Friday, November 21, 2008

anything-goes worship

In traditional worship forms, the congregation is often reduced to passivity or, at best, to orchestrated responses. Worship that results in suppression is a contradiction in terms.
Gibbs and Bolgar, Emerging Churches, p. 177

Is it?

The underlying assumption in the book, and among those it quotes from the emergent churches, is that chaos and creativity are in themselves good things. As is said later on the same page...

The creation of art directed toward God is in itself worship.

But is that so?

When we look at the Bible, we do not really see an "anything goes" type of idea; rather, God sets some pretty strict boundaries about how the people were to worship Him. And lest we think He was not serious, there were at least two times when men who were caught up in doing things improperly were killed--Aaron's two sons when they offered strange fires, and the man in King David's day who touched the Ark of the Covenant when it was being transported improperly.

One could point out, and rightly, that with Christ's death and the new covenant, things have changed in how we worship. We no longer sacrifice animals, we no longer have to rely on a human priest to go into the most holy place for us.

But can we honestly say that this freedom is license? That we have now entered a time when "anything goes"?

I must say "no", but I must do so with some caution. I have some experience with the other extreme, the one that does not want to change, and condemns things that do not need to be condemned. This is especially seen in controversies over music, where some seem to hold that there is a style of music that is acceptable for church worship, and styles that are not. Going into that controversy is beyond what I want to do here, but suffice it for now to say that I think such restrictions are wrong.

I have no doubt that artistic endeavors may have a place, but they are not the main thing, nor should they ever be. And chaos has no place at all in churches, not do I think it necessary for the creation of good art. I am a graphic designer myself, and I find that very often, ideas come from thought and reason and digging and technique and exploration and evaluation. It isn't an exercise in chaos. "Let all things be done decently and in order".

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