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I was doing some work on a liturgy today.  Among the tools I used was D.A. Carson’s book Worship by the Book.  He is the editor and contributed the first chapter to the book.  From there it explores different worship traditions in chapters written by advocates/participants in those traditions.  Mark Ashton and C.J. Davis explain the liturgical tradition as expressed by Thomas Cranmer and the Episcopal church.  R. Kent Hughes contributes on the worship of the free church.  And last is Tim Keller explaining the Reformed heritage and how it can be expressed in the global city.  Each chapter also includes some sample liturgical patterns so you get a feel for how they might be expressed.

I went back over Tim Keller’s chapter and found many helpful things there.  He begins with the unfortunate reality of the worship wars.  Keller is not an advocate of a purely contemporary or purely historical form of worship.  On the one hand, we don’t want to

“… break our solidarity with Christians of the past.  Part of the richness of our identity as Christians is that we are saved into a historic people.  An unwillingness to consult tradition is not in keeping with either Christian humility or Christian community.  Nor is it a thoughtful response to the postmodern rootlessness that now leads many to seek connection to ancient ways and peoples.”

On the other hand, Historic Worship people have to grapple with some tough problems.  Whose history?  Often these people put a very strong emphasis on 16th-19th century Europe.  How much education?  Often higher forms of art need time for appreciation to be nurtured.  Simple people won’t naturally worship in such complex forms.  And …

“Those who argue against cultural relativism must also remember that sin and fallenness taints every tradition and society.  Just as it is a lack of humility to disdain tradition, it is also a lack of humility (and a blindness to the ‘noetic’ effects of sin) to elevate any particular tradition or culture’s way of doing worship. … While CW advocates do not seem to recognize the sin in all cultures, the HW advocates do not seem to recognize the amount of (common) grace in all cultures.”

So, Tim Keller encourages us to consult “the Bible, the cultural context of our community, and the historic tradition of our church.”  This means no 2 churches will worship the same, though there may be many similarities.  He continues to give a very short history of the variances in Reformed Worship.  He, like R.J. Gore, prefers Calvin’s continental view over the Puritans’ more rigid view.  He had far more singing than the Puritans would.  Calvin also thought exaltation, evangelism and edification were not mutually exclusive concepts.

Keller summarizes Reformed worship as simple (substance over style), emphasizing God’s transcendence, and an order that re-enacts the Gospel to create a grace-orientation.  It is a sort of middle road between the fixed liturgy of Rome or England and the free worship.

He has a helpful section on leading corporate worship.  He talks about demeanor: aware of God’s holiness we will not be overly familiar; aware of God’s grace we will not be nervous or self-conscious.  We should be authentic and humble.  He talks about emotion, neither hiding it nor given free rein so as to manipulate.  Language should not be too archaic or artificial.  It should not be overly mundane or technical either.

All in all, this is a good chapter to prompt worship leaders and pastors to think more profoundly about worship.  He tries to get beneath the rhetoric to the heart of things.  As a result, I find it helpful (but then I usually do find Tim Keller helpful).

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