Uncle Screwtape speaking in C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”:
You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage.
This is a ubiquitous but problematic outlook in the West. Instead of seeing Church History as a series of purer and less pure eras in one long trajectory (dare I say a trajectory of maturation) one sees the church as falling off into heterodoxy early in the Patristic era and only returning to its orthodox and apostolic roots in some later generation. Not surprisingly, it always becomes “apostolic” again in one’s own peculiar tradition often at some point in modern history.
Regarding singing in church, I think it should be: (1) heavenly (and so, sung in four parts as it traditionally has been), (2) loud and robust, and (3) simple to lay hold of.
First of all it should be sung in parts. This takes work and it may mean you need to hire someone who knows what they are doing. It takes time but it is the right thing to do. Congregational singing is a command performance for the King and His Bride. They deserve better than half-baked unprepared slop.
Secondly, worship is war. This is how the church makes war. A huge element of worship is the singing of the people of God, a God who rejoices over His people with singing. It should be loud and war-like. Let the nations hear! Let the devils hear! King Jesus is Lord of all. Before the battle, Israel sang...and the walls of Jericho fell.
Finally, it should be reasonably accessible. At St. Andrew's we have a limited canon of hymns. Currently that includes about 50 hymns and repeated anthems: Gloria Patri, Doxology, Nunc Dimittis, and the Lorica. We use the Trinity Hymnal but its pitched too high. I like a lot of the Cantus Christi and it has some great choral anthems in the back but it retains all the stanzas (sometimes over a dozen) on many hymns which leave me exhausted and breathless. As a church plant we're trying to keep things accessible to the liturgically uninitiated. Eventually we will create our own book of songs which will probably never exceed 100 hymns. Where do we get the idea that we need to sing hundreds of (sometimes very bad) hymns? The church already has 150 Psalms to flesh out in singing and or chanting.
So, I believe we need to recover the lost art of beautiful congregational singing. Its coming together for us here in Santa Clarita, CA but it is hard work. Our King, however, deserves nothing less than the very best.
Okay, why am I still wearing a black Geneva robe? Well, I'm in the middle of Baptist Fundamentalistville (Master's College is right down the street, John MacArthur is just down the freeway, and I'm swimming in a sea of Baptist Fundamentalists). I have to ease into this. So, would I wear a white alb if I had the choice? Nope.
Ken Collins on his very informative site says, “People in robes are dressed like Calvin. People in albs are dressed like Jesus.” That’s pretty funny but the problem is that we now have almost 500 years of Reformed tradition wherein our ministers wear the Geneva Robe. Beside that, are we supposed to replicate everything they wore in the First Century? You know, soldiers wearing shiny helmets with feathers on top and cute red skirts? No shoes only sandals. C’mon, the world moves on.
So what would I wear? Well, we’ll eventually switch into white Geneva Robes. I actually like the shape of the Geneva Robe because it has a hefty masculine cut. Albs, frankly, have always creeped me out. They are form fitting and give a man a feminine look (some of the old Anglo-Cats actually liked them because of their sexless appearance). Sorry bros, its just true. If you are skinny the alb gives you a sweet hour glass figure and if you’re fighting the battle of the bulge like me, you look like a rolly-polly Friar Tuck. No thanks. One thing that is a must though: Big, fat, treachin’ high-quality stoles. Get rid of those thin cheapies! You can get pretty nice ones here at Chagall (oh-oh it’s a Catholic supply house!). Actually they supply a lot of Protestant communions too, so just go with something plainer without them saints and all.
So, that's what we do here at St. Andrew's as Reformed Liturgicalists. The Reformed Tradition: Proudly Raping and Pillaging Everyone's Tradition since the 16th Century.
I like a lot of what they are doing over at Acts 29 but I also think that High Church Calvinists are way out of their comfort zone. So why not an Acts 29-like church-planting network for the Reformed and litugically minded?
So, why are we in the CREC interested in this stuff? Because so many anti-FVer are never content to simply say, "this is my interpretation of the Westminster Standards." They seem to invariably view themselves as the sole judges and defenders of the entire Christian Faith, period. So, how can you ignore such self-appointed magisterial authority? Ironically, it sounds rather Roman Catholic to me. No scriptural reference, just tradition. Then you declare a person a heretic based on...tradition. Yowza!
One day I hope Reformed Christians will realize that our enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil, not our Christian brothers. And before any of y'all out there start attributing all kinds of bizarre views to me, you can find a short compendium of my views here. Unfortunately, we Reformed are such a suspicious and grumpy lot.
I find it fascinating that the two prime historic motifs of baptism carried over from the Old Testament into the New are the Flood and the Red Sea Crossing. In both instances all the players received "baptism" in the very same body of water/hydro-event. For the people of God it was life but for the others (pre-flood humanity and Pharaoh's army) it was death. In a powerful way, these "waters of baptism" were only efficacious to, in the words of the WCF, "worthy receivers."