We have seen in this series of articles that the Evangelical Church of today has fixated on sentimental, experiential, overly-romanticized worship songs, to the detriment of doctrinal and objective worship music. We have examined the historical and theological developments that has led to this imbalance in modern worship, tracing the rise of experiential emotionalism as the evidence of conversion, all tied to an escapist anti-Incarnational view which sees the spiritual and physical aspects of the world as being opposed to one another.
We then spent some time considering the Implications of the central Biblical truths of the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ for our view and exercise of worship, Implications which emphasized the facts that our worship should be both physical as well as spiritual, embodying continuity as well as change, and recognizing that both past and future should equally dictate the parameters of the shape of how and why God wishes to be worshipped.
Recently, we began to examine the implications of the Bible’s glimpses into the Heavenly Worship (Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1 and 10; Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 4-5) and it’s interior logic for redressing the imbalance in today’s Evangelical worship, seeing that the Church actually worships in Heaven spiritually, beyond (yet within) time and space through the Ascended Humanity of Christ, Who is seated at the Father’s Right Hand.
The passages in Revelation all describe, as we’ve seen, the same Place also written of in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hebrews: the Courts of Heaven in the Throne-room of God, where the Heavenly Worship eternally takes place in His Presence. These Heavenly glimpses in the book of Revelation, which is one long vision of that worship, contain songs used to praise God by the angels, the elders, and the other redeemed saints, and, like everything else in Scripture, these songs have much to teach us, especially as to the focus and content of our worship.
We saw as well that the Holy Trinity provides a Triadic Model summed up in Jesus Himself (John 14:6), a Model intended by God to be fully represented in the Church’s worship. The Patterns of Heavenly Worship revealed in Scripture are intended to provide the basic model for our worship, and, as all our study of this matter has shown, our worship is primarily for the Pleasure of God, and only secondarily (and derivatively) for the building up of the Church to do His Will in this world and beyond. our formal worship is not intended to be dominated by evangelistic outreach, but, as we’ve seen, oriented primarily to the adoration of God and resultant edification of the saints, with any evangelization to be a side-effect of the God-oriented worship and edificational instruction to the believers (this is why the Book of Acts shows evangelism as being largely conducted outside the precincts of formal worship).
However, we’ve seen that the evangelistic techniques of the Second Great Awakening have largely displaced the Biblical Patterns of worship which aimed first at pleasing God, and secondarily at instructing and edifying believers, resulting in worship largely oriented around emotionally-manipulative experiential techniques, resulting in an impoverishment of content-oriented and objectively-grounded aspects of Evangelical worship experience.
This further had a deleterious effect on teaching in Sunday Schools, from the pulpits, even in seminaries, as the normativity of emotionalistic experience came to dominate Evangelical expectation and thought, resulting in theological expressions and sermons which deemphasized complex or unpopular doctrinal content (such as teaching about Hell, gender issues, maledictory prayer, etc.), all in the service of supposedly making the Gospel more attractive in evangelistic appeals and experiential worship.
In point of fact, this perspective and practice has promoted a version of Christianity which has not only deformed the worship of the Evangelical Church, but has also divested Evangelicals of a fully-orbed theology which allows them to be Biblically-informed in the full spectrum of human life, and has resulted in a presentation of the Faith which seems to non-believers to be only concerned with individualistic interior experience and eschatological escapism, with no solid answers for personal and societal problems, especially for the pressing social issues of the day.
Rather than presenting a Biblical Faith of comprehensive content and wisdom for anything humans may ever face on any front, Evangelicals, as a direct consequence of departure from Biblical worship norms, have presented a version of Christianity which is (in many ways justly) deemed irrelevant by contemporary non-believers, an ironic consequence of an effort to adjust belief and worship to make Christianity seem relevant.
There is no real improvement possible on the basic norms and balanced content of Holy Scripture, and even though those are indeed capable of being expressed in terms which are understandable and relevant to any society or culture, we must never depart from the basic teachings and content of the Bible, nor should we lose the balance of Scriptural emphases within our faith and practice, including (and in many ways, especially) in our worship, which is so central to the formation of our Faith and in our faithful obedience to God’s Will and Purposes. We must not imagine, in our belief or practice, that we are smarter (or, as the case may be, hipper) than our Creator and Lord. More later.