Friday, January 28, 2011

Theological Assertion

Theological Assertion - Contemporary Worship Denies the Catholicity of the Church

I don't think I'm going to flesh this out fully - I'm fighting off some bug. But here is the point - contemporary worship denies the catholicity of the church.

When we confess that the Church is "Catholic" we are saying that it is Universal. Often, we think of this idea of "universal" as being mainly world-wide - a spacial focus on universality.

That's only one dimension (or three, if you prefer). To be universal means to be present not only in all places but in all times. That the Church is present in the past, is present now, and shall be present until the end of the world (because where Christ is preached and the Sacraments are administered, the Church will be). There is a temporal catholicity that is included in the Christian faith.

Contemporary worship fundamentally flies against this, as it tends to emphasize merely the present. It tries to make worship something tied merely to the present rather than the eternal.

Of course, contemporary worship also tends to be contra-catholic in terms of space, as well, buying into a very localized concept.

It becomes a matter of collective ego - we're here, we'll do what we want to do to praise God. It cuts off a sense of history, of growth, of development. It does not seek to refine and improve, but to be "creative".

Now, we are in specific times and places. I'm not going to argue that worship must be in Latin or only according to plainsong... but our time and place should not overwhelm worship, but rather fit and coincide -- it should be that what we see is the present and local manifestation of the Church Catholic, not an experiment in trying to ride the current trends in order to appeal to people.


RobbieFish said...

I disagree on the way you use the word catholicity. I'm convinced that the term, properly used, describes the doctrine confessed by the catholic creeds. I think the word you're looking for might be "ecumenicity," though perhaps it has been spoiled by the Ecumaniacal Movement. Still, what you say is substantially true. But I think CW also denies catholicity on the far more damning grounds that it teaches another gospel that really isn't a gospel, and disregards the confession of the faithful.

Jacob Andrews said...

What would you say it is about contemporary music that denies catholicity? Is it the musical style, the words, or both?

Do you think that there could be a place for contemporary-style worship in a larger musical context that includes hymns, chant, etc.? Are the songs worthless in and of themselves, or is it the fact that they're the only kind of song some churches sing that makes them un-catholic?

Mike Baker said...

Contemporary Worship denies the catholicity of the church because it defines the church by specific people and their ideas rather than identifying the church in Christ and His gifts. Where contemporary musicians and planners to possess a proper focus on Christ and what makes an assembly part of "the church", they would see that the only thing these particular inovations provide is an increase in division, ignorance, and contreversy... which is antithetical to the nature of the Body of Christ.

But Contemporary Worship is but a symptom of a larger problem of which things like "Purpose Drivenism", church growth, revivalism, and unbiblical outreach methods are also a part. I have no other word to describe it, so I will call it "Neo-monasticism". As ignorance of God's Word increases, and a disregard for his clear instructions are ignored or explained away, the old supersitions and errors of the dark ages church raises their ugly heads under the auspices of new forms and rituals.

In the end, these new "innovations" are the same as the old "innovations" that were rightly criticised by the Lutheran Reformation. They were wrong, not because they were innovations, but because the innovations trivialized what God had instituted in favor of the good works Man thought was really important.

In the ancient days, a man took on the tonsure, took oaths to the Rule of St. Benedict (the original Purpose Driven Life, my friends), and wore itchy cloth to be come a monk so that he could become more holy than mere baptism aforded him.

Today, a man takes on emotional ways of speaking about the Logos, dons trendy clothes, and invents a new set of pride pleasing works to make himself holy (like mystical contemporary worship and taking on the "Rule of St. Rick Warren" as a pattern for living) rather than remaining steadfast to Word and Sacrament.

Ultimately both monasticism and neo-monasticism (which encompases CW and all its errors) grow from the same foul root... a disregard of those things instituted where God creates His Church through the various applications of the external Word in favor of a peculiar world view that is a complete human invention (though it always insists divine origin through secret heart-burbles and sanctified human reason even though the Bible calls both these things foolish, unknowable, and desperately wicked.)

Anonymous said...

I still think Augsburg's "satis est" hits the nail on the head. But I implied that before when I theorized that what we are dealing with in so called CoWo is a humanly instituted and traditioned sacrament: praise worship.

That which unites us with Christ is clearly catholic. That which has other interests and goals or fails to do so is not.

Tom "Johnny one note" Fast

Anonymous said... "theorizing" is actually just restating what John Kleinig contends elsewhere.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Quite often the words are problematic, as the themes are not in resonance with the Faith. As for the music -- I'll shock people and say music could be okay eventually -- but only when it drifts in unconsciously, and not in order to be hip or appealing.

When the music to "The Church's One Foundation" was written, I doubt the thought was, "Ooooo, this will pack them in."

Mike really hits home on the problem - it focuses on the specific (i.e. me or us) to the detriment of the larger (Christ and His Church).

I'd sum up what Baker refers to as Monasticism and Neo-Monasticism as simply "Ego".

Mike Baker said...

You could even push this observation further because Contemporary Worship does more than just deny the universality of the church... in many ways, it is internally divisive within the individual congregation.

I was in the Contemporary Worship scene for over a decade and I never saw a congregation where the majority called for a conversion over to newer music styles straight out of the gate. You never see a grassroots movement where the people, free from manipulation, cry out for the innovations or new measures.

It is always a fifth column: a small and zealous few (usually in positions of influence or authority) that spend a great deal of effort preparing, grooming, and politicking to draw the congregation into a confrontational debate over worship styles. This is when the focus groups, studies, workshops, and outside experts come in and tell the congregation exactly why their way of doing things is obviously wrong.

Contrast that with the Lutheran Reformation, where the people had been crying out for relief from bad practices for decades and even centuries prior to the arrival of Luther. Even today, you have other innovations in the church that come by honestly through the recognition of a legitimate need for a change or modification.

One method is catholic and universal. The other is divisive and elitist. You would think that shrewd (or cynical) Americans would be able to tell the difference by now.

Phillip said...

Hymns are catholic. Even the hip CW crowd knows quite a few, plus they're typically easy to sing and hymnals have the notes in them. Plus when you have someone playing the melody, you can sing it if you haven't heard it before. If you're out of the loop for a month or two in CW you have no clue what songs they're singing. I got stuck with people a few weeks ago singing CW songs I'd never heard before, and when all you have is a guitar player strumming chords you can't sing a song you don't know. Nothing's more alienating than sitting through a singing session someone calls worship when you've never heard the songs before. If you get out of CW you can't come back. If you leave hymns and the liturgy, they'll still be there when you come back, even if it's decades later. CW songs don't last a month. The Phos Hilaron has lasted 1,800+ years. That's catholicity.

Mike Baker said...

I have been thinking about this assertion in light of my own personal experience within contemporary worship.

I would add that, not only does contemporary worship deniy the catholicity of the church, it is largely ignorant of most aspects of the universal church... which many of its practiconers believe that it is the right method for today. The act out of ignorance.

My search for the true teachings of apostolic Christianity brought me to Lutheranism. Those same lessons that I learned are what caused me to completely reverse my opinion of contemporary worship from that of a zealous supporter and facilitator over to becoming one of its sharpest critics.