49:8); deliver the Son from the power of death (Ps. 2); bring to the Son all whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39; 17:9,24); and give the Son a number of redeemed that no one could number (Ps. 22:27; 72:17). The Son's part was to assume human nature (Gal. 4:4,5; Heb. 2:10,11,14,15); be under the Law (Ps. 40:8; Gal. 4:4,5; Phil. 2:5-8); and to bear the sins of His people (Is 53:12; Jn 10:11,15; 1 Pet. 2:24).

In the Eternal Covenant we see that God has given a certain number of people to the Son and that the Son came to redeem them, to "lose none of them" (John 6:39). We can conclude from this that God had in mind a certain people whom would be His elect. Since God knows all things, He knows those whom He has chosen. Hence, they are predestined from the very beginning of time.

(2) Man's Sinful Condition
Man is sinful. He does not become a sinner by sinning. He sins because he is a sinner. He is depraved, which means that sin has corrupted all that he is: mind, soul, spirit, emotions, and body. Man is so engulfed in sin, so thoroughly touched by it, that there is nothing in him that merits or enables salvation. He, therefore, is born into a state of condemnation: "...were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:3). This is not to say that we are as evil as we can be, rather, that all of what we are is affected by sin.

The heart is often referred to in scripture as the deepest part of man and the center of his spiritual nature (Esther 7:5; 1 Cor. 7:37; Rom. 6:17; Deut. 29:4). From the heart man understands (Prov. 8:5), reflects (Luke 2:19), feels joy (Isa. 65:14), and experiences pain (Prov. 25:20). Because of his depravity (sinful condition), man's heart is not only impure but desperately wicked: (Jer 17:9 ) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Also, it is out of the heart that we speak "...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34), and what is in the heart of the person is what comes out of him: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23). It follows then that man's understanding, reflection, feelings, and experiences are all stained by sin.

The unregenerate person is a slave of sin: "(Rom 6:20 ) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness." That means that doing good is not a concern or need of the unbeliever--and naturally so for a person with a sinful nature. The unregenerate is inherently against God: "having abolished in His flesh the making peace" (Eph. 2:15). Enmity is hatred, bitterness, and malice toward an enemy. That was our relationship to God prior to salvation; there was enmity between us.

So, the Bible reveals the true nature of man. It is evil (Mark 7:21-23), wicked (Jer. 17:9), a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20), at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15), and, of course, naturally belongs in hell (Eph. 2:3). It then follows that out of his utterly sinful condition, only sinful desires and effects will follow. The question must then be asked, "How can a sinful person ever desire God?"

(3) The Result of Man's Sinful Condition
Because of man's sinfulness, he is unable to understand God, seek God, or do any thing good: "(Rom 3:9-12 ) What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; {10} As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: {11} There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. {12} They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Because of his sinfulness, he loves darkness rather than light; he loves evil rather than good: "(John 3:19 ) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Because of his depravity, he is incapable of accepting the things of God or understanding them: "(1 Cor 2:14 ) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The natural man is the unregenerate man. The natural man cannot understand the things of God. Notice it does not say, "has trouble understanding," or "can if he's sincere," or "will be able to if he chooses God." It says he cannot understand. Salvation is one of those "things of God," and so is the understanding of being lost, of being a sinner, of needing repentance, etc. All of these are out of reach of the natural man. He cannot understand them.

So, in light of these scriptures, how can an unbeliever come to an understanding that he needs salvation if the Bible teaches that he cannot understand his need (1 Cor. 2:14), that his nature is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and that he does not seek God (Rom. 3:11)? It would seem that man's sinful condition does not permit him to desire, understand, or want God. What effect, then, does this condition have upon his free will?

(4) Man's Free Will
Many believe that man, by his free will, by something that resides in him, is completely able to independently accept or reject God. But this belief is not supported in scripture. As I stated above, man's will by nature is sinful. What then will a sinful free will choose? It will choose sin. His free will, then, would never allow Him to reach out to God.

