The new reformation: worship in two-part harmony (2)…

The new reformation: worship in two-part harmony (2)…

Yesterday, I wrote of the priority of getting sex right in connection with our worship. The Apostle Paul says precious little about the details of worship, nor does the New Testament say much more. Worship on earth, that is. The details it does give have to do with examining ourselves prior to partaking of the body and blood of our Lord in the Lord’s Supper. And sex.

The New Testament is quite specific about sex. Very specific. Matter of fact, if someone born into a culture of sexual anarchy wanted to know God’s rules about sex—about male and female—in worship, and they hadn’t seen a Bible, they would be delighted to open and find such specific rules delineating how to fulfill God’s creation order of man and woman in Christian worship.

There’s a reason men who haven’t learned to distinguish between their preferences and Biblical commands trot out church history as their authority in condemning what others do musically or sacramentally, for instance. I remember an old Scottish Presbyterian theologian commenting in his classic work on the Church that the first thing to be noted about the Biblical doctrine of the sacraments is that Scripture says almost nothing about them. He indicated that silence was a very important doctrinal statement and I learned the lesson and have tried to be level-headed about the sacraments ever since.

About the Lord’s Supper and worship for instance, so that he does not become guilty of profaning the body and blood of our Lord by eating and drinking in an unworthy manner, “let a man examine himself.”

Utter simplicity.

And about sex, women are to be “silent.” The New Testament is explicit about feminine deference in worship. It’s commanded several times.

Again, utter simplicity.

We need to commit ourselves to the hard work of getting first things right. And getting first things right always requires the relegation of second things to a subordinate status. It would be perverse to argue about guitars vs. organs or pianos while refusing to fence the Lord’s Table and allowing women to preach and administer the sacraments.1

So what do people argue about concerning worship? Instruments. Beat. Volume. Syncopation. Electricity. Drums. Plexiglass. The place of emotions. Repetition. Collars. Intinction. Robes. Time.

Look, when I had sons and daughters going off to college, I wanted them to go to St. John’s or Cambridge precisely because I believe the trivium is the foundation of education. From childhood I have been listening to medieval and Renaissance music. I have a bunch of it in iTunes. I have all Bach’s organ works there, too. Tons of Handel and Mozart. Purcell. Hundreds and hundreds of sacred choral works. I smoked a pipe in high school and wore bowties in college (which was a long time ago). I like scotch and bourbon and have worn a Geneva gown to lead worship back in seminary. Matter of fact, I have a custom-made Geneva gown in my closet ready to go to work anytime, courtesy of my dear friend and fellow minster, Fr. Bill Mouser.

Need I go on?

I can sing the tenor and bass of scores and scores of hymns, and many of them without words, too. They bring tears to my eyes. Our church has a school that focuses on classical education. Some of my grandchildren attend a charter school that follows a classical curriculum.

Need I go on?

Our church has always celebrated the Lord’s Supper every other week. We have always followed the historic Reformed liturgy in our worship. We confess our faith by repeating one of the Ecumenical Creeds every week. My favorite writers of the twentieth century have always been Roman Catholic.

Need I go on?

If I have your attention and have built up some little bit of street cred by this point, let me repeat that all these things are secondary, and what is primary is being neglected in Presbyterian and Reformed churches today. Put men back in worship leadership and let them lead. Preach to the conscience. Preach for conviction of sin. Fence the Lord’s Table. Let a man examine himself—please.

Stop choosing churches and leading worship and writing posts and books arguing over things that Scripture doesn’t mandate.

You know, the regulative principle has as much to do with not making rules that Scripture doesn’t require as it does with following the rules Scripture does require. Ponder that.

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1. Pastors and elders used to know that women don’t administer the Lord’s Supper because the elders who discipline communion are men, and administering communion is part of enforcing that discipline. But more on that later.

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About The Author

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Tim Bayly has been senior pastor of Clearnote Church, Bloomington since 1996. Married to Mary Lee, the Baylys have five children and twenty-something grandchildren. Tim's book on fatherhood is titled "Daddy Tried" and he is co-author of a book on homosexuality titled "The Grace of Shame.’

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