Lecture 09: Book Discussion 1
Lecture: Book Discussion 1
A. Trinitarian vs Christocentric
You can tell that he has read the Book of Hebrews. Is his vision of worship trinitarian or Christocentric? Which is dominate, trinitarian or Christocentric emphasis? I think he is aiming at a trinitarian view of worship. There is this whole mystery line of teaching in the New Testament of the end Christ experience of the Christian. You died; your life is hidden with Christ in God when Christ who is your life appears. Worship is our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father. There is a great trinitarian emphasis here without any question and even though you see a strong Christocentric element, the end result of this is something trinitarian. It reminds me a little of what Gordan Fee shared about his work on the Holy Spirit; Paul’s theology of the Spirit. In doing the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I became radically trinitarian, he says. Wherever you see the Spirit, there you see the Father and the Son. This book strikes me as being Christocentric and as you unpack this theology, the result is trinitarian; you can’t separate the Father from the Son from the Spirit. They are in the same business.
B. Three Quests of Humanity
Another aspect of this; when we worship here on earth, not only are we joining ourselves to the communion of the trinity, but we are joining ourselves through the church universal and suffering and the church triumphant. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We can picture the elders falling on their faces before the throne and the angelic host; we are part of all of that. Torrance links all of this to our very nature; this is part of what it means to be human and to be made in the image of God. Some of you have talked about these three quests from John Stott. There are three quests of humanity: one quest is the quest for community or intimacy; secondly, the quest for significance and third, the quest for transcendence. Stotts’ point is that in every age and culture and especially today in talking about contemporary people; in every age, people are always hungry for these things. Then he challenges the church to provide the answer to these three points. Although people will go off in false directions such as running from relationship to relationship, organizations to organizations. People will amerce themselves in philosophies or in movements and for transcendence, people may try drugs or other spiritualities and mysticisms.
The church’s best answer to these three points has to do with community in our fellowship. We answer that hunger when the church is experiencing true fellowship. We answer significance through our preaching and through our teaching we answer that hunger by proclaiming the truth. In the search for transcendence, we offer our worship which helps people connect with something much larger than themselves with the divine. Unfortunately, the church is often very weak and awkward so those hungers go unmet. So, in relationship to Torrance’s book; there is a sense in which worship has the potential to be the key environment in which all of those hungers are genuinely addressed. Of course, preaching has been an element in the worship but not just through the preaching, but all of the truth that is exposed in the worship. Not only is there something transcendent in terms of our Spirit, but our minds understand the significance of who we are and we enter into something very powerful at the level of community when we are worshipping. It is back to the liberties that the truth of the Scriptures offers us. It is liberating. The burden isn’t ultimately upon us. I was reminded of how important truth is and that fact of how it sets us free. It is how much we do in the name of worship that is still about our efforts in trying to appease God and earn God’s favor and merit his attention or his love. Remember, Jesus is our Sabbath and we enter into the finished work of Jesus when we worship.
C. The Church is Brinitarian in Practice
Torrance provides us with some reformed views of the sacraments. We said that theologically, he is very trinitarian. I mentioned Gordan Fee who also said that in theology we may not be unitarian but in practice, we may be. Fee mentioned another thing that struck him as he more and more studied the doctrine of the Spirit in the Epistles of Paul; for the most part the church is radically trinitarian in our theology but Fee thinks that the evangelical church is basically brinitarian in its experience and practice. We theologize three persons, but in our practice, the Holy Spirit isn’t very present and active. He is there in our theology but not there in our experience. I wondered if such a charge might be raised by this book. Theologically, I think that it is very trinitarian but when I tried to envision his vision of what worship might look like in our experience; I’m not sure that I saw the presence and power of the person of the Holy Spirit present in the vision of worship that comes through his book. Sometimes, in reading, I wondered if worship has been reduced to the cognitive plain. If you grasp this truth, then that is it. Truth sets you free and we can minimize that by any means. I affirm the central truth that is presented by Torrance in this book. But I wonder if worship is being reduced to primarily a cognitive experience.
D. The Truth in Jesus will Set You Free
Perhaps these are the limits of the book; this is all the author is trying to aim at, was the theology of worship and not so much the practice of our worship. There is a mystery that he is beginning to unpack here and I think this is valid and biblical. I think it is great that he can even lay a hold of as a good theologian and it is certainly greater than we can lay a hold of. There is something more than we will ever understand. We try to understand and more towards these understandings but there is a great sense where the truth will set us free. Therefore, we need to lay hold of some of these central truths; he is the one meditator or worship; he presented the acceptable offering in worship. We do enter into the communion that is already present in the trinity and he is the perfect representative of humanity. All of this is true, but it seems that we get reduced to simply nodding our head to these theological truths. Is that all that we do in the place of worship or is it something at a very deep mystical level in going to communion, we then realize that this is it. Sometimes, I think in general Christian living, the role of the Christian is reduced to affirming certain theological truths. Think about sanctification, for example, in some circles the experience of sanctification in the daily outworking of lives sometimes gets lost. Someone defined sanctification as being the process of getting use to your justification. We understand that we are born again in Christ and declared righteous in Christ. Some people say that we are accepted in Christ and that’s it. There is no more discussion. We are never going to make any progress in this world. The whole idea of Christian progress is a myth; you are not going to make any progress, but simply rejoice in the fact that you are free accepted into the beloved. There is something very appealing to this and true about it.
E. Sanctification is a Biblical Process
However, if I were to look totally at my experience, God has made changes in my life. This is one truth. Beyond this there are many places in the Scripture where I am exhorted to grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus. I am exhorted to add to my faith, goodness, and knowledge. I am exhorted to make my body my slave and work out my salvation with fear and trembling. There are too many places in the Scriptures where sanctification and daily experience is to be taken seriously and we are exhorted to grow and to be transformed into his likeness. This is not just accepting a theological true; it is action. This is a both/and and there need to be a pairing of these things. You need to lay hold of the theological truth because that sets us free to experience the practical reality. If I really want to experience sanctification in the way Paul encourages us in Romans 6 & 7 and to experience it fully, I need to lay hold of the truth that he has laid out in Romans 5 & 8. To know that we are totally accepted and justified and that we have died. That is a theological truth. Only when I understand that I am dead, then in my experience I can say no to sin. If I am living under the myth that my old self is still alive, then I think sin would have power and authority over me. Sometimes, I get a little concerned that the reality of our experience is downplayed and we just sort of enter into the theology. There are two extremes on this issue of sanctification as it is relevant to what we are saying in regards to worship. On the one hand, you have the problem of condemnation and then you have the problem of complacency. For sanctification, some will say that we can never go anywhere despite all our efforts; we are just condemned at the end of the day. Others say that it doesn’t matter so they become complacent. Others say that sanctification isn’t possible in terms of growing into the likeness of God. But we are commanded and exhorted to grow and so we have to. We do it only by the grace of God. It is God who works in us to will and act according to his good purpose. But we don’t just sit still and hang out until he comes again.
So, in summary, I love the theology of the book but I hope we don’t limit our experience of worship to just accepting theological truth with a nod of our heads and do nothing about it. You could certainly look at all the teachings on the spiritual disciplines and perhaps find yourselves critiquing that from the opposite side. This is a both/and with many theological truths to lay a hold of here.