Worship REVEALS and SHAPES our Thinking about God

Why is the form of worship such a big deal? Why do some argue so vehemently against the church embracing worship forms that ape the world’s entertainment forms? Isn’t the whole debate simply a matter of “traditional sound” vs. “contemporary sound”? Isn’t the method of worship all about personal preference? Is it possible that churches who offer both a traditional and contemporary worship service have it right? After all, what difference does it make how we worship God, as long as we do?

Those questions–especially the last–are critical not only for the forms and “sound” of our worship music, but for the very nature of Christianity itself. What we must understand in the CCM/worship form debate is that the disagreement is not only over the sound. Of far greater importance is what the sound reveals and does. In a sense, contemporary worship forms aren’t the real problem. Rather, they are simultaneously the symptoms and causes of a much more serious problem: a faulty understanding of God.

Consider two principles that are put forward in the helpful book on worship, Give Praise to God:

1. How we worship reveals our thoughts about God.

Derek W. H. Thomas makes the following observation:

“For the seventeenth-century Puritans, the medium is the message, and the mode of worship can in no way be considered secondary. The way we worship reflects our theological prejudice one way or the other, for good or ill, and, more important, reflects on the very character of God” (GPTG, 80).

2. How we worship shapes our thoughts about God.
Lig Duncan demonstrates this point in the same book:

“God’s own nature–who God is–determines the way we should worship him. This is a primary principle in both old and new covenants…So, in one sense, our doctrine of worship is an implication of our doctrine of God. This means that the how of new-covenant worship is not ultimately derived from temporary, transitional, positive law or even new-covenant norms, but is based rather upon the character of God himself. As R. C. Sproul often reminds us, the distinctive of the Reformed doctrine of God is that theology proper controls every aspect of our theology, including our worship” (GPTG, 52).

Duncan goes on to cite an admittedly extreme example, but one which demonstrates the power of worship to shape or view of God:

“If you worship God via the usage of images, it changes your view of God. Form impacts content” (GPTG, 52).

One more quote from Duncan demonstrates the importance of worship forms:

“There are two ways to commit idolatry: worship something other than the true God or worship the true God in the wrong way” (GPTG, 33).

I hope to write on the importance of the form of worship soon. At that time, I plan to bring Scripture itself to bear on the topic, demonstrating that the character of God must determine the character of our worship. In the meantime, think on this: the form of worship is crucial because it both reveals how we think of God now and shapes how we will think of Him in the future.

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One Response

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Point well made. That being said, isn’t it sad, the view of God that so many see and take with them from the current churches in our culture. May we take great care that in our services our people sense both the transcendent greatness of God as well as His deigning imminence.

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