September 29, 2020

Michael Horton, Etc.: Resources on Reforming The Church and Its Worship

hbcfrontIf you only read one book on worship, it should be Dr. Michael Horton’s “A Better Way.” I can’t find an audio presentation of that material, but Dr. Horton has a lot of good material on reforming worship in the local church.

Reforming Worship
Preaching Christ
Reforming Church Music
Reforming the Church Service
Rethinking Baptism
Rethinking the Lord’s Supper

Dr. Horton has a 15-part Worship Class about two thirds of the way down this archive page: “Our Worship Class” from Christ Reformed Church.

I would also recommend those evangelicals who have appreciated the series and discussion so far consider purchasing “Beyond Smells and Bells” by Mark Galli and “Ancient-Future Worship” by Robert Webber. The Calvin Center for Christian Worship is a rich source of resources of every kind. A real feast for evangelicals.

(I am working all day tomorrow and Monday morning, so I may not be back to the series till late Monday.)


  1. Christiane/L's says

    Quote from the section by Michael Horton on Rethinking the Lord’s Supper

    “Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper, according to the Roman Catholic Church, is the repetition of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and every time one participates in this sacrament, they believe that Christ is being sacrificed again on the altar for their sins.”

    Interesting to hear an evangelical opinion of ‘according to the Roman Catholic Church’.
    It is good for Catholics to know how Evangelicals present the teachings of the Church to each other. I had no idea.

  2. As we say here often, “Bishops will clarify.”

    • Christiane/L's says

      Yet one wonders where the evangelical ‘take’ comes from, as it shows no understanding of anamnesis, without which no one could possibly comprehend Eucharist in the Catholic teaching.

    • *grabs crozier and plonks mitre on head*

      We don’t actually think we’re re-sacrificing, or sacrificing again and again, Christ on the altar. It’s the one sacrifice accomplished on the cross at Calvary.

      Of course, nowadays the emphasis is on the fellowship and communal meal aspect, rather than the sacrificial.

      (How’s that for an impersonation of a bishop?) 🙂

      I agree with Christiane; unless we know exactly what each other are saying, we’re only talking past each other and when we think we’re answering the question, we don’t even know what the question is.

  3. I would also recommend Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology. Chan is an Assembly of God guy who writes about classical Christian worship. Published by IVP’s academic imprint. A well researched, readable book with an evangelical readership in mind.

  4. This is an interesting article over at “Gloria Deo: Wesleyan-glican ramblings”. It states (what has been discussed before) that there is a growing interest in the youth raised in the mega-church culture in ancient practices and liturgy. I like this quote particularly: “The challenge is to integrate both the ancient and the contemporary.”

    • Steve Newell says

      The “mega-church” is a product of the Baby Boomer generation. Like their fellow boomers, the Woodstock types, they reject authority, tradition, and they want to do it their own way. The mega-church group is not politically active but religiously active instead. For many boomers, it’s about self experience and self realization. There is very need for anything that ties them to “their father’s church” and that is way many mega churches don’t appear to have the faith of their fathers.

      I’m am technically a “Gen X” since I was born in 1965, but I feel that I have foot in both the boomer and the Gen X generations.

      • It think that is a valid point. There are a lot of things wrong under the surface. A lot of values of ancient worship fly in the face of the baby-boomer culture you describe. Finding a liturgy which would go along with the positive-thinking, best-life, Christ-less culture of evangelicalism would be a ridiculous task. I attended a liturgical church which adapted their prayer of confession to fit with what was chic at the time: “Forgive us for not being purpose-driven”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Dude, I was born in 1955 and I have a foot in both Boomer and Gen-X generations! Apparently there’s an extended transition period between the two, where a LOT of “Late Period Boomers” and “Early Period Xers” show characteristics of both. One website even classed such intermediate Boomer/Xer types as a separate “Generation Jones” (don’t ask me how they came up with that name).

        My guess is that as the “Early Period Boomers” (the Woodstock types) came of age, they started things going south almost immediately, to the point that the “Late Period Boomers/Jonesers” started showing the reaction that reached critical mass with Gen Xers.

        Also, the transition “Jonesers” were at just the right age to be inoculated with Fifties optimism (that “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Shining at the End of Every Day”) as children only to become adult in the cesspool of post-Woodstock pessimism and smug Nihilism. Boomer childhood, then Gen-Xer adulthood. No wonder we show characteristics of both.

  5. Catholic’s do not believe they are sacrificing Christ again on the cross. This is more of the disinformation that is floating around. Please read Galli’s book as this is the best understanding of the liturgy that I have ever read.

    • Christiane/L's says

      Thank you, David.

      The concept: ‘to be present again’ is not something many Protestants understand.
      My rabbi friend gets it. He recognizes it from his own tradition.
      What is the name of Galli’s book?

      Your term ‘misinformation’ is correct, but I don’t think Evangelicals are doing this on purpose,
      The reason I believe this: they don’t have any history of the ‘to be present again’ experience in their tradition, hence the wording that was expressed by Dr. Horton that I quoted in my first comment is used openly and without apology.
      I see them as innocent of any conscious spreading of ‘misinformation’. concerning Catholic and Orthodox Eucharist. It is outside of their experiences. So how could they know?

