Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Defense of Theological Debate

Rick Warren the pastor of Saddleback Church  in California and author of the Purpose Driven Life offered this afternoon a "tweet".
"Rick Warren (@RickWarren) 9/4/10 1:44 PM
We like to defend our preferred worship styles in theological terms but it's really more about your background than beliefs"
Whether hot or cold, the worship wars in our congregations continue to be fought.  In an important sense, Warren is correct.  Our preferred worship style says much about our background.  What is comfortable for us?  What are our cherished memories?

However, I disagree with Warren here.  I rarely hear people defend their preferred worship styles in theological terms.  Frankly, I would see a theological defense as an improvement.  As a pastor, I am constantly trying to move the conversation to the theological.

There is no pathway out of the quagmire of opinion, taste or feelings.  If a particular style assaults my comfort level, there is nothing I can do.  You have your pleasure, and I have mine.  In theological conversations, by contrast, there are authorities such as the Bible and tradition.  There are expectations of civility and love for those with whom you disagree.  Often there is a hierarchy of purpose.  I honestly thought that was the whole point of the Purpose Driven Church/Life/etc.  We sacrifice for the sake of the greater purpose.

Finally, I don't like the implication of Warren's statement.  If I raise theological objections or concerns to a particular worship style, then my motives are suspect.  No one has to answer my concerns because I am the one being silly.  I am just being moved by my own background and prejudices.  I know that often our inner psychological struggles and family issues influence how we see the world, but as Sigmund Freud supposedly said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

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