Saturday, September 16, 2006

Worship vs. Evangelism?

I was reading John Dekker's first post on evangelizing children, and remembered a quote from John Piper that I rather like. It's this: "Evangelism exists because worship doesn't." This is an eschatalogical concept if ever there was one. Will there be evangelism forever? Clearly not. On the Judgment Day, whatever you believe about it, God will separate the sheep from the goats. There will be no going back, and no more second chances. (That's why I'm uncomfortable, actually, with the idea that God's grace is infinite. God does not wait forever, though He tarries long.) Therefore there can be no reason to evangelize after that Day. And what will there be after that Day? Worship.

Let us not forget, also, that man's chief end (not his head!) is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. That is not evangelism, but worship. It is worship with your whole being.

So am I saying we shouldn't evangelize? Certainly not. But realize that ultimately, it is not the highest activity man does. Douglas Wilson once said that homo sapiens doesn't describe man nearly so well as homo adorans - man who worships. Worshipping the one true God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is the highest activity that man does.

So worship with all of your being. In today's church, I feel that this doesn't happen. There appear to be two extremes. Either you believe that Christians should worship with their mind, all of their mind, and nothing but their mind; or the equivalent with the heart.

But the Bible doesn't talk that way. The Bible is much more holistic. It says "Behold, the LORD your God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." I distinctly get the impression that, along with these four aspects of human existence, we are to love the LORD our God with "anything else about you not mentioned in this list."

Which extreme has the sway right now? Mindless exuberance, or tired orthodusty? I'm not sure I really care.

For those of you who know me, I'm going to have to apologize for using Douglas Wilson again. But Wilson has got the absolute perfect word for worship: it's the Latin word "solempne." Here he is, from his book Mother Kirk:

[begin quote]
Like our word solemn, solempne represents the opposite of casual, but unlike solemn, it carries no connotation of austerity, moroseness, or gloom. We moderns have come to associate spontaneity with innocence and virtue, fresh and unsullied. Our adoption of unbiblical criteria means that we frequently overlook those things which the Bible associates with a healthy church, dismissing them as dead simply because they have more formality in the liturgy than we like.


Of course a worship service may be formal and also lifeless. This is disobedience. "Wherefore the Lord said, 'Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Is. 29:13). In the opposite corner, a worship service may be informal and lively. We have no Scripture for this one, other than the implication that the absence of [order] did not unchurch the group of saints at Corinth. But we must remember that tolerated disobedience over time always leads to death.

A worship service may be informal and spiritually chaotic, meaning that lifelessness is just around the corner. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse" (1 Cor. 11:17). If the disorder evident in their worship went unaddressed, the end result of their activity would be final, lasting spiritual inactivity. The activity in a church can simply be a form of pandemonium.

But obedience requires that a worship service be both formal and lively. To say it again, "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (Col. 2:5).

We should therefore see that there are two types of order. When a formal church is unhealthy, it is because their arrangement is the order of china figurines on a shelf. When a formal church is obedient and healthy it is because their arrangement is that of well-disciplined troops preparing themselves for battle. An opposing general would not look at their cavalry, wheeling as though one man, and dismiss them as a bunch of legalists.


And as the Scriptures declare, when the choir in militant joy goes out as the advance guard of the army [Adrian: there is a verse that says in at least one Israelite battle, the musicians were to form the front line], then God's name is glorified, and His enemies are scattered. The worship is formal and exuberant.
[end quote]

I would add that this word solempne is very like a soldier standing at attention, very quiet, but bursting with joy because he serves his general, whom he loves and will follow to the death. Great generals like Stonewall Jackson can command this kind of loyalty from their men. And can our great King not command this from us? It is disobedience not to render this to Him.

So worship with your whole being with all your actions every day. Sundays, perhaps, you get to worship with more of the army present, and that is encouraging. But we are to worship all the time.

God bless you.

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At 9/19/2006 07:17:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

That John Piper quote is excellent. . . and so is the Doug Wilson quote, as it dispels the false dicotomy of the loose-and-living contemporary service and the dull-and-dead traditional service.

Ah yes, to worship with our whole being and our whole time. Such is our duty and privilege, but how easy it is to fail here. The Lord has been teaching me an enormous amount related to this personally over the past several months.

Given the title of your post, I really expected to read a disection of the seeker-friendly movement, but perhaps you left that as an exercise to the reader :).

At 9/19/2006 06:33:00 PM , Anonymous John Dekker said...

I don't know the idea of God not waiting forever means that his grace isn't infinite. I would have though *all* God's atrributes are infinite. That is, in fact, another attribute - his simplicity, that whatever he is, he is fully and completely.

But this also relates to the issue of whether God is also gracious to the non-elect.

