B A R R Y L A N D .



in people.









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a discussion ignited by a review of several new books on the history of worship and its current role in the church. (Unfortunately, the article has been removed, so I can't link to it.)

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Imagine the terror of standing alongside the self-assured Puritan iconoclast William Dowsing, whose destructive axe undid centuries' worth of painstaking artistic craftsmanship in a fortnight. At least, White reminds us, Dowsing appreciated the intrinsic power of artistic works to shape the piety of a community, in contrast to many today who view liturgical art as nothing more than innocuous decoration.

welll, that's a big "at least", there. Kind of like the "at least the Communist governments, unlike decadent western democracies, recognize the power and potential of art, validating it by their censure and torture of artists."

To use another "at least:" At least the Brave New World of Precious Moments allows Michelangelo to exist for those who will see him, in contrast to the 1984 of Dowsing.


The achievements of the Liturgical movement are impressive: mainline preachers concerned about Scripture, Catholics concerned about preaching, Protestants concerned about sacraments, and evangelicals concerned about the early church.

So true! We're living in a great age, indeed. Even our parents were incapable of this kind of crossover interest. And may I say that it is our much-maligned post-modernism that allows that very phenomenon.


So strong is this liturgical convergence in some congregations that the only observable difference, White quips, is that "Catholics use real wine, while Protestants use real bread."

Nevertheless, the theologically informed Catholic will tell you that the doctrine of transubstantiation entails a double miracle (in which the bread a] actually becomes the body of Christ, and b] retains the earthly form of bread), whereas the theologically informed Baptist will tell you that it entails a single miracle, in which the wine actually transforms into grape juice.



Once the link between theology and worship is exposed, dozens of unsettling questions arise. Why do churches with a high doctrine of Scripture often feature so little Scripture reading in Sunday worship? What about a church that confesses the power of the Word of God and then demands that its preacher use either high-gloss rhetoric or emotional manipulation to talk people into the kingdom? What about a church that holds to a Chalcedonian Christology, but whose hymns praise only the human Jesus?

maybe because there *is* perhaps the possibility of yanking on the finger of worship without getting the hand of theology. To worship in a way that emphasizes unemphasized aspects of one's theological schema is perhaps a way of recognizing the limitations of that schema, even if there is inconsistency there.


The image of worship as a game is certainly not the last word. It may suggest something altogether too casual, trivial, or shallow.

maybe — I wonder how much Lang's book owes to the work of Johan Huizinga, author of "Homo Ludens." A great, great read, whose thesis is implicit in the (mercifully short and colon-free) title. We are, in fact, beings who have an innate, universal drive to draw out lines in chalk, and make rules, and observe boundaries, and manipulate balls, disks, and sticks of various types; and do so with both enthusiasm and seriousness.

I'd think Huizinga would classify most worship as a kind of game (and in fact I seem to recall a reference in the book that treats that subject), and I'd be interested in exploring his idea that there are two kinds of people to be despised by Homo Ludens: the cheater, and the bad sport.


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This has all been very interesting, and I can only add this: According to John Finnis, who claims to only be re-hashing Aquinas, there are six basic, indemonstrable, irreducible human "goods", our participation in which leads us to a life which is flourishing: life itself, aesthetics, religion, knowledge, play, friendship.

Worship, clearly a "composite" human good involving so many of the above, would seem to be one of the highest human activities by any account. From the Christian worldview, it seems beyond dispute that this is the case. Perhaps for this reason, it raises our passions.


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one of my favorite cultural critics is Kenneth Myers, author of "All God's Children & Blue Suede Shoes." Here are some quotes from a good interview with him:

Ironically, I got from public education a good grounding in the Judeo-Christian influence of Western culture and meanwhile, at church I was getting a thin, vapid, maudlin, tepid experience that did not do justice to the richness that cultural life can be...Yet that was the accepted mechanism for Christian outreach, edification, and entertainment.

I've been wondering the last few years whether we aren't also living at the end of the time of mass evangelism...I think that individual evangelism rather than mass evangelism may be what the church needs.

J. Gresham Machen, founder Westminster Seminary argued that theological liberalism was a different religion--a religion of moralism and uplift, whereas Christianity was a religion about sin and grace. The irony today is that that's exactly what evangelicalism is--a religion of moralism and uplift. I once was fond of saying, "you get the impression that evangelicalism is here to make the world safe for Mormons." It comes across that something is Christian because it's... Pleasant.

I think there's a certain sense in which American populism isn't just a positive populism, but it's a very acerbic anti-elitism so that anything the elites like, we must resist it.

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"individual evangelism rather than mass evangelism"

these are parallel ventures occurring en masse as we speak. perhaps this is the naive, 'toe-ing the evangelical/biblical line' response, but it would seem that if one wants to know "what the church needs," [presuming the above-mentioned church subscribes to a biblical worldview) then one would consult the selfsame Bible — one that clearly sets into motion both schema: mass- and individual evangelism are both commanded and modeled.


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Whoever wrote that the Bible teaches mass and individual evangelism is right on the money .... just read the book of Acts. Peter preached to several thousand at Pentecost. Philip spoke to one Ethiopian.


