Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 1

I want to spend a few posts looking at this new book on Christian worship. I will start by commenting on each essay and some of the responses. I will then end with some general comments. The first post will be on Timothy Quill's essay on liturgical worship. Timothy Quill is associate professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Quill’s essay on liturgical worship was informative and in many ways compelling. I appreciated his emphasis on God and that the liturgy is “first of all what God is doing.” (p. 23) Quill also shows how important the relationship is between doctrine and worship and how the two influence each other. One cannot disregard either without tragic results. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the importance of doctrinally accurate hymns and their role in reinforcing the teaching of the church. Quill points to Bishop Ambrose of Milan and the role he played in countering Arianism via his hymnody. I wish he had done more to show how ancient the liturgy really is. Though I’ve had some experiences with liturgical churches in my early years as a Christian I was under the impression that the liturgy was a late development. The antiquity of the liturgy is something I was grossly unaware. Quill also ably demonstrates much of the rationale of the liturgy. Indeed, the majority of his essay is an exposition of why this or that is part of the liturgy. A dominant theme throughout the essay is the law/gospel dynamic which is fundamental to Lutheran theology. Law is what we do for God and gospel is what God does for us. Quill sees much of contemporary worship as law based rather than gospel based. When we come to worship with an attitude of what we can do or bring to God rather than what we can receive from him our priorities are backwards and unhealthy. As for the response essays I found the ones from Dan Wilt (contemporary worship) and Richard Lawrence and Mark Dever (blended worship) to be the most helpful. A common critique was the fact that liturgical churches can often breed a type of worship that becomes ritualistic and thoughtless. Wilt was the most cutting by associating liturgical worship with aspects of Gnosticism, Svengalism, and the worship of a God “who far more resembles the gods of the Greeks than He resembles the emotionally charged God of the Hebrews.” (p. 89) Lawrence and Dever seem right when they say Quill’s argument “seems to be limited to the historical and pragmatic.” (p. 93) Dan Kimball (emerging worship) essentially says his only critique is that Quill appears to say “unless people use liturgical worship, they are not worshiping in the best way possible.” (p. 95) I agree as I think would Quill. That’s the point of the book. For someone like Kimball who is very eclectic in his approach this would be a problem. Kimball points to the countless non-liturgical churches that are producing vibrant healthy disciples and notes many of the liberal churches are dominated by liturgy. Overall I was impressed with Quill much more so than I thought I would be. The next post will be on Ligon Duncan and traditional evangelical worship.

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