But we must ask, "What is free will?". Generally it is accepted to mean the freedom to choose according to one's desires. This seems true. But someone is only as free as his nature is free. His will is limited to that which is within his nature. The unregenerate can only choose what his nature allows him to choose. Since he is full of sin, not goodness, his choices can only be sinful.

In other words, a person can choose to do only that which his nature allows him to do. He cannot simply will to suddenly vanish into thin air or fly like Superman because he is incapable of such feats; his nature limits him. So too with the nature of fallen man. He is severely limited by what he can and cannot do. The sinful man: cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14); is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23); does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11); is lawless, rebellious, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9)

How then can the good desire to want God come out of the unsaved's evil heart? It cannot! How is he able, in his sinful free will, to desire God when his inclinations are always to reject Him? He cannot. How can he, with his blind and sinful will that is deadened, hardened, and enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:20) ever choose God? He cannot! It is impossible. That's why Jesus said, "(Mat 19:26 ) But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

But some still maintain that God works on a person and slowly teaches and guides him or her into believing. Others say that there is something in a person's free will that enables him to choose God. They maintain that everyone is equally able to accept or reject. But if they are equally free and equally able, then why don't they all equally accept God, or why don't they all equally choose to reject Him? Why are there variations in choice? Are the variations a result of a tendency that God gave them? But God made them that way. Is it because of their environment? But God put them there. Is it because of some physical inclination? But God gave them their bodies. Is it because of their parents' influence? But God gave them their parents.

The fact remains, man is not entirely free; he is sinfully free. The unsaved can act freely, but only within the limits of their sinful nature which cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11), hates God, and is in slavery to sin (Rom. 6:17,20), etc. That is why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." (John 6:44), and, "that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:65). These are not the statements one would hope to find if the sinner were so free to choose to accept or reject God.

(5) The Necessity of Predestination
I've laid the foundation: Man is completely a sinner who is incapable of understanding and coming to God and has a sinful free will capable only of rejecting God. Therefore, in order for salvation to occur, God must predestine. It can be no other way. If this is so, then there should be verses supporting it. There are:

Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; AND AS MANY AS HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.

John 1:12-13: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, WHO WERE BORN NOT OF BLOOD, NOR OF THE WILL OF THE FLESH, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, BUT OF GOD.

Phil 1:29: For to you it has been GRANTED for Christ's sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Romans 8:29-30: FOR WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE ALSO PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5: HE PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Ephesians 1:11 Also WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE, HAVING BEEN PREDESTINED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE who works all things after the counsel of His will.

The preceding scriptures clearly show that the Lord is very active in salvation. He did not simply provide the means of salvation, the cross, but He also ensured the application of the blood of Christ through predestination. Please consider that
it is God who:
draws people to Himself (John 6:44,65)
creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10)
appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48)
works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29)
chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4)
chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14)
grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29)
grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9)
causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3)
predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30)
predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5)
predestines us according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11)
makes us born again not by our will but by His will (John 1:12-13)
It is man who:
is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)
is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23)
loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19)
is unrighteous, does not understand, does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12)
is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1)
is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)
cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14)

How can it be any other way than God's loving predestination to make our salvation not only possible, but also a reality? Left to man, salvation is impossible: "(Mat 19:25-26 ) When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? {26} But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

That is why it must be God who opens the heart: "(Acts 16:14 ) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

This is what truly glorifies God, that in His infinite mercy He is gracious enough to save those who would always reject Him, always hate Him, and always malign Him. Praise Him and His love!

(6) God's Sovereign Election
God is sovereign. Sovereignty means that God is supreme in power and authority, that He answers to no one, and that He may do as He pleases for whatever reason He chooses. (Isa 46:10 ) Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: ; "(Acts 4:28 ) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Acts 2:23 ) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

Out of a people of utter sinfulness and inability, God has chosen, by His sovereign grace, to elect some into salvation and not others. Remember, there is nothing in man that merits any favor, blessing, or mercy whatsoever. For there is no favoritism with God (Rom. 2:11). Each and every person is entirely worthy of wrath and incapable of saving himself. That is why God has chosen a people to Himself out of the good pleasure of His heart. Because without His choosing, none would ever come to Him. Therefore, predestination is a loving doctrine: "in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Eph. 1:4,5).

