Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miracles and History

[Part three in the Scripture and History series]

This is the crux of the issue. It cannot be denied that the Bible includes history. When people talk about "historicity" in Scripture - they are really talking about one thing and one thing only - whether the miracles that are reported in the Jewish and Christian scriptures are historic or not. Ultimately, it comes to a point in the greatest, and most important, miracle of them all - the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, that is exactly where this series is going as well. This in not really a question of history or science - it is a question of philosophy and theology - no matter how much rationalists argue that it is. However, philosophical antisupernaturalism and rationalism has impacted the historiographic view of the Bible.

As I indicated in the introduction to the paper, this steel thread joining many scholars together, all the while producing different pictures of the historical Jesus, appears to be one aspect of their worldview. They are antisupernaturalists for the most part, grounded in the rationalistic naturalism arising out of the Enlightenment . . . "The 'historical Jesus' is a hypothesis reconstructed from the Gospels by the use of the historical-critical method on the basis of naturalistic presuppositions. Such a Jesus must be altogether and only human—a Jesus without transcendence."

This particular worldview is not only devastating to Scriptural testimony, it is also fallacious historiographically speaking and indefensible philosophically.
That comes from, and I am following, "The Historical Veracity of the Resurrection Narratives", by Greg Herrick Th.M., Ph.D..

The study will proceed first by arguing for a worldview that at least permits the supernatural. A brief history of the discussion regarding antisupernaturalism in biblical studies will be offered, followed by a critique of this position which has for so long dominated biblical studies. The defense of the supernaturalistic worldview will rest primarily on historical and philosophical considerations. To wrap up the first section, a statement will be offered as to the best worldview a historian can possess in doing historiography.

Second, based upon the worldview argued for in the first part of the paper, the study will apply the criteria of authenticity to the resurrection narratives to see if they indeed are historically credible. We will see that the resurrection accounts fair very well and should be considered historically trustworthy and an integral part of any reconstruction of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
He starts with the wedge driven between history and theology by the Enlightenment and its scholarly commitment to antisupernaturalism - and particularly focuses on Benedict de Spinoza, David Hume, and Troeltsch. He examines the first two on the basis of how this view reflects on the possibility of miracles; and the last in terms of how the rationalist worldview has affected doing historiography.

"Nothing, then, comes to pass in nature in contravention to her universal laws, nay, everything agrees with them and follows from them, for whatsoever comes to pass, comes to pass by the will and eternal decree of God; that is, as we have just pointed out, whatever comes to pass, comes to pass according to laws and rules which involve eternal necessity and truth; nature, therefore . . . keeps a fixed and immutable order" - Benedict de Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,
Geisler in Miracles and Modern Scientific Thought

[Note: J.M. Bochenski calls this the most cogent defense of miracles that he's ever seen.]
points out that Spinoza's argument against even the possibility of miracles rests on:

  1. Euclidian or deductive rationalism;
  2. a Newtonian view of natural law and
  3. a certain understanding of the nature of God — pantheistic
Herrick: Insofar as Spinoza's arguments rest on deductive reasoning he is begging the question. He has assumed in the premises what he hopes to defend as the conclusion. He never proved through evidential means that natural laws are immutable nor that miracles are necessarily violations of natural laws — two of his key premises. The argument is formally true, but not valid. The Newtonian worldview is seriously questioned today as well. The universe appears to be expanding and getting older which destroys his argument. In other words the laws of nature are not inviolable, but rather caused and therefore contingent — not eternal and absolute, but mutable. And if it is true that the universe and natural laws came into existence at a point in time, then we ipso facto have a miracle — i.e. the creation ex nihilo of the universe.
. . . the kernel of his argument is as follows:
  1. A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature;
  2. Firm and unalterable (i.e. uniform) experience has established these laws;
  3. A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence and
  4. Therefore the proof against miracles is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.
Herrick: Hume's argument can be interpreted so as to preclude miracles a priori. We will follow the interpretation of the argument which understands him to say that the wise man will never believe in a miracle because he will never have enough evidence to substantiate such a belief.
Hume's argument is not against the possibility of miracles but against identifying or accepting them. C.S. Lewis in Miracles

Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely "uniform experience" against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know experience against them to be false. And we all know the experience against them to be uniform if we know that all reports of them are false. And we can know all reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.
Back to Herrick:

Since Hume's second premise is incorrect, his whole argument is weakened and as far as its ultimate intention, destroyed. But, what can be said of Hume's argument from the laws of nature and personal experience is that miracles are rare and therefore witnesses must be questioned to establish the probability of the event having happened.

