Doug Wilson’s Primer On Worship

A few months back a good friend and brother in our church gave a box full of Wilson’s book A Primer On Worship And Reformation (also available on Kindle) and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. This little book (only 76 pages) is worth the time and read. In typical Wilson fashion he can speak poignantly with humor.

The following are some quotes from this book:

The Church in our nation is in a bad way. This comment is not directed at our moribund quadrant—the ever-relevant liberals dozing off irrelevantly in their ecumenical corner—but rather at the vibrant and active section that we call modern evangelicalism. Now of course there isn’t a problem with activity per se, but in the conservative and evangelical wing of the Church, vibrancy and activity always seem to cluster around cash registers. This is not written with a sense of ironic detachment; we understand ourselves to be covenantally united with the modern evangelical church. We do not just attack these corruptions; we also confess them. Because we have confessed them, and continue to confess them, we do not hesitate to call for the thorough reform of the contemporary Church, root and branch. And in order to avoid spiritual confusion, this reform must concern itself first and last with the reform of the worship of God…

It is far too easy to preach against the sins of others, or attempt to bring about a Reformation that was necessary for another era. We do need a Reformation in our day, but this means we need to be forgiven for our sins. And this means, in its turn, that we must repent of our sins. But how will we hear without a preacher? And how will they turn red and embarrassed without a satirist?

Making all necessary adjustments for the changes in time and place, the modern evangelical Church, eyes fat as grease, bastion of born againism, is fully as corrupt as the Church prior to the Reformation. And this is not a back-handed way of praising the Church prior to the Reformation. When a people have given themselves over to a lie, the scriptural pattern is for God to give them over to more lies, so that they might learn to eat their own cooking. The further into the delusion we go, the starker the evidence of such delusion is, and the more difficult it is to get anyone to see what has actually happened. And on those occasions when someone will admit that there are “excesses” out there, it is still glibly assumed that these excesses are scattered around the periphery of modern evangelicalism. And thus, we heal the wound lightly, saying peace, peace, when there is no peace. This idolatry is right at the heart of our identity as modern evangelicals. We have sold out the faith for a buck. The one thing in our favor is that we made a bigger profit than Judas did. And, unlike Judas, we keep what we get…

The Church, when compromised, always tends to adapt itself to the surrounding and prevailing idolatry…

These are curious times we live in. At least the money changers in the Temple were selling animals that the law required to be sacrificed. We modern evangelicals set up shop in the Temple in order to sell blasphemous T-shirts, concerning which Moses said nothing at all. Why not have a post-it note left on the cross, with Jesus dashing off a message thereon about how He has gone off to see His dad? “Be back soon!” Why would any Christian object to this? Oh, I don’t know. Fear of God maybe.

And then there are the Veggie Tales. What is the issue here? That would become abundantly clear if someone seriously suggested a Veggie Tales version of Beowulf, or Lord of the Rings, or Prince Caspian. Modern evangelicals are reverent of everything except their religion. Just try to picture Aragorn as a cucumber. What does that do to the ethos of the thing? Or imagine Aslan as a beet. “We couldn’t do that! It would wreck the story!” I see. Apparently, as far as modern evangelicals are concerned, the Bible doesn’t have a story to wreck.

There are only three options, which reduce actually to only two. One is to attack the folly. The weapons may vary—sermons, satire, conversation, books like this one, or prayer—but the target must always be to topple the idols. The other two options amount to just one. Join in with the wickedness, or simply suffer it gladly…

The great argument advanced today in favor of such seeker sensitive worship is that we have to present the gospel to today’s unbeliever in a way that is relevant to him. But the word relevance, though it has a fine dictionary definition, really has to be understood as the battle cry of modern unbelief. This is not because the word itself is objectionable, but because liberals and their modern evangelical cousins have freighted it with a hidden system of weights and measures—in which the world, and not Scripture, determines the content of our faith and practice…

There are at least two kinds of irrelevance. One is the irrelevance of offering a bicycle to an oyster. But there is another kind of irrelevance entirely, and that is the practice of setting forth the gospel of light and righteousness to those who love their darkness and iniquity. We are commanded to be irrelevant in this second sense. We are called to worship God in a way that is pleasing to Him, and to which unbelievers will be attracted only if God moves them in a sovereign and mysterious way…

We sinned our way into this mess together, and we must repent of it together. Our individualism has hidden the nature of our corporate sin from us, but it is a corporate sin nonetheless. American Christians need to start repenting of their strengths and virtues. We need to repent, specifically, of our man-centered gospel and our man-centered response to that gospel. We will soon discover that this repentance must begin in how we worship God. If it begins there, it will soon affect everything else—from the shelves of our local Christian bookshop, to our evangelism, to our observance of the Lord’s Day, and so on.

We will come to church expecting the Word to be thundered, not suggested. We will come to the Table weekly in order to be strengthened, fed, and nourished. We will give ourselves to the demanding task of learning hundreds of new (to us) psalms and hymns. And we will learn that the pronouncement of “Ichabod” over the American Church was premature.*

*Douglas Wilson (2008-11-06). A Primer on Worship and Reformation: Recovering the High Church Puritan (Kindle Locations 46-53, 66-69, 69-77, 87, 103-110,  107-110, 120-122, 132-135, 136, 136-139, 860-864, 865-867). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.


About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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