He chooses some and ignores others not because of what the person has done, or what is foreknown that he would do, but simply because of God's sovereign choice: "(2 Tim 1:9 ) Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, and, "(Rom 9:11-13 ) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) {12} It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. {13} As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." see also, Psalm 11:5).

Sovereignty is why God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires: "(Rom 9:15-16, 18 ) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. {16} So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. This is sovereignty! It is God who is in control.

Some He has elected to salvation, others He has not: "(1 Pet 2:8 ) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

(Rom 9:22-23 ) What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: {23} And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

It seems quite clear that God prepares some for mercy and not others. That is sovereignty.

(7) Conclusion
With a better understanding of scripture, predestination is not the tyrannical doctrine that so many make it out to be. Predestination is really the manifestation of God's mercy and love. It ensures the salvation of the ones He has called. It properly reveals the true nature of man to be utterly sinful, rebellious, and antagonistic to God. It puts God in total sovereign control, where He rightfully belongs. It removes man's ability to take any credit at all for salvation, because even the act of believing could not be self-authored in a sinful free will. And, finally, it reveals the greatness of God's mercy and love and causes the saved to rest in the knowledge that it was God who made their salvation sure, and not their own faulty, sinful wills.

1) How does this doctrine of predestination fit in with a loving God?
But predestination is loving. Without the loving predestination of God (Eph.1:4,5) no one would ever be saved. All would go to hell.

2) If God predestines us, and our sinful wills would never allow us to seek God, then wouldn't God be violating the wills of those He calls?
No, because He doesn't violate their wills when He regenerates them first. Since God calls (Rom. 8:28-30), He first regenerates the nature of the person called. Since the person is then regenerate, with a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17), he is then able to desire God. Therefore, God does not violate his will.

But some say that faith brings regeneration. Again I ask: How can an unregenerate person have faith in the true God? He cannot. It is regeneration that brings faith.

3) Does this mean that even if you wanted to be saved you couldn't if you're not predestined?
This question doesn't reflect a proper understanding of the condition of man. The unsaved don't want salvation or the true God, so they wouldn't ever seek salvation. Also, anyone who truly desires salvation is only wanting it because the Lord is drawing him.

4) Doesn't Romans 8:29 prove that God looked into the future and foreknew who would accept Him?:
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called."

There are two reasons why these verses cannot be used to support that idea:
First, if you read the verse, there is a key word that is often missed: "also." The verse says that the ones foreknown are ALSO predestined. In other words, the same ones foreknown are the ones predestined. It does not say that He foreknew all and predestined some; otherwise it would say, "Of those He foreknew, some He predestined."It says He ALSO predestined those whom He foreknew. The foreknown are the group He has predestined to be saved.

Also, God only "knows" believers. He does not "know" unbelievers. Matt. 7:22-23 says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

John 10:27 says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I KNOW THEM, and they follow Me";
John 13:18 says, "I do not speak of all of you, I KNOW THE ONES I HAVE CHOSEN..."
Gal. 4:9 says, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather TO BE KNOWN by Him..."
2 Tim. 2:19 says, "...The Lord knoweth them that are his..."

These verses show a "knowing" that is related to salvation. Only Christians are "known." Only the foreknown are predestined. God foreknew; that is, He foreloved His chosen ones and predestined them into salvation. God knows believers, hence the word "foreknown." Therefore, Rom. 8:29 doesn't support the idea that God looked into the future to see who would pick Him.

Secondly, God would not look into a person to see if he would pick Him, because if that were so, then God's choice would depend upon Man's choice and God would not be sovereign.

