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Learning to Worship is Like Learning a Foreign Language

My four-year-old son has been learning French recently. Well, sort of.

We’ve checked out some children’s French DVDs from our local library, and each day he watches the DVD. It’s a silly little story that is spoken entirely in French. It comes with a little book that has screen shots of the different scenes and the translation into English (for the parents).

The other day Caleb sat down on our couch with the book and began reciting the entire story in French from memory as he looked at the screen shots of the scenes he had been watching.

Now, Caleb doesn’t understand what he is saying for the most part; he does know what some of the words mean either from their context in the story or if we’ve told him what they mean. But what he is learning is (a) pronunciation and (b) the flow of basic French phrases.

What’s very interesting is his accent; Caleb can make sounds that are unique to the French language that I certainly can’t make. His vocal mechanisms are not completely developed yet so that he can reproduce with his mouth what his ears hear from the DVD. “They” say that the ability to learn to pronounce such unique sounds ends around age 9 so that even if someone learns a new language after that, he will always have an accent.

At this point, I’m not so concerned that he understand what he’s saying. Rather, he is learning more how to speak French at this stage than what exactly he is doing. He’ll eventually pick up what some of the phrases mean, and then some day, if he studies French more thoroughly, these skills will be natural to him.

As I’ve thought about this, and marveled at a four-year-old’s ability to learn how to speak a foreign language, I’ve come to realize how similar this is to learning to worship. I see several important parallels:

  1. The language of worship is something best learned at an early age. Before a child is shaped by other influences, and before his sensibilities are hardened, he should be taught to worship. The earlier this happens, the more natural right worship will be.
  2. Worship is learned best through immersion. Just like with learning a language, more is “caught” than “taught” with worship. A child learns to worship best by participating in the gathered worship of the Church.
  3. A child will learn how to worship rightly before he will necessarily learn why or what he is doing. But that’s OK. The main point is that if you wait to teach a child how to worship until he has the capacity to understand what and why he is worshiping, his sensibilities will already be shaped by something else. He will worship with an accent. It is important, of course, to teach children why and what they are worshiping, but the how is most important in the early years.

Many people assume that worship comes naturally–that people should just worship with whatever language is most comfortable to them. But this is simply not the case. If the Scriptures and church history reveal anything to us about worship, it is that left to themselves, even God’s people will worship poorly.

People must be taught to worship, and what better time to do so than when a child’s heart is free from so many influences that will give his worship an accent–when his heart is ready to be shaped.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

114 Responses to Learning to Worship is Like Learning a Foreign Language

  1. Interesting—and a very good analogy.

    Just a couple of questions about the language part of it (even though I know it wasn't your main point).

    Who are "they"? I have done some study in phonetics (note: different than phonics), and my impression is that while it is certainly harder to pick up a new language and sounds above a certain age, the sounds themselves are not an impossible barrier. If your ear is trained to know what you are hearing (and how those sounds are physically made), and you are able to take the time with a native speaker to refine you pronunciation—you should be able to get *very* close at least. I would say the "flow" of speech is probably even harder than the phonetic sounds—what word or syllable you accentuate, whether tone goes up or down in a sentence (intonation), etc. While this too can be analyzed and consciously practiced to some degree, it can only really be remedied by hearing as much of the language as you can so that you just know what "sounds right."

    On a more relevant note, being fully "immersed" in the Word of God has the same effect—we are more discerning as to what "sounds right" when we hear someone preach or put out a book.

    Next somewhat unrelated question: what was the DVD? We are looking for some resources for our kids as well.

    We have found that some kids movies have an audio option to watch it in French, which can be useful too.

  2. Hi, Michael. I've not done any research on this of course. I'm just repeating what I've heard. My understanding is that a child's tongue and mouth are still malleable up to a certain age, and after that it is more difficult to form certain sounds that the child is not used to making. I could be wrong, but it makes sense. It was just an illustration, however! :)

    We've gotten him both Professor Toto DVDs and Muzzy. Both are at our library.

  3. I understand. And I think the analogy works; the ideas of their minds and sensibilities being more malleable, learning through immersion, and learning before they know what or how they are learning make perfect sense.

    Sorry that I picked at it too much! Languages are a big interest to me (missions!) so I gravitated toward that.

    Thanks for the info.

  4. Hate to be harsh here, but this is the same Gnostic argument repackaged: I have been initiated into the deeper worship and knowledge of God and you must follow after me to gain this insight (Col. 2:18). There is too much room for superiority in this argument (viz., I worship better than you because I've got a college degree in church music – yes, I've heard that one before). If we turn worship into a tiered structure and a competition where some people worship better than others, then we have eliminated the character of truly biblical worship, namely, equally hopeless humanity falling before a holy God and crying "Woe is me!"

    I don't doubt that there is right worship (spirit and truth) and wrong worship (no/false spirit and no truth/false doctrine), but are there levels of right worship (good, better, best)? Can you substantiate the latter via Scripture?

  5. Philip,

    Do you really believe that these categories are completely distinct?

    I'm almost more inclined to believe that the pure categories never exist is practice: that is, there is no church anywhere that has flawless doctrine and perfect spirit in worship, and that there is no church anywhere that has doctrine which is false at every point and is utterly corrupt in every element of its spirit. That churches like this exist is far less plausible than the suggestion that all churches are of mixed truth and mixed spirit.

    As for Scripture substantiation, nearly every single epistle (as well as most of the letters to the Asian churches in Revelation) commend and condemn the churches.

  6. So you would argue that there is no pure worship among saints in the church age then? It also appears that you would argue that we are not discussing categories of good, better, and best worship, but bad, worse, and worst? I guess that this is plausible; however, I am inclined to believe that the mercies of Christ enable sacrificial worship that is acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1-2). I think that Scripture seems to indicate that worshippers are accepted before a throne of grace and not a throne of works. I just think that you may want to ask: what role does my view of the Gospel play in my view of worship?

    As for the Scriptural principle, I do not adhere to Christian perfectionism, and therefore believe that churches can be accused of error . I just wonder whether there are grades of accurate worship.

    So I guess to be consistent then, I would ask: if all churches and saints have fallen short in captureing right doctrine with the right spirit and if their righteousness is as filthy rags, then should any church or saint hold up their flawed standard of worship as normative or "best"?

  7. Philip,

    First, I would wholeheartedly concur that my right thoughts, right deeds, and right affections have no value to merit God's favor. My right standing before God is all of grace, mediated through Christ. In all of these discussions, we should return to that point often. I probably do so less frequently than I ought, and so I appreciate your reminder.

    But we must also remember that Paul regularly warned us about the dangers of cheap grace. And while none of us are saying, "Let's sin so grace may abound," I worry that some seem to say, "Our acceptance by the Father is all of grace, and so these questions of possible sin don't matter."

    Since we have framed some of the discussion thus far as a matter of worship in spirit and truth, I'd like to pursue this idea of worship in truth first, as it is often less controversial. Perhaps a measure of clarity here will aid us as we step through the difficulties of worship in spirit.

    Surely, you would not say that, since we are accepted by the Father by grace through Jesus, sound doctrine is irrelevant? Furthermore, I think we would agree (I hope) that there are all kinds of doctrinal errors, some of which are not essential to the gospel (for instance, eschatological positions or the nature of Adamic headship) and some of which are (the deity of Christ). I would press further and say that it is likely that all of us maintain some error in our doctrine; while I am convinced that every position I hold is the correct one (else I would not hold it), I am not so arrogant as to believe that I'm actually correct on every point. If I knew where I was mistaken, I would correct myself.

    Nonetheless, as best I know, I believe I have sound doctrine. And I teach the doctrine that I believe is correct; I also teach that positions that differ from mine are not correct. And I expect, for instance, the Presbyterian to do the same, and to teach that I am wrong to be a dispensationalist or a credobaptist.

    Now, you could argue that since doctrinal precision doesn't make us acceptable before God (a point I'd quickly concede), and since whole swaths of Christian doctrine are not unambiguous in Scripture and are thus disputed by true believers who are accepted by a gracious God (another point that I'd also grant), we should not seek to be specific on baptism or eschatology or Calvinism or anything else that Christians debate. After all, to claim to have more insight on issues of doctrine is simply elitist, right?

    But I think that such a conclusion does not follow from the premises; instead, I believe that loving God with my mind means that I (as an individual believer) and my church (inasmuch as God has given me teaching responsibility) need to continue to push to as accurate a theology as we possibly can.

    Now, does admitting that I might be wrong in my theology, that my theology is likely an admixture of truth and error, mean that it is sin for me to write a theology book? To paraphrase your last question, "If all theologians have fallen short in capturing right doctrine, then should any theologian hold up his flawed systematic as normative or best?"

    My answer is that the question is incoherent. It seems to presuppose that I can only claim that my doctrine is better than (for instance) that of Rome if, in fact, my doctrine is perfect. And that is a nonsensical claim.

    Our main contention here at Religious Affections is that God not only has obligations for what we think (sound doctrine) and how we live (Christian ethics), but also for how we love God and creation (right affections). None of us have all the answers; thus, I am convinced that individuals (and churches) represent a spectrum of accuracy in all three of these categories.

    But the fact this or that expression of Christian affection is (almost certainly) imperfect doesn't mean that it's impossible that it is better than some other expression. I think that a claim like that is incoherent and indefensible.

  8. To be honest, I really struggled to follow your argument. Maybe to clarify my last post, I was not stating that I adhered to the counter-positions, but I was simply seeking some clarification from you on the questions I was asking. It just seems to me that your argument ends up being very contradictory (e.g. impossible to worship in truth, yet possible to worship in truth) as presented and that is why I wanted to ask the questions. Maybe I will take time to clarify what I am arguing is:

    – That Scripture speaks to accurate worship as worship grounded in truth. The truth as described in the Bible seems to be centered around the Gospel and its implications in the doctrines considered "fundamental" to the Christian faith. So, we worship in truth insomuch as we ground our worship in the teachings of the Scripture and the truths of the Gospel ("the word of Christ"). We should, IMHO, be cautious when we ground our worship in human reasoning. Hence, I would be cautious in worshipping around denominational distinctives, but that is just my opinion.

