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.


Has the Church replaced Israel?

Over at you can read a book review I did on Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation.  In this book, Vlach argues against the so called supersessionism.  He defines it as “the view that the New Testament Church is the new and/or true Israel that has forever superseded the nation Israel as the People of God.”  He argues that Reformed exegetes who hold to these beliefs introduce “change, alteration, or reinterpretation to the original meaning,” of the Old Testament text, and they “do not allow” Old Testament passages “to be the reference points for their own meaning.”

In reality, Reformed Christians see no replacement of Israel because there are not two particulars in the first place.  The New Testament assumes corporate unity between Israel and the church.  Christ is presented as the representative of the true Israel of the Old Testament, and the true Israel—the church—in the New Testament.  The Bible presents a unified history controlled by a wise and sovereign God, who planned the early parts of his Word to correspond and point to the latter parts.  Geerhardus Vos states in Biblical Theology that “revelation does not stand alone by itself,” rather it is “inseparably attached” to the activity of Redemption.  Revelation is the interpretation of redemption.  Because of this, it unfolds itself “in installments as redemption does” (5–6).  Hermeneutics therefore should come from a canon that allows the latter parts of biblical history to function as the broader context.  Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament interpret the Old Testament in light of redemption.  Jesus Christ is the center of history, and the key that unlocks the early portions of the Old Testament promises.  The canon does interpret the canon.

Click here to read the book review. 

God Loves the Gates of Zion More: Everlasting Gates (part 4)

Procession of Apostles around the dome; Arian ...

Article III of the Belgic Confession concerns The Written Word of God,

We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing; and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law.  Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.

In this article, we see the attribute Apostolicity.  Apostolicity means the church is Apostolic not because we have Apostles in our churches, but because we have their teaching.  The church contains the succession of doctrine that is sola scriptura from the Apostles’ hands.  We go to Scripture alone because it alone is the Apostles’ teaching.  The principle cause of the Reformation (sola scriptura) is integrally connected to the material principle (solo Christos, sola gratia, sola fide) and to the end of salvation (soli Deo gloria).[1]  The glory of God in public worship promotes this succession of doctrine, which would otherwise be lost (2 Tim. 4:1–5).  However, the second to last attribute, indefectibility prevents this loss, for Jesus guarantees there will always be a gathering of believers on earth to glorify him.  No matter how inglorious the size, the gathering of true believers bears witness in praise to Christ their King.  In so doing passes down the Word and doctrine, which is contained in our confessions.  Without public worship it would be lost.


This leads to the final attribute, the holiness of the church, which rests in the communion of saints.  Hebrews 10 states that the church is holy because of “the blood of Jesus” (v. 19) so the church with hearts “sprinkled clean” (v. 22) should not neglect “to meet together” (v. 25).  It is the church, blessed with the imputed righteousness of Christ and born again of water and Spirit in the inner self, who glorifies God in public worship (John 17:19; Eph. 5:25–27; 1 Thess. 4:3; Titus 2:14; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 2:9).  The church gathers as God blesses his people, declares their sins forgiven (John 20:23), and passes down sound doctrine.  Private devotion pales in comparison to the glory God receives in the gathered communion of saints.  The Lord complains, therefore, as if he received no glory from his people, when His public worship is despised and neglected in Malachi 1:6.  All the attributes that I have discussed in this post and the preceding posts, allow the church to come together to glorify the Lord more publicly in worship than in private devotion.  So, pray that the Lord would plant this old Reformed church (circa 451) that God’s Word and teaching would continue to be preserved as God’s glory is lifted up in truth, and not resting on the opinions of man and their commandments.

[1] Michael Horton, People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 47.

Sola Scriptura: Explanation of Tradition 1 (Part 3)

Sola scriptura rejects any idea that Scripture is incomplete and needs the augmentation of tradition. It does so with another attribute of Scripture—the doctrine of sufficiency. Sufficiency means Scripture contains the articles of faith and matters necessary for salvation, but not everything needed for church organization.[1] There are many different things needed for the Christian life and tradition plays a role.[2] The Reformation was not a revolt from tradition rather it was a reform. The Reformers, when developing these doctrines, did not believe they were starting over with the Bible alone. They were getting back to the analogy of faith that began with the apostolic church. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: Explanation of Tradition 1 (Part 2)

To understand sola scriptura, we first need to understand the attributes of Scripture: authority, necessity, perspicuity, and sufficiency. Authority rests in scripture’s own witness of its authority. Calvin commenting on 2 Timothy 3.16 reveals that Christians owe Scripture, as it reveals Christ, the same reverence owed to God.[1] It’s not the passages or the book that is reverenced, but the Christ of the Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word and carries its own authority. Confidence in Scripture’s authority rests in the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 2). Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: Explanation of Tradition 1 (Part 1)

Sola scriptura (Tradition 1[1]) means that Scripture is the final and infallible authority.  The Bible is the sole authority because it is divine revelation (Scripture = divine revelation).  Nowhere else is special revelation found, but in the Bible alone.  God, however, did not just drop Scripture from the sky and leave us on our own to interpret it.  Scripture alone does not mean my Bible and me only.  It does not mean that there is no church or Spirit. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: Critique of Tradition 0 (Part 2)

Solo scriptura’s creed, “The whole Bible and nothing but the Bible” is lost in the sea of Christian history. It has surfaced in the past with heretics like Arius, with the Radical Reformers, Rationalism of the Enlightenment, and the Democratic Populism of early America. The Radical Reformers, rationalism and democracy all have the same underlying position of autonomy. The assumption is that all one needs is individual conscience and reason to survive, whether in religion or secular disciplines. Continue reading