“From the fact that to a generation which knew God only as a righteous Judge, and in an atmosphere surcharged with the sense of retribution, He (Jesus) made the sum and substance of His preaching the love of God, it does not follow that, if He were in person to preach to our present age so strangely oblivious of everything but love, His message would be entirely the same.”
Redemptive History & Biblical Interpretation
The Scriptural Doctrine Of The Love Of God
Different generations and different people need different aspects of the one Gospel emphasized at different times. This is why it is so important to know the times in which one lives, the culture one moves in, and the people with which one deals.
This reality perhaps explains, at least in part, why there are divisions within the body of Christ. By way of example, if one looks over the landscape and determines that disobedience on the part of God’s people is a major problem there are going to be systems of thought that develop that so emphasize obedience that some will accuse the practioners of those systems of eclipsing the truth of Grace. On the other hand, if in the same generation there arises a parallel group who determine that legalism on the part of God’s people is a major problem, there are going to be systems of thought that develop that so emphasize grace that some will accuse the practioners of those systems of eclipsing the truth of and necessity for holiness. In these kinds of situations disagreements that arise aren’t really so much over the nature or character of the Gospel as it is over the nature or character of the times in which we are located.
Following this theme for just a moment, I have always wondered if the Puritans could come back today if they would be puritanical in the same way that we know them. As we know them they were famous for their plain sermons, their plain buildings, and their plain worship. Much of this ‘plain-ness,’ was a reaction against the superstitions and magic like quality of religion and worship that bled the substance out of worship and religion and replaced it with smells and bells that left the people both credulous and stupid. I wonder though, if we could bring the Puritans back today and if they could observe the way that the sense of the supernatural and fear of God has been bled out of modern Worship if they would advocate bringing back some of those things that during their age they had been against. Would they advocate bringing back some high Church Architecture? Would they advocate bringing back the surplice? Would they mind to terribly much if we knelt to receive the Eucharist? In the face of a dead rationalism that removes all sense of the transcendence of God in worship is it more in keeping with the spirit of the Puritans to insist that something must be done that creates a complimentarity between the transcendent and holy God that is proclaimed and the worship environment in which we learn about this high and holy God?
One thought on “Knowing The Times … Knowing The Audience”
Given the theological reason behind the rejection of so many liturgical flourishes, I don’t think that “puritans” would be in favour of a return to those things, even in our age.
I have to say that, on one level, high church architecture and ceremony appeal to me. However, they go against my convictions and as such I am very ill-at-ease about such things, even though I would otherwise like them.
The use of such means to generate “religious feelings” is really not very different than the contemporary push for feel-good worship services. Both aim at making men feel religious — they just have a different idea of what exactly religious feelings are supposed to be.