The Myth of Proposition over Experience in Worship
Why is it that in our evangelical church culture we seem to put the beauty of music, art and other expression of our faith and worship below reason? Where in scripture does this occur? In reading the Psalms and other poetry of the Bible we see imagery and drama as part of our expression of faith and yes, even theology.
This does not mean we put beauty and story above reason and proposition, however. There must be a better way of explaining the longing in our hearts when pulled to the mystical side that experience offers without repressing this part of our humanity. In other words, perhaps it is not an indication of a fallen nature or a danger of being captivated by that nature to be moved by the beautiful. It is human.
At the cre:ate 2009 conference, we had a lecture by Steven Guthrie, who delivered a lecture similar to his Worship Leader Magazine article earlier this year (Music and Lyrics, WL Magazine, pgs. 25-30). What Guthrie described was a man with two halves which he says is derived from Augustine. What we take from Augustine is a fear of the music drawing us to a “lower” nature. So, why not subjugate music to reason, which is a higher form of faith? We seem to face that in our worship expression often in the evangelical church.
Postmoderns, as Guthrie described to us at cre:ate flip the same logic of Augustine and argue for making the story, beauty and so forth higher than reason and proposition. May it never be! To deny the propositions such as the substitutional atonement and other pillars of faith to some fuzzy narrative is just plain stupid. We are talking about our eternal destiny here, not how we feel a movie moves us to a place of experience or how Coldplay reveals a universal truth that we can explain away as relative. Proposition is still important.
I would suggest, as Guthrie does far better than I can, that we are not two people as he states the idea of having two halves. This is, as he says, an “unbiblical anthropology.” We are both people of reason and emotion. To pit parts of humanity against each other seems heretical, actually. How could we truly worship if “Spirit and Truth” are not employed and if we do not sing “with our mind” and “with our spirit” as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14.
At another cre:ate conference we talked with author Kurt Bruner about his book, The Divne Drama. Bruner’s assertion of a “both and” of “proposition and story” when talking about the gospel. The Bible is indeed made up both of narrative as well as proposition. Should we think these are ranked, or do we accept all scripture as “God-breathed” and authoritative?
For the sake of discussion, I wonder how many readers would agree with this idea or not agree. Should we put reason above beauty, story, mystery or are both sides of us who we are?