      • Also, I think this was the knee-jerk reaction on the part of a sincere non-Catholic nervous of accusations by his own that this was sounding awfully Romish and was he going soft on the Gospel?

        Of course not! And to show that he’s not selling out to the Man of Blood, he does the requisite jab at the errors of Rome.

        It’s not deliberate misinformation, it’s “if we believe X, and they don’t believe what we believe, then they must believe Y” when actually “they” believe Z.

        Look at all the grief Michael here gets any time he says anything other than “Papists are wrong in every degree possible”, e.g. the Great Rosary Beads Kerfuffle 🙂

        • Christiane/L's says

          Thanks Martha,
          I hadn’t thought about the XYZ thing. That makes SENSE.
          And ‘knee-jerk’ reactions. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but we all do that without even thinking, although lately, I’m trying to LISTEN more. And ASSUME less.

          Thanks for the humor (and for the wisdom inside of it).

          • Ah, the XYZ thing is more out of personal experience. Being young and stupid, around about the age of eleven or so, all I *really* knew about Protestants was that they didn’t believe the same thing Catholics believed.

            So I said to myself “Does that mean – well, what does that mean? They don’t believe in Jesus Christ as true God and true Man? They don’t believe Our Lady was His mother?” and it seemed too absurd to me, since they were Christian, to think that.

            But since I had no idea what they believed, as distinct from what we believed, I started trying to find out what that might be.

            And so here I am today, hanging around Reformed/Baptist blogs and being a nuisance 😉

            That also led on to clarifying exactly what it was we/I believed, as well, which was a very useful exercise. Do I believe (insert doctrine)? Why? Only because “It’s what I was taught” or do I understand and accept the reasoning behind it?

      • Humorously and poignantly, N.T. Wright noted in a lecture that science fiction authors tend to “get it” more than most modern Evangelicals in terms of space and time.

  6. i’m almost 100 percent positive this is not where you want this discussion to go but…..

    just like the movie said “You had me at hello”

    Dr. Horton haid me until the baptism piece

    I’m not ready to de-church anyone who was baptized as an infant, but I’m also not ready to gloss over the major theological implications of moving towards infant baptism

    I think we as credo- baptist can proclaim that baptism does impart grace, just not “saving” grace, and i’m not saying Dr. Horton says it does, but it is a danger with moving that way

    overall great read

  7. OK Catholics: If you aren’t saying that’s Christ on the altar and not saying that’s a sacrifice of Christ on the altar, then I really need some bishops to clarify and some of your friends need to sit in on the session.

    Let me guess: that’s not Christ being “re-sacrificed.” It’s the one sacrifice being “re-presented.”

    • Yes, that’s more or less it.

      It’s the one and only sacrifice. But just because it took place in a physical location at a specific time in the past, that does not mean it’s over and done with, otherwise what good would it be to those born afterwards?

      If the blood shed by Christ way back then is not efficient to save us born today or those born two hundred years from now, what are we to do?

      It’s not repeating a sacrifice over and over, as the Temple did; it is doing as we were commanded. “Do this in memory of me.”

      The assembled church offers the bread and wine to the Father and asks Him to send the Holy Spirit upon them so that they may become the Body and Blood of Christ.

      Orthodox brothers and sisters, chime in here 😉

      • Christiane/L's says

        Well, Martha, I’m Catholic, but I would like to suggest that Michael investigate the Jewish concept of ‘zecher’ , with a rabbi.
        And then speak to a priest, either Catholic OR Orthodox, who can explain the corresponding concept of ‘anamnesis’.

      • I know the term and how it works. Thanks.

        • Christiane/L's says

          Hi Michael.

          Which term? Actually , between the Hebrew concept of ‘zecher’ and the term ‘anamnesis’ , it is the connections they share as each is reflected in the liturgy of the two major religions. This connection bond provides a synergy which elevates the interest in each as they are compared in the context of the respective faith liturgical traditions. This synergy spirals the interest of theologians way above what each would inspire if no connection existed between the two traditions, one historically rooted in the other. Sorry to sound so muddled. Glad to hear you are aware of the ‘concept.’

          BTW I have assumed that the Evangelical take on Hebrews 13:10 is entirely symbolic. Am I correct there? Thanks if you can help me. Good Sabbath to you.

        • Ive sortof reached the point that if I have to consult Greek philosophy to understand the Lord’s Supper, I feel like I’ve really departed from what Jesus was doing: giving a new meaning to the passover meal. That’s as far as I go.

          And I never discuss the term “symbolic” with anyone anymore. We’ve pretty much lost the ability to see the presence of Jesus in things that are “symbolic,” so in that sense I don’t believe there’s “symbolism.”

          I don’t believe the altar in 13:10 means the table in my church, and I don’t see an altar as required part of the passover meal. Altar is the sacrificial reality of the old covenant fulfilled in the new.

