Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deep Church IV: Worship

Belcher writes that, when it comes to their understanding and practice of worship:

"... the emerging and traditional churches have the same Achilles heel--a faulty view of tradition. Both are committed to the same low-church view of church tradition ["no book but the Bible, no creed but Christ"]. This has locked them into a model of worship that is dated and severely influenced by the Enlightenment. They are handcuffed by a style of worship contextualized during the Reformation that no longer connects with postmodern people. The goal is not to simply contextualize or become more like the surrounding culture, but to first adopt church tradition that would give them the resources to connect with the culture without becoming syncretistic.

"Even though the emerging church's views allows them to adopt some ancient practices, this is done in a way that is cut off from the Great Tradition that birthed them. It is as if the emerging churches want the fruit but not the roots from which it came. So in their attempt to be culturally relevant (which they are doing very well), their traditions are not strong enough, I fear, to resist being absorbed by the surrounding culture" (p. 133).

Remember that, in the above quote, Belcher is critiquing both traditional and emerging worship. What do you think of his analysis, and, more broadly... what do you think about the "art and science" of worship?

25 comments:

John M. said...

Wow Brian, you ask such small, easy questions.

Brian Emmet said...

Well, let's narrow it a bit. We're trying to track with Belcher's book. In it, he identifies seven areas of disgreement/tension between the emerging churches and the more traditional ones. Those areas include how truth is known and understood, the nature of the church, the nature of the Gospel, how believing and belonging are related, worship, preaching and tribalism vs. accommodationism. In each area, Belcher is proposing a "third way", drawing on the Great Tradition to broaden the discussion beyond the too-confining parameters of the current emrging/traditionalist debate.

In the quote in this post, Belcher feels that both "camps" are, in different ways, wedded to a "low church" perspective on worship that tends to cut them off from the living stream of the Great Tradition. So we want to talk about "worship" in this context.

(That really helped, huh?)

steve H said...

Want to hear an Orthodox view of the Great Tradition -- with humor included? Check out the podcast "Catechizing From The Barber's Chair" at http://ancientfaith.com/

It challenges our efforts to identify and the Tradition apart from the church (The Church?) which has lived it and brings it to us. It's a different view than most of us have, but perhaps worth hearing anyway. And I think it is relevant to this discussion.

just joe said...

you guys waiting for me? you know you can talk to each other ...

we just got back from several days in Gainesville ... a fruitful time scanning through microfilm of Brazilian newspapers 1960-65.

I learned to love liturgical worship when I spent 6 weeks in Rio de Janeiro. I attended a variety of mainline, pentecostal and Catholic churches as part of my masters thesis research. My personal favorite was the Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Copacabana beach. They had a 'charismatic' service on Saturdays nights ...but still used the processional and lectionary. Interestingly, there was far more lay participation in the Catholic service (men and women readers, musicians,etc) than there was in either the mainline or the neo-pentecostal services. The Protestant services seemed much more authoritarian and focused on the Pastor to me ... of course based on only 15 or 16 visits total.

With Steve, I like the simplicity and participation of a 1Cor.14:26 meeting (I used to attend a Quaker service) but I also appreciate the liturgy.

About the only thing I cannot stand anymore is a Charismatic mega service with a 40 minutes topical message pumping people up.

Belcher mentions the "pragmatics" in passing but gives almost no print space to discussing them.

Brian Emmet said...

Robert and Sue Grant have been with us this weekend, so haven't had time to really pay attention here. I'll try to get back to things in a day or two ...

just joe said...

oh, please tell them 'hello' for me. What I find odd is that even when we go two or three days without comments in here, there is still a steady stream of 12 to 15 visitors per day ... evidently some people must be reading through the previous threads. Kinda scary isn't it?

Brian Emmet said...

