THE HOLE IN OUR WORSHIP
I must admit that I’m not a fan of these 4 or 5 views-on-a-certain-subject-books. I think it tends to present important and (to me) settled subjects as mere ‘debatable issues’ still to be settled. By inviting ‘dialogue’ on many of these essential issues of the Christian faith the impression is left that it may not be that essential or that settled after all. However, I found this book helpful and as I share some insights from it trust you will see why. The book is called: “Perspectives on Christian Worship: 5 Views”.
The contributors are:
- Ligon Duncan: who argues for “Traditional Evangelical Worship”
- Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence: they argue for “Blended Worship”
- Dan Kimbal: who argues for “Emerging Worship”
- Dan Wilt: who argues for “Contemporary Worship”
- Timothy Quill: who argues for Liturgical Worship
Lex orandi, lex credendi
In the first chapter of this book Timothy Quill, a Lutheran theologian, puts forward an excellent (though not entirely persuasive) defense of Liturgical worship. This would be the ceremonial and ritualistic approach to corporate worship mostly found in Lutheranism. Though Quill is not entirely persuasive, his chapter on Liturgical worship does have some very good and helpful insights worth noting and accepting! I want to note one outstanding feature in his chapter. (I’m going to quote Quill and his words will be italicized and I’ll hang my comments on certain quotes of his.)
Quill presents and expounds on the maxim “lex orandi, lex credendi”. This is a Latin phrase coined by the 5th century disciple of St. Augustine, Prosper of Aquitaine (d.463). It essentially means “the law of prayer/worship, the law of belief”. He writes “[T]he way you worship effects and determines what you believe. Islamic worship makes Muslims. Buddhist worship makes Buddhists. Romans Catholic worship makes Roman Catholic. Pentecostal worship makes Pentecostals.
But then he gives away a gem when he continues, “American neo-evangelical contemporary worship makes generic, Arminian, Protestant Christians”. That is an excellent way to describe the shallow and experientialist types of ‘worship’ we see so often today and its dire consequences on those who participate in it.
The kind worship we entertain are not without effect on us. Like many other forms of worship, the contemporary worship of our day so often filled with emotionalism, experientialism, and shallowness has the powerful potential to shape worshippers according into that image.
Too often has contemporary worship been reduced to nothing more than an anthropocentric experience. In many cases it has become man-centered and not God centered and the way we worship effects and determines what you believe. That is why today many can worship God and at the same time make demands on God because their worship is intrinsically man-centered and making demands on God best compliment such a gross violation of this sacred privilege.
That wasn’t even the best part of Quills exposition on “lex orandi, lex credendi”. He continues and proposes “the opposite is also true. One can reverse Prosper of Aquitaine’s maxim to read: lex credendi, lex orandi: what you believe effects, determines, and shapes the way you worship. Nothing can be liturgically correct that is not dogmatically correct.”
This is the massive hole in our worship today- a worship ‘experience’ (for lack of a better word) that is robustly theological. This is what is desperately lacking today; corporate worship that is as faithful as possible to the prescribed and determined instructions of God’s word, the Bible.
As believers, we are sinners declared righteous yet still being made holy by God as we lay off the old man. We have to therefore, acknowledge how out-of-our-depths we are when it comes to worshipping the God who lives in unapproachable light whom no one has ever seen (1 Tim. 6:16) and yet, He has come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to make Himself personally known to those who believe on Him (John 1:14-18).
We are not experts at worshipping God. We are not in a position to assume an approach to worship nor are we encouraged to follow a way to worship on the basis of its popularity and general acceptability. Instead we ought to be encouraged that our worship flows from a biblical understanding of God, His Person, His works and what He has done for us in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
Quills correctly insists on “lex credendi, lex orandi. What one believes establishes (or at least it should) the way one worships.” If we believe our worship of God is not to be entirely determined by His word but by our hearts what will follow is nothing but shallow sentimentalism and anthropocentric heathenism; a worship experience that exalts the self, more than the God who created the self. Worship cannot only end with us feeling good but it must start, continue and climax with God being gloried!