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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Worship: Have We Lost Our Theological Identity?

In the last few years of church searching, too often I experienced worship services that seem to communicate a two-fold idea. First, several services we attended demonstrated that worship benefits us by giving us something. Perhaps the thinking in this type of service believed that worship puts God into motion to act on our behalf. Or maybe in this framework of worship was performed to make us feel closer to God, help us be encouraged for the upcoming week. Whatever the case may be, whenever we experienced this type of worship service it bothered me to the core. This is in fact is not worship at all, unless one is attempting to worship an idea or perhaps self – a type of unintentional narcissism. Whatever the case may be, too often we experienced this type of service.

The second idea of this two fold idea in church worship services is what I like to call the self-help worship. This is where the service is geared toward making those in the church and especially those unchurched more comfortable about themselves. In these worship services sermons were geared to communicate to the listener that we are not bad people. Sin is absent in their homilies. Rather we are to learn how we can live through adversity, or how we can improve our financial status, etc. The attention is on self and not God. In fact, there is actually no semblance of worshipping God in these services at all. These are the services that were so bad I would get up and leave in the middle of them.

Now, in writing these above things, I am not intentionally trying to be a pessimist, I simply believe these churches have lost touch with true worship and have turn, perhaps, to the world to set the tone for their church services. I say this because most, if not all, of these churches have campaigns to bring the unchurched into their services. In my humble opinion, this was never the intent of the church or the intent of worship. Therefore, when these things are performed, there is a loss of meaningful ecclesiological theology, the shape of liturgy is distorted, and the focus of the worship is not God. How can we possibly call this worship? Moreover, if the above things are becoming the norm, how do we redirect the landscape of the church back to a more sound theological worshipping community?

I think this at least begins with an ecclesiology that is grounded in good theology and a better understanding of what it means to be a worshipping community. This is, as Church History shows us, the underlying ordo of worship. Simon Chan confirms this in his work when he declares, “. . . a coherent theology of the church that pays particular attention to the liturgical practices that have constituted Christian worship throughout the centuries” is what is needed in churches today. Therefore, this will be the focus of the last few posts I present here on the issue of worship.

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