Thursday, December 27, 2007


Now, I'm guessing that most people reading this, most likely coming from a nice, religious background, do indeed understand the idea that the ends do NOT justify the means. Stealing for a "good cause" is still stealing - the nice end doesn't make a wrong any less wrong.

However, I think that because we have this part of our thinking, sometimes we can neglect the importance of answering the question of "why" - why is something done. What are the ends? While the ends do not justify the means, the ends do determine whether or not we actually do something - all things may be permissible, but not all things are profitable.

On a friend's blog, there was a discussion that revolved around liturgy and the like (it's dropping the Ball over to the left, scroll down, long post on Lutheran Spirituality with lots of comments) - and I was arguing towards freedom, as is my custom, and I was asked, that since my reasoning sounds almost exactly like how a CW fellow might defend his practice (or lack there of), what makes me different.

The answer is why. Why does one do what one does. For beings with freedom, that is of the utmost importance. If there are a range of options which we are free do choose from among, the law (in terms of do this, don't do this) doesn't apply - we are in the realm of you may. And when you may - the question becomes why.

For example - why do I think that Contemporary Worship is a bad idea? Not because it is "wrong" and the bible says you can't use guitars and a backbeat. . . but rather, why are you doing it. Think on the rationale people give for why Contemporary Worship is used - are they Christ-centered? If not - I believe they fall short. The rationale - the why - isn't to better teach Christ - but it is to invoke a response (let's call that what it is - manipulation), or perhaps to attract more people, but then you'll give them good stuff (let's call that what it is - seduction, or at best acting like a used car salesman).

Why is important. In fact, for those who have freedom, the why is all important. We are called upon to show love to our neighbors. So why do you do something? It had better be in order to show love to your neighbor - for just as Christ now lives in you, your live is to be lived in service for your neighbor - that is your reason d'existance, as it were. And it should guide all your actions.


longeyemoose said...

Pastor Brown,

I agree with you in part. Certainly there is freedom in worship as the church has changed her liturgy over the centuries.

At the same time, there is a sense of constraint, and loyalty, to the apostles who have handed down our form of worship.

I agree too, that the WHY is essential in explaining worship --- as well as WHO is the focus.

Thanks for the post!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Again - it deals with the responsible use of Freedom - change may be permissible - but why are you changing, and is that a good reason for a change? If it's not, then you ought not to change.

Mike Baker said...

Pr Brown,

Thank you for being a voice of compassionate reason. The fundamental failing of advocates of liturgical worship has not been defending their position (which many do with patronizing zeal). The fact is that they fail to present their rich heritage in the passionate and informative way that wins individuals to their cause. In many respects, unyielding conservatives who cloud their love for the church with their inability to communicate and listen do more harm than good. They play right into the stereotype of contemporary worship fanatics. They end up propagating support for the very thing that they want to stop. As a former contemporary worship leader, I can tell you that the other side of the debate is no better. For all of their cries for tolerance and freedom of worship, they have little time or patience to listen to different view points. In the end most discussions and planning over worship sound more like a coups than service to God and His people.

Both of these identically oppressive groups often prove that they care little or nothing for the health of the body of Christ so long as it is dressed in the right outfit and mumbling the correct songs. This is the one topic that I get really passionate over because I have seen (and to my unending shame caused) the damage that comes with foolish good intentions surrounding worship formats.

In many cases it is not just that the ends do not justify the means. It is that the way that the means is carried out helps secure to the opposite ends. There have been too many cases on both sides where a certain means has resulted in the division and weakening of the church. This is not the way that Christians should behave toward one another. We should love one another, patiently bear one another's burdens, and care for the weaker in faith. That is the Biblical formula for our churches. The authoritative silence in Holy Scripture when it comes to worship format is a wonderful blessing that allows us to focus on the single important point that must always take precident: the Gospel.

Why do we fight, kill, and die over this issue of form? There are far more important matters that need our immediate and constant attention. We invest far too much energy into debates and grumbling that offer little if any positive results. Our Lutheran fathers were truly wise to sidestep this issue in favor of liberty and pure doctrine. I have come to understand that the cost of enforcing universal ceremonies (or formats) is far too great when compared against the meager benefits.

The liturgy is a grassroots concept that grows from the hearts and faith of the people. It is far easier to change the church from the bottom up than to force conformity from the top down. The answer has always been to win hearts and minds to the beauty of the liturgy through empathetic education, incrimental exposure, passionate promotion, and subservient restraint.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think you are right when you say, Baker-san (didn't know your title, so I went Japanese), that there are other, larger issues. But worship is something that we can see, look at, and make a value judgment. This is bad, this is good.

Doctrine is harder to do that with - you have to talk, you have to discuss . It requires more work to win and pursuade than to castigate and complain.

Two very valid points you bring up - unthinking conservatism is horrid. "But we've always done it this way" - whatever it is - well, that's nice, but is it right, is it the best way of doing things? That should be the question.

Second - contemporary worship, if right doctrine is taught, will fade away. Give it time and ride out the storm. By it's nature it is trendy - and the liturgical worship of God has weathered many-a-storm over the year.

But I guess that isn't a dramatic enough position - we have to be the hero. . .oh, man, now I must do a new post.

Mike Baker said...

Pr Brown-sama,

When this debate comes up, I break out my two prepared statements that tick everyone off and alienate me from both sides:

1. A contemporary worshiper who looks at liturgical worship and calls it legalistic and dead is like a young married couple that looks at a couple that has been married 60 years and says that it is obvious that the love is gone from their marriage. Any fool can tell you that public passion does not equal intimacy.

2. A liturgical worshiper who looks at contemporary worship and finds absolutely no value in it whatsoever is like that old couple looking at a young couple and telling them, "You are too silly to know what real love is and your passion is the product of naiveté. Give yourself a few years and you will be jaded like us." Any fool can tell you that all marriages can be improved by revitalization.

I am no fun at dinner parties.

"Mike" or "Baker" is fine. I will also accept the more familiar: "Mike-san" over "Baker-san"