03 October, 2006

Approaching God in Character

Our day and age has brought about what we deem as the "worship wars". The worship wars are Christians battling out their perception of worship. Generally the debates revolve around preference and who prefers hymns versus "contemporary" songs. These churches also desire to battle over things such as organs versus guitars and drums.

The problem with this whole argument is that no one has taken the time to stop and to ask what God desires in all of this. The American church has not stopped to ask about God's character or how he has revealed himself in his Word. The debate usually never leaves the horizontal aspect of ascetics, preference, or "the way that I see it is...".

God has revealed himself in his Word and we need to reflect that character. He has also revealed principles of worship and we must bow to his sovereign will... God is in His holy temple- let the whole earth be silent.

God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before Him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with deep humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we therefore must acknowledge his Excellency... He is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying mediator and intercessor.
-Stephen Charnock


Anonymous said...

But... but... we live under grace, not law!

Seriously, though - excellent post. It's far better for Christians to disagree about how to obey the Bible than for them to disagree whether to obey or not.

Andrew Duggan said...

Mark said:
"...better for Christians to disagree about how to obey the Bible than for them to disagree whether to obey or not."

What's the difference? How is it better if there is no agreement on what the Bible teaches and what it means to obey God? Really its more like "Obey, or obey not, there is no try."

The "worship wars" (as Nate described it) is like listening to a hypothetical argument between the Pharisees and the Saducees, and as he pointed out they both miss the point!

God is not unclear on how he is to be worshipped. Those who engage in these absurd entertainment exercises[1], are not even trying to obey the God or the Bible, they are doing what they feel or think God will take because they like it themselves.

After all, they think, God loves them so he'll take whatever they want to give him in terms of worship. Maybe people should read the prophecy of Malachi, and reconsider if they really want to present God with songs of praise that are lame, sick, and simply aren't what God has required.

They believe and practice the first lie, "Yeah, hath God said...", and all their effort is in vain, for "in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctines the commandments of men."

[1] non-inspired hymns or songs, musical intruments and overall disorderliness with everyone speaking out loud in reciting the Lord's Prayer, or worse the apostles' creed

Anonymous said...

Andrew - the point is that one groups wants to obey God, and the other just wants to do their own thing. It's a definite sign of sanctification.

Droll Flood said...

"...better for Christians to disagree about how to obey the Bible than for them to disagree whether to obey or not."

Well the first doesn't inherently guarantee that they'll even get it right but yet can be maintaining a position of sanctification, and the second could be taking an unbiblical position or a biblical (which side are you on in that one?). God and his commands are not to be held in the balances against man's wisdom, but He is sovereign in all.
I affirm that obedience to God must be maintained to all His Law, however I ask to know from where you're coming?
-Why would you want to obey God? What's the underlying reason?

Andrew Duggan said...


My point was that saying one wants to obey God, but we just disagree on how, is not the same as actually submitting to teaching of Scripture and dying unto sin and living unto righteousness.

Do you think that Adam and Eve at any point in their conversation with the serpent actually thought, "I want to disobey God?", because I don't think they actually thought about it along those lines. Rather, they thought, based on the serpent's lie, that eating the fruit was just another perspective on how to obey God. After all the fruit did look good to eat, and was such as it would make one wise, and God wanted them to be well fed and wise, right? So that brings us back to what I said, "What's the difference?", really none, since in the "worship wars" neither side really cares about what God has commanded. Its just like the Pharisees and Sadducee's, both claiming they want to obey God, but neither really exercising themselves to that end.