At 9/20/2006 08:56:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Well, it is true that the seeker-friendly movement violates some of the principles I've set down. Seeker-friendly churches often don't really preach the gospel. They hope to bring them in first, and disciple them second. Some of them may not even do that. Anyway, I don't approve of that approach. The goal is not numbers per se, but the glory of God. Yes, numbers are good, but what kind of numbers? Do you mean thousands and thousands who don't realize the importance of the resurrection, or maybe a hundred or so who really understand Romans and 1 Corinthians?

Reply to John.

I think that God's grace is infinite in some ways, but not in others. Our sin against God is an infinite offense, requiring an infinite remedy (otherwise God would not be just). That infinite remedy we cannot provide; Christ must provide it for us. So in that sense, the sense of remedy, it is infinite in order to be the remedy for even one sin. See Jonathan Edwards for an explanation of this idea. However, we know from the Bible that God does not wait forever for man to repent. In His good wisdom, He gives us a great deal more time than we deserve (we deserve none), but it is not an infinite amount of time. It is not even always right up to the moment of death. Some people are unable to repent on this earth. Who are those? The ones who have committed the unpardonable sin. So God's grace is not infinite in that sense, the sense of time.

Yes, God is simple in the way that you describe. And yet, the question is still open as to exactly what He is. I do not think that necessitates that all of God's attributes are infinite in every way. As I have mentioned, God's grace is not infinite in time, a fact that the Bible gives us. God is also complex, being one God in three Persons.

God is gracious to the non-elect, but not in a saving way. There is rain for the just and the unjust fella (though as Ogden Nash would point out, more for the just, since the unjust steals the just's umbrella.) There is common grace, and the non-elect are certainly not as bad as they could possibly be.

And these are things I'm only writing to let you know where I am. Forgive me, please, if I relate to you things that you regard as basic. I do not mean to patronize you.

In Christ.

At 9/20/2006 08:54:00 PM , Blogger Lydia said...

Great thoughts on evangelism and worship. I appreciated what you had to say. Definitely true that there will be no evangelizing in heaven but there will be lots of worshipping going on. I too, am not so sure about God's grace having a limit. I'll have to ponder that one.

I had never heard of that Douglas Wilson book you quoted from. I haven't read many of his (Her Hand in Marriage and parts of another I can't remember what it's called about the different rooms of the house and how they are to be viewed scripturally) but I would like to in the future. I have enjoyed reading your latest posts even if I don't always agree with some of your assessments. :) They are always thought-provoking and interesting. Good stuff. Keep up the uplifting posts.

At 9/20/2006 10:23:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Lydia.

Thanks for your thoughts.

As to God's grace having a limit, let me please clarify further. I mean that in certain ways, it is finite. In many ways it is infinite. So I would say it is too simplistic to talk about limited or infinite as a whole. Ask yourself this question: does God wait forever for men to repent? The biblical answer is "no." Therefore, God's grace is limited in time. Even more basic: does God extend saving grace (special grace) to every single man? Again, the answer is no. Why is that? Because God's special grace is sufficient to save. Another way of saying this is that Jesus Christ did not die for all men without exception. Christ died for the elect. Now there are objections to this, passages which seem to say otherwise. My answer to those objections is that the word "all" is slippery in the Greek. It cannot possibly mean all without exception in every single place it appears, or there would be downright contradictions in Scripture, an impossibility. It sometimes means "all without exception" and sometimes it means "all kinds."

Here is the reasoning again. 1. Not all men are saved. 2. If Jesus Christ died for you, then you are saved. Period. Christ's blood is sufficient to save. That's Christ's blood plus nothing. 3. Therefore, reasoning modus tollens, Christ did not die for everyone.

Here's the thing: everyone has to limit the atonement. The Arminians limit it by limiting its power. Since they want to say that Christ died for everyone without exception, they have to say that Christ's blood is not sufficient to save, else they would be universalists. They speak of "making the decision to accept Christ," as if the natural man (who is at enmity with God) can make this decision on his own without the help of the Holy Spirit, and that this decision plus Christ's blood is enough. The Bible teaches otherwise. We love because God first loved us. There's no merit we can earn with God, even choosing God. That has to come from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit. The Calvinists limit the atonement by limiting its scope: Christ did not die for everyone, but those for whom He died are saved to the uttermost. They need nothing else but Christ's righteousness. This is near the heart of the Reformation.

Incidentally, it goes against God's justice for Christ to die for someone and for that person not to be saved. God's justice is absolutely perfect. Christ did not die for all sins: if He had, all sins would be pardoned, and everyone would go to heaven. But we know that not everyone goes to heaven. Therefore there are unpardoned sins. Therefore, Christ did not die for those unpardoned sins (else God would be unjust by punishing Christ more than was necessary). Even one unpardoned sin is enough to condemn the sinner to hell-fire.

Wilson's not always correct on things (who is?). I don't agree with him on everything. But I do agree on many things, and his rhetorical style is superb. His best book is Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, in my opinion.

In Christ.

At 9/21/2006 01:43:00 AM , Anonymous John Dekker said...

I guess everyone has their favourites. Mine is Persuasions.