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But I think it bears pointing out here the precise nature of that "mass" evangelism: Peter *was* indeed preaching to several thousand, but first of all it wasn't several million, and second of all he was right there. In fact, they responded to him by asking questions and he answered them on the spot.

Naturally, people have been able to speak to an audience of thousands for centuries — that's not mass communication as we employ the term, however. Mass communication is something that came with the industrial revolution, when one person could write a newspaper article and have all of England talking about it the next day; and of course it reached a different level in the age of electricity, when someone could write a newspaper article and have the whole continent talking about it the next day; and finally in our own century we got it so that the whole continent (indeed much of the world) could be talking about it *and* the person's facial expression and tone of voice, and so on.

So, in those terms, what Buckner Fanning does at trinity baptist church on sunday morning *isn't* really mass communication, even though there are two thousand people there: he's preaching a sermon to a congregation. On the other hand, what he does isn't just taking place at tbc — it's also taking place at trinitybaptist.org, where his sermon is being broadcast live to the web: *that's* mass communication on a global scale.

And I think that what Myers is saying then becomes quite valid: we've reached the age where we're realizing that "mass evangelism" simply isn't as effective as personal evangelism, not by a long shot ('personal' here referring to not only phillip and the ethiopian but peter and the crowd at pentecost).


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is anyone else tired of the pontificating on the events in littleton last week? the price of 24-hour news networks is that any time anything bad happens, they spend incredible amounts of time trying to lay blame on virtually everything.

What I lament is the tendency to try to find sacrificial lambs to blame an event like this on, simultaneous with the tendency to avoid facing up to our depravity as individuals.


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The reason the media focuses on the *sacrificial lambs* is because society does not want to hear the REAL truth about why kids are going on shooting rampages. In fact, the majority of parents I see every day can't HANDLE the truth: that their lack of love and interest in their kids, mixed with their own selfish needs of doing what feels right, leads to divorce, serious depression of the whole family, and working moms who don't know (or care) what the heck their kid is doing (or where) just as long as the kids stay out of their hair.

I am sick and tired of parents who don't care about the unspoken messages they are sending to their kids.


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I dunno, "pontificating" can be sorta constructive. Consider the lot of it a giant brainstorming session: everyone's got an opinion, a scapegoat, an observation a la reductio ad absurdum. Record all responses and you've got a rather good list of the myriad of forces contributing to this Problem Royale.

Seeing them all on a single page is perhaps the best evidence for depravity, and the best proof-text for the argument that education has its limits.

Rhodes Scholars still fondle white house interns. Students of Calvin, Barth, Kierkegaard are still prone to violent ruminations — especially on highways ... worse even.

Here's to lambasting parents for their "unspoken messages." If anyone heard NPR's All Things Considered today, perhaps you are as despairing as I am having heard how few of these kids consider their parents the least bit approachable or cognizant of their real selves. I send a quixotic salute to those who think The Remedy will emanate from legislation, or speeches, or nightly news programs, or focus groups, or otherwise.


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"The Remedy" is not having kids until you, as a parent, are ready to give up your own *personal life* ...and make your personal life revolve around your kids (and your marriage, too — don't forget that important aspect to your kids) until they are on their own. And having a society where the majority of the people believe this and put it into action. However, I can't make the society do this, but I can start with my own self.

BTW, how does your kid stockpile guns, ammunition, and make bombs in your garage with his friend, without you being aware of it? After all, whether your kid likes it or not, you are their legal guardian until the age of 18. YOU are responsible for their actions, finances, etc., legally. (Boy, how many times I heard that one from my grandfather!!)


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but here's my question — why are parents so uncaring now??

How did it get that way? why is it that we spend less time with our families? I can't accept that it's just that those people don't care. Looking around, the only conclusion can be that it's a societal force, albeit one that shows itself family by family. But what's behind that societal force?


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It has been interesting for me to read this whole series of messages in a chain. What you all did seems to me as a microcosm of what society, through the media, has done — i.e., find someone to blame. Barry's original comment focuses on how society feels the need to assign blame, and how endless analysis leads to attempts to simplify the issue and boil it down to who's to blame. Then, your discussions evolved into constructing parents as the source of blame. Interesting. And seeing this process at work in your conversation gives us insight into how it happens in the media. Perhaps not so intentional, but as a result of peoples' interests and past experiences. What I mean is, whatever your area of expertise, main interest, or significant experiences, that is what you tend to focus upon because that is what you can comment upon the best.

I heard that one of the dads was the all-American dad: went to all the little league games, etc. The government system has a role, looking for easy fixes through banning and laws (why aren't they trying to ban propane tanks?). And the thing that amazes me is that few people are focusing on the individuals. Why do we have to blame something or someone external? Why isn't anyone saying, "no matter what influences there have been, these two made choices, planned (for up to a year), plotted, and intentionally did a heinous act?" This was not an impulsive, immature tantrum, but a long term planned event.

Blame of everyone but the one who made the choice relates back to the original point, I think. This may be one of the key societal changes at work here. We somehow have grown to believe that whatever happens, we are not at fault, it's not an accident, and someone must pay. So when a tragedy happens, what do we do? The same thing as with smaller problems, but on a larger scale: begin analysis to determine who is to blame.