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Al Mohler and the Centrality of the Worship

Al Mohler and the Centrality of the Worship

In a recent article, Al Mohler castigates modern worship. He observes that if evangelicals would agree with the idea that worship is central to the Christian life (a big IF), then the next question is, “What is central to Christian worship?” Mohler observes that the worship wars have led to different conclusions. Some elevate music as the center part of worship. Others advocate an evangelistic-shaped service to draw outsiders to the Gospel. More liturgical churches look at the sacraments as central to worship.

Mohler argues rightly that “many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.” He criticizes the enormous amount of time and money involved in presenting a high quality musical experience on Sunday morning. This builds a society where Christians “shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation.” The consumerist churches create ecclesiastical consumerist parishioners.

I second and third this criticism; always have and always will. However, Mohler misses a significant portion of the conversation on biblical worship. Mohler, attempting to rescue a Reformed view of worship, writes that “the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.” But is Mohler accurate in his assessment? Wright, who according to many is very un-Reformed, a observed that “Christian worship is a response of the whole human being and the whole human community to God’s grace and love for the world.” It is the whole human being that worship is re-orienting; not just his intellect, but the whole person. Worship then needs to be centered not only on words, but also in the Christian response to the word. God’s words brought the world into existence, but those words created something; that something was not abstract, but tangible and taste-worthy. b.

When Mohler centralizes the Word preached, he misses what came from those words. Indeed he misses the story of God who created and watched us eat from His creation.

Word and Sacrament are central in worship. Indeed the whole worship service is composed of these two aspects. The Word (includes confession and singing) prepares us to consume bread and wine. c The same Luther who spoke highly of the preached Word observed in his small catechism:

Our preaching should… be such that of their own accord and without our command, people will desire the sacrament and, as it were, press us pastors to administer it to them… For Christ did not say, “Omit this” or “despise this,” but “This do, as often as you drink it,” etc.

There was a certain urgency in Luther’s mind about not separating Word and Sacrament. Luther not only argued for weekly communion, but he saw that the Word was incomplete without the sacrament. He argued that when the Word is proclaimed, the Supper must follow. d

According to Mohler, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper each have a place in worship, but the preaching of the Word ought to be supreme. The position of the Reformers was not the one advocated by Mohler. The Reformation–anabaptist excluded–argued that though the Word plays a monumental role in the worship service (Heb. 4:12) it must not be separated from the Sacrament. e The argument the Reformers made, in my estimation, was not for the supremacy of the Word preached, but the inseparability of the Word preached from the Word eaten. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder!

  1. I dispute that statement  (back)
  2. As an advocate of Covenant Renewal Worship, I argue that the entire service is central, though the service can be summarized in Word and Sacrament  (back)
  3. Incidentally, this is one reason for why Word must come before the Sacraments  (back)
  4. Calvin argued that to avoid the Lord’s Supper is a form of devilish theology  (back)
  5. The Supper was, for Calvin, mutual:  Christ “is made completely one with us and we with him.”  (back)
It’s all about table manners!

It’s all about table manners!

What differentiates us from the beasts of the field? I would say one distinguishing feature is table manners. There is a certain etiquette at the table that we as baptized humans are expected to have that animals are not. Even our little ones are expected to develop their table manners. Our little ones move from a high chair to a table chair when they are able to eat without smearing tomato sauce in their hair. Learning table manners is part of learning the language of the body.

This table– though open to all baptized adults and infants– is not a buffet where you can grab and eat whatever you want whenever you want; this table is a civilized table. It is a table with manners. Here we eat and drink with other image-bearers. This means we are patient, gentle, kind, and loving toward our neighbor. The wine that spills from the shaky hands of our little ones is a sign that God is growing our congregation and teaching us table manners. This is our Lord’s table and Jesus loves to see little ones learning to eat and drink. We must be reminded this morning that in so many ways we are like them. Though our outward manners reveal stable hands when we grab our forks, inside we can at times be clumsy; overly confident; self-assured; pursuing selfish ambitions.

If you come to the table too certain of your table manners, then you might be the type of people that Paul constantly criticizes. But if you come to this table too certain of the Christ who died for you, then you come as those found worthy to eat with the Master of the house. And what is the basis of good table manners: Christ. Is Christ gain for you in life or in death, as it was for Paul? If he is, then prepare your lips to taste bread and wine, and prepare to share a meal with fellow brothers and sisters who are learning day by day what good table manners look like.

What Does Baptism Do? A Baptismal Exhortation

What Does Baptism Do? A Baptismal Exhortation

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.

