One thing that has not changed over the years has been Lewis's influence on me (and by extension, the blog... just look at the name) and his frequent presence here--check out the 'Lewis' tag at the bottom of this post if you want to see more of him. So I thought it would be appropriate to bring in year four with a word from C. S. Lewis.
First, a prefatory word.
Southern Baptists are not the most uniform bunch.
In fact, that's one of the hallmarks of the denomination: there's no centralized Southern Baptist authority on... well, almost anything. Even those statements
which are intended to cross congregational lines, such as the Baptist Faith and Message, are not imposed on any body. Indeed, sadly, with many Baptists, doing things the way you feel they ought to be done is *much* more important than any uniformity... or unity.
This is one gripe, however, that I have heard from many a Baptist over the years--perhaps something that can be tentatively said to be 'agreed upon.' The gripe goes like this: those denominations with formulaic worship have got it all wrong; how can you honestly praise God if you're just reading words out of a book, or just repeating things without ever thinking about them? You get the gist.
Lately I've been reading Lewis's Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, and this is a topic that Lewis broaches almost immediately in the letters.
Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don't go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best--if you like, it "works" best--when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.... every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping.
Most of those who engage in the afore-mentioned griping have probably not ever asked someone who truly enters into liturgical worship what they think the good of it is, or why they prefer it to something more spontaneous and amorphous. There are many answers that might be offered, but this would at least be a part of Lewis's. As is often the case, a perspective from the other side may force some serious reconsideration of the question on almost every level. After all, you don't want to seem to support a 'church service where our attention would not have been on God.'
Any responses? Agreement, staunch opposition, further questions?