Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 4

Today's post will focus on the essay of Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever. Together they write on blended worship. The are the associate and senior pastors respectively at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

Michael Lawrence and Mark Dever (hereafter L/D) offer a rigorous defense of blended worship. Like Duncan, L/D start with a Biblical understanding of worship. Worship cannot be limited to just a Sunday morning gathering. It is rather “our service to God.” (p. 218) So as not to be confused with Robert Webber’s notions of blended worship they begin by telling us what blended worship is not. It is not a blending of truths or truth-perspectives, nor a blending of diverse theological and liturgical traditions, nor a blending of elements of worship, nor a blending or media or means of communication. Governed by the regulative principle blended worship is strictly guided by what Scripture says may or may not be part of worship. The Bible is at the forefront of their thinking because “Christianity is fundamentally a religion of the ear, not the eye.” (p. 222) They stress the importance of understanding that the “worship of God must be a reflection of God’s character, not ours. That character is not found by looking to ourselves—our preferences, tastes, and desires.” (p. 233) To aide this understanding they distinguish between elements, forms, and circumstances of public worship. Elements are “those activities God has instituted for His worship in Scripture, either by precept, normative example, or good and necessary implication.” (p. 236) Forms are the ways those elements are carried out and circumstances are the “incidental matters common to any public gathering.” (p. 236) The elements (prayer, song, preaching, reading Scripture, tithes, offerings, and the ordinances) are the non-negotiables of worship. Only in the forms and circumstances does “blended” worship begin to take significance. Here there is room for not only hymns but new songs; not only prayers but lamentations and praise; not only singing with instruments but also a capella. They also give broad parameters to govern the forms of worship. They should be intelligible, orderly, edifying, unifying and should promote reverence for God. They end with some examples of blended worship. Quill observes that L/D are typical for a Baptist mold. Duncan affirms much of the essay and simply says his disagreement would be with "how to apply the Regulative Principle of worship." (p. 275) Dan Wilt seems to come out of the box fighting in his response. “I challenge the rampant use of the term biblical.” (p. 277) “Things will have to look a lot more Jewish (and smell a lot more Middle-eastern) before we can say that our worship expression is more authentically ‘biblical’ (or ‘right’) than another.” (277) “I grow tired of the idea that being ‘preached to or preached at’ should always be at the center of the worship service.” (p. 279) Kimball believes L/D are took quick to assume that anything "'emerging' does not have a high view of the authority of Scriptures or that they dabble in syncretism." (p. 281) He concludes with asking if it is a truly "blended" worship then "where are hip-hop songs?" (p. 286) Kimball complains that for a blended worship the examples given seem rather bland.

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