The Worship Quote of the Week for (09/21/2004):

Piety or Idolatry
Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE deals with the idea that our worship of God should be done in a way that God desires. Author Ligon Duncan, a champion for the regulative principle of worship, makes his argument by contrasting biblical piety with our human tendency to idolatry.

THE NATURE OF TRUE PIETY—God repeatedly expresses his pleasure with and delight in those who do exactly what he says. In Isaiah 66:1-4 true religion (“the life of God in the soul of man”) is characterized by one “who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” in contrast to these who choose their own way. Deuteronomy 12:29-32 explicitly warns against establishing worship practices based upon prevailing cultural norms; true godliness is manifested in those who obey God’s dictum: “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” In the Saul stories a dominant theme is that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:3-22), a thought that puts a premium on strict obedience to God’s word in corporate worship. True piety manifests itself in humble obedience to God’s word in our expressions of worship and thus urges us to worship that is wholly in accord with Scripture.

OUR TENDENCY TO IDOLATRY—The biblical teaching on our fallen human tendency to idolatry affects our approach to the worship of God and moves us to embrace the regulative principle. Calvin called our minds “perpetual idol factories.” Experience confirms his less-than-flattering estimation. Indeed, idolatry, not theoretical atheism, is the basic problem of the human heart. Luther said that “we are inclined to it by nature; and coming to us by inheritance, it seems pleasant.” Humanity, having been created in God’s image, and with a sense of deity indelibly written on its heart, is inescapably religious. However, since the fall, our tendency is to attempt to create God in our own image and thus worship ourselves rather than the one in whose image we were made.

—J. Ligon Duncan III, from GIVE PRAISE TO GOD: A VISION FOR REFORMING WORSHIP, edited by Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R; Publishing, 2004, pp. 58-59. ISBN 087552-553-9. The author is the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi. He serves on the board of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and is currently the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

[AN INTERVIEW ON WORSHIP: You can listen to a taped interview with Ligon Duncan, Bob Kauflin, Carl Stam, and Mark Dever by going to This recording (March 2002) was produced and made available by the Center for Church Reform, Washington, DC.]

Have a great week.

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

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