What do we mean by baptism? I can think of no greater description than Yahweh’s in Ezekiel 16. The way God delivered and cared for his people, even amidst sin, is a model for how he deals with us individually from birth. God is a God who richly bestows favor on his people. And these favors begin from the earliest days of life if the biblical narrative is to be taken seriously. So what is God doing to this child at this ceremony we call baptism? We can be certain of at least three promises:

One, we can say that God shows love to this child. According to Ezekiel he is at “the age of love.” At this stage of life the world is a gigantic place filled with gigantic people. For the infant, the world is most like a fairy tale right now. Everything is out of proportion. They are completely dependent. They are ready to be loved. They are ready to trust. The Psalmist puts confidence in his God very early, according to Psalm 22: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother‘s breasts.” The infant is prepared to trust, be loved and nourished.  And it is precisely at this stage that God acts on behalf of the child. The text says that Yahweh “spread the wing of his garments over the child and covered his nakedness.” God is acting here with motherly affection. As Ruth was protected by the covering of Boaz, the child is protected by the covering of Yahweh.

Second, in baptism we can say that God makes a vow toward his own, and enters into a covenant with his own. He declares, “You are mine.” Baptism is the marking of the child with the name of God. Baptism is the fulfillment of the third commandment. Wherever Rhett Hoffman goes, there he carries the Name of His God. And because God is his God, he should not take his name in vain. It was not Rhett who moved towards God, it was God who moved towards Rhett, because baptism is all by grace and grace alone.

Finally, God says, “Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.” The language here could be developed in a thousand sermons, but simply put, “baptism is the clothing of God put on the child.” The nakedness of Adam cannot be exposed. The Covenant covers. And with what does God cover his own? He covers them with embroidered cloth and fine linen. Is there a more glorious picture of baptism? The God of heaven and earth interferes into time and space to clothe this child this morning in holy baptism.

In baptism, new life is given; a new community is inherited; a new name is bestowed. Though the nations are thrown down, God is planting a new one this morning with a few drops of water.

Mike and Ashley, happy is the family whose trust is in God. You have trusted and continue to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This morning I urge you to remind little Rhett daily of the God who claimed him as his own; when he sins remind him; the God who clothed him with royal clothing; when he sins remind him; the God who entered into covenant with him; when he sins remind me that he may walk in the ways of God, his father, Jesus his Savior, and the Spirit his comforter all his days. Amen.

Rare Video Footage of G.K. Chesterton

Rare Video Footage of G.K. Chesterton

Here is some rare footage of Chesterton being made an honorary Holy Cross Crusader by Worcester College on May 1st, 1931. a

  1. H:T: http://brandonvogt.com/chesterton-video/  (back)
A Society of Friends

A Society of Friends

The Church is a society of friends. It’s a community of love. In this community of love we strive to have peace with all men. We call one another to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. We call brothers and sisters to turn from their sin to righteousness. As Abraham Kuyper once wrote, “He is your friend who pushes you nearer to God.” The society we call the Church is a society that is near to God. And when a fellow member of that body is distant from God, we call him back, because no one can live far from God without enduring the harsh consequences of sin.

A true friend sticks closer than a brother; a true friend edifies. What makes our society different than all other societies is that we have a friend that has already shown us what life together looks like. We have friend who has drawn us to himself when we were yet sinners. We have a friend who draws us nearer to himself, because he is the God/Man, a friend of sinners.

Revelation Study #6, Interpretive Maximalism

Revelation Study #6, Interpretive Maximalism

If you are interested in an introduction to Revelation, here is my sixth introduction to the book focusing on the hermeneutical method called “Interpretive Maximalism.”

“The minimalist is often quite literal and focuses exclusively on the grammatical-historical interpretation. Though this method is necessary, our interpretation should not be limited to it. I am currently working on a project on the book of Ruth, and at first glance it seems like a simple narrative, but the more one digs into the meaning of the names of each character, the places mentioned, the theology of the land and of gleaning, the nature of Boaz and his relationship to Ruth, one is compelled to realize that Ruth is really a miniature picture of the entire gospel message from Genesis to Revelation.”

(Scroll down on the main page for all six lessons)

Children and Worship

Children and Worship

Children in worship is an important theme in sacred scriptures. Children are an assumed part of the covenant worship of God.  a Their absence in worship would be a form of re-building the walls of partition. The wall erected to keep people out was torn down to bring people in. The absence of children in worship service revives the old cursed wall (Gal. 3:28).

The Christian faith has always been genealogical. It has always been about blood. Both major testaments function with this hermeneutical principle. But there is a fine qualification to keep in mind. This genealogy traces back to the first church formed in the Garden of Eden. The Church, which began in seed form, and which became pentecostalized b in Acts two, is a true family. Her blood is divine. Jesus bled for her and the Spirit bled drops of fire into that Church, and from that blood formed one holy, catholic, and apostolic body. This newly formed community comes together as one when she worships. She ceases to be a collection of families, but one family. She receives a new identity.

Children enter into this body through the same door that everyone else enters through: baptism. In baptism, children receive the ritualized mark of the Spirit. The Spirit bleeds red drops of fire on her head and empowers the infant to grow in grace and truth. The child is then educated in the ethics of Yahweh (Deut. 6). He shares the same heritage (Ps. 127-128) and the same blood (Acts 2). He becomes a qualified member of this new creation. He does not wait to be qualified, but becomes qualified through fire. Pentecost, then, is the coming together of water and fire.

