Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

LCMS "MTCOW": continued

I think I'll start referring to the "Model Theological Conference on Worship" simply as "MtCow". It wasn't exactly a holy mountain - but we did 'ascend' to the LCMS capital of St. Louis and live in the ether of ideas there for three days. So here is the next of my many thoughts to share:


One of the delegates at my table struggled with the idea that one could "evaluate worship". I found this interesting, since we were all there to discuss the theology of worship and so presumably would have some objective standards. I tried to explain some of the criteria Bishop Stoterau had referenced earlier in our table talk, to little avail. I couldn't persuade her that there were vaild, objective criteria by which one can measure worship.

I thought of her when I filled out the survey asking for us to evaluate every aspect of each service we attended. Would she fill it out, given that she really didn't think one could evaluate worship? Or would she fill it out on the basis of simply sharing feelings or "perspective" - i.e. on a purely subjective, self-expressive level, without any objective basis? I'll have to send her an email and ask.

I suspect that while some of this resistance to evaluating worship is simply the cultural influences of relativism and post-modernism, something else is at play here: the fides quae/fides qua distinction I've noted earlier this blog. If one is exclusively concerned with expressing the fides qua, viewing worship essentially as a means of expressing one's personal faith experience, then one is going to be loathe to make any sorts of value judgments. After all, who can look into another's heart?

I think the biggest challenge facing the LCMS in worship today is to get the "fides qua" folk to understand that those who lead worship are first and foremost responsible for the "fides quae", ie. the faith by which we are saved. Yes, on a personal level, one cannot really evaluate how someone worshipped, but on a corporate level, yes we do dare evaluate: on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions.

That this is not universally understood and accepted by pastors and other rostered church workers in the LCMS is troubling. Faith itself is at risk if worship is not about delivering "the faith once delivered to the saints," but rather about enabling worship that has "impact" and "motivates".

I'll talk about the import of some of the buzzwords I encountered in my next post.

1 comment:

Stephen R. Johnson said...

Yes, the idea of evaluating worship was something that modern evangelicalism, in my experience in those churches, avoided. One person quipped, "If you ask 50 different people what worship is, you'll get 50 different answers"–– as if this is a valid excuse for avoiding the all important search for the answer to the question of what worship IS.

When I came to Lutheranism, it was in part because the Lutheran church in its heritage provided a defining role for music and worship. These things served objective purposes. They DID certain things. Worship was the place where God revealed himself in the gifts of his word and his veritable body and blood, and where music proclaimed and taught the substance of the Christian faith.

As we embrace the mindset of the evangelical protestants in this matter, it is no wonder that we will lose sight of the objective definitions of worship and music bequeathed to us by our Lutheran forefathers. And it becomes less and less surprising that people who are uncatechized in these things are more and more unsure of what function worship and music serve in the life of the believer.

We need to point our people to the Lutheran heritage, complete with its confessionally minded assessment of what worship should look like and how it should serve the faith of the Christian. But for those who think that this heritage does not matter, there will always be uncertainty about HOW to worship, and a reluctance, if not antipathy, to finding the best answer to that question.