5) What about the verses that suggest you choose God?
"Whosoever will believe...He who receives... etc." We see in Scripture both God's and Man's hands in salvation. God elects, predestines, draws, and saves. Man chooses, but only after God has saved him (see objection number 2). We experience and understand the act of choosing, but this is because we do so after we're regenerate. If someone says that he freely chose to accept God and that predestination is untrue, then he is establishing doctrine by his experience. This is something that is to be avoided.

Acts 13:48 describes the "whosoever." They are the ones who are ordained to believe: "...and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

It is obvious from this verse that the ones who believe are the ones who are appointed by God to believe. Remember also Phil. 1:29: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;"

God grants that the elect believe. That is why we are born again not of our wills but of the will of God (John 1:12-13).

6) But it isn't fair to only choose some.
Fairness is that we all go to hell. ALL people deserve damnation (Eph. 2:3). God would be perfectly just to let all slide into the eternal abyss of damnation--and He would still be just as loving, because that is His nature. God doesn't owe us anything. The question isn't "Why would He only choose SOME?"; but rather, "Why did He choose ANY?"

7) What about verses like "I will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32)?
The "all" are only the Christians. This may sound absurd at first. The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6) and that there is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved (Acts 4:12). Can the "all" here mean everyone? What about those who never heard the gospel, like the Aborigines 100 years before Christ? Does the gospel message apply to them? I ask this because how can anyone be saved apart from Jesus, especially when they haven't had the opportunity to hear the gospel? It seems to me that the "all" of this verse must apply to the elect.

Incidentally, a discussion of Romans 5:18 sheds light on the biblical usage of "all" when it says, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

The "all" there obviously cannot mean everyone, but only a select group, i.e., "many" spoken of in the following verse.

(Rom 5:19 ) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

In addition, other verses worth examining in this context are 1 Cor. 15:22 and 2 Cor. 5:14. It says in 1 Cor. 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Adam represented everyone in his death. Christ represented the elect in His death as is evidenced by the fact that the only ones who are made alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11; 8:10) are the Christians. The "all" are the elect.

2 Cor. 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:" The only ones who die in Christ (Rom. 6:8) are the Christians. The "all" can only be the elect.

8) But I actually did choose to accept God.
That's right. You did. But only because God first regenerated you, freed your will from sin, and thereby allowed you to be able to choose Him. Regeneration precedes faith. The regenerated person is no longer the slave of sin (Rom. 6:6) and is therefore able to desire God. He then DOES choose God.

This act of regeneration is what God does. Remember, your believing is something God has given you: "(Phil 1:29 ) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Also, "(John 6:29 ) Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." And, " many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)

This is also why we are born again not by our own wills, but the will of God: "(John 1:12-13 ) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.


---by C. H. Spurgeon

An evil resides in the professed camp of the Lord so gross in its imprudence that the most shortsighted can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate evil for evil. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses.

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." That is clear enough. So it would have been if He has added, "and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel." No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Then again, "He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers, for the work of the ministry." Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people or because they refused? The concert has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the Church to the world? "Ye are the salt," not sugar candy-something the world will spit out, not swallow. Short and sharp was the utterance, "Let the dead bury their dead." He was in awful earnestness!

Had Christ introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His mission, He would have been more popular when they went back, because of the searching nature of His teaching. I do not hear Him say, "Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow, something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!" Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them. In vain will the Epistles be searched to find any trace of the gospel amusement. Their message is, "Come out, keep out, keep clean out!" Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, "Lord grant Thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are." If they ceased not for preaching Christ, they had not time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They "turned the world upside down." That is the difference! Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her and bring us back to apostolic methods.

Lastly, the mission of amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let the careless and scoffers, who thank God because the Church met them halfway, speak and testify. Let the heavy-laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment has been God's link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer. The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need of the hour for today's ministry is believing scholarship joined with earnest spirituality, the one springing from the other as fruit from the root. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

"This age of novelties would seem to have discovered spiritual power in brass bands and tambourines... The tendency of the time is towards bigness, parade, and show of power... Jesus said 'Preach the gospel to every creature.' But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by the priest... by the music... by theatricals... Well, they may try these things... but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion. God dishonored, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by the thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world." ---C. H. Spurgeon

Friday, March 7, 2008

Man Centered Worship


MCW >> assumes that the primary purpose of Sunday morning church services is to reach out to unbelievers.

