After noting the unusal length of this response to my guest "Pitchford," I thought I would promote it to a main post. You can read Pitchford's original query here, which originally appeared on my "The SBC has issues" post.


I will begin by saying that you in fact do not have a complete understanding of my views, and distort them in places, based on stereotype of the spheres in which I run. Nevertheless, I take no offense at this, and will press on nonetheless in response.

Pitchford, it is you who also appear to be imposing your own philosophical (?) understandings on the text. You are imposing your preconceived idea of what dance and drumbeats and exuberance look like upon the text.

You see, everyone says their worship is reverent (though I do not see how they do it). The question thus centers on the nature of reverence. Everyone believes that we must worship God in holiness (even the most crass evangelical pseudo-worship mantras astonishingly mention holiness), therefore the question of the nature of holiness must be addressed.

I find it astonishing that you believe that I am imposing a philosophical understanding upon the text, but are unwilling yourself to admit any such bias. You are not as neutral as you appear. You mention David dancing before the ark, but you are so blinded (or so it appears [pardon the pun]) by your own cultural understanding of dance that you do not even pause to hesitate in blessing the aforementioned activity as you know it. The Scripture, after all, even the New Testament, explicitly commands us, not to worship with unrestrained "exuberance" (your word, not the Bible's–unless you are reading The Message), but "with reverence and awe" (μετα αιδους και ευλαβειας). (By the way, I do have room for "dance and drumbeats" in worship, though probably not the kind most of my evangelical readers would find to be a "blessing"*).

You said, "I have been convinced of no legitimate textual bases for holding to the irreverent-circus argument against contemporary worship."

The point of my post, of course, was not to argue from a text, and, in fact, was structured purposefully to assume a certain understanding of Christian worship. I am not particularly fond of the dialectic approach pushed by so many today. Arius used the dialectic approach (I am, of course, not calling you an Arian–far from it). I think I have, over the course of this blog, given many "textual bases" for my position, all the while acknowledging both that the Scripture in no place explicitly instructs us as to what music God likes and that this in no way diminishes the importance of our addressing it. This bothers some of you more than it does me. Perhaps this is because I have learned to appreciate the theological method and the nature of theology itself, which forces upon us the espousal of certain doctrines not explicitly set forth in the Holy Writ. Again, I have written on this on several occasions of this modest blog's life, and you could find those with a brief perusal.

As to the yellow sport coat man's intention, let me say this: If my son was slouching in church, I would question his intention. I may be wrong, but I think I have good reason. Just like when the police office questions my intention when I spit on him, so I question the dancing man's intention when he acts like he did.

You said, "Unless, that is, one can reasonably demonstrate that a subset of the commanded thing is, by its very nature, linked to a quality which is mandated against."

How do you prove that something is irreverent? Or unholy? Or blasphemous? Did Moses whip out a "chapter and verse" when he caught and condemned the Israelites for (gasp–dare I say it?) dancing? How do you know what holiness is? Do I have to provide you a chapter and verse? Don't you know of some already?

You see, Pitchford, part of your problem is that you misunderstand the "subset" I am advocating. I am not advocating against dancing, but against a certain kind of dancing. I am not advocating against joy, but a certain kind of joy. I am not advocating against "drumbeats," [:::sigh:::], but certain kinds of drumbeats. Now am I getting too "philosophical" here? Because the Bible does not lay out in a specific chapter and verse what is reverent and what is not, everything is reverent? Because the Bible does not lay out what is holy and unholy music in some chapter and verse, everything is holy? Someone may "rise up to play" in the presence of God, and I should bless him? What about the one who spits on the Holy Scriptures or Andres Serrano when he devised and photographed his crucifix, am I to bless them as well? (After all, it is all about their intentions, right? Can we judge those at all without philosophical and extra-Biblical arguments coming into the discussion?)

The irony here is that you were able to pick up on a spirit of sarcasm in the original post, even to mention its not being loving (did you have a chapter and verse to tell you what is sarcastic or unloving?), but are unable to bless one discerning between reverent and irreverent worship because he is venturing into "philosophical" ground.

May I mention another point of irony? You make it sound as if I am the only one here making "philosophical" judgments. Perhaps that is because I am making certain and condemning statements. Yet, you, in making certain and justifying statements for your own (or, at least, this other) "worship style" are making similar philosophical judgments as to the virtue and goodness of that style. I am always astonished that the liberal liturgists and cultural relativists actually believe that their interpretation of the Bible is somehow free from all extra-biblical biases. You are not as free from philosophical systems as you might think.

In conclusion, allow me to say one more thing as an appeal to conservative worship. I have been largely saying negative things against other forms of worship. But conservative worship is the most glorious and beautiful that can be found. Is anything more beautiful, save the Triune God himself, than worshipping that God in holiness? Is there any thing more fitting than a person who with reverence and awe offers his liturgical expressions? I have no greater satisfaction than to worship freely and soberly and joyfully and reverently with the simple yet profound expressions found in our Christian heritage of traditional Western (though not necessarily limited to Western) hymnody. What communion I have using the praises and hymns fashioned by other pious believers throughout the ages! Run away from the dank swamps of popular-American-evangelical-frenzy-trendy-worship! Flee to the rich pastures of Christian expression found in the holy catholic Church!


*I think the question of "dance" in New Testament worship is a legimitate one, and, though I have no problem with "dance" in principle, it may not necessarily be admitted based on the matter of the Regulative Principle. I am intentionally leaving that question unaddressed here for the sake of my larger argument.