    – That Scripture speaks to inaccurate worship as worship that accommodates error (e.g. Churches in Revelation). Whether out-and-out heresy or syncretism, false worship uses or fuses false doctrine into Christian worship. In my view, we would be wrong to attack brothers in Christ of this unless we have solid objective facts and are ready to call them heretics.

    – That Scripture does not speak to levels of accurate worship (i.e. good, better, and best). To argue such is tantamount to Gnosticism and/or the mystery religions of Colossae, which believed that Christians had to go beyond Christ in their worship in order to discover deeper mysteries. I hold that all believers are either worshipping in truth or they are worshipping in error. There are no degrees of error (acceptable error and unacceptable error) and there are no degrees of truth (good, better, and best truth). Truth is truth and error is error. Our understanding of truth may vary, but we still worship in truth. Our projection of truth (which elements of truth we emphasize, how we portray those elements of truth) may vary, but we still worship in truth.

    Hence the questions: Which kind of worship do I reflect, truth or error? Does my attitude toward my brother who worships in a different style than me reflect an understanding that he is worshipping in truth, or does it reflect a sense of pride that he only worships with an inferior truth? Even more thought provoking: does my attitude towards a new believer who is singing (in my traditional worship service) truth that he struggles to understand reflect a sense of pride that he only worships with an inferior truth? Is such an attitude appropriate for fellow-members of Christ's body? Do I feel intimidated by other contemporary worshippers' experiential relationship to the truth and wonder if they have a superior truth to mine? Does it concern me that Peter and Paul and John may have worshipped with superior truth than mine? Have I made worship into a game of who has better or more truth than the other?

  9. Having read these posts from opposite ideologies, I want to throw out the question to both Phillip and Michael: is there truth expressed in "style?" To be fair, I don't believe in the commonly held concept of worship styles, but since Phillips has posited the idea, I'd love to hear both of you address the subject if you're willing. My experience has been that this is the practical crossroads where we diverge – theological pragmatists to "modernity" and fundamentalists to "tradition."

  10. Charles,

    Thanks for your insightful question. I've tried to keep my posts on this thread connected specifically to the objective doctrinal content in the worship itself (i.e. "truth"). Most of the Religious Affections writers categorize the style issue under "spirit" and not "truth." In order to be fair to their paradigm (whether or not it is accurate), I have avoided bringing the topic up here.

    Since you have brought it up, I will address it, but will differ from the dichotomy that you have presented. The question to me is not a question of "modernity" vs "tradition", but a question of communion around the Gospel through effective communication in music. In other words, I don't ask whether my worship appeals to 21st century culture or to 16th century culture, but I ask, "what style best matches how my congregation communicates God and how God communicates to them." This question is not pragmatic, but biblical. I would look to the basis of I Cor. 14 on this subject. Essentially, this passage discourages us from worshipping in a manner in which congregants and (dare Paul say) the unsaved cannot understand. To worship in this manner both fails to edify God's people and simply serves as a judgment to the unbeliever who witnesses it. With this goal in mind, I seek to express truth in a format that not only affects the mind, but also the "spirit" because it is spoken in the language of common man both linguistically and stylistically. Anything less is essentially…speaking in tongues!

    The reason why I think this is SO important is that when God communicated His divine Word to us, He spoke in a way that we can understand. In regard to the written Word, Calvin: "God lisps to us in His Word." God spoke to us not in some heavenly language, but in common forms like Koine (marketplace) Greek. This is the cause of the stress that the Reformers put on translating the written Word into the common language. Even further, when God actually revealed Himself to us, He did not do so in spirit, but in human flesh. He came wearing our clothes, attending our weddings, expressing our emotions, eating our food, sailing in our boats, worshipping in our messed up temple, and dying just like us. If God communicated in such an imminent and real and human way, should not our worship speak to Him in such a manner? This is what I call incarnational worship.

    Hope that helps communicate my perspective on the challenging issue of style in worship.


  11. I've tended to frame the discussion this way: I think it's helpful (though not a biblical essential) to think of man in terms of mind, will, and emotion. In those categories, the standard for a rightly-ordered mind (orthodoxy) is what God thinks; the standard for a rightly-ordered will (orthopraxy) is God's character; and the standard for a rightly-ordered emotion (orthopathy) is God's valuing of things.

    So here's the basic problem that I have with your question: I think it tends to confuse categories. Truth, as a goal, applies most clearly to the mind, to orthodoxy, to the mental aspect of man. Truth, at least as we process it, tends to be propositional in nature.

    So, in my estimation the question "Does style communicate truth?" creates problems. Style is non-propositional. Style (in this discussion) pertains to the quality of the poetry of our lyrics, and the form of our music. Neither of these are propositional, and thus it seems confused, in a strict sense, to label either true.

    Does that mean that style is irrelevant? Me genoito! Such would only be the case if truth were the only standard to which our Lord holds us. As I suggest above, however, I think we have obligations not only in our beliefs, but also in our behaviors and our loves.

    So, to dredge up a well-used example, consider the following bit of doggerel:

    God is here, God is there.

    We know our God is everywhere.

    He's up your nose, between your toes, and even in your garden hose!

    Assuming that we'd agree that this is problematic, we have to consider the nature of the problem. And I would contend that the problem is not reducible to the category of truth, as every proposition in this poem is true.

    The problem is that the choice of examples, the meter, everything about the style of the poem is wrong. And the problem with bad style is not that it says things that are false, in a propositional sense. Rather, the problem is that bad style encourages a wrong valuing, a wrong feeling about it's subject (in this case, the Chief of all subjects).

    Philip's last post illustrates what I would consider a common, painfully-reductionistic view of the Christian faith. The faith that Philip wants to proclaim seems reducible to right propositions, and so our chief task as church leaders is to get the right propositions into the heads of our congregants. And so if clichéd poetry and pop music is the most efficient medium for the communication of propositions (and they might be; try getting ad jingles out of your head), then we must use them. Banality becomes our Christian duty.

    But if, perhaps, God cares not only what we believe, but how we feel about those truths, then style is a real, important issue.

  12. Michael,

    Wouldn't you say, though, that the wrong values of your example limits (for lack of better terminology) the propositions (or the perception of them), therefore rendering the piece as a whole inaccurate?

  13. David,

    I would agree that if a piece of poetry says something that is true, but does so using a style that encourages us to feel wrongly about those truths, than the piece as a whole ought to be rejected. What I want to avoid saying, however, is that the bad form falsifies the propositions themselves. To say something like that, in my estimation, confuses categories that are most helpful when kept distinct.

  14. How is it "painfully reductionistic" to insist that worship must communicate to the worshippers? Especially when this is the whole point of I Cor. 14.

    How do I reduce everything just to right propositions, when I state that we must have truth, but we must put it in a style that communicates to worshippers? I am emphasizing right propositions in the most communicative format.

    Take me to task on the points that I have presented (e.g. I Cor 14, the written Word, and the Incarnate Word), not on distortions of what I have said.

  15. Great point. The poem does not even express truth. It is essentially teaching pantheism (there is a little bit of God in everything).

  16. No, I'd say it expresses God's omnipresence (God is literally inside my garden hose). It just expresses it in a way that inspires silly giggles rather than awe, wonder, and delight (more proper responses to God's characteristics). I'd say this might answer the question, "What constitutes “feeling wrongly” and how is this achieved?"

  17. David:

    Let’s use the example a little further. What I would like to do is the following:

    -Suggest that the issue of the poem is much stickier than we would like to admit.

    -Suggest that similar “great hymns of the faith” have similar issues with the truth that they communicate.

    -Suggest a better way forward.

    First, given that we accept the poem as teaching omnipresence and not pantheism (a line which is easy to cross and I believe has been crossed in the poem), then we must consider your reasoning for rejecting it. You have rejected it because it inspires “silly giggles” and not “awe, wonder, and delight.” Consider for a moment your audience. For a mature adult who has been saved for 20+ years to be singing this song would most certainly inspire “silly giggles.” A young child who has been saved for a year or so may sing a little ditty like this and express “awe” (isn’t that awesome that God is between my toes and I didn’t ever see Him there before?). They may also express “wonder” (how does God fit in my garden hose, especially when there is water in it?). They may express “delight” (isn’t it so exciting that God is in my nose when I’m asleep at night!). So if the poem is capable of garnering proper expressions, then is it acceptable? My answer is no, because it has erred doctrinally by overemphasizing the immanence of God near to the point of pantheism.

    Second, if we want to wade deeper into the issue, let us consider for a moment some of the songs that we sing on a regular basis. What do songs like this inspire from contemporary audiences?

    "Teach me some melodious sonnet," (God wants me to sing sonnets and I don’t even know what they are)

    "Sung by flaming tongues above." (OK…whose tongue is on fire???)

    "Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it," (Wait, something about a song, then a stream, now a mountain that I'm supposed to praise and God wants me to be fixed upon it? What does this even mean???)

    "Here I raise my Ebenezer;" (so does this mean that God is a stingy old man now?)

    "Let Thy goodness, like a fetter," (what in the world is a fetter and how is God’s goodness like one?)

    My concern, then is that in avoiding music that is doctrinally suspect, we continue to sing songs that are doctrinally confusing. If we expect our congregants to worship in truth, but the truth is hidden in lyrics that are dated and confusing, then how are we fulfilling our calling to worship in truth?!? If we worship a supposedly immanent God, but we have to address Him with “Thee” and “Thou” and “Thine,” and if the lyrics portray God in a manner which is wholly inapproachable and even bizarre (expecting sonnets, wanting us to praise mountains, and likened to Ebenezer Scrooge), then how have I not done damage to the truth, rather than communicating it? I don’t cite “Come Thou Fount” (and I could have chosen several dozen others) because I hate it; I cite it because I love it. The tune is singable and communicates well even in modern worship (hey…you can even scoop and slide a little!), most of the lyrics present understandable doctrine, but a large portion of the hymn is not able to communicate truth to a modern congregation. I would love to sing the song often, but I have given it up because I want to communicate truth to my congregation.

