Thus far in this series, we have seen several truths about manners and their relation to worship and worship forms:
All cultures have manners. All cultures recognize the importance of appropriate responses.
The expression of these appropriate responses differs greatly between cultures.
These differences do not relativize the affections of reverence or honor They demonstrate that meaning comes about in different ways for different cultures.
The meaning of the gesture that represents the affection may have come about through use, through association, or through some stipulation by an authority. Furthermore, the culture may have the response wrong through its own idolatries.
Inhabitants of a culture are responsible to understand the meaning of the gestures, forms, metaphors, and expressions in their culture. They are responsible to do so, because they have the obligation to communicate with God and man, and must do so with the tools they have.
This brings us to our last question. If what we have said is true, there are plenty of people committing acts of profanity and irreverence in the name of God. If an act or gesture does not become reverent simply because I sincerely wish it were so, or claim it is, then plenty of people are performing acts of irreverence and disrespect towards God. However, they would deny this, so how do we account for this?
First, some are ignorant of meaning, but still culpable. With today’s public education system, it is quite possible to insult a teenager without his knowing it. The teen’s small vocabulary or ignorance of metaphors does not change the fact that he has been insulted. Furthermore, if he decides to repeat the insult to a superior, his ignorance does not make him polite. Ignorance of meaning still makes one culpable. Quite a few people were apparently ignorant of the meaning of carrying the Ark on an ox-cart as opposed to the prescribed method, but their ignorance did not absolve them. Some may be enlisting in worship those musical forms that embody irreverence and disorder, without understanding that those forms do so. Their ignorance does not change the disordered nature or irreverence of the form. They are not innocent, for if you can tell others what your CCM does not mean, surely you have to be in a position to say what it does mean.
Second, some are desensitized to meanings, but still culpable. People growing up with R-rated rap are unlikely to detect how sensual Strauss’ waltzes are. The meaning of those waltzes has not changed; but the sensitivity to perceive it has diminished with the flood of the erotic. If you are surrounded by the chaos of rock, eventually the chaos seems normal, and you detect no incongruity in using it for worship. Again, this does not reduce culpability, any more than man’s depravity makes him less culpable to believe the gospel. Perverseness does not make us more innocent, but more guilty.
Third, some are dismissive of meaning, and especially culpable. Some are not interested in even considering the meaning of their cherished idols, lest they have to surrender them. They mock attempts to parse meanings, and hide behind the words preference, style, subjective, and non-issue. Again, they pretend the meaning of their chosen expression is subjective and relative, except when their music is criticized, at which point they become quite dogmatic that their music does not mean that.
In summary, many are rude to God, with more or less culpability for their irreverence. They deny that they are irreverent, but they will have to give account for their posture toward God. The one who did not know his Master’s will will be beaten with less stripes. The one who did – the one who knew that his Master called him to test all things and hold fast to what is good – but instead suppressed the truth, was willingly ignorant, and a sluggard regarding discernment, he shall be beaten with many.