Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is All Worship Offered By Christian Churches Necessarily Christian?

When I was attending seminary at the Southern Seminary, Russ Moore asked my class a question like this in a systematic theology course, "Are we and all the other religions worshiping the same God as many like to suggest? If not, what is the difference?". Well, the difference is that the Christian church recognizes that God has revealed himself in his scripture as Trinitarian--that is that the one, living and true God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory (see Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. & A. 5 & 6). No other religion or cult acknowledges this reality. God's Trinitarian existence is unique to biblical Christianity.

God exists as a trinity, but he has also acted in creation and redemption as a Trinity. If Christian worship is of this God, then Christian worship must be self-consciously Trinitarian. In Jon Payne's recent book on worship, he notes that:
The revelation of God's three-in-onenesss in Scripture demands that our worship and liturgy reflect this mysterious reality. Indeed, our worship must always be directed to the Father, through the mediation of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, (34).
One implication for this is that worship offered by Christians is not necessarily Christian simply because self-professed Christians are offering it. If the worship being offered by Christians is focused on one person or two persons of the Trinity to the exclusion of others, then it is not Trinitarian worship, it is not Christian worship.

So, given the importance of expressly Trinitarian worship, how does the Church "protect, promote, and practice" Christian worship? This is one of the areas in which Reformed worship and liturgy is so helpful, since it focuses on being self-consciously Trinitarian. Payne suggests that one way to do so is by a carefully prepared liturgy that "takes the congregation by the hand and leads them to worship God in a manner that gives due attention to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," (35). It is the responsibility of the elders of the Church to shepherd the Church in biblical worship by structuring worship to be Trinitarian.

On pages 35-36, Payne sets forth six elements that support Trinitarian worship:
  1. The ststematic reading and preaching of God's Word
  2. The confession of sin and assurace of pardon
  3. The singing of Psalms and hymns
  4. The Confession of Faith
  5. The pastoral prayer
  6. The benediction
These six elements are by no means an exhaustive list--but they are very helpful for providing a basic starting point. Since
. . . the Christian conception of God and of all his activity toward us in creation and redemption is essentially Trinitarian, then the Trinitarian perspective must be allowed to pervade all Christian worship and practice, all interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and all proclamation of the Gospel, and must be given a regulative role in the dynamic structure ofall Christian thought and action, (35).
So how are you and your Church doing?

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