Why We Need the Worship Wars
We should not be surprised that there exists in our era contention over proper sensibilities toward God. The truly alarming thing would be if there were none. What is somewhat different in our era is the post-modern mood that despises debate and clear definition. This pseudo-tolerance has long ago compromised the doctrinal integrity of professing Evangelicals. The same worldly mood that abhors necessary conflict and clear definition in doctrinal matters, is even more incensed at the thought of anything similar in the more subjective realm of orthopathy. In some ways, the most problematic people are not the combatants in the worship wars, but those who insist there should be none.
For some Christians, the worship wars are much ado about nothing. They regard these conflicts as the dying thrashes of hide-bound traditionalists, raging against the waning popularity of those songs most familiar and nostalgically precious to them. Such Christians think that debates over worship reveal only the immature clamor of people who do not understand the Romans 14 principle, and want to elevate their preferences to the level of orthodoxy.
If you believe that it is possible to have correct or incorrect affections towards God, appropriate or inappropriate responses to God, acceptable or unacceptable worship, then the worship wars are a natural, and indeed, essential part of church life. While no Spirit-filled Christian delights in conflict, no Spirit-filled Christian doubts that some conflict is inevitable and necessary. Consider how important doctrinal conflict has been.
We should be very thankful for the heretics and their heresies. Without them, we would not know all the ways that Christian orthodoxy can be denied and twisted. Before heretics come along, orthodoxy is assumed, without clear definition. Through the heresies of Gnosticism, Ebionism, Apollonarianism, Eutychianism, Nestorianism, Arianism, and Sabellianism, the church hammered out orthodox Christology and trinitarianism. The Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds represent early responses to heresies, and defining points for orthodoxy. The creeds represent points of definition. After these definitions were in place, deviations represent deliberate heterodoxy. A certain amount of vagueness or imprecision is expected before the point of definition that becomes intolerable after the point of definition.
For that matter, we can be “thankful”, so to speak, for the heresies of transsubstantiation, indulgences, baptismal regeneration, Mary as co-redemptrix, and others, for leading to the Reformation with its five solas. In many ways, our propositional statements of faith, as ornate as they now appear, partly represent a kind of timeline of doctrinal combat. Our liturgies, polities, and ministry philosophy represent a practical version of the same.