28 April 2008

The Worship Phenomenon

I was looking today at Robert Webber's book with its title that rivals the length of Edwards' treatises, The Worship Phenomenon: A Dynamic New Awakening in Worship is Reviving the Body of Christ. Dr. Webber has been associated with the Emerging Church, an association that in some ways is legitimate and in other ways is either an unfair insult or an unmerited compliment (depending on your view of the EC). Anyhow, some of the same concerns I have with some clearly identified with the EC, I have with this book.

Some of what I read includes:

I don't want more information about God. I want God!

I understand the sentiment. So many of us know what it is to sit through a church service or a chapel message or a theological lecture and all it is is dry pontification. No heart in it. The answer, though, is not the kind of statement made here, because we get more of God through information about him, not by neglecting such information. Consider the many statements scattered throughout the New Testament about the importance of sound doctrine and of handing down the apostolic message. The avenue to delight in God is not by skipping the mind and doctrine but by using doctrine as kindling for joy. Hence the name of this blog.

Later I read:

Worship is undergoing a shift . . . from the Newtonian world of mechanism and rationalism to a new concept of the world that recognizes dynamic movement and mystery at the very core of life. With the old world view, worship was static. It fit the mechanistic and rationalistic mind-set of the world. But now, with people's life expereinces changing to include dynamic movement and more participation, a worship that does not also move in this direction will become increasingly tedious and out of step with the world people are living in.

Really? That's the solution? To mold our worship to the forms people are already living in? I know we should be aware of the ways we are heirs of the Enlightenment, but . . . really?


This book sets forth an easy-to-follow blueprint for worship renewal in the local church.

Hmm. A blueprint for renewal. Sounds pretty mechanistic and rationalistic to me.

I'm being a bit hard on Dr. Webber; in truth, I was stirred at several points to wake up from my own lethargy when it comes to authentic worship, to rejoice all over again in the gospel. This post is not a condemnation. (It's a conversation!) I learned and was edified from this book at many points. But these are the kinds of statements I find in some recent Christian writers genuinely seeking to help the Church that make me concerned with their poor historical analysis (e.g. the Pietists, Watts, and Wesley are labeled as too "emotional" at one point in this particular book) and, even more, with the quest for spiritual experience through the avoidance, rather than the cultivation, of clear doctrine. Which, to me, is like the quest to try to get warm from a fire by avoiding the use of logs.

If I've earned a rebuke, let me have it. If I'm missing something, let me know. I invite your correction.

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