The Worship Quote of the Week for (03/23/2004):

Worship Is Theological
Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is from the introduction to a brand new book on worship. The general editor is Paul Basden and the six contributors are Paul Zahl, Harold Best, Joe Horness, Don Williams, Robert Webber, and Sally Morgenthaler.

Worship is inherently theological. It is primarily about God. Specifically, it is about how Christ-followers offer to God their love, gratitude, and praise. Several theologians have served us well by defining public worship in ways we can understand. For example:

True worship is that exercise of the human spirit that confronts us
with the mystery and the marvel of God in whose presence the most
appropriate and salutary response is adoring love (Ralph Martin).

Christian worship is the glad response of Christians to the holy,
redemptive love of God made known in Jesus Christ (Horton Davies).

Worship, in all its grades and kinds, is the response of the creature to
the Eternal (Evelyn Underhill).

The [Trinitarian] view of worship is that it is the gift of participating
through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father
(James Torrance).

Worship is . . .
• To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
• To feed the mind with the truth of God,
• To purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
• To open the heart to the love of God,
• To devote the will to the purpose of God. (William Temple)

Notice the underlying commonality: Worship is our response to God’s holy nature and redemptive acts. God’s love evokes our love. But having agreed on that core conviction, we find that these definitions of worship begin to diverge. Some emphasize God’s mystery, others his revelation; some stress God’s holiness, others his loving-kindness; some are monotheistic, others Christocentric, still others Trinitarian.

The conclusion? There is no ideal definition of worship. No one has defined worship so completely as to plumb the depths of this divine-human encounter. To make matters more interesting, ancient creeds and modern confessions of faith have not settled on a single orthodox understanding of and approach to worship that has won the approval of Christians worldwide. There is no Chalcedonian formula for corporate worship.

—Paul A. Basden, general editor, EXPLORING THE WORSHIP SPECTRUM: SIX VIEWS. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 12. ISBN 0-310-24759-4.

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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