[In the New Testament, however, the reason the church gathers is for worship and equipping (Eph. 4:11-16; Acts 2:37-47). Evangelism is to primarily take place in the believer’s life context (“as you go”—Matt. 28:18-20) rather than being the main focus of the Sunday worship service.]

MCW >> assumes that unbelievers are “seeking,” yet Scripture says, “There is none who seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11; Ps. 14:1-3).

MCW >> assumes that the gospel and truth can be made inoffensive to unbelievers if presented correctly. Yet, Scripture teaches that the gospel and truth is, by its very nature, offensive to those who hate God (1 Cor.1:18, 21, 23, 25; 2:14; 1 Pet.2:7-8).

MCW >> assumes that the "style of music" (methods) a church uses is one of its most important keys to reaching the culture. Interestingly, the New Testament is silent regarding this “critical” element of church growth.

MCW >> assumes that large numbers always indicate “true success.” It says, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing” and interprets the “blessing” as “that which draws a crowd.”

A God-centered theology requires God-centered, God-focused worship and true piety. While human-centered theology will always lead to entertainment, (“what I like,”) with a focus on emotional exuberance, (“it feels good,”) subjective fanaticism, (deriving doctrine and practice from personal experience instead of from the Word of God,) and the never-ending roller-coaster of repeating the same “high” the following week, turning Jesus and church attendance into a narcotic.

God-centered worship glorifies God, the holy God, whose gracious salvation is a free, undeserved gift. Therefore, God-centered worship can be described as ‘objective’; with awe it glorifies the sovereign God, yet it is essentially thankful, with real, enduring and life-changing results. If indeed our services focus on Him, then our character will be formed after His and genuine community will be fostered. And the enemy will be foiled!

MCW makes the unbeliever (and carnal christians) our ‘customer’ and their sensibilities our ‘criteria’ for our worship of God. We should be trying to be relevant to God, not the world.
[the above comments thanks to Michael Horton]

[comments below thanks to John Hendryx]
Churches that practice MCW, aka "seeker sensitive churches" are perhaps representative of the most "culturally captive" in all of Christian history. Possibly even more so than the liberal churches that arose during the 19th century. It is really quite painful to consider that we willfully ignore history this way and thus appear to be doomed to repeat its mistakes. Those promoting the seeker sensitive movement encourage error by implying that the past (ie. the Reformation, the Great Awakening) was the time for doctrinal change, but that now we merely need to shift our focus to "praxis" (practical application) and "cultural relevance." Many of you may not know that this is exactly what theological liberalism has believed for well over a century.

This argument might not have been successfully made if the majority of evangelicals actually understood basic doctrine, but unfortunately we don't. A large percentage of evangelicals today reject or ignore many of the most important doctrinal contributions the church of the past has made to our understanding of Scripture. Theology is often shunned, and for some, to embrace anti-intellectualism is like a badge of spirituality. Having been near dead for the last 100 years, theology and not praxis is really the most critical need facing the contemporary church. The fluff coming out of the seeker movement is really only compounding the problem. No doubt our praxis would be right if our understanding of Scripture was right, since thinking God's thoughts after Him gives rise to true affection for God.

However, to the extent that we think wrong thoughts about God, to that same extent we commit idolatry. Christians must engage in theological studies to some extent because the Scriptures demand it, (1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 4:3, Titus 1:9, Titus 2:7) so those who teach that doctrine is unimportant are promoting something directly contrary to our Lord's desire. They are telling the church that truth doesn't matter. They're creating a confused and double-minded church. To disparage right doctrine in favor of right practice is to present a false dichotomy between practice and doctrine. I know many in the seeker movement would deny this, but frankly most evangelicals today know really very little about the Jesus they claim to serve.

