Discordant Worship

I came across this article a few weeks ago entitled ‘Sensual Worship – A sign of impending Apostacy‘ and read it but didn’t think about it too much, but it was published in the most recent Australian Presbyterian which does concern me. I’m thinking of writing a reply. I’d be keen to see what others thought of it. I read it as a Docetic spinoff – a denial of the gospel.

The article improperly defines ‘sensual‘ as anything appealing to the senses (clearly not the way Jude is using the word), then puts this in opposition to ‘the spiritual’ and goes on to suggest that to use music in church in a way that ‘produces’ emotion or appeals to people is the road to apostacy. Essentialy music should be boring or not there at all lest it distract from pure spiritual worship.
The thesis goes that it was appropriate in the Old Covenant to use senses such as sight and hearing in the worship of God but not in the new covenant which should be pure spiritual worship. It doesn’t go on to say, but I find it a logical inference, that we should not celebrate the Lord’s supper which is far too sensual for a christian, we would do well to be blindfolded on the way into church lest we be distracted from the Word of God by our sight, and all singing should be banned, even without instruments, for I am sure that some people may be tempted to a sense of joy by even acapella sining.

I like this footnote in the original article, which didn’t make it into the AP version:

He added ‘If you start clapping your hands or stamping or moving them in a rhythmic manner, you are the whole time dealing with this realm of the emotions.

So what do we do with a verse like James 5:13 that links happiness with a song of praise, or Colossians 3 that links singing with gratitude. Yes, the joy comes in response to the gospel, but isn’t the expression of that joy via singing entirely appropriate, indeed commanded, rather than dangerous?

I’m reminded of Colossians 2:20-23 “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

These legalistic rules regarding no singing in church deny the Christian of the expression of joy, and indeed have no value in restraining real sensual indulgence, which is the slavery of sexual immorality, evil desires and so on – not singing!

I think as evangelicals if we have been handed a bad pass from those who came before us or our culture it is more likely to be a lack of emotional expression in our church meetings and Christian lives. cf Acts 16:25, Luke 7:32, Jas 5:13, Col 3:16, Eph 5:19, Ps 33:3, Ps 150.

9 thoughts on “Discordant Worship

  1. Go for it Wayne.
    I couldn’t believe what I was reading and the further I read the more I shook my head. To me I think it was just another dated argument against Catholicism. It also wreaked of Asceticism. I have been preaching through 1 Cor and as I am working through that I think Paul is arguing against many abuses in the Corinthian church but at least two of them the being over use of the sensual and under use. Or just the wrong dichotomy between the spirit and the body. (1 Cor 6:12-20, and Ch 7) Also Paul’s understanding of the believers freedom in ch 9 but that this freedom is governed or directed by love. Our emotions are God given, I think Adam’s song of praise in Gen 2 at seeing his wife for the first time is full of emotion and that is before the fall. Sure emotion and experience can be manipulated and used for ill, that is the fallen world we live in but it too can be used for good. All the gifts that Paul lists in 1 Cor 12 is for the building up of the body and we are to rejoice when one is rejoicing and cry when one is crying. I actually think we have lost much of the idea of celebration that both the OT and NT talk about by being to scared of our emotions and feelings. I can not imagine the Paul didn’t envisage some very heart felt emotion when he listed out what should happen when we gather together. (1 Cor 14:26ff) So I encourage you to write back to AP and to at least give a different perspective.

  2. I had a few thoughts.
    1. The fault isn’t really Iain Murray’s – I think he was a free church minister, so it’s nothing more than the free church position. I blame the editor who allowed it in. I’d be surprised to what extent it reflects widespread Presbyterian views.
    2. He sets up two false dichotomies.
    i) Wayne identified the sensual/ spiritual one. That’s just Greek dualism, not Christianity. The problem with the sensual is not that we comprehend it with our senses, but that we make it a god. All things are good if taking with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:4)
    ii) OT music/ NT music. The temple sacrifices end – who says the music ends? How do we read Ps 150 with NT eyes in that case? We must say it’s ungodly sensualism that Jesus came to set us free from. And what about the songs of Revelation – there’s harps and trumpets there!
    3. His attempt to connect music to a decadent society is ridiculous. Rome ALSO had great plumbing and roads and it was destroyed in decadence. Does that mean we should remove plumbing and roads, lest we follow Rome.

  3. Yes good points Dave. Especially point 1. Being the official free church position doesn’t excuse his views, but surprising to find this in AP. At least it’s not in Pulse!

    Paul we too have been looking at 1 Cor 7-8 the last two weeks – which particularly makes this article grating. Paul’s response to sexual immorality is not have ‘no sex’. It’s to have good right sex. Particularly in Ch 7 where he notes ‘the body’ is for the Lord.

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