The SBJT Forum: The Current State of Worship -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 2:4 (Winter 1998) p. 58
The SBJT Forum:
The Current State of Worship
Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the Forum’s format. Carl F. H. Henry, Timothy George, Esther Rothenbusch, Lloyd Mims, and D. A. Carson have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the Forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.
SBJT: What are the theological essentials of Christian worship?
Carl F. H. Henry1 : Christian worship is awe and adoration of the self-revealing God as incomparably worthy. It includes an awareness of His dominion and amazing grace.
Some early twentieth century theology disowned such worship as less than authentic. Instead it promoted modernizing alternatives that emphasized our individual participation in the Ground of All Being. In the late twentieth century even such laudation is being challenged by supposedly “seeker friendly” worship wherein the deity gains less prominence, traditional evangelism is subordinated, and emphasis falls on relational considerations. Insistence on preparatory Bible-learning, on creedal Christianity, on public confession of sin and divine forgiveness on the ground of Christ’s substitutionary death—with its awareness of God’s amazing power and grace—is no longer in the foreground.
Biblical worship is theocentric. It is a creaturely response to the Creator who is at once transcendent and immanent. In accord with the Psalmist’s exhortation it ascribes to the Lord “the glory due His name” (Ps 96:8) by directing to Him prayer, praise, and presents (or offerings) congruous with His nature and character. One cannot long reflect on the New Testament references to Christian worship without awareness that the Holy Spirit is among its major contributing elements.
Christian worship occurs in the context both of the Risen Lord and of the community of believers permeated by the Spirit. Worship is therefore not simply an isolated private affair, but rather a public matter characteristic of gathered believers and edifying to the well being and fellowship of believers. The notion that individual believers should gather as a company each of whose participants simultaneously worships in a distinct and different way hardly seems normative. It is Christ Jesus—not our feelings—who comprises the vital center of believers gathered in prayer and praise. Yet personal spiritual faith...
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