A final critique of Hume's method concerns the vantage point in his argument . . . to argue from within the laws . . . presupposes certain truths about the laws, namely, eternality and immutability. This he could never prove as one subject to the laws. These presuppositions . . . cannot be defended today on scientific grounds, much less personal experience.
Again, as with Spinoza, there is a pantheistic assumption by Hume that God exists within the universe and laws He created, and is bound by them. Herrick's conclusion to this section

The result is that miracles are not logically absurd, nor historically impossible and therefore the wedge between history and theology (i.e. the supernatural) is unfounded. This does not mean that every report of a miracle is as probable as the next. One must critically examine the historical evidence. As concerns the Gospels this is a welcome study. Many principles have been enumerated for doing historiography and critically examining the miracles recorded in the Gospels. In the next section we will briefly state some accepted, sound guidelines for doing historiography before we directly examine the "criteria of authenticity"
Next time, I will follow Herrick through an examination of Troeltsch's views of historiography and on into an historical-critical view of the resurrection accounts free from a antisupernaturalist bias.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Scripture and History: Part II

[Part two in the Scripture and History series]

I ended part one by saying this

A history textbook implies that the text was written with the primary purpose of documenting historical fact.
is not what historians do, nor is it what historical texts (or textbooks) present. Certainly, we have to agree on a definition of what a historical work does in order to decide whether the Bible has historical purpose and/or content. In the discussion that started this post I said
every bit of "real history" they read is written through some other theological or ideological lens.
Historical works have a viewpoint, and historians are pretty honest about that. As they examine, organize, and interpret the source documents and facts in order to arrive at the analysis that becomes a work of history - they are aware of their lens. Certainly, they try to have the facts lead them to a conclusion, rather than the other way around - but that is the difference between good history and bad history - and not between it being history and not history. One would only probably have to look at the history of World War II as taught in the Japanese schools and that taught in US schools to see the difference in viewpoint and analysis based on the same facts.
"History is the study of the past, focused on human activity and leading up to the present day. More precisely, history is the continuous, systematic narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all events in time, in relation to humanity . . . All events that are remembered and preserved in some form is seen as the historical record . . . In German, French, and indeed, most languages of the world other than English, this distinction was never made, and the same word is used to mean both 'history' and 'story' " - Wiki section on History
Nor, are we talking about historical works containing just facts. This is the section on "Social History" from an older edition of Compton's at my house:
Nothing is more fascinating than the true story of how people lived in the past - their houses, food and clothing; how they cultivated their fields, manufactured goods, and traded with their neighbors; their beliefs God and the world of nature; their laws and manner of government; the songs their poets sang, and the beautiful things their artists made. All this is included in the social history taught today.
Obviously at least the Hebrew scriptures are that kind of work. The question is: was it intended to be that kind of work? I would contend that a (not the) major purpose of those who collected and canonized at least the Hebrew Scriptures was to compile and preserve for following generations of Jews just this kind of social history about their culture and religion. So yes, the Hebrew Scriptures are a social history textbook of the Hebrew people prior to about 400 B.C.

Next, as one commenter said and I believe, every historian (pretty much by definition) organizes and interprets their work for their own purposes. It is a Western, and more narrowly modern, idea that those purposes and interpretations must be rationalistic and materialistic - one of those little prejudices that destroys objectivity. So, in looking at the purposes of the history written in the ancient near east, we cannot decide what history is, or is not, based on anachronistically applying our definitions of what constitutes history to the Biblical historians. They wrote history for their people in their time - and it is their purposes that decide what was historiographic and what wasn't.

In the next part, I will look at "Miracles and History" .

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Scripture and History Series

1. "Scripture and History, Part I" (Street Prophets)
2. "Scripture and History, Part II" (Street Prophets)
3. "Miracles and History" (Street Prophets)
4. "Principles of Historical Criticism, Part I" (Street Prophets)
5. "Principles of Historical Criticism, Part II" (Street Prophets)
6. "Applying the Principles, Part I" (Street Prophets)
7. "Applying the Principles, Part II" (Street Prophets)

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Scripture and History: Part I

[Part one in the Scripture and History series]

I was challenged to show the evidence that convinced me of this:

