How can we conserve biblical worship? We can conserve biblical worship by regulating our worship by God’s Word, by learning to distinguish between ordinate affection and appetite and choosing worship forms that foster those affections for God, by cultivating those worship forms that have been nurtured within the community of faith, and by proactively transmitting those forms and values to our children.
What is at stake in all of this is not blind loyalty to some tradition or fear of anything new. What is at stake is the conservation of the whole counsel of God. Not merely the preservation of the gospel or even biblical orthodoxy, as important as that is, but the whole counsel of God.
What a conservative Christian is committed to is the conservation of a fully-orbed Christianity; mind, will, and emotions—truth, goodness, and beauty—all under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
I will conclude with a few practical suggestions:
- We must purge our churches of extra-biblical worship innovations. No matter how spiritual or beneficial we think something is—and it may truly be beneficial in our situation—we must limit ourselves to what God has prescribed. Because even if we do happen to develop an innovation that is truly helpful, where do we stop? And how can we condemn other contemporary innovations? God, and God alone, has the right to tell us how we may worship him.
- We must stop defending music as conservative that is not conservative. We worry about the fact that our teenagers and college students are rejecting our conservatism—and much of the reason behind that is certainly their own sin and rebellion. But I am convinced that at least part of the problem is that when they look at some of our music and call it dated and shallow and old-fashioned, they are right. We’ve got to stop defending Vaudeville jingles and Broadway tunes as if they are the “good old hymns.” Some good old hymns are just not so good.
- We must invest in our children. We’re concerned about our adults and college students and teenagers, and I truly believe that there is a lot we can do to teach them these principles, but in many ways it may be too late for them. Their sensibilities have already been significantly shaped. Where my greatest hope lies is with our children. Our children’s affections are still developing, and we have the weighty responsibility to shape them. We have got to stop feeding our children trite Christian nursery rhymes and begin to nurture their sensibilities with the cultural traditions of the historic Christian Church. We have to mold their malleable hearts from the earliest of ages to love the right way. Even before they are capable of believing the right things or living the right way or even loving the right things, they can learn how to love rightly and what reverent worship feels like. We have got to commit to nurturing our youngest children in the fear of the Lord. They are our greatest hope in the conservation of biblical worship.
Note: PDF of this article coming tomorrow.