          • Christiane/L's says

            “Altar is the sacrificial reality of the old covenant fulfilled in the new.’

            Michael, on that we can agree.

    • Well, I’m not Catholic, and neither is N.T. Wright, but I think this talk that Wright gave at Calvin College, called “Space, Time, and Sacraments,” helped me to understand sacramentalism better than anything I had ever heard or read before:

      Of course, it’s not going to totally line up exactly with “Transubstantiation,” which is absolutely dripping in Medieval Scholasticism, but from what I understand, many Roman Catholic intellectuals are beginning to drift away from that view anyway. And the Orthodox don’t really try to pin down exactly what happens.

      I’m sorry if this seems like the audio version of a cut-in-paste, but this talk is really, really good.

  8. I’ve really been wrestling with the question of baptism lately. it is a real struggle for me as I have recently left a denomination whose emphasis on baptism has, at times and in many places, bordered on obscene.

    That said, I just can’t accept Horton’s take on baptism. I see no correlation between the Old Testament covenant signifying circumcision and New Testament baptism. The “what shall we do” on Pentecost was not uttered by infants nor, it seems to me, by the adults representing infants. Nor is Horton’s comment about ‘household baptisms’ convincing since he makes the broad assumption that these families necessarily had infants residing therein. Finally, I have never seen anywhere, in any commentary or lexicon, where the Greek word ‘baptidzo’ means “to dip, to wash, or to sprinkle.” It means to immerse. It is unfortunate the word is left untranslated in our English bibles.

    To be sure, I’m still struggling with this idea. My family and I have been worshiping with an Anglican congregation and aside from this issue of baptism there are no struggles with this congregation whatsoever. I do agree with Horton on this one issue though: “Baptism is the work of God, not man.” Here we have no issues except to decide what work God does in the baptism itself.

    I’m not ready to write out of heaven everyone who was sprinkled as an infant, but I think it is a legitimate question to consider mode and meaning of baptism. I don’t think Horton goes far enough. I really wish there was an answer to this question because it is causing me a lot of unrest. If you wish to dialogue a little more, let me know and I would be happy to give you my email.

    Grace and Peace,

    • Jerry,

      I know exactly how you feel I think. Were it not for infant baptism I might be able to find myself worshiping in several other places. I’m like you, I’m not ready to dismiss all who were baptized as infants, and i do like Imonk’s take on t below, but I just can’t get around the nagging feeling that there are pretty stout theological ramifications if we accept infant baptism. Part of my own trepidation comes because I cant’ really get a grasp on what others who do baptize infants believe about it.

      I’d like to talk more. email me if you will, you can find my email at my blog

  9. I’m a credobaptist, and baptism scholars like David Wright and Everett Ferguson have convinced me my position is strong. But they’ve also convinced me that infant baptism was early and they’ve convinced me it is not a hill to die on.

    If I were looking for a church, I wouldn’t hesitate to go to a paedo congregation as long as they understood that I considered paedobaptism to be an evolution of original, adult credobaptisms by Jesus and the apostles. After that, I no longer want to fight any more.

    • Imonk,

      I know this is not supposed to be an infant baptizing post, but here are my understandings of how others view infant baptism. They are probably wrong and I wouldn’t mind being corrected if they are. I have read about this a good deal and this is what I come up with.

      Anglicans- An initiatory rite into the church, but do they believe it “saves” the child?

      Methodist/Weslyans- it plants the seed of prenvient grace in the child (again probably wrong assumption on my part)

      Presbyterians- It’s all about the Covenant

      Lutherans- I gave up trying to figure it out

      This is important to me, b/c I have a five year old who really wants to be baptized. i know how you feel about young baptisms, and I agree, but a big part of me is really excited about the idea, Does he understand everything, I ask myself, probably not, but did I fully understand everything even though I was older?

  10. p.s folks are welcome to go to my blog to email me so the board is not distracted here


    • Thanks to imonk and austin for some positive feedback.

      This will be my last comment on this subject so as not to distract the conversation, but the reason I find this such a difficult subject is because I have belonged, since I was 13 or so, to a denomination that believes it is a hill to die on.

      I won’t link to it, but I will mention that I have written a bit about this struggle at my personal blog and received some good conversation at another blog I post at. I appreciate the feedback, and Austin I’m about to pop over to your blog and I’ll shoot you an email too. In the meantime, refer to the post at my blog.


      Thanks again.

  11. Christiane/L's says

    Justin, you wrote this as you were discussing your five-year old,
    “Does he understand everything, I ask myself, probably not, but did I fully understand everything even though I was older?”

    “Full understanding” of the eternal mysteries is not in our power.
    It is said that we must become as little children in order to enter the Kingdom, so maybe instead of ‘fully understanding’ it has more to do with ‘something else’.
    We are so enamored of our ‘abilities’ to theo-logize, that our pride sometimes blinds us to the gifts of the sacred mysteries. A child is safe from that. A child can ‘sense’ God’s love not because he ‘understands fully’, but because he doesn’t see the lack of it as a barrier between him and the Lord..