Parts of the Bible were indeed written for [the] primary purpose [of documenting historical fact]. Parts of the Gospels were written for that primary purpose - particularly the synoptics.
First, I think it is obvious really: as C.S. Lewis pointed out . . .
In what is already a very old commentary I read that the fourth Gospel is regarded by one school as a 'spiritual romance', 'a poem not a history', to be judged by the same canons as Nathan's parable, the book of Jonah, Paradise Lost 'or, more exactly, Pilgrim's Progress'. After a man has said that, why need one attend to anything else he says about any book in the world? Note that he regards Pilgrim's Progress, a story which professes to be a dream and flaunts its allegorical nature by every single proper name it uses, as the closest parallel. Note that the whole epic panoply of Milton goes for nothing. But even if we leave our the grosser absurdities and keep to Jonah, the insensitiveness is crass - Jonah, a tale with as few even pretended historical attachments as Job, grotesque in incident and surely not without a distinct, though of course edifying, vein of typically Jewish humour. Then turn to John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust; the unforgettable δε νυξ (13:30). I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind.
It is clear that large parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament but also the New, read "as reportage". The challenge comes in the word "purpose" - particularly when I cranked it up and used the word primary. In reviewing the Bible, there are very few books when the author ever spoke to their purpose in writing the book. Here are a few direct examples:
Deuteronomy 31: 24 When Moses finished writing on a scroll the words of this law in their entirety, 25 he commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the Lord’s covenant, 26 “Take this scroll of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. It will remain there as a witness against you,
Now while there was both a theological and prophetic purpose here - the primary purpose was historiograghic: to preserve the event for the future for use by posterity. The book of Deuteronomy follows a historiograghic pattern as well: first, review the last 40 years of history, summarize the laws that laid the foundation of the nation, and look ahead from that to the future. Next on my list:
Luke 1:1 Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. [this is a reference to the historiograghic purpose of the Jewish scriptures] 3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.
This is an historiograghic purpose - and you would expect this to continue in the 2nd half of Luke's work:
Acts 1:1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God.
and then goes on to "compile an account" the Acts of the Apostles after the Pentecost. Then we have John:
John 20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Again, while there is a theological purpose, John makes it clear that he has an historiograghic purpose: recording fact so that we may believe. John makes this tie between belief and fact again:
1 John 1:1 This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life – 2 and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). 4 Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
His purpose is to make his joy complete by passing on what he seen, touched, and heard so that folks could come to know Christ. Again, he was looking for a theological result from his transmission of fact coming from his eyewitness account.

Hopefully, I have accomplished my mission. However, it was a rabbit trail - one that I forced myself down in even bowing a little bit to this definition
A history textbook implies that the text was written with the primary purpose of documenting historical fact.
This is not what historians do, nor is it what historical texts (or even history textbooks) present.

That will be a good place to begin Part II

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sometimes the Master Just Got it Right

Well, all the time the Master Just Got It Right. The last few days I have been experiencing the wisdom of a few advisories of Jesus

Matthew 5:23 So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.
Matthew 10:19 Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time.
Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.
I have learned that last year folks left the community group I was in because of me. This year, folks said they did not want to be in a community group if I was in it.

My understanding is that they came to the group leader for this year and expressed their concerns. He then, understandably, asked my group leader from last year about my affect on group dynamics. The two of them asked to meet with me to chat before the first group meeting this year.

Let me say that I have to grant every criticism, even though they are pretty non-specific. My brain needs concrete examples to act on; and the general principles that we should:
  • think about the affect of our words on others;
  • see things through others eyes; and
  • be sensitive to folks feelings
are all things I know and believe - and practice badly: certainly my boss at work is trying to teach me to gauge my words to others in exactly the same way. The bat he uses to sink in his words (just kidding) may actually help me someday.

I had no desire to drive someone from our group - and will take this opportunity to apologize and ask their forgiveness if they read this - which they might. I did not mean to hurt, or make them stumble, rob their hope, or offend their sensibilities. These are all things I really am quite capable of doing. Heck, my MIL tonight, who was in last year's group, said that I had a way of stating things that just made it seem that I was certain I was right and if someone disagreed they were wrong. This is certainly an ongoing struggle for me. Folks who talk to me, especially at Street Prophets, will relate to that.

