Thursday, March 30

On Contemporary Worship

Here's an excerpt from an interesting back and forth between Dr. D.A. Carson and Tony Payne. The emphasis is all mine, but I wanted to make sure we all saw the criticism being raised. Is it fair?

DC: A great number of con­temporary choruses are impressionistic rather than contentful. You don't come away having learnt a great deal. There are some exceptions, but on the whole that is true and we just have to work harder at this.

TP: One of the reasons for that trend in modern choruses is the theology that drives the exercise. It's implicitly a mystical exercise in which one enters God's presence, and the singing is the vehicle which carries you there. The worship leader becomes the priest who drives the vehicle (to mix metaphors).

DC: That can happen, and then it becomes just flatly manipulative. This is why I don't like things that go on and on, repeating the same thing again and again. They are like mantras. They worry me. Not that there shouldn't be any repetition-some of the psalms are repetitious-but when it becomes a way of building people up to an emotional high, it's a form of manipulation that is not godly.

But on the other hand, I don't want to be afraid of the articulation of truth, both in a sermon and through song, that breaks people down in tears. I've been in some wonderful Christian meetings that have been powerful emotionally, so long as we aren't trying to achieve it by manipu­lation-either by the preacher telling a weepy story for effect, or for mantra­-like chants that get people all worked up. If the truth of the gospel is being rightly expressed through word and song, then we should not be afraid of emotion.

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