Symbols, Liturgies and the Heart

One who sees hidden questions, or detects unasked question, shines a lamp of clarity on disputes, but the blinding clearness of the beam could actually obscure details just outside its path.  Better a dim, even light to see the whole landscape than a burning ray to illuminate one feature.  He who wields the burning ray may be inching towards errors which are “falsely called wisdom.”

Howard, in “Evangelical Is Not Enough,” is about to enter a discussion of many beautiful things: symbols, liturgies, incense, stained glass, ancient stones, heavenly curtains, martyrs, saints, holy days and feasts.  I, being a self-admitted aesthete, as well as a lover of form, have always loved to adore Christ through richly patterned worship that delights the senses.  It is tempting to wield the light of clarity in a way that berates evangelicals for denying such rich things.

But denying an aesthetic heritage, even a good one, is not the same thing as denying the Lord.

I have laid the groundwork and shown briefly that I disagree with the basic argument for accepting the claims of the Roman Catholic Church which Howard represents.  But, having established that, I hope to use some of Howard’s beauties to show the needlessness of the ugly, quasi-industralized, Home Depot Clearance Rack, worship atmosphere on Sunday morning at an evangelical church near you.  I say “Howard’s beauties,” because to call them the beauties of the RCC, which often lacks beauty (i.e., in its sometimes appalling musical values) is to create a straw man.

But as I draw from Howard’s wisdom, I know that he’d agree with me that a higher wisdom exists: the sacrifices of God are a humble heart and a contrite spirit, whether offered in the Cathedral of Chartres or an Iranian jail cell.

So, in this theater of worship theology, let’s leave the main spotlight on the lead player, humility, but nevertheless set the stage lights to crimson, amber and gold to better enjoy the play.


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