Children become a necessary furniture piece in the new house of God. She is a little temple joined with many temples forming one holy temple wherein the Spirit dwells. She becomes a warrior; a warrior who depends heavily on more experienced warriors, but a warrior nevertheless. She is ready to follow in the train of the apostles without ever being able to utter her first word. God, the Spirit, gives her speech. God makes the dumb to speak, and He makes babes to cry out (Ps. 8). God’s noble army of men and boys, matron and maid is not composed of polished servants, but of servants that are being polished by the grace of the gospel in the community of faith.

Why children in worship? Because little pebbles become great stones. Because little seeds become great trees. Because little voices still frighten the enemies of God. God is perfectly capable of translating any language in the world. But when he translates the language of nursing infants into praise, He says, “this is very good.”

  1. One might even say assumed furniture in the household structure  (back)
  2. Spirit-sealed  (back)
Every Real Things is a Joy

Every Real Things is a Joy

There is a wonderful line in Robert Capon’s The Marriage Supper of the Lamb where he writes that “Every real thing is a joy, if only you have eyes and ears to relish it, a nose and tongue to taste it.” One of the themes that emerges in Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes is that joy is the distinguishing feature of the Christian. Only the Christian argues Solomon, is able to take God’s gifts and use them with joy. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit; a gift of grace; a tasty sample of glory; a meal for the weak; an appetizer of kings. Joy is the outworking of a faith well-lived.

Joy is not laughing away problems; joy is looking at problems straight in the eyes and saying “My God has an answer!” Joy is our response to nihilism; our response to pietism; our response to bad food; our response to misery; joy at the end of the tether is a renewed trust in Jesus who makes us eat bread and wine and not spit it out, but to enjoy each sip and each bite as a gift from God, and his gifts are not to be despised.

Free Book Offer at Kuyperian Commentary!

Free Book Offer at Kuyperian Commentary!

Over at Kuyperian Commentary, you have the opportunity to enter your name to win a copy of “The Church-Friendly Family.” CFF was endorsed by Douglas Wilson, Peter Leithart, and George Grant. In order to enter your name, you must do two of the following:
a) Subscribe to receive e-mail updates from KC on the website or subscribe to the KC Facebook page.
b) Add KC to your blogroll
c) E-mail us @ kuyperian.com@gmail.com and describe in one or two sentences how KC is helping to shape your worldview
d) Share a recent article on your FB page
*E-mail us at kuyperian.com@gmail.com to let us know you have fulfilled two of the requirements above.
Two winners will be announced on August 15th!

Summary of the book: “Of the making of books about marriage and the family, there is no end. The family is in trouble today―and has been since the sin of our first parents. But the rescue of the family requires more than just good advice, helpful as that can be. It requires more than just a focus on the family. It requires that the family be brought into the church of Jesus Christ. In The Church-Friendly Family, Randy Booth and Rich Lusk set marriage and family in the context of the church, showing how putting the church first enables the family to bear a rich harvest in culture, education, missions, and more.”

The False Promises of the Early Church

The False Promises of the Early Church

Make no mistake: the early church was glorious! She was glorious like a child is glorious. She was but a babe. She breathed, moved, and had her being in God. She was a nursing infant. She had to trust in God from the beginning. But it has become almost a common practice to look to the early church as some paragon of perfection. “If only we could go back!’ The nostalgic sentiments echo through the corridors of sentimentalists. The truth is the early church was a relatively unstable body. Paul strives to offer detailed instructions. Sometimes these instructions are simple: love one another. Sometimes Paul bombards them with rebuke, as in I Corinthians. But if the early church was such a model, why then did Paul chastise and treat them as little children again and again? The answer couldn’t be simpler: because the early church was never meant to be an example to be followed in all ages. She was meant to be a foundational model. She was meant to give us the essential ingredients of life together (Acts 2:42), but not a detailed account for how the 21st century church ought to function.

James Montgomery Boice summarized well this sentiment:

Whole denominations are founded upon the idea that the prime duty of contemporary Christians is to be as much like those who lived in the age of the apostles as possible. But this is a false idealization; it is an attempt to make the early church into something it never was. It is an attempt to escape the problems of our day by looking back to something that exists only in the Christian imagination. a

This prevailing idea opposes strongly the maturational intention of biblical revelation. We were not meant to remain infants, but to grow into mature men, as Paul says. To be sure, Acts provides helpful themes of charity, mercy, communion, and more, but she was a seed, not the tree itself. The tree itself is what God is accomplishing through all ages: to form one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. The Spirit of God, who has hovered over the church throughout the ages, continues to hover even today bringing the Church to greater glory and might; strengthening and building her to be that indestructible rock that will shatter the heads of the enemies.

We are not called to put faith in the Church of the past, but in the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, who reigns over his Church now, world without end, Amen.

  1. An Expositional Commentary, Boice, 56  (back)