It should be said that, as near as I can figure it, this was not as much about doctrinal statements during a Bible study (although I am sure that was there); but about things that I shared in transparency about my personal struggles - particularly with sexual temptation and pornography - and my view that indeed I may struggle with these things for the rest of my life. It is a frequent suggestion in my FMO group that I may pay too much attention to the ongoing struggle of Romans 7 . . .
19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. 21 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. 23 But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
. . . while missing the glorious answer that begins in verse 25 and continues into chapter 8:
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death . . .
I damaged someone's hope in struggling with their own issues because I did not seem to recognize and acknowledge the power of God to free me from my addiction. For this I am beyond sorry - I have made a fellow Christian stumble and that millstone feels a little heavy and my feet are getting wet. I do acknowledge God's power (and only God's power) to bring me healing; and I rest entirely on that hope - my own efforts being so useless. Again, if my brother or sister is reading this - forgive me: I did not mean to make your struggle harder.

Regretfully, I never knew the effects of what I did when they were happening - nor do I even know who left the group because of me; who I am apologizing to; or who was concerned I was joining a group with them this year. Anonymity has been maintained completely.

That brings me to the three passages at the beginning of this post; and hopefully it is clear that what I am about to say is not an attempt to deflect criticism from myself. Folks had a responsibility to correct me in love as the events unfolded. Even if they thought that I might take offense, get angry, leave the group or the church, or tell them they were idiots and fools - they had the responsibility to correct me. My group leader from last year sincerely apologized for not bringing it up as it came to his attention - and for allowing a desire for peace to keep him from correcting me in love. He took his share of the responsibility. I appreciate that; and forgive him.

However, in the Matthew 18 passage he should not have entered the picture until the second step. Folks should have gathered their strength in Christ, left their offerings at the altar, met with me alone, and let me know how my actions affected them and damaged their Christian walk. If I reacted badly or continued my behavior then it was the time for the group leader, and then maybe the church, to take a hand.

There has now been a different chain of events that occurred:
  • People left community rather than building community - something that comes through some struggle
  • Two group leaders, and groups, were affected
  • I felt blind-sided by having what appears to be a years worth of actions brought to my attention in a way that makes it hard to act on them - generalities are hard learn from
  • My wife and MIL are hurt because I was hurt
God will use this to teach me and grow me - however, failure to follow Biblical principles on my part and the parts of others means that folks have been hurt and harmed in ways that should have been avoidable - and for longer than it should have occurred.

All this brings me to an appreciation of the group guidelines in my FMO group:
  • Take Responsibility: When uncomfortable with anything in this group, we deal with it directly ourselves instead of expecting others to solve the problem or rescue us.
  • Consider Others: We guard against offending one another. If someone offends us, we work it out directly with him.
These guidelines, and the passages from Matthew, are essential to build community between human beings who are so capable of being so insensitive and self-absorbed - myself definitely included.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Proverbs 31: A Great Exegesis

I am beginning to really like The Net Bible and may have to think about buying a hard copy for a personal Bible. First, I like this translation (though that is purely subjective)

Proverbs 31:10-31

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Friday, September 14, 2007

What is Your Favorite Proverb?

Ok, I am looking for a cheat sheet. I got this email from the leader of my church community group (small group):

We are really excited about resuming our community group . . . We’ve really missed meeting together over the summer . . . All of the community groups will be studying Proverbs this fall so be thinking about your favorite proverb or your favorite lesson from the book of Proverbs. Also, be thinking about what you would like to get out of the time we will spend together in this book. We should have the study guides ("Proverbs" from the Navigator’s Life Change Series)
Certainly, if you have a proverb you like from outside the Bible - bring it on. It just won't help my Old Testament study deficiency.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TSW: Evangelicalism Part Deux

In looking back on my first post on Evangelical worship, and after listening to my pastor teach on worship the following Sunday, I realize that I really missed the point. A.W. Tozer pointed out my feelings about that post in 1948:

Current evangelicalism has . . . laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. [See 1 Kings 18 for the allusions.]
Certainly, many at Street Prophets where this will also be posted will agree - however Tozer also pointed this out
But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the 'piercing sweetness' of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.
This thirst for God that Tozer pointed out in The Pursuit of God is part of the heart of Christian worship - indeed my pastor presented sincere worship as one of the principle marks of Christ on His people along with community, spiritual growth and service.

What I missed in that last post is the point of worship is not us but the object of the worship - in the case of His church it is Jesus Christ. As a warm-up to discussing worship - listen to worship: I never cease to be amazed by this video featuring the voice of S.M. Lockridge: "That’s My King".

Next, listen to this message to our church on worship: "Marked by Worship".
[Note: on the slide bar click on the "Marked" icon - and then choose the sermon]
It makes the case of the theological significance of worship in our church better than I could. I will, in case you just do not want to listen to a sermon give you the outline of his bullet points. His text for the message was
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [NET]
Paul (the pastor) gives this definition of worship
Responding rightly to God's Righteousness
and says that truly good worship helps us do that by (following the passage):
  1. Focusing on God's Word:
    1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

    2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.