Steve, I want to pick up on your comment that we can't have the Great Tradition apart from the church in what that Tradition was birthed. Would you say that the Orthodox understanding is that they are the inheritors or stewards of the Great Tradition? In other words, has what we're referring to as the GT come to dwell most fully at this point in time within the Orthodox communion, because both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism represent departures from the GT?

steve H said...

My Orthodox friend Jordan Bajis would say that Orthodoxy represents faithfulness to that tradition in its "official teaching" but has not been as faithful in the area of practice. Yes, it is quite clear that the Orthodox see themselves as the historical expression of that Tradition since the church at Rome and those who look to Rome departed from that Tradition at a few significant points -- and to them Protestantism is related to the Roman Church from which it came.

I think some Anabaptists also see themselves as having historical continuity with the New Testament churches, and in that sense would present themselves as the bearers of the Great Tradition, although I don't know that they would use that term.

Personally, I don't see any really fruitful way to connect with the Great Tradition by affiliating with one of the historical branches. The best I can see (at this point) is, through reading and dialogue, to broaden our perspective and to identify as fully as we can with those beliefs and practices that oldest and most commonly held in the "whole church." That, for me, includes studying the historical theological work of such as N. T. Wright, in an effort to gain insight and understanding into the way Scripture and the kingdom and the gospel would have been understood in the days of Jesus and the original apostles.

just joe said...

I agree with Steve that the greatest value of the GT is an interpretive perspective (I think that is what you were saying Steve?).

My tendency, though, would be to value the entire history of the church rather than putting a premium on the patristic period (I'm sure that is a point that can be fruitfully argued). I find that there are many points where I draw inspiration and perspective from the historic example of the Quakers, Methodists and the group that Zinzindorf was affiliated with (I'm having one of those strange senior moments of drawing a blank ... I know the name begins with "m").

I also draw some inspiration with social Catholicism of the 20th century: Dorothy Day, Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Seunens of Belgium and Archbishop Oscar Romeo of El Salvador although not so many evangelicals are familiar with them.

When Belcher started his church, he did it as a member of the PCA ... which implies that he is not insisting that a "3rd" way requires affirming and submitting to the apostolic succession of the priesthood through the E.O, Roman Catholics or Anglican traditions.

but I guess we are straying off of the topic of worship...

OH! I just remembered... the Moravians! ... they were absolutely singlular in history! a 24 hour a day prayer meeting that lasted for 100 years, self-sustaining and tent-making missions all out of proportion to their membership, Two of the first Moravian missionaries to the Caribbean even sold themselves into slavery in order to finance their mission to African slaves ... to this day, more Afro-Caribbeans belong to the Moravian church than belong to the Anglican. simply awesome. So many stories to tell ...

steve H said...

By the "whole church" I was alluding the church throughout history.

A primary reason the church of the Patristic period is of special value, besides the fact that they were closer to the time of the apostles, is that the goal of the Fathers during that period was the unity of the church. So where we see unity amidst their diversity, then we are seeing the roots of the Great Tradition. I also respect the Fathers of that age because the Lord of the church entrusted them with such foundational tasks--such as discerning and describing the divinity and humanity of Jesus and the nature of the Trinity, not to mention the task of discerning which writings should be considered canonical.

That being said, there are things to learn (both positive and negative) in every part of our history. But the Great Tradition has be rooted in the "great foundations."

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, Steve, and "tradition" is an ongoing process, not a static reality: we will be part of the "tradition" of the church of the 22nd century (should the Lord tarry). We probably shouldn't "flash freeze" one particular moment in history and isolate "tradition" only in that moment. It's perhaps better to think of the GT as a flowing river rather than a statue... and we can also beneficially remember Mumford's teaching on "the River of God" and the danger of becoming "lagoon-ites"!

Brian Emmet said...

OK, we're about ready to head off into a new, and non-Belcherian, topic. Any last words before we deep six "Deep Church"?

just joe said...

on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being absolutely lifechanging, and 0 being a waste of time, how much did you resonate with the book Brian?

just joe said...

