In the past few weeks, our very own Greg Wilbur published an excellent piece on worship online at Christward Collective. I found Greg’s piece so helpful and thought provoking that I decided to republish it here for your benefit. Last week, the article focused on what confessional worship is and guidelines for how worship should be led to encourage the congregational and confessional aspect of it. This week, Greg talks about the role of beauty.
Guidelines for Worship, Part 2
God has placed us here in this time and place for a purpose, and our corporate worship should reflect that reality within the context of redemptive history. We are reformational, not revolutionary. We are confessional, not traditional or modern. In order to be truly contemporary, “with the time,” we must understand our place in the lineage of the Church—which necessitates an understanding of what has gone on before. We should appreciate and utilize the wisdom and artistic excellence of the past without worshipping the forms; we should seek to create new work, without divorcing ourselves from our history.
As we relate and communicate to the culture around us, we must use great wisdom to discern that which are “the patterns and customs of this world,” as opposed to those things that are biblically permissible. Instead of falling to the least common denominator, we should be accessible to our culture, yet excellent. Without creating artificial barriers to the Gospel, we should, however, move from the milk of the Gospel to solid food.
As we seek to follow the guidelines above, the distinctive aesthetic of worship calls us to pursue the beauty of Christ and to make Him known. Consider beauty in worship in the following ways:
· Beauty is an attribute of God and is therefore a theological issue. God is the standard of beauty as well as its source; therefore, there is an objective standard for what is beautiful. Aesthetics is the study of beauty and the ability to apprehend it. From a theological perspective, the Word of God is the rule by which we make aesthetic judgments. God speaks to the role of artists in the description He gives of the artists for the tabernacle: filled with the Spirit, ability, intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship, and able to teach others. Good art and music should be the product of these types of characteristics.
· Beauty is best understood in its relationship and balance to goodness and truth—otherwise it can be trite, transient, trendy, temporary, deceptive, insubstantial, or gimmicky. There is a significance and weight to true beauty.
The very fact that something is beautiful is an apologetic of the Gospel and of the realities of truth and goodness. All beauty is God’s beauty. In addition, beauty can be a winsome adornment, and it can be a challenging stumbling block. Beauty can also open the heart to that inexpressible sense of the transcendence of God that causes great desire for the Truth.