    Finally, I would like to suggest a better way forward. This better way forward looks even deeper at the truth conveyed by the lyrics of the song. Does the song overemphasize the immanence of God (as in the case of Michael’s poem)? Does the song overemphasize the transcendence of God (as in the case of “Come Thou Fount”)? After the song passes the test of communicating accurate doctrine in an understandable and relevant fashion, then it must pass the test of communicating in a style that is understandable and relevant too.

  18. I think it is a mistake to equate moderate complexity of expression (people know what sonnets and fetters are– literature and history are still required subjects in most schools) with irrelevance. It's certainly a mistake to assert it results in "doctrinal confusion." Furthermore, I'd say it's a mistake to equate easy apprehension with relevance.

    I'm not arguing for the opaque, but we ought not strip our art of its art.

  19. David,

    Keep in mind that your view comes from a position of one who loves art and has had a quality high school and possibly even greater education (college and/or post graduate). What may seem like "moderate complexity" to you and I, often is a stumblingblock to brothers that don't have MDiv's. In the words of Frame: "When sophisticated members of the church insist that worship employ only the most sophisticated music of their culture, what happened to their love for those who are poorly educated or of a different cultural stream? Or, from the opposite side of our musical wars: when advocates of contemporaneity want to set the traditions of the church completely aside and replace them with something largely meaningless to the older generation, are they acting in love?" (CWM, 24-25)

    And yes, Elizabethan English is irrelevant. You don't talk to your earthly father like that, why would you talk to your Heavenly Father in this manner? We don't communicate like that in conversation, why would we converse with God in a special code? That which does not relate to us is, by definition, irrelevant, and, therefore, not appropriate for the worship of our God.

    Irrelevance ends up creating doctrinal confusion for the same reason that worship in Latin did as well. When God can only be worshipped by the elite who understand and are comfortable with our codes and our "Thee's and Thou's," then our worship is no different than that of the Colossian cultists. We worship a god who is wholly transcendant and inaccessible when we pursue this route. Once again, Frame: "We do not glorify God in worship if we fail to communicate on the human level" (CWM, 18).

    Your statement "we ought not strip our art of its art" is VERY revealing of the core of the issue at hand. Is our worship (as I have heard it stated before) "a piece of art that does not relate to the worshipper, but we hang it before them anyways"? And is this a biblical model of worship? Sometimes I wonder if we have elevated (idolized) the artistic value of our worship and lost the true value of worship (viz., humbly glorifying God and edifying others by communicating Gospel elements such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication in methods such as song, prayer, giving, reading, ordinances, and preaching). Here I find another quotation from Fame to be appropriate: "Antiquarians who love Gregorian chants and attend churches that use such music need to ask God to guard their hearts, lest they get so absorbed in the aesthetic qualities of the music that they lose grip on the higher purpose of the worship" (CWM, 60-61).

    In other words, if you had to choose between your preference for high art and communication to your brother who is disoriented because of it, which would you choose?

  20. Philip,

    I have many things I'd like to say, and perhaps I will get around to writing a longer reply today. At this point, however, I'd suggest that a key difference between you and me is our understanding of the the one to whom the worship service is directed. Based on what you've written here, your unrelenting concern is that the worship service target the worshiper clearly. This is the point that you come back to over and over and over again.

    I believe that the worship service is directed primarily to Someone else. And while that does not discount your legitimate points about understandability, etc., it does reshape the discussion so radically that, should we disagree at this point, we will likely not agree about anything further.

  21. Michael,

    That is a gross misrepresentation of what I have said. I do not hold that worship is directed towards the worshipper alone. I follow the paradigm of Col 3:16, which describes worship as both "to the Lord" (glorifying God) and "speaking to yourselves" (edifying our brothers). If we pursue the former without the latter, we end up with a I Cor. 14 scenario. If we pursue the latter without the former, we end up with idolatry.

  22. Phillip, I too have read the exchange and I did NOT see you say that at all either. However, I've been reading this blog for a while and the typical manner of response of several of the authors is to misrepresent what their opponent has said and then focus on that misrepresentation. Notice that they have yet to respond to most of your arguments, several of which were very well stated and much more articulate than most contemporary thinkers.

    If worship is indeed a cycle of revelation from God and our response to His revelation, then both communications must be in a "language" that understandable by the participant. This does not mean that worship is primarily for the participant, but that it must be meaningful to him. To state otherwise would be the equivalent of mandating that a missionary require new converts both hear scripture in English only and pray in English only. That would be silly, but it is the same idea.

  23. David, I think you way overestimate the American educational system!

    That aside, where in the Bible does it teach the act of worship is to be comprised of "art?"

  24. Philip,

    My intention was certainly not to misrepresent your position, but to highlight what seems to me to be a major difference between us. Let me state this clearly: I do not believe at all that you wish to exclude from consideration the idea that worship is directed toward God.

    Can I rephrase my last post? My point is that, in this thread, your chief argument is that worship must take into consideration the capabilities and sensibilities of the worshiper.

    Is that a fair statement of our discussion to this point?

  25. John,

    Thank you for your kind (and very undeserved) comments. I feel that some of the writers in this forum are more interested in the debate than others. For example, David and I have discussed at length in a fair manner. I definitely don't appreciate getting pidgeon-holed by some of the others as some "church growth," CCM-blaring, U2 fan. I am not a radical. I do not hate traditional music (my church relies over 95% on it). I am not emergent. I have not read Rick Warren. I have, however, approached these topics with a different set of eyes than they have. This understanding began as a teenager who read much that was presented by Garlock, Fisher, et al. I have sorted through their arguments and have rejected many of the faulty points, but have appreciated their emphasis on glorifying God and His holiness. I have also learned much from the writings of Kauflin, Frame, and Chapell. Much of their views reflect a balanced approach to the topic that can be employed whether the worshipper finds traditional or contemporary worship to be best suited to worshipping God in the context in which he finds himself. And yes, all of my arguments are certainly not being answered, but I am still wrestling with some of theirs, so I try to understand when some of my points are ignored.

    I love your point on revelation and response. Exactly on target.

  26. Michael,

    That has been my chief argument because I believe that it is what is being ommitted in your argument. Just as I would not primarily argue that Christ was fully man or that God the Father is truly God to an Arian does not mean that I don't believe that they are such, neither does my approach in this context mean that I devalue or disregard the glorification of God in worship. It's a tightrope, and one which, from the arguments above and my perception (I pray that it is just my perception), most of the writers here have fallen from by leaning too heavily to one side. So, yes, your correction is a fair representation, but not for the reason that you may wish to believe.

  27. Philip,

    I completely accept that your argument is lopsided because of the context of this discussion, despite your attempt to read my thoughts about your motives ("not for the reason that you may wish to believe"). I am not lumping you with any group, and you've not given me any reason to identify you with Warren or U2 or whomever. To the best of my knowledge, we don't know each other, and I don't recall interacting in discussion before this one.

    But I would say that, to some degree, the claim you make about your arguments is true of me: the arguments I find myself compelled to make are, at times, put out of balance by our present (wider) context. I don't think that either of us, today, would say that the loudest, most influential voices in evangelicalism at calling for less concern with contextualization, etc. Rather, if I'm looking at the broad landscape of American evangelicalism (including the fundamentalists), the push seems to be to reshape worship by given first consideration to something about the worshipers.

    So both of us believe that worship is directed toward God and must be worthy of him, and that it is really important for the worshiper to understand what he is doing. All that remains is to define how to articulate a method of advancing both purposes simultaneously.

  28. Michael,

    Thank you for the fair analysis. I did not attempt to read your thoughts or motives. I was simply expressing that you may *wish* to believe that I am arguing these points out of a mindset that seeks to devalue God and His holiness, but I am most certainly not. If I were, it would be a lot easier to disreguard my points. I will also work under the assumption that you have not read into my positions. I will work under the assumption that you see a matrix (to borrow your use of the term) of issues at work within the worship discussion and not an either/or position.

    I do accept your counterpoint that in order to deal with your context, you must put a heavy emphasis on the glorification of God; however, my thought is that a clearer articulation of the second half of worship would certainly not hurt and would keep people like me from suspecting that it is entirely missing, but I leave you guys to hash out how to approach the topics. I just give feedback.

    Thanks for the understanding, brother.

  29. For some reason I can't comment any longer under the subcomment threads . . .

    But in response to John's question about art: As for scriptural warrant, the Psalms are art and worship. Beyond that, all music and poetry is art (however good or bad), and each art has it's techniques and its traditions. Philip was asserting that the metaphor (the rock, sonnet), imagery (flaming tongues), and allusion (rock, Ebenezer) in Come Thou Fount caused doctrinal confusion and was irrelavent or inauthentic.I respond by saying, to write a poem without these wouldbe to essentially rhyme the catechism. I don't want that, and neither do you.

    If Bloom is correct that good poetry is as allusive as it is figurative, then we are justified both in using figure (flaming tongues and all!) and in using older examples from our tradition (like Come Thou Fount) so that our congregants understand on those rare occassions that our modern songs reference the older. Who would want to forego the opportunity to allow that sort of "dialogue" between saints today and saints of the past?

    "In other words, if you had to choose between your preference for high art and communication to your brother who is disoriented because of it, which would you choose?"

    False dichotomy. I'm not arguing for antiquarianism. I'm arguing for including the traditions of our fathers in the faith alongside our own efforts in that same tradition.

  30. Please let me correct myself. "Rock" above should be "mount". Sorry.

    And, for what it's worth. Come Thou Fount's 'thees" and "thous" aren't too high-falutin' for Dave Crowder Band, Sufjan Stevens, and one Bob Kauflin.

    But we are way off the point of the OP at this point. All that to say, I don't think Scott's some sort of neo-gnostic for making this point. If a child grows up in a community dedicated to timeless worship (the excellent of new and old), s/he'll, by immersion, know what it all means and the glorious beauty of it.

