The Fickle and Circumstantial: Emotions and Modern Praise and Worship

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers star on Hollywoo...

            I recently showed my wife a video clip of Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers playing Learning to Fly.  When it comes to pop culture, my wife is clueless.  She thought it was a typical American Evangelical worship service.  Why did she think so?  Because it looked like one, the people were having the same experience with this performance as many have in the worship performance of their church.  I bring this up because many against the priority of public worship say that more joy is experienced and affections rise higher in private devotion than in public worship, which is often dull.  Many prefer a praise and worship performance to a gospel logic liturgy, which we have in Reformed churches.  Many claim that Reformed worship is especially dull since we only do those things God’s word implicitly or explicitly command.  Revivalism has encouraged this dichotomy and addiction.  The contrast between outward forms such as Reformed polity, rites, liturgy, and confessions, labeled as mere human invention, to the immediate work of the Spirit in individuals’ hearts that you find in Revivalism.

            For the Reformed, there is no contrast.  God uses externals to convey spiritual grace—all spiritual things come by mediation (i.e. Word and Sacrament).  Without externals you are left with only experience as your mediator and we know what the Bible says about experience, it is deceitful warns Jeremiah when he says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9).  The Bible also cautions that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14).  If he can create an experience, he can manipulate emotions.  This is a powerful weapon against a church ruled by personal enjoyment.  God’s Word is the only sufficient guide for His church (1 Tim. 3:16).  Private experience is not a sufficient rule to guide the church, because it is fickle and circumstantial.  I would also argue that praise and worship, as it is a genre of pop is not highbrow or lowbrow, but a steady diet of nobrow created by a music industry concerned about one thing—the all mighty dollar.  Songs that have no lasting value, I consider nobrow music.  Where will Briton Spear’s music be in 50 years?  The same place as much modern praise music.  There will always be top charts for the ever-increasing nobrow.  Psalms are everlasting, just read Psalm 90, the oldest of the Psalms, written by Moses.  We sing it in our church and there is nothing fickle or circumstantial in God’s Word.

Want a church that looks to Scripture alone to norm everything found inside the church, rather than Revivalism and the emotions.  I encourage you to attend an upcoming Divine Service in Missoula, as we will begin the Divine service soon.  I will post more when I know more on the time and place.  The day will always be the Lord’s Day and only the Lord’s Day, because Scripture implicitly recognizes this day alone.

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