Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 2

Today we'll look at Ligon Duncan's essay on traditional evangelical worship. Duncan is senior minister of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi.

If one of the problems with Quill’s essay was that it was “limited to the historical and pragmatic” Ligon Duncan heavily bases his approach on Scripture as he argues for traditional evangelical worship. This is to be expected from a Reformed Evangelical and Duncan does not disappoint. Duncan carefully articulates what worship is and is not as understood by both the Old and New Testament. He describes his approach with the motto “Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible.” (p. 105) From this he describes what worship should look like. He notes that “The preached word is the central feature of Reformed worship.” (p. 106). He also describes the approach as employing the “regulative principle,” that is, “to have a public worship service that is according to Scripture.” (p. 107) Duncan helpfully distinguishes between the elements of worship (reading, preaching, singing, praying, and seeing the Word) and the circumstances of worship (the specific order of worship, the texts and tunes of the hymnody, the musical instruments used and the musical style). (p. 110) He cautions two errors to avoid. We shouldn’t make the circumstances more important than the elements and we shouldn’t think that circumstances are neutral. The latter is especially important since to assume that all musical styles are neutral and carry no baggage and are equally serviceable for public praise is “naïve and harmful.” (p. 111) He describes Biblical worship as Scriptural, simple, spiritual, God-centered, historic, reverent and joyful, mediated, corporate, evangelistic, delightful, active and passive and to be celebrated on the Lord’s Day (which he understands to be both morning and evening worship on Sunday). Quill’s response is predictable if you’re reading the book in order. Duncan should not have as a starting point “man’s acknowledgement of the sovereignty and glory of God but with the grace of God in Christ.” (p. 125) This is not minor issue for Quill since he sees Duncan’s view of worship as “primarily and foremost what man does. The last thing on the list is receiving God’s favor.” (p. 126) Quill contends that “at the heart and center of [God’s] nature . . . is . . . grace—underserved, immeasurable love and grace.” (p. 126) Wilt (contemporary worship) complains that he doesn’t think “God wants us to each just plain, cooked potatoes” but thinks God “loves to ‘spice things up.’ (p. 133) He further thinks Duncan does not appreciate the difference between cultural accommodation and cultural connection. Kimball’s (emerging worship) response has the most bite even if he does say in places he’s “joking” or using “hyperbole.” Kimball focuses on Duncan’s critique of Celtic music as “contrived” and notes the sword cuts both ways since much in Reformed worship could equally be seen as contrived. For example the hymns from the 1600s could be seen as contrived by people today. Pews are a medieval European form of seating and to many could be seen as contrived.

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