  2. Focusing on the supremacy of Jesus:
    • The supreme object of our affections
    • expresses that Jesus is of extreme importance: He not me
      Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence [NASB = "exact representation of His nature"] , and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
      Pliney, reporting in 110 AD to Trajan said that we met together in the morning and sang songs to Jesus "as God"
  3. By examining God's character through the person of Christ, and His Word, we help to stir and guide our emotions so that we are:

  4. Focusing on a response:
    Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the Lord the splendor he deserves! Bring an offering and enter his courts!
Worship helps us discover who God is, focus on His character, and then focus our emotions on responding to who He is.

Our pastor stressed in a number of places that worship is about God and not about me. It is about me responding and not receiving, and that it is about looking through a window at God and not at a mirror to see myself. If worship has not brought us out of ourselves and focused us on God - then we missed the worship even if we were there every minute, prayed every prayer, and sang every song.

He presented his answer to the theological significance of worship:
the entire point of the church is to turn people into worshippers of God.

"Here I am to Worship"
[click title for audio file]

Light of the world You stepped down into darkness
Open my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You
Hope of a life spent with You

Here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you’re my God
You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me

King of all days, oh so highly exalted
Glorious in Heaven above
Humbly You came to the earth
You created all for love’s sake became poor

I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross
I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Theological Significance of Worship: Evangelicalism

[At Street Prophets it was suggested that folks write on "worship" in their theological traditions. This is my contribution to that conversation]

The first thing is that we do not have a liturgy, or really even an order of worship, when we meet for corporate worship. Sunday services have elements that remain constant: worship by lots of song, some prayer, teaching from the Word, and the collection of offerings. The order in which they occur is variable. There is no lectionary, no scripture reading per se. Indeed, there is no ceremony, bells and smells, ritual, mysteries, or indeed sacraments in the way most "higher churched" folks mean that. In my current church, there isn't even always a celebration of the Lord's Table. [I will get back to this]

Since I am not a trained theologian, but mostly a "fanny in a seat" - I actually did some reading on the theology behind all this to see what I am missing theologically in the practice I am experiencing. Bob Deffinbaugh speaks to the need of folks like me to understand the theology of worship:

Robert Webber, in an article in Eternity magazine, made this condemning statement concerning the ignorance of the Christian in the matter of worship:
... the majority of evangelical lay people don’t have the foggiest notion of what corporate worship really is. To questions such as: Why does God want to be worshipped? What is the meaning of an invocation or benediction? What does reading the Scripture, praying, or hearing a sermon have to do with worship? I received blank stares and bewildered looks.
The resources I touched base with:
  • The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. See "You Were Planned for God's Pleasure", Days 8-14. As much criticism as has been leveled on Warren for the whole Purpose Driven thing, I see no problem with these chapters

  • "Worship Today", by Marty Kendall, which I sort of picked arbitrarily out of this list at Bible.org

  • "Worship (Part 1 and Part 2)", by Bob Deffinbaugh, also from Bible.org
What is Worship?

I will start with Deffinbaugh's definition of worship:
Worship is the humble response of regenerate men to the self-disclosure of the Most High God. It is based upon the work of God. It is achieved through the activity of God. It is directed to God. It is expressed by the lips in praise and by the life in service.
Marty Kendall's definition is slightly different:
. . . worship is:
  • Aligning ourselves with God’s will (Geoff Bullock).
  • ‘The English word ‘worship’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘weorthscipe’ - ‘worth’ and ‘ship’ meaning one worthy of reverence and honour’ (derivation).
  • The act of revering or honouring God; obedient service (Heinemann Australian Dictionary).
  • To pay great honour and respect to (World Book Dictionary).
  • The celebration of God’s supreme worth in such a manner that God’s worthiness becomes the norm and inspiration of human living (Ralph Martin - The Worship of God).
Thus, in this document, it will be understood that the word ‘worship’ refers to the way we acknowledge God’s worth; the way our knowledge of God affects the way we live.
There is nothing in either of those two definitions has anything to do with Sundays (or Saturdays, or whatever day a church holds its meetings) - our whole life, in all of its moments, should be directed to worshiping God: our lives in our families, our work, our recreation, our community life - all of our life - should reflect those definitions above.

What is Church?