The leaders of these churches are denying their flocks the very food they need for true nourishment. Those who love God, love His Word. I am all for promoting meekness, humility and infectious Christian living but any movement that plays down theology in favor of something less, is severely problematic and puts the cart before the horse. It can only result in creating a god in our own image to cater to our every felt need. Love without content means that the Jesus you say you love may not be the Jesus revealed in the Scripture, but rather a Jesus you invented. So because many of us worship in citadels of sloppy and weak doctrine, one of the greatest challenges we face, I believe, is the re-evangelization of the church, because the half-gospel that relies on methods rather preaching the Word in the power of the Spirit of God is the main culprit of our lukewarmness.

(1 Tim 4:16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where The Spontaneity Idol Started

Take a stroll over to the Avenue blog and read Duane Garner's article on where all the dreadful church music got it's start....with, you guessed it, the demand for spontaneity!!!

Consider Routine

What happens in the Church, and how it happens, inevitably makes its way out into culture in general. Culture is religion externalized and made explicit. Culture comes from "cult", ie. "Who & how a people worship." A confused & chaotic church (especially on Sunday morning in the Lord's presence) will produce a confused and chaotic society, because we are the salt and light. Let's (re)Consider Routine.


"routine"--a prescribed, detailed course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure. A set of customary and often mechanically performed procedures or activities. See synonyms at method.

Routine (or ritual or ceremony or order) is NOT the enemy of life, faith, praise or worship! Neither is God displeased with it and nor is it synonymous with "DEAD!"


Routine is "hardwired" into Creation by GOD. When one routine is thrown out as something dead or undesirable, we begin to substitute another routine. Even the “absence of routine” can be routine. And because we are made in the image of God, IT CANNOT BE AVOIDED. (Note: the same that is said for routine, could also be said for "duty" or even "service") A Paraphrase-- "Let all things be done decently and 'with routine.'" (1 Cor 14:40) ("in order" = regular arrangement.)

So if "routine" is not the problem, then what is? Consider the possibility that what is really "undesirable" is when worship or praise or life in general becomes:

stale--Having lost freshness, effervescence, or palatability: stale bread; stale air. Impaired in efficacy, vigor, or spirit, as from inactivity or boredom.
insipid--Lacking flavor or zest; not tasty. Lacking excitement, stimulation, or interest; dull.
amusing--"no muse" or no thought, no meditation
[from Old French amuser, to stupefy : a-, to (from Latin ad-). See ad- + muser, to stare stupidly.]

Amazing isn't it, that many have aimed at placing "amusement" in the Sunday service to attract the unbelieving. Stupid! In more ways than one.

What God does not like, is our worship or praise or life in general lacking in:

Zeal-- enthusiastic devotion to a cause, an ideal, or a goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance.
[Synonyms would be: passion, fervor, fire, ardor.]

Another way to say this is to " the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." (Mark 12:30)

OK then, what about spontaneity? Many in the charismatic church idolize spontaneity, but do we really want spontaneous?

1. Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated.
2. Arising from a natural inclination or impulse and not from external incitement or constraint.
3. Unconstrained and unstudied in manner or behavior.
4. Growing without cultivation or (human) labor; indigenous.

Weeds are spontaneous and spontaneous sounds very similar to autonomous:

1. Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent: an autonomous judiciary; an autonomous division of a corporate conglomerate.
2. Independent in mind or judgment; self-directed.
3. a. Independent of the laws of another state or government; self-governing. b. Of or relating to a self-governing entity: an autonomous legislature. c. Self-governing with respect to local or internal affairs: an autonomous region of a country.
4. Autonomic.
[From Greek autonomos : auto-, self- + nomos, law.]

Perhaps We Need To Re-Evaluate. Of course what we really want is the move and liberty of the Holy Spirit. And He is a highly structured and organized individual. And His mode of operation is described in 1 Corinthians 14.


