Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dever and Lawrence vs. Contemporary Worship

Perspectives on Christian Worship: Five Viewshas its strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is the candor with which contemporary worship advocate Dan Wilt unpacks his argument. Another strength is the clarity with which Dever and Lawrence then demolish it. Here's a portion:
In the end, however, we believe that [Wilt's defense of culturally-conditioned worship] is ultimately flawed, even dangerously so. This is not because we are opposed to the use of some popular idiom in public worship. After all, we wrote the chapter on "Blended Worship." Rather, our concerns are more substantive. To begin with, culture is simply not the neutral tool or context that Wilt assumes it to be. As theologian David F. Wells and others have shown over the past decade, culture carries with it its own plausibility structure, its own values, its own priorities. This is true of both high and low culture, and the structures as well as the idioms of culture.

Whether we recognize it or not, the idiom of popular music is value-laden, not just the words that are attached to it. Again and again, Wilt draws our attention to the immediacy, the immanence, and the particular emotional range that this music fosters. And he is precisely right! The pop music idiom is well suited to the love song, the praise song, and the limited range of emotional experience we hear on the radio. Without any sense of irony, Wilt admits that "some contemporary worship songs could as easily be sung to one's spouse as to God." In our circles, this is known as the "Jesus is my boyfriend" song, and it is not exactly a compliment.

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