  31. Art and worship. I like Lewis (Christian Reflection) on this point. He held that art is a manner in which God is glorified, but only in the sense that He is glorified by an unsaved artist excercising all of his God-given abilities on the masterpiece. God is glorified in the athlete running his fastest and in the beauty of the waterfall, but only in a limited sense (viz., all of these are replicating a creative purpose); however, the uniquely Christian aspect of worship arrives when we glorify God with our mind, will, and emotions. In this moment, our whole man recognizes God for who He is, falls before Him in humility, receives pardon, raises prasing, and moves forward to live in the Gospel. This is uniquely Christian glorification of God. We err, when we loose the latter by striving too much for the former. Once we loose the latter, we have devalued our worship to the level of the unsaved. Can Psalms be art and worship? Yes. Is that to say that one of our most important goals is to make worship into art? No! Just because something can be judged aesthetically and implements artistic elements (i.e. metaphor, allusion, and imagery) does not demand that God judges these things aesthetically. My point is that if the time comes where I have to make the decision between art and glorifying/edifying, art will go. Is this a false dichotomy? In the sense that *some* art does not fail to edify, then you are accurate; however, there are a number of examples where it does fail to edify. My question is, in these examples, will you hold to your high art or aim to edify your brother?

    Traditions are fine. Continuity in the family of faith is wonderful. The King James Version was great. The Latin Vulgate was inspirational. Just because the Bible underwent a translation into the vernacular, the tradition of Christianity did not get thrown by the wayside (as some hyper-fundamentalists argue). There has to be room for both honoring the past, but making truth relevant to the modern worshipper. From the positions I have seen here, there seems to be an overephasis on the traditions of the past and not enough emphasis on the modern worshipper.

    The typical approach seems to tell the modern worshipper, "just deal with it." In not so few words. Arguments such as: "it's like learning a foreign language" and "you find it irrelevant because you were debasing your affections during the week" are simplistic and treat a brother who struggles to understand our worship as if he is the problem. He is the one that needs to come to our enlightened level. No! I hate to be repetitive, but review 1 Cor 14. See if this was Paul's model for dealing with a very similar situation. Did he respond by telling the Corinthian believers, "worship is like learning a foreign language, once your immature believers get with the program and start interpreting tongues then you will all be worshipping in spirit and in truth"?

    We've got to consider a broader paradigm in the worship discussion.

  32. As for the examples cited above (Crowder, Kauflin, et al), I have no problem if they feel that it is appropriate to use language in worship that is less than relevant to my congregation. At least none of those examples attempt to make their use of this language and traditional hymnody normative for others.

  33. I'm going to close my participation with a clarification. I want to state outright that worship must be first be true, then beautiful. Howver, I reject notions implying that excellence in art is for the concert hall, the library, the university, the practice studio, the public radio stations, but not for the church service, not to be offered to our King. In doing so I do not believe I reject the accessible or inclusive. I don't see an either/or here.

    I'm involved in a (Lord willing) church plant. Each week, farmers, factory workers, homemakers, and business men are singing songs 1600 years old, 300 years old, and a few months old alongside each other. None of them bats an eye or screws up their face. Sure we talk about what they mean. We define the obscure terms. We discuss the background circumstances. But we sing them.

    Respond as you will.

  34. Michael, it sounds like we have similar backgrounds and experiences on this issue. I would have to throw Bill Gothard in on my background as well.

    My background is as one who vehemently opposed all "rock" music, even writing letters of protest to my pastor (I grew up Southern Baptist), and ostracizing my brothers in Christ who did utilize contemporary forms. Thankfully, God worked in my heart, and through His grace I am much different now. I have grown to see the value in contemporary music, and praise God for the Kauflins and Gettys of the world who are recapturing the heart of worship that even I’ll admit was obscured for a few decades.

    The thing I remember about holding to those extremist positions is that I could never allow for anyone else to be even partially right. Because if I ever admitted that they were right about something, then I had to deal with the fact that they could be right about other areas. So rather than ever engaging someone head-on, I would find something else (usually semantic) to grasp onto, and fight them there until they were too frustrated to continue. And I felt justified in doing so. After all, the glory of God was at stake! If I didn’t convince everyone that they were worshiping the wrong way, then somehow God’s kingdom was going to suffer. My own arrogance even now amazes me.

    The funny thing is, my understanding of worship never changed through this transition. Oh, it’s gotten deeper and more thorough theologically, but my understanding of the heart of worship is the same now as it was then. See, this whole discussion isn’t a worship issue; it’s a style/heart/preference issue.

    Once I finally grasped the concept of grace, the centrality of the gospel, spiritual liberty, and the work of the Holy Spirit, things changed. My whole argument (the same one presented often on this forum) fell like a house of cards. I realized there was nothing Biblical about it. Oh, I had proof texts that I could quote, and concepts that I could stretch to mean what I wanted them to mean, but they weren’t God’s truth. I was simply fighting furiously to defend a position which I had been taught from childhood.

    I don’t know why I’m writing all this, other than to say that the reason these gentlemen won’t interact with you is because they can’t. Their arguments aren’t strong enough to stand against the light of God’s grace, God’s word, and God’s redeeming work.

  35. David, you can state something outright all day long, but it doesn't make it true. Since you're obviously done here, I'll keep this short. Jesus said that we are to worship the father in Spirit and Truth, so you're only 50% right. Truth is key, yes, but only half the equation.

    Beauty is nice. I'm a professional musician, and I love beauty. Beauty is not a biblical mandate for worship. Beauty can easily become and idol. Just because something is aesthetically beautiful doesn't make it fit for worship. Just because something is not it is not necessarily unfit.

  36. One more clarification is in order, I guess. I made the statment about truth and beauty to clarify that I did not think beauty to supersede or be pursued at the expense of truth (although the truth is beautiful). Nor did I mean to imply negation/ignorance of the necessity worship being in spirit.

  37. Philip,

    I do hope these last couple of posts have done some good, for both of us, in granting each other the benefit of doubt. Neither of us, I fear, fully understands the other's position, and I will confess that it is easy for me to assume that I understand more about my interlocutors than they do about themselves; this is uncharitable, and does not help conversation.

    Can we return to an earlier point in the discussion? You made this statement a while back: "There are no degrees of error (acceptable error and unacceptable error) and there are no degrees of truth (good, better, and best truth). Truth is truth and error is error. Our understanding of truth may vary, but we still worship in truth. Our projection of truth (which elements of truth we emphasize, how we portray those elements of truth) may vary, but we still worship in truth."

    I still find this utterly baffling. Perhaps you will appreciate this irony: it's not often that those of us arguing for conservatism get to tell the other guy, "You're seeing things too much in black and white!" :)

    How is, for instance, a "variable understanding of the truth" (a paraphrase of your words above) different than "a degree of error"?

  38. Hello, all. Sorry I haven't been involved in this discussion, but I've been following it with interest.

    So, Philip. I'm honestly having a difficult time understanding your initial objection. Are you really against the concept of teaching children how to worship properly? Do you really think adults who have worshiped for years have nothing to impart to children or even to other new Christians?

    Do you have children?

    That, after all, was the point of this post.

  39. I have been following this string with interest as well. As a father of four young adults ranging in age from 15 to 21 many of PhilT's questions are ones I have faced and had to answer as a parent. Scott, you and I both graduated from the same institution, and like PhilT I have had wrestled through these exact questions in the 29 years since I first heard Garlock, Fischer & Gustafuson express them. I don't necessarily believe whether PhilT has children makes his questions any less relevant. I believe we would be better off teach discernment to our children than "prescribing" music preferences to them. I believe PhilT has asked some very well reasoned and well articulated questions based on scripture and I appreciate the spirit in which he has asked them.

  40. Michael,

    I will answer your question with a question: Did Paul always project/portray truth the same way regardless of his audience? Did Paul always emphasize the same doctrines? Analyze his addresses at Mars Hill vs. those to primarily Jewish congregations. Is one less "truthy" than the other?

    As to "gray areas": No one is saying by this that these are areas in which gradients of truth exist. That is not at all what is meant by that phrase. What is indicated (according to my understanding) by this phrase is that these areas are areas in which the truth of God's Word does not directly speak to and gives the believer room to exercise Christian liberty. The formation and style and music of worship would seem to fit this concept; however, doctrinal accuracy (truth) does not fit within the paradigm.

    In other words, just because the format or style may change does not demand that the truth is somehow less than truth. So, I will return to my initial question: Can you show me from Scripture an example or passage that clearly teaches a hierarchy of truth (good, better, and best) as opposed to a truth/error paradigm?

  41. Scott,

    My response is aimed at your conclusion which is broader than just being directed at parents/children, where you stated:

    "Many people assume that worship comes naturally–that people should just worship with whatever language is most comfortable to them. But this is simply not the case."

    My concern is that you and many of the writers here have swung the pendulum in the opposite direction, ignoring the worshipper altogether, emphasizing the uncomfortable, and demanding additional "enlightenment" for Christians. In a similar sense, the Gnostics and mystery religions taught: (1) "Your flesh is evil, god is not worthy of your desires (touch not, taste not, handle not)." (2) "Make your flesh uncomfortable so that you can worship in truth" (Col. 2:23). (3) "If you could only worship like me…I've learned the secret art of worshipping god in spirit and in truth" (Col. 2:18). There is a strong sense where putting truth on a sliding scale, a graduating paradigm of good, better, and best, (cf. Gnostic levels of spirits graduating to the Father) we devalue the true sense of worship as I have argued above. This is the concern that I am expressing.

    In order to remain true to the approach that I have laid out in regard to worship, then I would argue that truth must be relevant to the worshipper in order for worship to take place. It must MEAN something. Teaching children to repeat obtuse creeds and to sing 16th century English only have their place insomuch as someone is willing to make that truth relevant to them (not just reciting for immersion's sake). If we follow this route, we are in danger of guiding children towards the vain repetition which our Lord warned us so strongly against. An even better paradigm is to simplify catechisms and songs so that truth is taught in a manner and style that is easiest to be understood so that it may affect their hearts and lives (whole man sanctification). The deeper question to me is: Do we want children to learn to worship like mommy and daddy (like several generations of Fundamentalists have done) or to worship in spirit and in truth? Or, do we see our role as "enlightening" the less mature or as allowing the immature to mature by presenting truth in a manner in which they can understand.

