Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views - Review Part 6

Anyone familiar with worship styles will clearly recognize that there are more than five views. The Zondervan counterpoint series book has six views (Even though both books have a chapter on "blended worship" they are not the same but have significant differences.). This book narrows the discussion to five. It further narrows it to five protestant views. Kimball says the book should have been called “Perspectives of Conservative-Evangelical-Primarily-White-Suburban-Middle-to-Upper-Middle-Class Worship.” (p. 216-17) Two essays mention the “regulative principle” of worship. Essentially this principle means “whatever is not commanded in Scripture is forbidden.” It may be too quick to conclude that those who don’t hold to the regulative principle are not Biblical. Rather, some hold that “whatever is not forbidden in Scripture is permitted.” Still others (both Wilt and Kimball expressed some concern here) think the notion of what is “Biblical” is a fluid one and easily abused. Quill says worship is an adiaphora (Greek for “indifferent things.”). Both essays that mention the regulative principle treat it as if it were a fairly simple principle without any complications. Nothing could be further from the truth. John Frame has written an excellent essay which should be required reading for understanding the regulative principle (Frame says “there is no human act that is morally neutral. Every human act is either right or wrong, either pleasing or displeasing God.” So for Frame nothing is adiaphora.) I understand that the constraints of a book like this make detailed explanations difficult but I would have liked a little more definition and justification of the principle. Wilt is the boldest critic of the principle saying, “The kind of theologically founded praxis that I hear in the Regulative Principle, in my humble estimation, could be hindering the evangelical church from being the viral influence that we are optimally designed to be in the world.” (p. 280) Each author seems to be aware that there is an underlying theology at work. To really grapple with many of the issues means going deeper and questioning the theology that supports them. Another question is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New. God was very particular as to how the tabernacle and the sacrificial system were to work. How does that relate, if at all, to New Testament worship? Are there principles that carry over even if the particulars do not? What about reaching and accommodating to the culture of the day? What sort of freedom is allowed in attempting to reach the unsaved? At the end of the day for someone like Kimball what matters most is changed lives. Rather than getting hung up over worship styles let’s look at how the Spirit is changing people (although he does say we should not go against Scripture p. 295).
Overall I really enjoyed this book. The essays were cogent and well written. Quill gave me the most to think about. But that is because it is the tradition I’m least familiar with. I come away less convinced of my own inclinations but grateful to have had the hardened sod of my mind freshly tilled on an important subject.

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