Certainly, the gathering of a local body of the Body of Christ is indeed about corporate worship as well. However, it is also very much about fellowship and community - and for the Evangelical church maybe more about fellowship and community than about worship.
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (NASB) - Hebrews 10:25

When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (NASB) - 1 Corinthians 14:26
Marty Kendall's conclusion, which applies to the theology of my current church:
Church is about relationships with those who inspire you to come closer to God. We meet together so that we may be strengthened (through teaching, fellowship and prayer) so we can continue to worship God in our daily life. Every Christian, as part of the priesthood of all believers must be both equipped and encouraged to exercise ministry to build up other believers.
This is why every church I have been in, and especially my church now, stress building community - and particularly the need for community groups, life groups, and other small groups of various kinds. Fellowship, relationship, and community do not happen in the lobby of the church after weekly services.

What about Communion (the Lord's Table)?

My appreciation of this whole topic has to do with this particular part of it: my church does not share the Lord's Table weekly. This is a brain cramp for me; as almost all the churches over the last 11 years have until now. My problem with this is frankly not that large - more an itch that doesn’t quite go away rather than a pain that needs to be medicated. The reason it isn’t that big a deal is that I have the means, as part of the priesthood of all believers, to solve the problem outside of our weekly gathering for corporate worship: my community group can celebrate communion; and indeed my family can celebrate communion every day (or once a week), if it wished, as the Apostolic church did.

First though, you have to understand communion in both the Apostolic church and the Evangelical church:
We know from the early chapters of the book of Acts that initially the Christians observed the Lord’s Table daily (Acts 2:42, 46). Apparently, this practice did not continue indefinitely but settled down to a weekly remembrance at the church meeting (cf. Acts 20:7). From early church writers it is evident that the Lord’s Table was considered central in their worship. Later church history continues to support the high regard in which the Lord’s Table was held.

It was not until the middle ages that the observance of the Lord’s Table became encrusted with Roman Catholic tradition. The Lord’s Table was no longer regarded as a simple remembrance of the person and work of Jesus Christ once for all and His accomplishment of our salvation on the cross. Instead, the doctrine of the perpetual sacrifice developed. It was believed that there was a daily repetition of the work of Christ on Calvary, with the priest offering the work of Christ to God in the elements of the bread and wine. - Deffinbaugh
Indeed, there is no sacramental element to communion in our church. I am fine with that - really quite good with that indeed.

This separates communion from any need for the actions of Priesthood or a Clergy. Deffinbaugh goes on to criticize the practice of my current church as one of the reasons communion has diminished in importance in the Evangelical church:
First, we have never totally shaken the idea of a priesthood which is solely authorized to serve Communion. In the New Testament, every male believer-priest was given the privilege of serving the elements. Although the Roman Catholic concept of the priesthood has been rejected by Protestantism, nevertheless, it is somehow thought that some member of the clergy must ‘administer the sacraments.’ Consequently, the Lord’s Supper is thought to be more the domain of the clergy than of the masses.

We should not think that the priesthood of every believer has been snatched from the grasp of reluctant laymen, for in most instances this privilege has been forfeited by default. The Christian ‘laymen’ have not lived up to their responsibilities and would far rather hire someone to take over their priestly duties than to assume the responsibility themselves.

Second, I would suggest that declining understanding of the doctrine of worship has led to a corresponding lack of appreciation for the Lord’s Table. In addition to this, there has been an increasing emphasis upon relevance and emotional gratification. This has led to more emphasis on the sermon because it is thought to be ‘more relevant to me and my needs.’ In short, we have become more self-centered in our ‘worship’ than God-centered.

Third, some have insisted that a regular weekly remembrance of the Lord makes the event less significant because it happens so frequently. To hold Communion less frequently makes it an event of more moment, we are told. First of all, this view gives too little weight to the command of our Lord ‘to be doing this in remembrance of Him.’ This is the force of the present imperative which our Lord employed in
Luke 22:19. Strangely enough, I have never heard anyone suggest the same kind of practice with respect to the physical relationship between a man and his wife. It is not the frequency or lack of frequency of the Lord’s Table which makes it significant, but how we view the meaning of the event.
Of course, this last line means that it doesn't matter whether we do it once a week, once a month, or every night at my family dinner table. It is the heart of the worship, and not its frequency, that matters. In that my church is also just fine - and my itch is still there and may continue for a long time.

And, as to the earlier comment by Deffinbaugh - I found I indeed understood the purpose of worship from my time in the pews. I guess I have been blessed with good churches and teachers.

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