"absolutely lifechanging" is a bit over the top; lets make "10" = a "profound impact on one's thinking".

On that scale, I would have to give the book at least an 8 or 9 for me, and certain subsections a def. 10.

By-the-way Brian, thanks for mentioning Robert Farrar Capon a few discussions ago. I had his book "Parables of the Kingdom" sitting on my library shelf and would probably have never read it had you not mentioned him. His concept of the the awesome immensity of the atonement and resurrection, and the catholicity of the kingdom of God did reach "10" or beyond for me and really expanded my view of God's forgiveness and the power of the kingdom.

I had a chance to share with our group on Tuesday about forgiveness in Christ without adding in a qualifier or a 'hook' (no "buts" --- this after two years of preparation and building relationships). One girl who is a rather hardened atheist, looked stunned, and said "but that sounds like a free pass?!" I said "exactly."

It felt like I was sharing really good news--almost too good to be true, first time in long time I have felt that kind of response.

did anyone else who has been following this conversation read Jim Belcher's book, Deep Church? If so, what rating would you give it? don't be shy.

Brian Emmet said...

You're welcome on the Capon recommendation! As for Belcher, I'd rate/rank "Deep Church" as a 5 or 6. He pulled together, in a clear and persuasive way, a lot of ideas that we've been discussing here, lo these many months, so I didn't find a lot that was new or world-rocking. For me, reading Belcher was more saying, "Yup, I get that/am there with you" instead of, "Wow... whoa... I had never thought if it like that before!" Doesn't make it a bad book or a not-worth-reading book; I actually think it's both good and well worth reading...

...but let's hear from the rest of you!

steve H said...

I would give it at least a 7 or 8 personally -- for many of the same reasons Brian gave. However, if much of the book were not, "That's what I believe. I wish I could have said it that well." But I would rate it even higher in value for those who had not been wrestling with these issues.

just joe said...

One thing that ups the value of the book for me is the way he models respectful civility and "deep" theological communication. Instead of staking out a position and attacking his opponent as so many do, he demonstrates "Sermon on the Mount" ethics by carefully outlining two different perspectives, trying to be faithful to represent them as they themselves would want to be represented, and then he gives a charitable critique and finds common middle ground.

I wish some political ideologues would learn from his approach, not to mention fractious fundamentalists, intransigent traditionalists and provocative emergents.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, hard to say anything in response other than, "Amen!"

just joe said...

and one more thing Brian and Steve (wish some others would contribute!).

He carefully works with definitions. In his view, at the heart of the conflict over 'post-modernism' between traditionals and emergents are different understandings of what post-modernism actually means.

this illustrates something I have long felt about the value of discussion of definitions and meanings. We often use the same words such as Tradition, Apostolic, mission, Church, and relationships while holding very different images or concepts in our minds leading to a lot of unecessary conflict and ineffective labor.

steve H said...

Amen, amen!

Brian Emmet said...

Alright, alright already , Joseph--I hereby increase my rating, for all the reasons you have provided and with which I concur, from a 5-6 to an 8!

Are we ready to move on? May be the last chance for any lurkers to launch a fresh volley on this subject...

just joe said...

an "8" is good ... maybe even a "7".

substracting Arlington, Lexington and Miami, there were at least 16 "lurkers" on here Wed. and Thurs. I'm reading to start taking names and tracking down ip numbers.

David! someone from Raleigh was on here 4 times ... this conversation was right down your ally dude ...

david said...

joe, you guys were doing well without me - so i was content to just enjoy all the comments.

John M. said...

I had decided not to add "Deep Church" to my ever-growing pile, but the ratings form you three guys make it tempting. I'm going to ask my Son-in-law, Brad, about it, since he's PCA. It would be interesting to see what kind of reception it's getting in those circles.

Brian I like you comments about Tradition not being static. The EO (RC too? Not sure about them.) speak of tradition as "living".

Brian Emmet said...

A new and different direction is now available on our newest post.