When it comes to disciples mentioned often in the New Testament and in our preaching, it is our dear friend Peter. I think on some level most of us can identify with Peter. Too often he is remembered as the disciple who denied Jesus three times or the disciple who after seeing the transfiguration declares that they should build three altars right on the spot, an idea which Luke a few years later decided to make fun of him for.
But in today’s lectionary reading, John 6:60-71, Peter makes good. John 6 contains Jesus’ highly offensive teaching that to be saved one must eat his body and drink his blood – a teaching that offends many who are listening and causes other to say, “This teaching is difficult.” However, after much of the crowd as left and only the 12 disciples remain Jesus asks them, “are you going to leave too?” Then Peter replies with a simply beautiful statement:
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God”
May the church of Jesus Christ never forget that Peter was right – it is Jesus Christ alone who offers the church life.
This week I’ve spent most of my free time devoted to reading Dan Kimball’s book, Emerging Worship. I first got to know Dan’s work last fall at the National Youth Worker’s Convention when I attended two of his seminars and was quite impressed. I especially liked the way Dan handled sticky issues that he raised in the “Emerging Questions: Questions Emerging Generations are Asking” or something along that line. He was honest, straightforward, but fair. I clearly remember him raising the issue about the role of women in worship leading:
Dan: Now how many of you are in churches that ordain women? (about a third of the hands – including mine – go up)
Dan: Now how many of you are in churches that don’t ordain women? (about two-thirds of the hands go up)
Dan: Okay, now one of you is wrong, but regardless within the parameters of your theological understanding of the role of women you need to find ways to have both men and women involved in the leadership of worship at your worship gatherings.
I was impressed. Anyway, part of my job at Hampton is to work with turningpoint, which is our “modern” worship service. It, in both style and content, is different from our contemporary and traditional services and is a service intended to reach out to those who are unchurched or have stopped attending church.
As I read Dan’s work I realize that he is coming at “emerging worship” from a very different perspective than I am. He is “emerging” from a traditional evangelical setting where the form of worship where as I am “emerging” from a more traditional reformed style of worship. While there are some commonalities between these two styles, there are also some major differences. Here are some of the common themes I see
1) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize one-way communication: In both traditional settings it is largely the worship leaders speaking to the people.
2) Both traditional evangelical and tradtional reformed emphasize the people worshipping in unison, albeit in different forms. Traditional evangelical tended to do this through unison singing while traditional reformed uses hymns and liturgical elements (call to worship, unison prayers, etc.)
3) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize up and down motion. In both settings you pretty much were either sitting down or standing up, and that’s it. On occasion, you might come forward to respond to an altar call (traditional evangelical) or taking communion by intinction (traditional reformed)
4) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize the message as the central part of the worship service.
5) Both traditional evangelical and traditional reformed emphasize auditory communication over other forms, although traditional evangelical moved toward limited visuals sooner.
However, there are some key differences.
1) Traditional evangelical did away with many “churchy” elements. Traditional liturgical pieces (call to worship, unison prayers, etc.), the church calendar (Advent, Lent, Ascension Day, Christ the King Sunday, etc.), crosses, pews, communion tables, baptismal fonts, organs, stained glass, candles, processional/recessional, bulletins, robes and vestments, etc. went away. The traditional evangelical worship space looked very similar to a school auditorium rather than what is traditionally thought of as a “church”.
2) My wife pointed out that traditional evangelical worship placed a high value on energy – more upbeat music is maybe the easiest place to see this.
Now one thing I am not doing is saying which of these two forms is better. I grew up traditional reformed and know many people who that form of worship has been essential to the growth of their faith. In the same vein, I know many people who grew up in traditional evangelical circles where that form of worship has been essential to the growth of their faith. So I am not saying one was/is right and one is wrong, I’m just pointing out where I see the differences.
So what it seems that Dan is suggesting is largely a recapturing and transforming of some traditional reformed elements (greater emphasis on the sacraments, a return to the church calendar to give a sense of history, crosses and other visual symbols of the faith) meshed into a shift in values toward a community planned and driven worship gathering. Also, Dan suggests a big emphasis on multi-sensory elements that engage all the senses. So, more visuals, taste, touch, etc.
I guess what I find so interesting about the emerging conversation is how a lot of it appears to be traditional evangelicals reclaiming that which we’ve (traditional reformed) have always had and reinventing it into something fresh and newish. This isn’t to say that what is being done and suggested in emerging circles is just traditional reformed with a new face (that’s not true – the multi-sensory piece isn’t not part of traditional reformed worship)
The question that I wrestle with is what those of us emerging from traditional reformed circles do with those things that to so many have become symbols the past which is marked by dry and rote worship.
