Notes from here and there

D. J. Hart, “Reforming Worship: Reverence, the Reformed Tradition, and the Crisis of Protestant Worship”  A thought-provoking look at basic principles of Reformed worship in light of the shifting practices of many present-day Reformed churches.  Quotable:

Calvin’s theology and understanding of worship seem to fit together and reinforce each other so well that one wonders how people in the Reformed tradition could possibly want or consistently try to maintain Calvinist theology without also enthusiastically embracing the elements and character of Reformed worship as formulated and practiced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Not only did the desire to obey God inform Calvin’s conception of the regulative principle, but equally important was his understanding of human depravity. The principal effect of Adam’s first transgression was to turn all people into idolaters . . .The temptation of idolatry required Christians to be ever vigilant in regulating their worship by the direct commands of God in Scripture. This temptation made Calvin especially suspicious of practices in worship that were said to be pleasing or attractive to members of the congregation. He said, the more a practice “delights human nature, the more it is to be suspected by believers.”

To note the affinity between modern entertainment and contemporary worship is to pinpoint one of the sources of misunderstanding in much current thinking about worship. For there is a vast difference between responding to entertainment and hearing and submitting to God’s Word.

The forms and style of contemporary culture cannot contain the dignity and respect that should characterize the external and internal posture of Christians as they approach God’s throne.

Robert S. Rayburn, “Worship in a Higher Register”  A sermon arguing for the skillful and beautiful in the church’s worship.  Quotable:

The argument I wish to make is not that a properly ordered Christian worship offered in what I’m choosing to call the artistic and intellectual character of higher culture is in fact easily accessible to the un-churched and unbelieving or even to the typical American Christian. It is not. It is a service that must be learned. A Christian must grow up into this service. But it has always been so.

We’ve traded Pentecost for Mother’s Day. Do you know how many churches there are in the United States of America who will not celebrate Pentecost next Lord’s Day? There will be no mention of Pentecost in their service. Do you know how few churches there are in the United States of America that will not mention Mother’s Day on that day?

if a Christian church sings as the Psalter teaches the church to sing, it will sing profound, complex, and beautiful texts that she will have to work fully to appreciate, that will prove more and more meaningful to her the longer she sings them, texts that will teach her the biblical faith in all its honesty and complexity and teach her how to apply that faith to the issues of believing life.

just as a good hymnal is a repository of some of the world’s best poetry, it is as well a library of some of the world’s most beautiful music. But it is not the music most people are listening to today. For many to begin to sing this music requires some education in both text and tune, education of their taste and cultivation of their appreciation. But surely that is as it ought to be. As our powers are cultivated by the grace of God and we learn to do and enjoy things we did not do and did not enjoy before. That’s called sanctification.

[In present-day congregational singing,] there is the loss of the serious, the melancholy, the darker sort of singing. Everything is happy, upbeat, light. Nothing is ever sung any longer more slowly or in the minor key. But the Christian faith has a minor key because life has a minor key and our faith engages life and reality at every point. There are psalms that have a minor key and the music with which some of them should be sung should reflect that fact. A faith that trades in sin, in the bloody sacrifice of the cross, in the reality of final judgment and hell, and the spiritual warfare cannot always sing light and peppy songs or soon its worship will be so far removed from its message that one or the other will inevitably lose its place. It does not take a prophet to predict that it will be the message that will be accommodated to the worship, not vice versa. My great fear regarding contemporary Christian worship is precisely that it will eventually no longer bear the weight of a fully orthodox Christian faith. Fed on the simplicities of a worship designed for the young, worship meant primarily to amuse and inspire, adults will find the transcendent and terribly solemn aspects of the Christian faith increasingly alien and eventually unbelievable.

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