An Ambiguity About “Historic” Worship

Using a word like historic in connection with worship can immediately raise defenses and lead to misunderstandings. When some folks hear “historic” they think: “Oh no, you want a boring formal service with no new songs” or “you are trying to impose extra-biblical standards on our public worship.” Indeed, a word like “historic” may have (and does have!) very different meanings for Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. Additionally, someone from within the Presbyterian tradition might legitimately ask “which historic” do you mean: Psalm-singing a cappella sixteenth-century Scottish Presbyterianism, or psalm and hymn-singing a cappella nineteenth-century American Presbyterianism, or (still again) choir, organ and predominantly hymn-singing American Presbyterianism of the twentieth century? You can ask that question chronologically, denominationally, nationally and culturally and get different answers.

—Ligon Duncan, “What Gathered Worship Should Look Like: Historic

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  1. Just encountered a similar situation last week with a sister in law. If there’s no praise band or someone isn’t hoopin and hollerin, it’s a “dead church and boring”. She also said the people at such a place “don’t have feelings”. I tried to explain how we’re not allowed to worship God in any way we want but
    man’s sovereignty must win, regardless of the scripture I provided.

  2. It is theoretically curious that the one tradition with something like the RPW should have so much doxological variety across time and place, while at the same time those without it and a more latitudinarian posture have arguably less variety. How is it that a travelling Reformed believer can’t be more or less sure what he’ll get when visiting a P&R church in whatever corner of the earth, while the travelling Catholic or Pentecostal can? Is it time for a fourth mark?

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