    Follow-up questions: Do you teach adult Sunday School the same way you would teach 1st grade Sunday School? Do you preach at the "top tier" of your congegation so that the others may come up to that level?

    As to your question: The Lord has not seen fit to bless me and my wife with a child. I hope that this is not a problem.

  42. The issue is not whether one has children. The issue is whether we believe that adults should teach their children how to worship. If you do not believe that, then we have a fundamentally different understanding of what worship is and the nature of sanctification and Christian education.

    I believe that the entirety of what it means to be a Christian (including how to worship) is something that is taught, and the more that I can help my unregenerate children develop habits and sensibilities that fit with what I consider biblical Christianity before they are converted, the better.

    What else is my responsibility as a parent? Is it only to lead them to the point of conversion? I do not believe that is so; that is certainly a huge part of my responsibility, but I believe my responsibility is to disciple my children, which involves informing their affections and sensibilities, their loves and their hates.

  43. Sorry, Philip. For some reason I didn't see your reply until just now.

    First, let me just say that my question as to whether you had children was only out of curiosity. If you had children, I was going to ask what you considered your responsibility toward them concerning worship. Only a question of curiosity; doesn't really affect this discussion per se.

    Second, I would never say that there is some kind of "mysterious" way of worshiping that can only be understood by the "enlightened." Far from it.

    What I would suggest is that two factors make worshiping however we naturally feel incline unwise: (1) the reality of the sinfulness and deceptiveness of our own hearts, and (2) the sinful culture in which we find ourselves. Both of these factors shape our hearts and sensibilities (and those of our children) so that we need teaching to help us understand how God expects us to worship him.

    Why is it that we assume we need teaching regarding right beliefs (we would never believe the right things left to ourselves) and right actions (we wouldn't live right unless we were taught), but somehow we can naturally intuit how to worship God aright?

  44. James and Scott, I think one of the key issues at play here is whether we are dealing with the internal or external aspects of worship. As a fellow parent, I desire to teach my children how to worship internally according to the guidelines of scripture, primarily that of worshiping in Spirit and in Truth. I long and pray that my children will not only come to a saving knowledge of the gospel, but that they will actively engage in worshiping the Lord as He desires. I will fight to the end to see that this happens.

    However, when it comes to the externals of worship (styles, Bible versions, attire, etc), my only desire is that my children approach these issues with wisdom informed by scripture. My job as a parent is not to train up clones, but to teach the principles by which my children come to make their own decisions. If they are not the same choices that I would make, so be it.

    Is there a relationship between internals and externals? Of course there is. Will I teach my children what I think about the externals? Definitely. Will I even force them to comply with my views until they are mature enough to make their own decisions? Yes.

    The problem I see, especially in conservative circles, is that parents feel that it is their sacred duty to make sure that their kids believe the same things that they do in areas which are governed by spiritual liberty (PhilT's gray areas). They believe that they can keep their kids from erring by giving them rules and boundaries which must be kept, such as the rock music prohibition. Yet, spiritual growth is not an external issue. It is internal, reflected by external.

    As one wise man (I can't remember his name) put it once in an article: "We can try to build a hedge around our children trying to keep sin out, but the problem is, sin is already inside the hedge."

  45. Philip, I don't think Christian liberty is in the fundamentalist vocabulary. :-)

    Truthfully though, there is a real sense from that camp that they have somehow found the right way to worship God, and unfortunately the vast majority of Christianity has managed to miss it. But all we would have to do is get our hearts right (defined: see things the way that they do), and we could worship God properly. Apparently, I will never be able to worship God that way because a portion of the means I use to do so causes me to "feel wrongly" about Him. Too bad for me…

  46. Worship is at its core a response of the whole man (mind, will, and emotions) to the Gospel (the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the saving/sanctifying grace available in Jesus Christ). This response is not "natural" to the fallen man, but it is to the redeemed man. Although this response may need to be elicited, there is no necessity to have to instruct a believer how to express this. My point is that instead of trying to teach children (or anyone, for that matter) to replicate my particular form or style of worship, why not allow them to replicate the substance of worship? They cannot replicate this unless they understand this; therefore, worship must be a genuine (understood, not simply imitated) communication of them to God. Anything less is vain repetition or less-than-Christian worship.

    This is really just what I have stated above rehashed to answer your question, so I feel that I am beginning an exercise of futility and vain repetition myself. I may make a few more replies, but I think my points on this thread are coming to a close. Respond as you will.

  47. John,

    "My job as a parent is not to train up clones, but to teach the principles by which my children come to make their own decisions."

    "Yet, spiritual growth is not an external issue. It is internal, reflected by external."

    Right on brother. We should get together sometime…maybe you can help me with my book. ;) Send me an e-mail (

  48. Great point: The exclusionary mentality definitely prevails in Fundamentalism (music, Bible Versions, dress, etc.). We have become the arbiters of truth, and everyone else that differs from us just missed the boat. I mean, didn't you know that the Laodicean church used the NIV and sang Steve Green!?!

  49. John C wrote: "My job as a parent is not to train up clones, but to teach the principles by which my children come to make their own decisions. If they are not the same choices that I would make, so be it."

    Is there any way to determine whether these decisions are right or wrong?

  50. JohnC…I appreciated your comments, and to all on this post I agree wholeheartedly that parents need to teach and model worship to our children from infancy up through adulthood. All my life I have worshiped in churches that are Independent and fundamental Baptist. My father was a choir director for 30+ years and he modeled and taught me his musical preferences. My desire for my children first and foremost is that all of their entertainment and musical choices be made in light of scripture and through the leading of the Holy Spirit. I want them to understand how much I love God and desire to ascribe value to Him in every aspect of my life (will, intellect and emotion). But I don't want them simply to parrot my preferences but prayerfully and thoughtfully wrestle through this very important and vital issue. I do fear however in the Fundamentalist subculture that we have a myriad of churches that have empty, hollow and lifeless worship because we fear any and all "emotional" content. I fall to grasp how a hymn writer or lyricist publishing choral or congregational music can still fall back on using Elizabethan English. The cynic in me says this is pandering to a clientele that wants this lofty language so THEY can feel like it is reverent and awe inspiring…and "Thee" "Thou" and "Thine" sells… This reduces worship to being about US and not about God. I worship in a "traditional" church and have for all of my life. "High Church" has the congregation coldly and thoughtlessly mouthing the words and no amount of "training" or "instruction" is going to make them love lifeless and pedantic "worship". Just because it is published by SoundForth, Majesty or Beckenhorst does not automatically make it good…just like if it is published by Sovereign Grace or Getty music automatically makes it bad. Scott…I know your ministry is borne of a fervent desire to honor and glorify God. I hope nothing I post leaves anyone with the impression I do not respect those that desire to ascribe value to my Lord and Savior.

  51. Of course…a study of word of God, a dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and reliance on the grace of the Lord Jesus.

  52. Because I'm arguing against my kids dependence on my interpretation of God's word, resting on my opinions in place of the Holy Spirit, and relying on my (or anyone else's) approval rather than the grace of God.

  53. James,

    Do you feel that Fundamentalism has devalued the emotions and over-elevated the intellect? I sense this in your statement and I resonate with it very much. It seems to me that much of the critique of emotions evoked by music (happy, sad, aggression, fear, surprise, or tranquility) by the hyper-Fundamentalists, seems to often portray those emotions as either wrong in and of themselves or necessarily evoking stronger and deeper emotions/actions (frivolity, despair, wrath, panic, hysteria, or laziness). What do you feel is the best way to involve the whole man in worship (intellect, will, and emotions)?

  54. I’m arguing against my kids dependence on my interpretation of God’s word, resting on my opinions in place of the Holy Spirit, and relying on my (or anyone else’s) approval rather than the grace of God.

    Interesting. Especially in that I don't see a difference between the positions of the folks on this site and what you describe above.

  55. I agree, David. Unfortunately, I think there is enough misrepresentation going on in this thread to build a straw house! :)

    On that note, let me link to a couple things that should show that how I (and others on this site) are being represented is far from reality:

    Further, anyone who knows me recognizes that I am no defender of the worship of most of fundamentalism.

    In fact, I would suggest that how fundamentalists do worship (especially with children) is a perfect example of what I am against in this thread. The reason, for example, that many children who have grown up in fundamentalism (or any other branch of evangelicalism) have to "wrestle" with their worship/music philosophy is that they've been entertained in church all through their childhood and adolescence. Why should they expect any different when they grow to adulthood?

    I think children who grow up with a consistent exposure (immersion) to the rich hymnody of the Christian Church never really wrestle. If their affections are shaped in noble ways from the earliest of ages, they never desire anything else.

    That is what I am advocating for in this post.

  56. I should clarify something then press it a bit. My first paragraph above should indicate it quotes John C.

    Religious Affections Ministries is primarily concerned with a proper understanding of the first and greatest commandment– you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. John, I'll stipulate you are concerned with that as well. But if you don't want your kids to depend on your interpretation of that commandment (as you state above) why would you try to dissuade others from their interpretation?

    What it comes down to is certain foundational assumptions that we don't share, but that I'll be you will pass unquestioningly along to your childeren as givens.

  57. That's because if one spends enough time holding to certain perspectives, it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two. What is only a personal interpretation of scripture is taught as truth, what is simply a man-made philosophy negates the purpose of the Holy Spirit, and fear of screwing up replaces a bold confidence in His grace.

  58. One additional comment.

    I am absolutely in favor of the music of worship being in the language of the people who are worshiping.

    But my solution to the problem we have today is not to dumb down worship to the natural "heart language" of people who have been shaped by secular pop culture.

    My solution is to give them a new language, to show them what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

    In my experience, anyone can learn a new (and better) worship language. It's just easier with children.

