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.
Last issue, we looked at three of the songs sung in the worship of God, the texts of Rev. 5: 8-10, 14: 1-3; and 15: 2-4, noting that all of these, in balanced fashion, gratefully praised God for Who He is, by recounting the things He has done redemptively for His People, and by recounting what He has done subjectively for His People (i.e., what His action has effected from the perspective, and in the experience of, the Redeemed themselves). This last, of course, is what has dominated the perspective of modern contemporary worship to the near-exclusion of the other categories of worship demonstrated in the Heavenly Worship. This certainly demonstrates that, though these categories include songs from a subjectively thankful perspective, these must be balanced by those which thank God for both Who He is and what He has done objectively for believers.
This is, at the least, an implication that only one-third of our song of worship are to be subjective, as well as demonstrating, as the songs in Revelation do, that the categories can meaningfully be intertwined (indeed, a danger of not including objective doctrinal elements in our music is that our experience of redemption becomes either dislodged from the very objective content that gives it meaning, and/or that it denigrates the importance of the Objective Acts of Redemption Which are the ground of our subjective experience in the first place, as we’ve seen in past articles in this series).
We also looked at Revelation 14:1-3, and began to consider the songs in Revelation that are not sung by all the worshippers present in the Heavenly Service, and concluded that that reality implied a justification of both what are generally thought of as performance pieces and instrumental pieces in Christian worship.
In the last article, we saw that the multiple perspectives represented in the various songs sung by the Elders, the Cherubim, other angels, the Redeemed, and by various combinations of these groups in their diversity and their unity represent the Diverse yet Unified Perspective(s) of the Persons of the One Triune God.
We turn now to a continuance of the consideration of the impact of the Nature of the Triune God on our worship.
We’ve been, in this series, examining the imbalances which have resulted in the deformation of contemporary Evangelical worship toward extreme emotionalism and experientialism. We’ve seen as well that, though these are necessary elements to worship, they have essentially displaced doctrinal content and objective perspectives on our experience of God, especially in our music.
Since our worship (as we’ve seen in past articles) is to be reflective of the God Who is the Object of our worship, let’s explore some of the Implications of the Triune God for such a consideration. The Holy Trinity, Who is One God in Essence or Substance, is also simultaneously Three in Person, balancing Unified and Diverse Perspectives simultaneously, as we’ve also seen.
Yet the Three Divine Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) also represent aspects of a unified balance, even in the case of functional aspects of human persons and their expressions (which shouldn’t surprise us, since mankind was created in the Image of the Triune God, as Genesis1:26-27 tells us). In this case, I’m considering that the Functions of the Three Persons correspond to three essential aspects of humanity (and thus, of the worship humans embody).
Of course, such a reduction of the Multiply-Hued Persons of the Trinity in terms of Their Functions, Relationships, and everything else about Them, so the consideration of the Persons as representative of a single aspect of humans or anything else is always fraught with the danger of being overly reductionistic. Nonetheless, just as the Triune God is Both Diverse and Unified, it is true that, as God is Diverse in His Aspects, He is also Simple in His Characteristics (at the same time), so I’ll proceed with the analogy.
The Lord Jesus described Himself in John 14:6 – “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” a Self-description which, considering that Christ is both Fully God and Fully Man simultaneously, recapitulates in His Incarnate Person the Persons, Aspects, and Functions of the Holy Trinity. That Trinitarian Self-description also describes a Tripod of Characteristics Which describe the Tasks of the Trinity and the correspondent emphases of the worship of the Trinity.
It works like this: Each of the Triune Persons’ Functions correspond primarily to one leg of the Tripod of Way, Truth, and Life. Jesus Himself identified His Function in this Tripod in the latter part of John 14:6 – “No man comes to the Father except through Me.” Thus Jesus, the Incarnation of the Son Who died to atone for the sins of men, and become the Only Pathway to God for Fallen Mankind, represents the Way to the Spiritual Realm of the Father.
The Father, Who is considered to be the Arche, the Beginning-Point of the Endless Interrelationships of the Father Who Eternally Begets the Son, and Who with the Son spirates the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, represents the Truth, the second leg of the Tripod, as the Father Who is the Relational Starting-Point of the Idea or Reason permeating the Triune Persons.
The Holy Spirit brings Life to men by applying the Sacrifice of Christ to believers, and sustaining the existence and life of the Creation by His Almighty Power, and thus represents Life, the final leg of the Tripod.
The Lord Jesus, and the Holy Trinity embody the aspects or legs of the Tripod in balance. This is also to be true of the worship of the Trinity and the Incarnate Christ. The Lord Jesus, the Son, corresponds in this construct to the Way of the Spirit (and thus to the spiritual aspect of humanity in worship). The Father corresponds here to the Truth, the Primal Mind (and thus to reason or the ideationary aspect of humanity in worship). The Holy Spirit corresponds in this construct to the Source of Life (and thus to the experiential or emotional aspect [or even the soul] of humanity in worship).
Just as the aspects of the Way, Truth, and Life permeate the Incarnate Christ in balanced fashion, and these aspects correspond to the Functions of the Triune Persons in Perfect Balance and Order, so the correspondent analogues of reason/content, experience/emotion, and spiritual connexion (or mind, body, and spirit) are to be balanced in worship, if our worship is to properly reflect the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate Lord Jesus, and meet the needs of, and shape the development of, worshipping humanity.
At present, our contemporary Evangelical worship is imbalanced toward the experiential/emotional leg of the Triad, to the detriment of the reason/content and spiritual legs of the Triad, and our music largely reflects this imbalance. Once again, of course, each of these emphases actually inescapably interpenetrate each other to some extent (just as the Persons of the Trinity interpenetrate One Another), so even now, in our current imbalanced worship, elements of each leg of the Triad still are present to some extent.
However, our overemphasis on the experiential and emotional nonetheless means that the other legs of the Triad are illegitimately devalued, to the detriment of the Church, and the dishonor of the Lord we worship. To regain the balance reflective of the Incarnate Lord Jesus, and of the Triune God, is a burning necessity in our worship today.