Worship As Divider And Unifier: A Comparison Of The Reformation With Contemporary Evangelism -- By: Scott Aniol

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 23:2 (Fall 2019)
Article: Worship As Divider And Unifier: A Comparison Of The Reformation With Contemporary Evangelism
Author: Scott Aniol


Worship As Divider And Unifier: A Comparison Of The Reformation With Contemporary Evangelism

Scott Aniol

Abstract: Differences over worship philosophy and practice were central in preventing full unity among sixteenth-century Reformers, even while they were united in many central theological convictions. Traditional psalmody, hymnody, and liturgy, however, helped promote appropriate unity across denominational lines. Contemporary evangelical practice blurs important denominational distinctives through the Praise and Worship movement and the Church Growth movement. Praise and Worship theology and seeker-sensitive worship theology contribute toward minimizing important doctrinal matters, partly because they elevate musical style as being central to church identity.

Key Words: Evangelicalism, Reformed, Praise and Worship, Church Growth, liturgy, denominationalism, psalmody, hymnody

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Differences In Worship Theology As Key Denominational Distinctives

Church historians have suggested different ways of understanding denominations that emerged in the wake of the Reformation. I will suggest here that one plausible way to understand them is, in the words of David Dockery,

“through the window of liturgy and worship.”2 Indeed, a brief examination of how denominations developed during the Reformation reveals that worship theology and practice played a much more significant role in denominational divisions among emerging Protestant groups than other core theological beliefs. Although the Reformers generally agreed concerning central doctrines of justification and biblical authority, their disagreements about worship issues such as the Lord’s Table, baptism, and how Scripture regulated worship practice were what ultimately led to irreconcilable divisions.

The Lord’s Table

This tendency to division is perhaps no more true than with understanding and practice of baptism and the Lord’s Table. In the early years of the Reformation, differences over the Lord’s Table presented one of the most divisive issues. For example, although the Reformers agreed in their repudiation of transubstantiation, Luther and Zwingli could not come to a consensus on the meaning of “this is my body” (Luke 22:19), the only one of fifteen articles at the 1529 Marburg Colloquy the Zwinglians could not sign. Zwingli insisted that Christ was present only at the Father’s right hand and that the elements of the Lord’s Supper were a memorial only, while Luther argued that Christ could also be literally present in sac...

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