  59. "In other words, just because the format or style may change does not demand that the truth is somehow less than truth."

    Again, seeking clarity: I would read this as suggesting that I believe that style changes make otherwise true statements less true. If this is your understanding, I have not made myself clear. This was the whole point of the trite poem about God's omnipresence. Stylistically, the poem is a wreck; nonetheless, each of the propositions in the poem is true. The poem may be incomplete or unbalanced, but the truth content of the propositions remains constant.

    Perhaps we could modify the example. Consider the following pairs of propositions:

    1. Our God fills the heavens.

    2. God is up your nose.

    Now, both of these are incomplete statements of implications of God's omnipresence. Both are, in this sense, fully true. Are we agreed so far?

    If so, my question is this: do these statements, both true, elicit different feelings from us about God's omnipresence? If they elicit different feelings, is one more faithful to the kind of feelings elicited by the Bible, when it speaks of God's omnipresence?

  60. I really am not going to bother stating again what I have already stated above. In essence, I believe that the poem that you refer to does not even meet the standard of biblical truth as the idea of omnipresence is emphasized at such an immanent level that it could easily be construed as pantheism. Several other points were also made above on the silly little poem which I won't restate.

    What I will restate (for the third time) is my question that has thus far remained unanswered: Can you show me from Scripture an example or passage that clearly teaches a hierarchy of truth (good, better, and best) as opposed to a truth/error paradigm?

  61. Philip,

    I do plan to answer your question; in fact, I have already given an answer that you have either overlooked or ignored.

    But you can't claim to have answered my question, because I changed it up, and I think not insignificantly. The proposition "Our God is in the heavens" could be read just as pantheistically as "Our God is up your nose." Both propositions are incomplete statements of omnipresence. But I think it is obvious that they evoke different feelings, and that one set of feelings is compatible with the way that the Bible (our final standard for faith and practice) speak of God's presence.

    Now, back to your question: do you believe that the church at Philadelphia was a better church than the church at Laodicea? Clearly, clearly, both are churches. And yet we seem (in those seven churches) to have degrees of goodness, fidelity, etc.

  62. Scott,

    Please show me where I have misrepresented you. I have attempted to deal with the subject matter which you have presented and the issues that I have with those statements. I have read your straw men post before, but I only found one of them that has come up (emotions), and I do feel that conservatives tend to downplay and moralize emotions (especially those evoked(?) by music), but that is a rather extensive issue in and of itself.

    There are some Fundamentalists who simply entertain, but there is also a large segment (especially in the Greenville, SC area) that follow your paradigm above. My point has been not to endorse simple entertainment or to encourage immersion in "worship" that does not relate to the worshipper (whether young or old). Either end of the spectrum is flawed.

    You said: "I think children who grow up with a consistent exposure (immersion) to the rich hymnody of the Christian Church never really wrestle. If their affections are shaped in noble ways from the earliest of ages, they never desire anything else." You assume much, my friend. I was raised in this tradition and I desire other things. This desire came from a desire for more relevant worship. I was mimicing my parents and fellow congregants and was not really worshipping. I was surprised to find that I was not the only one. And now I argue against such methods.

  63. Scott,

    In essence you are saying: music must be in the language of the worshipper; however, the worshipper's language is not sufficient, so we will teach them a new language to communicate God praise.

    This is the "enlightenment" principle which I am so strongly opposed to. So I can't worship God in my language, but I have to know a heavenly language to worship God? Sound familiar (1 Cor 14)? So I have to be brought into some new special understanding of a "better" worship language in order to be able to worship God? Sound familiar (Col 2)?

    Honestly, this stuff is a little scary.

  64. What I am saying is that there are ways of addressing God that are appropriate, and there are ways that are not, and Christians don't always naturally address God appropriately, depending on his background or how he has been taught.

    Here's is an illustration. I think you would agree (I hope) that there are certain way that are appropriate for you to address your wife, and certain ways that are inappropriate. Imagine a child who grew up in a family where all his parents did was yell and scream at each other. Imagine the environment in which he was reared was nothing but disrespect, tension, and violence. Do you not suppose that one day when he married he would have more of a difficult time addressing his wife in an appropriate manner, even if he truly loved her? Do you not suppose it would be helpful for someone to teach him how to address her in a loving manner?

  65. Scott,

    In that example above, it's obviously a kind of "gnosticism" if you forced a person to learn how to address his wife. Anything we don't know de facto, naturally, automatically, that we have to be taught from others is "gnosticism." Dontchaknow.

    (End sarcasm.)

  66. Yeah, but if you want to know how to address your wife, you just ask her what she wants. Apparently to find out what God wants, we have to find out what He said and then have someone else tell us what He meant, all the while adding layers of restrictions and prohibitions that He never intended.

  67. Scott said: "My solution is to give them a new language, to show them what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise."

    I agree wholeheartedly…but who is to determine what that is? You have your standards, I have mine.

  68. John, as to your first comment, I agree with you. We both likely (hopefully!) draw our conclusions from Scripture, and this is where I insist that healthy debate about such conclusions is what we need. What most concerns me are those who refuse to even have the discussion, arguing that there is no such thing as an inappropriate response.

    John, would you say that there is such a thing as an inappropriate way to address God musically?

  69. Scott, a couple of thoughts…

    Concerning those that seemingly refuse to have the discussion, I have three observations as one who is and has been having this conversation for a number of years:

    1. To most of the people in my (non-fundamentalist) circles, your opinions on style are not even on the radar of possibility. Many would agree with your observations on biblical, deliberate, lifestyle worship…but the whole conservative stylistic slant is viewed as absurd. I'm not trying to be hurtful, only honest. Those in our world view you perspective as a legalistic stance, and as such don't bother giving it any thought at all. unfortunately, they will also never hear the many good things you have to say. In fact, if you didn't make the "conservative worship" issue such a pivotal part of what you teach, I think you could really make a huge difference in the worship scene.

    2. Those who do engage you in discussion struggle to maintain any real interest because your opinion is ultimately very clear. If they thought you were actually open to true interaction, rather than simply defending your position and trying to change theirs, they might maintain a more open dialogue. However, at the end of the day, they do the same thing.

    3. It is also difficult to have a lot of open discussion on this subject because many of us have beat our heads against the wall of fundementalism for many years, knowing that it usually ends the same way. I'll give you credit for being the most intellegent fundamental I've ever interacted with, but at the end of the day you are still defending the same position they always have. Yes, you have much better defense of the position than they do (you actually have one), but it's still the same general ideas that Garlock, Fischer, Johansson, etc have been teaching for years.

    I'll answer your other question momentarily…

  70. Scott: "John, would you say that there is such a thing as an inappropriate way to address God musically?"

    This would depend on whether you are referring to text or music. I already know where you stand on meaning in music from our class together, so it's obvious we disagree strongly there.

    Obviously, any text that includes inappropriate, incorrect, heretical, unbiblical texts would be an inappropriate way to address God.

    As far as music goes, suffice it to say that while there are many styles of music that I personally dislike, I cannot in good conscience, condemn them as inappropriate for carrying the truth of God. I cannot condemn that which God Himself explicitly does not. If God had even given cautions about music, or mentioned styles at all, I would have reason to reconsider. But since God is silent on the issue of worship style, and even most issues of worship form, I cannot pretend to determine for others what is okay and what is not. I must simply remain accountable to the Holy Spirit and the explicit Word of God in light of His matchless grace. And at the end of the day, forms and styles aren't that big of a deal, especially in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they were, then God would have been much clearer.

  71. JohnC,

    Have you ever read Leviticus? Most of Leviticus tells people how God wished to be worshipped at that time. Are you saying that Leviticus has nothing to teach you about worship?

    Do the Tabernacle, Solomon's temple, or the incomplete temple in Ezekiel, with their intricate details, say anything about how we ought to go about worship, or at least think about it?

    Have you ever read the Minor Prophets? What was the big idea in the Minor Prophets? Is there nothing applicable in the Minor Prophets about idolatry today?

    Have you ever read Revelation (if you aren't much of an OT guy)? Is there nothing at all in chapters 2 and 3 that tells you God appreciates some forms of worship more than others?

    And do the heavenly throne room scenes depicted here and there evoke nothing in you to rise above pop expressions toward the God before whom "good" guys collapse in fear and awe?

  72. I don't generally respond to people who disrespect me, in person or on forums. If you would like to rephrase your questions in a more Christian manner, I'll be glad to respond.

  73. John,

    I've tried to structure my argument about style/form this way: while the Bible itself (obviously) has content, it also is a content that is formed a specific way. In other words, even if the Bible doesn't specify form/style, it models form/style.

    My commitment to sola scriptura, then, extends not merely to its doctrinal content, but to the shaping of that content. I must not only say what the Bible says, but I must say that what in a manner consistent with the Bible's own manner of speaking.

  74. 1. But the Bible doesn't even put that standard upon itself, so how can you? To even claim that the Bible's form is a model for worship form or style is unbiblical. If it was, it would say so.

    2. And if it did, I see nothing in the form/model of scripture that would elevate one genre of music over another.

  75. 1. I'm not sure that I fully follow your point here. Are you saying that Scripture itself doesn't say, "Scripture is the model for worship forms," and so my argument fails?

    2. Can we say that a piece of music has a "feel" to it? I don't care at this point whether that "feel" is intrinsic, associative, or whatever else; I'm just asking if a piece of music evokes a certain feeling. Does a poem have a kind of feel to it as well? A psalm? A letter?

    If this forms of art (and they are forms of art) evoke feelings, we can ask about the compatibility of the feeling evoked by this as over against the feeling evoked by that.

    We may not agree; in fact, we're nearly certain not to agree fully. I'm OK with that. But I think there is a basis for making the evaluation.

  76. 1. Yes, that's what I'm saying. There are certain things that the Bible tells us about itself: that it is profitable for instruction, that it is the word of God, that it is sharper than any two-edged sword, etc. In fact, all that we understand the Bible to be comes from the Bible itself. Nowhere does it teach that it's form is a model for the form or style of worship. This is why I long have had issue with "models" based on scripture, such as Ithe saiah 6 model, Tabernacle model, etc. It's giving scripture a place that scripture doesn't give itself.