"Ironically, just as some people feel that being given a fixed form constrains them, so the imperative to be spontaneous all the time is an extraordinary constraint on others from which a liturgy (a pattern or routine) actually frees them." ~ N.T. Wright

"Historically speaking and until relatively recently, the Church celebrated the Lord’s Supper every week, considering it the culmination of the service of covenant renewal. But to many of our fellow believers, this fact by itself smacks of ritualism or superstition. 'Why should we do this so often? Do we keep forgetting?'

Well, on one level, yes, we keep forgetting. We believe that we are prone to sin and must constantly be called back to Christ, to be reminded of Christ, to partake of Christ—and not by mere dint of repetition, but rather by faith. This is why this word of scriptural exhortation must always accompany our observance of the sacrament.

But there is something else to realize. Repetition is inescapable, and many who object to weekly commemoration of the Lord’s sacrifice for us have no problem whatever with comparable repetitions in other settings.

Christians who would object (loudly) to our recitation of the Apostles’ Creed weekly—because it makes the words "meaningless"—have no problem founding Christian schools where the students recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Is that meaningless too?

When you ask a co-worker if he would like to go out for lunch together, do you expect to hear that he doesn’t like to eat really, because he doesn’t want it ever to become 'routine.' Asked how often he eats, he says that he likes to take a meal once a quarter, so that it will remain 'special.'

In the grip of such thinking, the absence of the Lord’s Supper is repeated also. Week after week, the Table is consistently not there. Does that become part of the routine? The answer to faithless routine is not to abandon the routine, but rather to embrace faith. To abandon routine is simply to establish another routine, and if faith has not been exercised, it too becomes an idol. We are Christians; this is the Table of the Lord. We are to put away our idols.

Some, seeing the very real problem of getting into a liturgical groove, have sought to address the problem by changing the liturgy constantly. But this approach seeks to address a spiritual problem through mere physical means—which is like trying to help out a troubled marriage by rearranging the furniture in the living room.

Liturgy is like a dance. When you are first learning a new dance, you are not really dancing but rather counting. One, two, three, one, two, three. But once you are accustomed to the dance, and you know it, you are freed to think about the one you are dancing with. Of course, with this freedom comes the freedom (and temptation) to think about something else entirely, or someone else entirely.

This problem will not be removed by eliminating the defined dance steps. What happens with modern dances, when people simply gyrate aimlessly? Well, they are still free to think about something else, or someone else, only now a lot sooner, because they never have to think about counting." ~ Douglas Wilson

I like to put it this way:

A train without it's tracks is not free. In fact it usually means death & destruction.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Intimacy or Community

OK, I've had it "up to here" with all the cookie cutter entertainers disguised as worship leaders declaring that intimacy is the primary objective of Sunday, corporate worship. And then chastising the congregation if they don't have the look of star-crossed lovers in their eyes while they're singing the slow songs or they're not swinging from the chandeliers on the faster songs. And you cannot force intimacy into or drag it out of people in the corporate setting on Sunday morning. Now that I've got that off my chest, here's something I wrote a few years ago on the subject.

A Philosophy of Corporate Worship

Any individual expression in Corporate worship MUST be subject to, subservient to and conducive to the whole. All expression MUST contribute to the "corporate-ness" (the Body) and not detract or distract from the Unity of the Spirit. The result and overriding factor being the edifying of the Assembly. (The word for church in the 1 Cor 14 passages below is "ecclesia" or literally "called out" ones. It means "a community of people called out to meet together in one place.")

This goes as well for the preaching\teaching of the Word of God. Aim to minister to the individual, and you will starve the flock. Aim to minister to the flock, and the individual will be fed as well.

Paul's words to Corinthian church give us some guidelines:

(1 Cor 14:4) He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
(1 Cor 14:5) I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
(1 Cor 14:12) Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
(1 Cor 14:17) For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
(1 Cor 14:19) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
(1 Cor 14:26) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
(1 Cor 14:40) Let all things be done decently and in order.