Today summer officially ended for me, as it was our last youth event for the summer at church. The next major youth event is the kick-off of SWAT (our Jr. High Youth Group) on September 12th. What an incredible summer this has been, and it promises to be an incredible fall.
When I set out on this short adventure of reading and blogging about a book I said that my comments and review would not be “ojbective” in any sense of the word because I am a fan of Barth’s theology and count John Franke as one of my friends… so take my comments with a grain of salt.
Overall, I really enjoyed Barth for Armchair Theologians. Its length makes it very digestible and it’s style, a cross between biographical story and analysis creates a nice balance to read. Particularly helpful is that this can be desribes as “theological-historical” biography as at every point John seeks to show how the historical content in which Barth was living and writing impacted what he wrote. My ability to tell whether something is accessible to the average chuch goer is completely shot, but my guess is that most people with an interest in theology would be able to handle it. I found the last part of Chapter 7, where John discusses the neo-orthodox/postmodern interpretations of Barth to be a little higher grade of discussion, but nothing completely over the top.
What the book helped me to was understand myself better actually. While my thinking has been shaped by Barth directly (via his books) my thinking has also been shaped by Barth indirectly through the people he has influenced such as professors that I’ve had and authors that I’ve read. At numerous points in the book I was reading and then went, “Ah ha! That’s where that came from!”
What did suprise me a bit was that there was no mention of Barth’s highly controversial assisant, Charlotte Von Kirschbaum. It seems that shortly after the discussion of Barth begins someone brings up the strange mysterious relationship between Barth and Von Kirschbaum and its something that wasn’t even mentioned in this book.
My final assessment is that Barth for Armchair Theologians is well worth reading, especially if one is interested in getting a grasp on his thought prior to diving into the Church Dogmatics which will literally take a person years to read….
So I got a little behind on my blogging about Barth for Armchair Theologians mainly because I was reading it so fast to the point where I finished the book today. So I’m going to summarize the last four chapters in this post and then post my summary thoughts.
Chapter 4 is entitled “The Impossible Impossibility” which traces Barth’s rise to popularity as he shifted from Switzerland into Germany and began his time there. What I found most ironic was that Barth was actually throughly unqualified to teach what he had been called to teach (Reformed dogmatics) and thus spent much of his time lecturing in order to teach himself. It’s interesting that he highlights the Heidelberg Catechism which is something that Barth references a great deal in the Church Dogmatics. Franke also highlights Barth’s understanding of Reformed Theology as theology that is constantly reforming, hence for Barth reformed theology has never “arrived”. Finally, this chapter brings to light Barth’s rediscovery of John Calvin and the ultimate impact that that had on his development.
The next section of the chapter highlights Barth’s reference to the “impossible possibility” of theology. Basically, as humans we are inherently unable to speak of God but because God acts in revelation we thus can attempt to speak of God. This is one of many dialectical tensions that emerge in Barth’s thought, but this is perhaps the most central.
Chapter 5 is entitled, “Bearing Christian Witness” which, given the impossibility of speaking about God is all that we can do. This, along with the belief that Dogmatics was ultimately to serve the church led him to undertake “The Church Dogmatics” rather than his previously attempted, “Christian Dogmatics”. The final part of the chapter highlights Barth’s engagement with the Nazi Party in Germany, the Barmen Declaration, and his ultimate dismissal for refsing to sign an oath of faithfulness to the German government.
Chapter 6, entitled “The Church Dogmatics” is by far the longest and therefore its going to get the shortest summary. It traces the outline and shape of the Church Dogmatics and then summarizes each volume.
The final chapter traces Barth’s legacy and his post-retirement legacy. Franke devotes considerable time to outlining two interpretations of Barth – the neo-orthodox interpretation and the postmodern interpretation. Franke argues that each interpretation of Barth ultimately fails to account for Barth’s dialectical style. The neo-orthodox side diminishes the “God as wholly other” emphasis, while the postmodern interpretation neglects God givenenss and revelation. Franke ultimately argues that is Barth’s dialectical style that must govern our reading of Barth.
So normally when I take “Blog Quizzes” I find them to be junk… but this one actually came out pretty accurate:
|Your Five Factor Personality Profile|
You have low extroversion.
You have high conscientiousness.
You have high agreeableness.
You have low neuroticism.
Openness to experience:
Your openness to new experiences is medium.