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Monday, January 18, 2010

Alas great Webber, I hardly knew ye...

This past December, I started a doctoral program at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. I am excited to be a part of this program, and am certain it will be a challenge. The creation of this blog will hopefully lend itself to become a place where many of my studies can find a voice. Be on watch for thoughts and musings concerning everything from church history and Patristics (which means the guys from the first five centuries of the church), to church music and biblical theology.

However, these are not the topics I would like to focus on for now. What has been on my mind lately is actually not a what but a who, and this who is the man for whom my school has been given its namesake - Robert E. Webber.

Ten years ago Webber started the Institute for Worship Studies as a place for leaders in the church to gain knowledge of the biblical foundations, historical development, theological reflection and cultural analysis for effective worship ministry in today’s world. The more I learn about Robert Webber, the more I read his books and hear his stories, the more I wish I had a chance to meet the guy.

Unfortunately, Webber died in 2007. Though I will never have the chance to meet this hero of the faith this side of heaven, my prayer is that the heart and spirit of his teachings may live on through me as I continue my studies in Christian worship.

I dedicate the rest of this post to Robert E. Webber, and close by imparting some of his great wisdom found in the book Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals.(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008):

The biblical and historical understanding of the incarnation is that God becomes creation. He takes into himself all the effects of fallen humanity spread throughout his creation. He assumes all of creation in the womb of Mary in order to reverse the effects of sin and “bring it into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). The death and resurrection of God in Christ is . . . a second act of creation, the redemption of the whole created order. . . . God, in the incarnation, took up into himself the entire creation, so that the creation redeemed by God himself is now to be once again, as in the Garden, the theatre of his glory (p.75-76).

Social action is an essential aspect of the church's work in the world—peace and justice and caring for the poor, widows, orphans, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized arise from true faith. But these actions are to result from the embodiment of God's full narrative, not from a Christianity accommodating itself to Western culture's doctrine of progress and utopia (p.85).

Historic Christianity is not a reflection on an individual's narrative but a reflection on and contemplation of God's mighty deeds of salvation for the life of the world. . . . However . . . [a] shift to experience has led to the demise of the narrative of God. God rescues the entire created order, and those who know this rescue are to live collectively in the world and express God's redemption in all of life.
This narrative has been lost and replaced with a focus on “my journey” (p.86).

In almost every religion the quest is to find a way to transcend the pain and suffering of life, and get connected with the powers of the other world that will help us endure this world. Current magazines, movies and spiritual gurus pitch the supernatural. But in these religions we never hear that God himself has entered our history and our suffering to redeem us for life in the world (p.95).

God's purpose for us and for the world . . . is a loving invitation to fellowship and communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to a purposeful life of making the world a habitation of his glory. However, we have failed and continue to fail to do God's purpose. So God in Christ has accomplished what we could not do. And God invites us to enter into his narrative by faith and live out his vision of the world (p.116).

For the past thirty years or so the church has been plagued by innovation . . . a philosophy that moves forward without regard for the past. . . . With an antihistorical attitude and the constant desire for what's new, faith is reduced to style. . . . Eventually the overemphasis on style results in an underemphasis on substance, and then style overtakes substance. The words of the narrative—creation, fall, incarnation, death, resurrection, second coming—may continue to be used, but without the appropriate depth and cosmic substance. . . . We must recover the profound original interpretation of God's narrative—that of the early church (p.116-117).

Evangelicals [should] turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect or that assert the self as the source of worship. Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God's cosmic redemption. Therefore, we call evangelicals to recover the historic substance of worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God's saving acts (p.121).


  1. Man, it's February, write a new post! Hope your studies are going well.

  2. Yeah, so now it's the end of March and I haven't posted anything new! That last paper ate up all my free time and drank every bit of writing juice I had. BUt now that it's over, I feel a new blog post coming on...

    Hope you're well too! Look forward to hanging out again in June.