Theology and Worship

Rod Decker asked if theology affects doing church.  Specifically he asked: “Does a person’s theology affect the way they do church? I.e., the way they conduct a church/worship service?” 

I can say that for me personally it does affect the way I do church since my Trinitarian theology makes me more conscious about reverencing all three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit during worship rather than just any one of them.  E.g., I’ve been to a Baptist church where I only heard the name Jesus mentioned.  I’ve been to a number of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where the Holy Spirit takes pride of place.  Interestingly enough, I’ve not been in a Christian church where the Father is front and center, although I’d imagine that this is the case in some Unitarian churches (which I’ve never attended).  In any event, if I find myself slacking during worship I try to self-correct as soon as possible, sometimes to my detriment.  What I mean is that sometimes I’ll be so in my head about it that I end up missing the manner in which God is moving.  This is rare but it does happen.  

So does your theology affect the way you do church?  Oh, and before I forget, Rod’s post was inspired by Carl Trueman’s masterpiece here (also noted by Jeff).



10 thoughts on “Theology and Worship

  1. I don’t see how knowledge or learning in theology could not influence how you ‘do church’ (that sounds very American! :-) )

  2. In comment does Catholic worship properly reverence all three members of the Trinity? We open with the sign of the Cross the Eucharistic Prayers bar the Roman Canon are equally trinitarian I would suggest. So do the Catholic Rites fit in with your comment about the centrality of the Trinity to worship.

  3. It definitely does. In fact, my continuing theological education has resulted in my being forced (by my own conscience) to move to a new church tradition that my reading of scripture better supports.

  4. Steph: I don’t see how it couldn’t either.

    Andrew: Yes. You might remember that I mentioned last year how I appreciated the Trinitarian shape of the liturgy.

    Damian: I understand where you’re coming from. My study of 1Cor. 12-14 has led to serious changes in the way I worship (i.e., no more tongues during the service and if I do speak in tongues it’s silently). I don’t know if I’ll change the kind of church I go to but it’s quite possible.

  5. Nick:
    I read what Trueman had to say but honestly it just turned me off. One of the things that I can’t stand about the church is Christians always finding stuff to complain about. They seem to love focusing on problems in Christianity and the Church. It all seems so insecure. Sure I know there are problems that need to be addressed, but I see everything you could possibly complain in the church, being complained about, and not just by regular lay people, but by people like Trueman. Seriously people dressing up like clowns during a service is enough to warrant an article about it where you mention you’d knock out your doctor if he came in dressed like clown? Get real.

    Anyway, on to your question. Yes it does affect the way the do church. I don’t see how it can’t. But I think only general theological beliefs have that effect. You may change your worship to be more Trinitarian, but I imagine some of your more advanced/deeper beliefs about the Trinity will have no bearing at all on how you worship. Likewise my beliefs about Open Theism may have an effect on the way I pray but I don’t think anything deep about Open Theism and my view of God and the nature of time will have any real effect; only the basic idea that the future is open and God can be influenced by my prayers.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

    Bryan L

  6. From a Lutheran perspective, theology and worship are intimately connected. Thus, justification by grace through faith is not only the pillar by which the church stands or falls, it is the heart of worship (or strictly “divine service” – meaning God serves us through Word and Sacrament, and we respond in service with praise, prayer, and singing).

    This also means that our theology and worship are Christocentric, while also being Trinitarian. The invocation (“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) is Trinitarian and Baptismal. Note that Lutheran worship traditionally begins with those words, and not the common Protestant one (“We make our beginning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit), because we see worship as not only God centered, but God-initiated. The God who baptized us is the God who calls us into to his presence to receive his gifts in the Word and in the Lord’s Supper. The invocation is matched by the Trinitarian benediction (Numbers 6:24-26). This is not a conclusion but a sending with the promise that all that God has bestowed in the service now goes with the person. This matches the use of Numbers 6 as the blessing before the Israelites begin their extended journey.

  7. Bryan: I loved the post. I laughed at every paragraph! Generally I’d never read something so long, but it was so entertaining that I couldn’t stop.

    As far as the more advanced or deeper beliefs go, it depends on which ones. My belief about the Spirit proceeding from the Father alone precludes me from ever being able to recite the N-C Creed with the phrase ‘and the son’ attached to it. But like I said in your post on that Trinity & Election article, my views on something like that aren’t bound to make a whole lot of difference.

    Rich S.: I must confess my profound ignorance of Lutheran belief and practice. Thanks so much for sharing that. It definitely sounds like something I could get into.

  8. Nick,

    The question to ask is: Can you remain under the authority of elders who obviously ignore or avoid reading large portions of scripture?

    I’ve struggled with these issues. I ultimately – after discussion with pastors and other people I respected – chose that I couldn’t remain part of such a congregation.

  9. Damian: If I were to ask that question then the obvious answer would be ‘no.’ In my case it isn’t a matter of ignoring Scripture so much as it is (mis)interpreting it. Can I remain under leadership that interprets larges portions of Scripture differently than I do? That would depend on the portions of Scripture. Tongues during worship isn’t enough (at the moment) for me to abandon the church I’m at. Now if they went on to deny the deity of Christ or started teaching that speaking in tongues was a necessary evidence of salvation then I’d leave in a heartbeat.

  10. Nick,

    I find it very difficult to find alternative interpretations of 1Corinthians 13-14. It’s one of the few places where I find scripture quite clear – and before I read it, I gladly spoke in tongues with the rest of the congregation. The conclusion I’m forced to draw is ignorance, of one kind or another. If church leaders do not respond when presented with evidence, then – as I say – one is forced to choose another place to worship.

    But you’re right – different interpretation is no grounds for leaving a church. I think wilful ignorance, however, is ground.

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