Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Anti-intellectual worship

I know it has been said before, but the modern church is very anti-intellectual in its thinking. Anything that might actually engage the mind is strictly forbidden. Everything about the church service is designed to steer the worshipper clear of that because what church goers today really want is an emotional experience. There is little, if any, sermon given, and the “praise and worship” time is drawn out to extraordinarily long proportions.

One of the most obvious ways this is shown is in the content of the songs being sung. Let’s give a little comparison between modern and not so modern…

Let the Peace of God Reign

Father of life draw me closer
Lord, my heart is set on You
Let me run the race of time
With Your life enfolding mine
And let the peace of God
Let it reign

Oh Holy Spirit, You're my comfort
Strengthen me, hold my head up high
And I stand upon Your truth
Bringing glory unto You
And let the peace of God
Let it reign

Oh Lord I hunger for more of You
Rise up within me let me know Your truth
Oh Holy Spirit saturate my soul
And let the life of God fill me now
Let Your healing power breathe life and
Make me whole
And let the peace of God let it reign

Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise”
Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

Note the subtle, yet evident shift in focus. One speaks about the cross of Christ and how it saves men from their sins; the other speaks simply about a healing power. Now, if you were to fill in the meaning of the healing power, that it is really be the blood of the everlasting covenant, then the modern song isn’t bad. The problem is that this is one of the better songs. Most of the rest are simply a chorus that is sung over and over again. When you understand the overall philosophy of the church these days, this makes sense of course. The songs are designed to use only enough content to evoke an emotional response; really, you can put whatever meaning you want behind the healing power of God--as long as it gets you emotionally high.

Wesley’s song on the other hand is filled with Biblical references and concentrates heavily on the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross. His references to history “five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary” can’t just be given whatever content you feel like. Calvary was a real place. Christ really did receive five major wounds. These references keep the worshipper’s mind engaged on what God has said and done without having to just imagine some meaning for phrases. Emotions are by no means avoided, but neither is the mind.

The Christian religion is not simply an emotional experience. To deprive it of its intellectual content is to rob it of its life changing power. It is the Jesus of the Bible that saves--the Jesus that spoke with such authority it astonished the people, the Jesus that made fools out of the Pharisees when they tried to trap him in his words. You are not called to worship the Jesus of your own imagination. You are called to worship the Jesus of the Bible, so it would probably behoove you to learn what he says.

Paul tells us in Ephesians that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This isn’t a battle that is fought by working yourself into an emotional frenzy; this is a battle with ideas, with words, with behaviors.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (NKJV)

2 Comments:

At 6:33 AM, Blogger saltedobject said...

Swinder, you've hit the nail on the head. Notice how many of the modern songs make few, if any, mention of the attributes of God. Instead they are loaded with quasi-heretical platitudes. Take for instance the contemporary song you've mentioned. What does "with your life enfolding mine" mean? If by this, the author means "in Him we live move and have our being", so be it. On the other hand, this may be quasi pantheism.

Although the song makes mention of standing upon the truth of God, the source of that truth is unclear. Lest the singer be persuaded that this truth is the word of Almighty God, the song makes this statement: "Rise up within me let me know Your truth." Oh, this is familiar. Remember when Moses came off Mt. Sinai? Remember how he told the people "Jehovah will rise up within you so you may know His law"? Of course you don't remember it. You don't remember it because it never happened. Why? The Lord's truth stands apart from the minds, emotions, and indigestion of man. ;-) Good post!

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesus said himself that the believers must worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. John 4.

 

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