Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Soteriology Does Inform Your Worship

I recently read an article on worship that made the following assertion: "However, I must repeat, there is no direct impact of Reformed Theology itself on worship theology or practice. Historically there have been both conservative and progressive Calvinists, Arminians, Dispensationalists, and Covenant Theologians, and there is nothing inherent in these theological convictions that leads to a particular worship philosophy."

I could not disagree more! First, the statement assumes that Worship Theology and Reformed Theology are only tangentially related, and this assumption is made, even in the face of earlier statements that appear to be made to the contrary. For example, “[God-centeredness] is clearly evidenced in their theology, their emphases, their biblical exposition, their song texts, and their writings. It has certainly influenced their theology of worship, and no doubt has impacted the worship theology and practice of fundamentalists as well.”

This drives the thoughtful reader to ask how the writer can make the previous assertion. In searching for the answer, we discover the underlying equivocation that obfuscates and undermines the coherence of the argument, which is common in this particular writer's articles. Take notice of the various assertions made, particularly those related to “Worship Theology.” Here are a few quotes:

“While Piper has not written a book on worship, his theology of worship is riddled throughout his books and sermons, and his particular theological emphases have direct application to worship theology. For instance, Piper is insistent on the God-centeredness of God, and by implication, the God-centeredness of worship. Piper’s consistent exegetical preaching and strong doctrinal center have also influenced fundamentalism, and in particular the centrality of these in the worship of God.”

“...Grudem is deliberate about relating theology to worship throughout the work. It is certainly possible that someone could benefit from some of the theology of Grudem’s [Systematic Theology] without being influenced by his theology of worship, but that is highly unlikely since the relationship of theology and worship permeates the work.”

These observations do indeed lead to the conclusion that their God-centered view of theology does actually impact their “Worship Theology.” Piper's theological emphases have direct application to Worship Theology, and Grudem relates theology to worship so tightly that the reader will almost certainly be influenced by his “Worship Theology.”

The best take that we can make is that the author intends “Reformed Theology” as a term that is being used to refer to Soteriology alone rather than Theology in general (this clearly shows up in the comments). In other words, the God-centered nature of their Theology does impact their Worship Theology, but their Soteriology doesn't.

However, take a look at what Aniol says about Sovereign Grace, “[Sovereign Grace Ministries] produces quite a bit of music...Their songs are known to be theologically-rich and gospel-centered, and this has been attractive for many fundamentalists who desire their worship services to be God-centered and doctrine-filled.”

We are left to wonder if Sovereign Grace Ministries would think that gospel-centered music has nothing to do with their Soteriology or their Worship Theology. I highly doubt it! To the contrary, the “God-centeredness” that influences their Worship Theology is directly flowing from a particular view of God's work in both salvation and sanctification. In fact, the only way that any assertion to the contrary could be made is by removing the verbal element from whatever is meant by “Worship Theology.”

It seems that this is really the only way for this article to have any coherence. We are forced to understand “Worship Theology” as a reference to “Philosophy of Art in Worship.” So in the end we are left with nothing more than an abstraction, culturally described, with no definition, and without any argument to support any of the assertions so boldly claimed by the article.

The fact is that your understanding of the Doctrine of God, the person and work of Christ, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the ultimate reconciliation of all things to God by Jesus Christ will certainly impact both the content and artistic expression of worship. If it doesn't, then your worship will be anemic at best, no matter how artistically refined it may appear.

1 comment:

Thomas Pryde said...

Those who dig into the post linked in here will find that Scott made some changes to his articles (for the better). There are more comments on the Facebook fan page, for you who might be interested.