    2. Of course music evokes feelings, but those feelings are intrinsic to the individual and not intrinsic properties of the music. I can listen to a certain modern worship song and feel the glory of God reflected in music, while I'm sure you would feel quite irritated. The music is the same; the feelings are different. So how are we to make a value judgment based on feelings?

  77. 1. Does the Bible tell us what hermeneutic to use in reading the Bible? If you say that the Bible, in its use of itself, models good hermeneutics, is that model authoritative? Why or why not?

    2. Is a certain type of music likely to evoke the same feelings for huge swathes of humanity? Someone somewhere (I'd like to give credit for this, but simply can't remember the source) pointed out that, when movies are sent oversees, the dialog is overdubbed, but the soundtrack stays in place. Doesn't this suggest that music is likely communicating the same kind of thing to lots of people? I think I can claim this without having to prove some sort of universal meaning.

  78. 1. Yes, the Bible does give us many examples of interpreting itself, for example, Christ utilizing OT passages in His preaching. Unfortunately, there are no explicit broader rules given for how to read and apply scripture (hermeneutics), which is one of the many reasons God sent us the Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

    2. Your example is flawed because the visual and verbal elements are still in place, giving context to the music. No two people are going to hear the same soundtrack and have exactly the same understanding of what it means.

  79. 1. It doesn't seem to me that you answered the question that I asked. Is the biblical model of hermeneutics authoritative for us, even though "no explicit broader rules [are] given"?

    2. This seems strained. I concede your point that the images/dialog do shape our perception of the music, but I think you have to concede that the music itself is chosen by the director/producer/whomever specifically because it is designed to complement the scene and evoke the intended feeling.

  80. 1. Sorry, I thought I was clearer than I apparently was. The Bible is authoritative as a hermeneutical model only to the extent that it explicitly does so. In other words, Christ interprets (through clarifying original intent) the law several times in the Sermon on the Mount. We can accept His interpretation. Can we then apply that mode of interpretation to the rest of the law ourselves? To some extent maybe, but not without risking grave error.

    At this point, I'm not sure what this has to do with the original topic. Even if the scriptures were a clear hermeneutical model by illustrating how to interpret, it never shows us how to apply its form to worship, which is the issue at hand.

    2. Of course the director does that. It's the same thing that composers including myself have been doing for years. We want certain sounds to communicate certain things. But the sound frequencies that make up the music are not where the meaning lies. The meaning lies both in the original intent of the composer and the understanding of the listener, just as the soundtrack means both what the composer intends and what the viewer perceives, which is heavily influenced by what is taking place on screen.

  81. Sorry, John: my incredulity need not be taken as hostility. No more hyperbole for you.

    Try this one:

    What category do you file the above-mentioned swaths of Scripture in? And on what theological/exegetical/hermeneutical grounds would you say that they either would or would not inform your understanding of worship? I would ask the people I preach to questions like "what does this teach us about worship?" when discussing passages such as Isaiah 6 or Revelation 1, for example. What do you do with them?

    You can use hyperbole with me if you'd like, I don't mind.

  82. So John, there is absolutely no musical form that you would consider inappropriate for worship? Rap, death metal, nothing?

  83. John, how exactly is the original intent of a composer communicated to the understanding of a listener?

  84. I have not overlooked or ignored your example at all. If you've read my posts you will note that I have used it as an example numerous times. This is an example of error creeping into worship (at times error in doctrine and at times errors in practice). These are not degrees of truth. God was not displeased because one had more truth than the other. He was displeased because they were mixing their truth with error (Jezebel).

  85. I think you leave too much for the feelings to decide on this matter. It the theology of the rhyme that stinks.

  86. Regeneration does not remove all of the influences of sin in a redeemed man's heart, Philip. I assume you know this. Neither does sanctification happen suddenly or automatically. It is a process whereby a redeemed man learns (yes, some by himself, but most often by others in the context of a local church) what is right.

    Thus, even redeemed people need to learn how to worship.

  87. Several breakdowns:

    1. I have witnessed many couples from broken and messed up homes have a better concept of love and have stronger marriages that those from "perfect" Fundamentalist homes.

    2. In marriage, I do not yet have all the resources to know and love my wife as I ought. That takes time. In salvation, we are dealing with quite a different animal altogether. In the Gospel we have all things sufficient for life and godliness, full-knowledge of God, indwelling of the Spirit, and completion in Christ. Whether or not you agree with my conclusions, you must admit that there is a significant theological differences between marriage and salvation.

  88. I accept that scripture demonstrates Christians growing in Christ (progressive sanctification), but do we find examples of Christians growing in their worship? I don't doubt that worship can be perverted, but if worship is at its heart a replication of the Gospel, what is there to be learned if it is already believed? Implications? Maybe. How to? I think not.

    One thought: did Isaiah's response of worship come because of his training or was it natural? Is it a natural thing for a redeemed man to fall before a holy God and cry "woe is me"?

  89. Why don't you take 2 seconds and refute the charge? Are you elevating extra-biblical wisdom to Gnostic elitism? Why is that not a fair question (since you are equivocating)?

  90. "In marriage, I do not yet have all the resources to know and love my wife as I ought. That takes time. In salvation, we are dealing with quite a different animal altogether. In the Gospel we have all things sufficient for life and godliness…"

    Philip, do you not notice the inherent self-contradiction here? Marriage is part of the "life and godliness" for which, as a Christian, I have all things sufficient. If in marriage, having everything I need for life and godliness, I still need to work and learn to be a good husband, why not in other aspects of life and godliness?

    It seems that you either have to say that being a good husband has nothing to do with Christianity or the gospel, or you must concede that, even having all that we need for life and godliness (which is absolutely true!), I still need to work at all elements of the faith.

  91. Several thoughts:

    1. The Bible is not uniformly beautiful aesthetically. As I have mentioned on other threads, sections of Scripture (e.g. II Peter) are not even good grammar.

    2. Just because the Bible has 66 books, should you sing 66 songs in a worship service? I ask that simply to make the point that it is entirely subjective as to which parts of Scripture you are going to choose as your paradigm for worship.

    3. Just because God has communicated in a form that can be analyzed aesthetically, does that indicate that this was ever His intention? What was the actual purpose of Scripture?

    4. Because the Bible has x,y,z aesthetic elements, therefore worship must have x,y, and z aesthetic elements; because the Bible uses scatological terms, therefore worship must allow for scatological terms; because the Bible has numerous sexual themes, therefore worship must have sexual themes. Where do you stop?

  92. Scott was attempting to make an analogy between the Gospel and marriage. His point was that just because you get married and love someone doesn't mean that you automatically know what they want. I agree with Scott on this: the act of getting married does not impart special knowledge of how to love and please ones' spouse.

    The corollary: by comparison, Scott is arguing that just because you get saved, it doesn't mean that you automatically know how to worship God.

    So the comparison is between the implications of the act of marriage in the relationship between a husband and a wife and the effect of the Gospel in the realm of worship. I would argue that the effect of the latter is somewhat greater than the former. The human relationship that begins at marriage is wholly different from the divine relationship that begins at salvation. It is this aspect of the improper analogy that I am considering.

  93. Michael,

    John has simply and clearly stated the concept of the analogy of faith, namely, the interpretation of Scripture with Scripture. This concept is the cornerstone of conservative hermeneutics. Feel free to question as you like.

  94. Scott, I hate rap. I hate death metal. I pray to God I never have to hear it, much less use it. I find it obnoxious, loud, and distasteful.

    I could also very easily argue against the appropriateness of their usage in my church for the blatantly simple fact that my congregants could never relate to it in any form or fashion. It would be pointless, and a disservice to them.

    However, as much as I detest it, I can't with integrity say that it would never be appropriate to use in a worship setting. Oh, how I wish I could…but to do so would be to leave the bounds of scriptural authority and I can't do it.

  95. Wow, Scott…this could be a dissertation topic. Unfortunately, I have class (with you) tomorrow at 8 and I can't get into it tonight. But to summarize a vast topic in one hastily put together sentence, I would say that a composer uses sounds that have certain meanings within his or her cultural setting and uses them to communicate (or support) a message that may or may not be understood in the same way based upon the cultural setting of a the listener.

    And yes…we're back to meaning and morality in culture, and I'm not gonna ride that merry-go-round again. :-)

  96. As worship is communication and since rap and death metal (I love how we immediately move to the most extreme examples…does it typify the mindset that we attempt to instill within the traditionalists that if we let in Soverign Grace today, then we will be listening to Lecrae tomorrow? Horrors!) do not communicate to my congregants, these forms are not helpful in our worship. Vehicles for communicating in worship are only as useful insomuch as they fulfill that purpose. This is not to say, however, that they may not fulfill that purpose in another congregation. It is that latitude that Scripture affords us in worship. If it did not provide us such latitude, then why did it not prescribe the specific methods of singing? We certainly know the principles of Scripture and the command to sing, but why leave the issue of style open? Is it possible that God is glorified by the worship of many different people from many different cultures worshipping Him in many different languages?

    A better question then is: Is my multifaceted, amazing, transcendent, incomprehensible, cross-cultural, all-powerful, naturally-revealed God just worthy of one musical form in worship?

  97. Philip, you're dripping sarcasm and straw man, ad hominem attacks are not helpful to the discussion. The reason I chose the most extreme examples was to find out if John found absolutely any musical form unworthy for worship. If you would please stop assuming things and actually engage in the argument, perhaps you would understand why certain questions are being asked.

    John, question: do you believe it is wrong for Christians to take cocaine recreationally? Is internet pornography wrong? Am I required to drive under the speed limit? Should I eat healthy meals?

    Which of these matters is addressed explicitly in Scripture?

    Making specific applications about music is no different than these matters. We discern universal principles in Scripture and actively apply them to contemporary situations. I would suggest that your pious Nuda Scriptura position is a rather inconsistent one if you consider other areas where you make these kinds of applications where the Bible is silent.

