I will be making a few generalizations in this blog, and hopefully the larger context of friends will not be too highly offended. Now that I am World Cup free I am able to concentrate a bit more on some pertinent issues that will actually affect my life. This next semester I will be doing an Independent Study on the Sacraments. I will be mentored by Keith Matthison. Dr. Matthison has done a great service to the church in many ways. Beyond his contributions in the area of eschatology, Keith has done some significant research in the area of the sacraments (particularly n the Reformational era). Anyone familiar with Ligonier Ministries knows that their primary goal is to restore God-centeredness in worship by adoring a Holy God. However, adoration and worship have certain demands. For instance, a sacramental gap in worship necessarily lowers the adoration of a Holy God. Though the sacraments to me are significant, in fact, significant enough that without it Orthodox Christianity crumbles, I realize that without preaching, the church does not exist. Parallels can be fallacious because sometime A’s situation differs with B in a minute way, hence avoiding a perfect parallel scenario. Nevertheless parallels in worship have in the last few years made so much sense to me that I cannot but come to one simple conclusion: modern approaches to preaching lead to a weakening of a sacramental life. Some may scorn at my phraseology. However, it is my contention that 95% of the time you show me modern expressions of worship you will also see modern expressions of the sacraments. What does this mean? It means that it is virtually non-existent. R.C. Sproul comments on this when writings in the foreword to Dr. Matthsion’s book:
The absence of a fixed pulpit was not too much of a cultural shock for me as I have seen countless churches wherein plexiglas lecterns serve as portable pulpits, easily removed to make room for the drama presentation.The ancient and historic use of the elevated pulpit that symbolizes the lofty import of the Word of God preached, is now relegated to the realm of the vestigial remnants of the dar ages.
Later he writes that “all forms are art forms and all art forms communicate something.” Everything done communicates something. No earthly expression in worship can be neutral. Modern forms present an uneasiness to historic ways of doing things and actually it may lead to an un-biblical approach to worship. The debate surrounding the regulative principle can be discussed elsewhere, but those on both sides must realize that contemporary applications have affected tremendously our understanding of the Holy. I confess it has not been positive.
Preaching is “indispensable to Christianity” said John Stott, so why is preaching today dispensable for the first activity that overcomes the local church with excitement? The sacraments nourish the church, so why is the church hesitant to give it to the people? If you think one thing does not affect the other you are already part of that unfortunate parallel.