Worship Wars


Dr. R. Scott Clark on ‘The Worship Wars’.

Seeker-Sensitive Worship and the Worship Wars

We want to be seeker-sensitive, but we must identify the true seeker in worship. Scripture teaches that “no man seeks God”, certainly not the unregenerate, rather it is God who seeks us (Romans 3:11). Our Lord taught us that the Father seeks those who will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Therefore the primary focus in Reformed worship is our living, holy, righteous, awesome Triune God. Thus when we gather before his face (Hebrews 12:18-20) we are in a sacred assembly where he has promised to give us an audience. More than that God has promised to be with us as our covenant God (Genesis 17:7-10; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Matthew 28:20), to make us a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5) It is our earnest prayer that it will be so obvious that God is in our midst, that when an unbeliever enters the assembly he will be convicted of his sin, fall down and worship God exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (1 Corinthians 14:25).

Because we live in the era of so-called worship wars, the matter of “praise…in song” (Art. 38) has become hotly controversial. One side wants “traditional hymns” and the other side calls for “contemporary songs.” Speaking strictly, however, Reformed worship is neither, “traditional” nor “contemporary.” Rather we operate on revealed principles which must be applied in every age. C. O. Art. 39 says,

The 150 Psalms shall have the principal place in the singing of the churches. Hymns which faithfully and fully reflect the teaching of the Scripture as expressed in the Three Forms of Unity may be sung, provided they are approved by the Consistory.

It is our conviction that the Psalms are both traditional and contemporary. Though written a millennium before Christ, they are as timeless and as relevant as the Word of God. The Psalter is a “Bible in miniature,” teaching God’s Law as well as his Gospel, pointing us to Christ’s work on behalf of sinners and the Spirit’s ongoing gracious work in his people in justification and sanctification. We believe that the Psalter is Christ’s principal songbook for his people and that it is rightly given the “principal place in the singing of the churches.”

Nevertheless, we also recognize that there are other songs which may be sung in Christian worship. The elders have approved the use of the 1959 CRC Psalter-Hymnal. Other songs to be used in worship which not contained in the Psalter are to be approved by the Consistory. Thus what is sung in worship is not a matter of private preference but publicly stated principles administered by authorized office bearers.

The age of a tune is morally indifferent. Tunes from many eras may be used so long as they are express the mood of the text and are appropriate and conducive to corporate worship. There are older tunes which are now considered traditional which are just as inappropriate as some of the contemporary praise songs and contemporary tunes which are quite suitable to be used in reverently joyful public worship.

Much of the modern confusion about worship is due to the confusion of public and private piety. Reformed worship is not a concert, revival meeting, nor a private prayer circle. In Biblical worship, God speaks to his gathered people and they reply corporately. Therefore what is done must be appropriate to corporate public worship (1 Corinthians 11:10). Therefore there are certain music forms which, while perfectly appropriate to private settings are inappropriate in public worship in which all God’s people, of all ages and backgrounds are gathered (1 Corinthians 11: 22; chapter 14).

Having lost confidence in the preached Word of God as a means of grace, many evangelical congregations and even some Reformed congregations have added elements to the liturgy, namely liturgical dance and drama. It is our conviction that such additions are contrary to God’s Word and are the moral equivalent of the “strange fire” condemned in Leviticus 10:1-2. Scripture not only forbids false gods, but also human innovation in Christian worship, even that which is well intentioned (e.g., 2 Sam 6). The sacraments are the only divinely sanctioned visible Words of God to his people

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James 2:19

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”

~When was the last time you ‘shuddered’ at Gods glory?

Should we fear God?

Job 28:28
“And this is what he says to all humanity: The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.”

Prov 9:10
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Matt 10:28
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell”.

How do you reconcile this with:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”