    Which leads me to consider what this thread has accomplished. Has any one of our detractors offered a positive argument as to why any and all music is acceptable for worship? You do realize that you are going against hundreds of years of Christian consensus, don't you? That, at very least, should require more than an argument form silence.

    Furthermore, both Philip and John are fairly new to this site, and you are both assuming things based on your experiences in your corners of fundamentalism. I would encourage you to read my book and spend a little more time here. I think you will realize that there is a stark difference with what we are doing here from what is done in your little corners of fundamentalism.

    Finally, back to some things you said earlier, John. Our position here may be unpopular in your world, but it is making a difference. There is a growing chorus of evangelicals who are sick of the permissivist, libertine attitude toward worship today and desire to more actively apply principles in the Word of God to their worship music choices. I get 5-10 e-mails per week from people asking for advice or resources. I speak in at least 2 churches a month with people hungry for this stuff. My book went into its second printing after only a year because people appreciated what they read there. I've spoken in Australia and Brazil with people desiring the same thing. It's certainly a quiet minority, but more and more people are buying this stuff.

    And, John, it may interest you to know that after our doctoral colloquium yesterday, Dr. Hsieh asked if she could translate my book in Chinese, so unfortunately these ideas are going to be spread to churches in China as well! ;)

    Anyway, I think this thread has gone round and round enough. Several of us here will likely pull out individual points for further discussion in days to come, so please stay tunes.

    I want you all know that I do appreciate your interaction here, and, despite what you assume (!), we do benefit from your points of view. The ad hominem charge that we are never open to change is certainly not true. I just have as yet to see an cogent argument that moves me to alter my views. Most of what we see here is argument from silence and an appeal to a view of Scriptural authority that even the Reformers didn't argue.

  98. There has been significant sarcasm from those supporting your case (even explicitly so). I do apologize if my comments as a whole have been perceived in such a manner.

    As for straw man arguments, I suppose the Gnostic charge is what you are referring to. My goal with that charge was to draw a parallel to Scripture. Others on this thread have drawn analogies to the church at Laodicea and other less than flattering points of Scripture to characterize their opponents, but I have taken this in stride and have answered their objections in the clearest manner possible.

    As for ad hominem attacks I don't know what you are referring to. I have stayed on topic and have argued your premises. You will not find any personal attacks on you or your family in what I have written. If anything, the charge of ad hominem, if there is none, actually exposes yourself to the same charge, so I would recommend caution when playing that card.

    Yes, I have read your book. I agree much with significant portions of the doctrine taught, but there are definitely practical issues throughout. I have also read much on this blog (even discussing several articles here with you and others) and understand in essence where you are going with your points.

    My point in the discussion is not to alter your views (although I didn't change my views until about 4 years ago), but to offer a counterpoint to your line of reasoning for whoever wants to consider the other side of the argument.

    As a closing note, it is easy to summarize things as ad hominemm sarcastic, arguments from silence, or straw men in order to avoid dealing with the specific points that are being raised. These broad generalizations are a poor excuse for a failure to deal with the arguments. I look forward to the more specific posts to come.

  99. Just so the record stands, I have no regret for my sarcasm. I do not employ that device too often, especially online. But I thought, and still think, it was appropriate for the specific occasion.

  100. Be careful, Ryan! I got the cold shoulder for using hyperbole–Biblical hyperbole at that! I guess I didn't know who I was dealing with.

    Rhetorical devices are only as useful as the receptors are capable of understanding them.

    Logical fallacies are only as useful as the receptors are incapable of understanding them.

  101. Just to clarify, there is a difference between using sarcasm to make a point and using sarcasm to ridicule what one perceives to be the other's position (e.g. "I love how we immediately move to the most extreme examples…does it typify the mindset that we attempt to instill within the traditionalists that if we let in Soverign Grace today, then we will be listening to Lecrae tomorrow? Horrors!")

  102. I think I'm pretty much done on this topic, but I'll just a few thoughts in response to Scott. I'm not aiming to provoke any more debate, but really just to answer Scott's questions publicly. For those that don't know, Scott and I are working on our Doctorates at the same seminary, and as such have had several dialogues on this and other topics outside of this forum. So in a lot of ways we're just typing and publishing discussions we've already had. There's no animosity between us, and I respect him as a colleague and comrade in the ministry of the gospel. Sure, we don't see eye to eye on everything, but that's where we show each other grace.

    Concerning the use of principles in scripture: Of course I utilize principles found in scripture. There are a lot of issues the Bible doesn't deal with explicitly. However, all of the issues you listed have principles that are easily pointed to in scripture. Pornography=Matt 5:28, Cocaine and Eating=1 Cor. 6:19, Speed Limit=Rom 13. I would think that you would have to admit that those are a little more cut and dry than the worship style/form issue. I just have a hard time believing that if style and form were an important issue to God, He would have made it such a difficult and divisive issue. After all, He was very clear about the heart of worship and the goal of worship. If style and form were as important, I have to think He would have said so.

    As far as positive arguments for contemporary forms, I could give a number, but really don’t want to add fuel to the fire (and I have a job that I’m supposed to be working at right now!). I would take some historical issue with the statement that I’m going against historical consensus, because (a) there really never has been universal consensus (even in Christ’s time—John 4), and (b) because what consensus the western church has had in the past 400 years is at least partially tainted by over a millennium of catholic domination. We still carry over a lot of worship forms and practices from that era of darkness. That’s another discussion, though.

    Scott, I haven’t read your book (yet) simply because of my heavy class loads. However, I have listened to a number of your mp3’s, so I think I have a pretty good idea of where you stand. And yeah, I’ve had some pretty rotten interactions with some fundamentalists in the past, but I don’t view you as one of them.

    And I will say this in closing: as much as I disagree with certain aspects of how you apply what you teach, I think what you are doing is a wonderful thing, and is definitely doing much more good in the church than any harm with which I might be concerned. In fact, many of the principles to which you speak I have argued and fought for in my own church settings. Southern Baptists (and other mainstream evangelicals) need to hear these principles as much or more than fundamentalists and conservatives.

  103. I would add though that any form of sarcasm is dangerous on a written forum simply because most of us do not know each other and it can easily be misinterpreted. And yes, I know I'm guilty as charged.

  104. Once again, thanks for all of the interaction here. I would encourage each of you to read both Michael's current series (on Thursdays) and David's current series (on Fridays), as both of them are articulating biblical principles of conservatism that go way beyond music. It will give you a good idea of what our values are, of which the music issue is only one application.

  105. I do apologize for how that statement reads. Looking at it as an isolated statement, it certainly comes off harsh. For that I am sorry. For whatever it is worth, it was not at all my intention. Not to equivocate, but to explain myself a little better, I often get frustrated at the bondage that some of the more radical views of the worship issue have placed people in (myself included) and I lash out. God has been convicting me a LOT lately that I need to keep the pressure on the flock, but not snap them. They need to be shepherded out of legalistic ways of thinking, not sledghammered. Having seen what the legalistic approaches have done for dear friends and family members leaves me saddened and frustrated at times. They were told that everything would fit in a nice neat little box. That the arbiters of the subculture of Fundamentalism could clearly define their right and wrong. That by simply calling up their local Fundamentalist institution to find out what the appropriate approach to dating, drinking, movies, and music they could define morality for themselves and their children in perpetuity. Then these same kids go off to college, begin thinking, realize the wholes in the argument, recognize the mere traditionalism, and end up twice the child of Satan for it. I do not say this to scoff. I say this because I was one of them. It is wrong of me to become angry with them. I am thankful for those who loved me out of the majority of my legalism (which still clings bitterly to me still). I guess why I sometimes respond with overmuch vitriol is that I see in what is taught here (and once again let me state that it is not the majority, but rather the practical points on how to deal with culture and musical style/form) as the perpetuation of a cancer that has destroyed much of Fundamentalism. I fear for the people of my traditionalist subculture. We've made such progress away from focusing on the forms and now turning towards the substance of worship that I don't want to loose it all! My heart is for my people and I apologize that I haven't demonstrated my heart for you as well, Scott.

    I know that was a ramble, but I needed to at least offer full disclosure. I do feel it necessary, then, to restate those points in a more straight-forward intellectual format:

    What I still hold is (1) the caution of using the most extreme examples to make a point. These simply polarize the issue most often and create visceral reactions rather than helpful dialogue. I still hold that (2) the slippery slope argument as it is often presented in regard to music (and I quote, "once the music goes contemporary, then the preaching will go liberal") is quite inaccurate.

    Thank you for your understanding.

  106. Philip, thanks for your perspective. Please know that I do understand where you are coming from.

    I should also apologize for assuming too much.

    I really do appreciate your perspective, but I would encourage you to consider that there is a thoughtful position in between what you have experienced and where you seem to be now. This is what we are trying to articulate here. We are trying to work on the level of theology, principles, philosophy, etc., instead of simply giving lists and demanding certain applications.

    This is why I linked earlier to my post about application vs. philosophy. We really do believe here that the philosophical principles are the most important. We do believe that applications are important, too, but we are most concerned with principles. That is why you rarely see us naming names. We do on occasion, but you will have to admit that it is rare (the same is true in my book).

    As to your final points, I want you to know that I mostly agree with you on those. I never use extreme examples to prove a point. The only time I do use such examples is like I did in this post: in order to determine of someone draws any lines at all. If I used a more middle-of-the-road example, that doesn't tell me anything. But I agree that it is unhelpful to use an extreme example as proof that something else is unacceptable.

    I also agree that the "slippery slope" argument is abused.

    I hope that you have seen here (and in my book) that we do not resort to the kinds of arguments that I know you have experiences. We do not appeal to mice, plants, or the "new song." We do not pick music apart in order to try to demonstrate why a certain rhythm comes from African devil worship.

    Instead, it is our desire to promote a consistent conservatism, which we believe is the most faithful approach to life and especially worship, based on the whole council of God. We desire to deal with these issues from a exegetical, theological, philosophical, and historical perspective.

    And we do appreciate interaction!

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