Here is a brief paper on a case for liturgical worship: Download a_case_for_liturgical_worship.pdf .
I am posting this because there has been some interesting dialogue in my recent blog on a case for the church year. The issue being punted around revolves around the so-called "regulative principle" of worship (RPW). The RPW basically states that anything not expressly commanded for worship in Scripture is forbidden. According to the RPW we must pray in worship because it is commanded in Scripture, but we must not do skits in worship because they are not commanded. Historically, the RPW stands over-and-against the so-called "normative principle" of worship, which holds that anything not expressly forbidden in worship is permissible. So according to the NPW, skits in worship are not expressly forbidden and are therefore allowable.
The RPW / NPW categories are helpful and do raise some very interesting issues concerning how we should worship. I am persuaded by the RPW, but over the past several years have seen that these categories alone cannot begin to shape liturgical practice. For example, I have heard a host of RPW guys talking about the "elements" of worship (prayer, preaching, sacraments, singing) as if they have no relationship to one another. They are like ingredients you put in salsa - the order you put them in doesn't matter. As long as you put them together you have salsa.
What I think most of the RPW guys miss is that corporate worship has a heavenly context. When we meet together to worship we come to Mount Zion (Heb 12). The people of God are called / gathered before His throne to be renewed by the Gospel. By the power of the Spirit we are indwelt as the Temple of God, offering spiritual sacrifices, as a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:5). When you see that this is true, worship becomes far more than a mere combination of "elements." You see that OC Temple worship gives us a pattern for NT liturgy. You see that the Scriptural glimpses into heaven guide our practice. When God gathers His people to His House, we are renewed to the Gospel:
- Called to Worship
- Confess our Sin
- Cleansed from Sin
- Consecrated by the Word
- Communion with God and Neighbor
- Commissioned into the World
I affirm the RPW, but the Reformed tradition has a long, long way to go in recapturing the reality of worship's heavenly context. My methodology is to work towards this liturgical maximalism (within the constraints of the RPW) as much as possible.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."