The Oklahoma District is going to be having a worship conference, based upon the model of the big national one they had last year, and I hope to attend. In speaking with my dad about it yesterday, he off-handedly said, "Oh, I'm sure we'll get to hear about FC X how its all adiaphora."
Adiaphora. The word that is the bane of many a Confessional Lutheran. A word that is almost anathema to many.
Adiaphora is that which is indifferent, which is neither commanded nor forbidden. Stuff that we may do, stuff that we may refuse to do if forced to do so. Fasting on Friday - Adiaphora. Do it if you wish, but if someone says you must fast on Friday to be a Christian, oppose so that the Gospel is not obscured by a new Law.
The response and reaction of many, especially on worship issues, is to assert that what goes on in Contemporary worship is not adiaphora, and often the debate ends up being a debate over whether or not one "can" do something.
This is a horrid place for those who support and see the value of the historic liturgy. Why?
1. It won't convince anyone who isn't already opposed to Contemporary Worship already. We aren't going to get people who have wild worship to suddenly say, "Oh, you mean I can't? Because you say so? Oh, we'll, I better stop."
2. Arguments from Tradition don't win. As specific forms and liturgical structures aren't specified in the Scriptures, people can simply dance away from your assertions. While we are shaped and guided by Tradition as Lutherans, Tradition itself is not binding. You can't pin someone down with tradition in the Lutheran Church.
3. And, well, I'm sorry guys, but it is adiaphora.
There. I said it. Oh no, I've lost all my cred. Oh well. The specific structure and form is... well, indifferent. The key is the preaching of the Gospel and the Administration of the Sacrament -- if that is done, well, it's done.
"Well then, why don't you just go and break out your guitar and start your praise band, you sell out!"
A-ha! Now, that, that is the question.
All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable. Instead of spending the worship discussions trying to say, "you can't" - we should spend it saying, "Why are you - what good does this do, how does it teach what we say we believe?" Instead of spending our time on the defensive, trying to pin a mandatory definition on worship, we should go on the offensive.
If, as we say we believe, God Himself is physically present in our worship in order to bring us the forgiveness of sins - how does a specific part of the liturgy or song or what have you teach and proclaim that? Ask that question. It's not that you can or can't do something, but why would you do something that teaches what we believe about God's salvific presence less well?
That is how we take the offensive on this, that is how we can pokes holes and break things apart. It won't be the quick win, it won't be the 1st round knockout of "Not Adiaphora!" It will be a long, 12 round slug fest -- but we might win some.
What are you trying to teach and communicate with how you conduct worship?
"Well, I've seen you on children's sermons, it doesn't work on you, why should it work on them?" Because the knock against children's sermons are all assertions that aren't things that I myself would say. I'd never say that I'm trying to teach my kids to be Baptist, or that they aren't part of the worship in toto. And thus, the argument goes around whether or not your assertion is true.
That's not the point - shouldn't be.
Rather, instead of telling them, ask them what they are trying to teach and communicate -- and then break them down.
"I want people to feel the joy of salvation in our worship." That's nice, but:
1. Is making people feel something about salvation or is making people know and receive the point?
2. Will and must all Christians have the same emotional response? Why do you denigrate Christians who feel more awe, or wonderment, or even tears at this message. Why do you devalue those emotions?
3. While you might bring forth joy - there is group response (consider when one person starts clapping in a room, or laughter being contagious) -- are you really communicating the joy "of salvation" or just simply joy?
Then you start chipping away and the assumptions that lead one to come to the conclusion that a Contemporary style worship is best.
And what if they respond with a "Well, you know, everything that is supposed to be there is in there, so this is just as valid and good as what you do"?
Here, I would direct you to consider that great practical theologian - Bill Cosby. Cosby does a routine in Bill Cosby Himself about how his kids talked him into letting them have chocolate cake for breakfast. And Cosby showed how he rationalized his decision - the ingredients said eggs, flour - that's breakfast stuff right there. And the children even sing his praises - "Dad is great, he gives us chocolate cake!" And then, mom comes home, and there is hell to pay.
I don't need to argue whether or not something is valid - such, there's flour and eggs in chocolate cake - but that doesn't make it a good and healthy breakfast. Doesn't mean your approach to worship is good and healthy. Can't shouldn't be the question.
Now - there are a whole host of other objections and defenses that could be raised -- I'm certainly not going to anticipate them all. But make them answer questions, questions that they can't answer well, and let their own answers speak.
"But a theologian of the cross calls something what it is!" True - but your job isn't to prove to them that they aren't theologians of the cross, it's to make them start thinking like theologians of the cross. They aren't enemies to be defeated, but little brothers who ought grow into maturity.