Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Defense of Ritual

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Are rituals in the church a good or a bad thing?  The Old Testament is full of rituals, but the New Testament puts the emphasis on worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  But this shift to heart attitude rather than rigidly prescribed ceremonies does not mean no ceremonies are appropriate (note baptism and the Lord's Supper).  Rather, even beyond the sacraments we see a number of symbolic actions, such as laying on of hands (Acts 13:3; 28:8), anointing with oil (Mark 6:13; James 5:14), and bowing (Ephesians 3:14; Matthew 28:17). Also, the simple fact is we always have some kind of ritual involved in corporate worship. The question may be how well it is thought out, as well as what particular elements you are willing to allow, but not whether there is some fixed procedure involved.

There are reasons why we shy away from any kind of ritual.  There are those who those who, contrary to Scripture (Colossians 2:16,17; Galatians 4:9,10), have tried to impose their precise rituals on others, even to the point of arguing over the date of Easter and over how many fingers one should cross oneself with.  But isn't forbidding various rituals the same thing (Romans 14:1-12; Colossians 2:20-23)? Also, we are not simply to go through the motions of worship (Matthew 6:1-18; Malachi 1:10). But I have found one can go through the motions no matter what type of worship one engages in. The issue is one's attitude, not the form.

Is there, then, any point in ritual? I am convinced there is. It engages the worshipers on a number of levels and encourages them to be involved in the worship and not just to be spectators. Therefore, if it is not rigidly prescribed and not done in a mindless manner, it has its place in legitimate worship.

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