We must not become like the post-Joshua generation in our worship or praises.
(Judg 17:6) In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
(Judg 21:25) In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
(Prov 12:15) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
(Prov 21:2) Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

We must not worship the Lord any old way we want to. Narcissistic, existentialist, hedonistic …which describes much of what is called "praise" in the modern "enter-worship-tainment" church.
What happened when folks worshiped the way they wanted to?

Old Testament--
Golden Calf --Exodus 32
Nadab and Abihu --Leviticus 10
Korah --Numbers 16
Uzzah --2 Samuel 6

New Testament--
Ananias and Sapphira --Acts 5

Let me just add here that telling God of our intention to praise Him, or how we will praise Him, is NOT the same as praising Him. What ends up happening many times is we praise our ability to praise, or we are in essence, "praising praise."

Corporate worship is NOT about intimacy. It's a community effort. We are NOT striving to "make out" with God in the corporate setting. Intimacy is…well…intimate. It's for the prayer closet at home. How would it make you feel if a husband and wife in a church service started "making out" and kissing and caressing each other amorously? Most of us would shout, "Please! Get a room!" It's not appropriate in that setting. The corporate gathering is not to be made into our own individual private prayer closet. But this is where folks make spectacles of themselves and the attention is on them instead of on God. And what is intended to be an expression of the freedom of the Spirit instead becomes an act of self-centeredness. (Of course the "spectator" could be just as culpable too, for being distracted, but that's another subject.) It is not a time for individualized expression to the point of isolating and separating oneself from the congregation by doing something "different." We are plagued by the attitude of "I want to worship God the way I want to!"

If what you're doing isolates you from everyone else, you are not contributing to the corporateness of the gathering. +++And intimacy is, according to Webster’s Dictionary, inherently “private, informal and personal.” In other words, it assumes and focuses on a relationship of a specific individual towards another specific individual to the exclusion of all others.+++

"Private, informal and personal" just the opposite of what corporate worship is to be...

public... assemble together
formal... with decency and order
communal... mutual sharing

So then, am I opposed to intimacy in worship? No! Do I really think it has absolutely no place in corporate worship? God forbid!! It is paramount for us all to be intimate with God. It is foundational to the whole corporate structure. But most of the practice of it is for the individual prayer closet, whereas the fruit of it is manifest in the corporate setting. Let me illustrate.

Our corporate worship can be likened to a fruit tree. The roots are the intimacy we all individually have with God. (or the lack thereof.) The superstructure of the tree is the corporate worship itself, the trunk, the branches, the leaves. The fruit is the corporate anointing that feeds the flock. Notice the roots are 1.) hidden, 2.) vital, and 3.) assumed. When intimacy becomes the goal of corporate worship, we end up trying to feed the flock the bitterness of roots instead of the sweet fruit that the bitter roots feed and nourish. And we end up either destroyng the tree or never having one, much less one that produces fruit.

If we allow individualism to dominate in our corporate gatherings, one end-result will be that people will begin to think that the corporate gathering is unnecessary, because the expression is no different than what can be experienced at home, in the prayer closet. Hence many in American evangelicalism do just that...they stay at home.

The importance of the "individual" is essential, but NOT more-so than the "whole." There needs to be a balance re-struck in the Church, especially in American churches, because of "rugged individualism" run amuck. And particularly in the Charismatic world this is out of whack because of skewed theology...specifically the lack of a strong Trinitarian emphasis. It comes as a result of over-emphasis on the "Immanence" of God (intimacy & friendship) and not speaking and singing consistently of the entire Godhead...Father Son Spirit. We need to speak of the "Transcendence" of God and not only of His Immanence. Yes, He is indeed 'in' us and 'with' us, but He is also Bigger than the entire universe!

To "imitate God" is more than to live out a set of moral values and character is to imitate Him in His essence of being as well...His Tri-Unity, Three-in-One-ness...the One and the Many. This is to imitate God "Corporately."