But for the life of me, I still can't see why limiting the extent of the atonement means limiting grace.

At 9/21/2006 04:08:00 PM , Blogger Lydia said...

Points well taken, Adrian. Thanks for the clarification.

I have been wanting to delve into scriptural doctrine more recently. I loaned a book out to a friend arguing against Dispensationalism (the book does, not the friend. Arrrgh, English) :). I wish I had it now. I need to read through it. I have been somewhat following John's posts too. Great stuff, John. It gives me much to think on. My recent study on Romans is going to come in handy. :) Thanks to both of you Christian gentlemen for the edifying posts.

At 9/21/2006 08:40:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

I agree with your assessment of the seeker-friendly movement, Adrian, and it certainly does have wide varieties. My church used to describe itself as seeker-friendly, though not anymore. Even when it was seeker-friendly, they did preach the gospel, though in varied ways. I'll just say that it was still in the bounds of PCA orthodoxy ;).

With this post on worship and evangelism, I was especially thinking about the issue that came up last year when Christmas fell on a Sunday. Did anyone else deal with this in their area? Metro Atlanta, which seems to be seeker-friendly-ville, had a number of large churches close their doors on Christmas, and one pastor was quoted as explaining that it was because, "the unchurched weren't going to come to services on Sunday, and the primary job of the church is evangelism." I thought worshipping God on the day we celebrate His Son's birth was the perfect way to spend Christmas morning!

Speaking of books on dispensationalism, Lydia, I ordered that one you mentioned in an e-mail :). It hasn't come yet, but I'm eagerly awaiting it's arrival! I really shouldn't be allowed near the CBD catalog, I've decided. . . ;)

At 9/21/2006 08:41:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

A thousand apologies. I just committed the unforgivable grammatical error. I incorrectly used "it's" in place of "its." *hides head in shame* Mother Dear will be mortified when she reads my previous comment!

At 9/23/2006 03:27:00 PM , Blogger Celeste McGrath said...

Just found your blog and there are some GREAT posts (like this one!) there's a great many Christian blogs around, but this one is really neat...keep it up!

At 9/23/2006 03:44:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Ah, yes. The Christmas-on-Sunday issue. In my church it was practically a non-issue. It came up, mostly in the context of berating those churches that decided not to hold services on Sunday. I concur about worshipping the God on Christmas day. What better day to worship? Maybe Resurrection Sunday, but surely this day is appropriate!

Reply to Celeste McGrath.

Thanks for your kind words. I may find myself meandering over to your Stepping Heavenward blog periodically. (Peak your interest, Susan?)

In Christ.

At 9/23/2006 03:45:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

I didn't actually notice that grammatical error this time. But I didn't mistake your meaning, which is the basis of any corrections on my part, remember?

In Christ.

At 9/23/2006 03:46:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Lydia.

And thank you also for your kind words.

In Christ.

At 9/23/2006 03:52:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to John.

Well, isn't the atonement bound up part and parcel with grace? The atonement is one of many graces that God gives to us, but I would argue that the atonement (and the subsequent possible justification) is probably one of, if not the most important graces God gives to anyone.

What Scripture verses do you have supporting the infiniteness of God's grace? What do you think about my argument concerning the finiteness-in-time of God's saving grace?

One further clarification I should offer: when I say "limit the atonement," I don't mean that the theologians actually enforce a limitation on the atonement. That's impossible: only God can do that! If God limits Himself in any way (such as taking on human flesh), it is always voluntary, or part of His nature. I only mean that the theologians think about it this way.

In Christ.

At 9/23/2006 09:17:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Worship-on-Christmas was a non-issue in my church as well, though my family didn't attend our home church anyway, as we've never spent a Christmas in Indiana. Instead we attended my uncle's church in Indianapolis :).

Stepping Heavenward is one of my favorite books, Celeste, as Adrian knows :). I'll have to swing by your blog occasionally :). I've always had a fascination for Ireland. . . and Australia. You have a neat background.

My "thousand apologies" were not all for you, Adrian :). In fact, about 900 of them were for Mother Dear, who I knew would be reading my comment and would be absolutely mortified, since that is her number one pet peeve with grammar :). The other 100 apologies were to be shared among you and all other readers of your blog who also had to read that grating mistake. *cringe* I appreciate you overlooking it :).

At 9/25/2006 09:49:00 AM , Blogger Celeste McGrath said...

Thanks Adrian, and Susan. Susan, I have admired your blog secretly for awhile, even before I commented here :)!!!

At 9/28/2006 06:30:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Thank you for the encouragement, Celeste. I'm glad you've enjoyed my blog. Feel free to stop by as often as you like :).

At 10/06/2006 09:49:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

You're all (read: Celeste and Susan) welcome for whatever it is you thanked me for. Shall we TIOC? I hate to make it sound like I'm eager to do that. So just please make sure you interpret TIOC as very cordially, and a genuine asking, not demanding. Thanks!

In Christ.


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