I want to obey God, because I want to be like Jesus Christ, who gave his life for me. I want to show my love to him, and Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15). I cannot obey God on my own, and any obedience there is, is by the work of God's Spirit, but even that does not earn me favor with God. The only favor anyone can have with God is based only on the righteousness of Christ imputed to him (me) and received by faith (in Christ) alone (which is also the gift of God). I know there is much sin still in my heart, and so I don't presume anything. All I know is that I trust Jesus, and I'm not going to waste my time singing error filled songs written by imperfect men, when I can sing a new song written by Jesus Christ, breathed out by his Holy Spirit and found in the book of Psalms. How do I know that's right? That's what God has commanded. (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16). If any would try the old line of those scriptures don't teach exclusive psalmody, consider this: if psalms, hymns and songs of the Spirit, don't mean all mean the Psalms, then the scriptures teach that man's word is on equal ground with God's word, and that leads to spiritual death. God through Jesus Christ has spoken, and man has spoken, who are you going to believe? I'm going to believe Jesus, because he has proved his love. What has Isaac Watts (or any mere man) done for anyone? Yet, most English speaking Christians pick Isaac Watts (or others) over Christ all the time, and yet they want to claim they want to obey God. -- Give me a break.

Droll Flood said...

My main concern was to discern from where this zeal for the RPW was coming.
Proclaimation of law apart from God-originated righteousness would be legalism...

"I know there is much sin still in my heart, and so I don't presume anything."
-About what? Presumption isn't inherently wrong...

-Next question: Are you a "Steelite"?

Gavin Brown said...

I think the point that is missing is that the so-called "worship wars" are just one of many problems that grow out of a biblically illiterate culture.

Tons of zeal...zero knowledge.

I'm pretty sure the Charismatics should also shoulder some of the blame (for the worship wars, that is). I realize I'm painting with broad strokes. Will explain if provoked.

Aaron Bishop said...

I attend one of these churches that worships (or in your case "worships") God using songs other than the Psalms. My question (and this is not sarcastic) is what are the consequences of my participating in this act of worship (or any act of worship that does not fall under the guidelines of Calvinism, etc.)? Or to phrase another way, from your perspective, am I in jeopardy of eternal damnation b/c I do not adhere to those ways? If I am not, is there/will there be a certain level of dissastisfaction from Christ for me? I know the point is not whether or not I can get into Heaven; I believe firmly in pleasing my Lord while on earth in this body. But I struggle to see why many of you are so vehemently opposed of this sort of thing if, in the end, I will be alongside you in Heaven (unless you think otherwise). I'd love feedback.

Nate said...


The point of the post was more what attitude do we approach God with.

I appreciate your thoughts and being courageous enough to ask such a question on a blog dripping with Calvinists!

I will email you privately, and if you want it posted I will.

Andrew Duggan said...


I don't presume anything worthy in myself with respect to God.

No, I am not a Steelite, I doubt they would let me join, and I have no need to join them. What makes you think I might be?

Droll Flood said...

"I don't presume anything worthy in myself with respect to God."
-Ah. Please excuse my slowness.

"What makes you think I might be?"
-I wouldn't inherently say that I'd think you a "Steelite". I know well enough about the RPW position that it's not just held by Steelites. The confessions to which I hold maintain the RPW, question and answer 96 of the Heidelburg Catechism quite plainly states it.

-I try to be cautious in my categorizing of people, and even then, I do not 100% expect them to fully follow the category.
In the circles in which I ...um..."dwell" it tends to be that those who are very vocal about the RPW have some sort of tie to "Steelites" somehow. That's not exhaustively the case about all my friends. Nate's not. Shawn is (this was by no means an exhaustive list of my friends).

"The problem with this whole argument is that no one has taken the time to stop and to ask what God desires in all of this."
Pertaining to the topic at hand, I really am fearful that they have asked 'God'.
My apologies Nate, I got a little off task.

"The debate usually never leaves the horizontal aspect of ascetics, preference, or "the way that I see it is..."."
Ascetics? You mean Aesthetics?

Andrew Duggan said...


Thanks for the exchange. FWIW, the lineage (humanly speaking) of how I came to understand the RPW is from John Murray (late Prof of Systematic Theology Westminster Thelogical Seminary) via my parents and our church, which is in the OPC. Although its a bit more involved that just that....