Not so unlikely?

Posted by
Though Carl reports that the arrival of a formal liturgy at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs is considered a surprise, if I remember John Owen correctly, he would probably be expecting it.

I cannot recall the precise place (I may try to track it down, or someone might recall it - I vaguely remember having this conversation before!). Nevertheless, Owen somewhere suggests that, in the absence of spiritually (perhaps better, Spiritually) substantial religion, men will run to two extremes in an attempt to fill the void with practices that they hope will replicate or shadow something of the sense and weight that they feel ought to be there. Those two extremes are fanaticism (excess, 'enthusiasm', wildness) and formalism (mere ritual and performance).

While I don't know what David Wells surmises or demonstrates in the book Carl mentions, the suggestion that "forms of worship and content of theology are not neatly and cleanly separable" seems to be at least in measure supported by Owen's assertion.

So where we find an alleged evangelicalism that is not grounded in Scripture but is seeking some kind of religious or spiritual substance, we should not be surprised to see those two extremes being offered as potential alternatives, or people and churches swinging back and forth between formalism and fanaticism. Frankly, I find the current appetite for charismatic excesses and carnal excitements on the one hand, and the growing cultivation of a high and ornate liturgy on the other, mapping pretty accurately across the landscape that Owen suggests. (By the way, if he doesn't suggest it, someone else probably does. If no-one else does, I will gladly take the credit!)

The only thing that arrests the swing is when the anchor drops in the Word of God and simple, unaffected worship enlivened by the Holy Spirit is known and felt by saints who are satisfied with pursuing and enjoying God's promised ends by God's appointed means.
Posted January 21, 2014 @ 6:45 PM by Jeremy Walker
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