Carl Trueman on Moronic Worship

Carl Trueman has a must-read essay at Reformation21 about unserious worship practices. This paragraph is a gem:

“A church service involving clowns or fancy dress or skits or stand-up comedy does not reflect the seriousness of the gospel; and those who take the gospel seriously should know better. Frankly, it is more appropriate to liberal theology which does not take the gospel, or the God of the gospel, seriously. Serious things demand serious idioms.   I heard recently of a church service involving dressing up in costume and music taken from a Tom Cruise movie.  Now, if I go for my annual prostate examination, and the doctor comes into the consulting room dressed as Coco the Clown, with `Take my breath away’ from Top Gun playing in the background, guess what?  I’m going to take the doctor out with a left hook, flee the surgery, and probably file a complaint with the appropriate professional body.   This is serious business; and if he looks like a twit and acts like a twit, then I can only conclude that he is a twit.”

(HT: Justin Taylor)

13 Responses to Carl Trueman on Moronic Worship

  1. Ferg Breen May 12, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    I forgot that God has no sense of humour. Perish the thought that people can have fun in church!!

  2. Scott May 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    No, God indeed has a sense of humor! It wouldn’t be a Trueman “article” unless it criticized someone or something.

  3. Wesley May 12, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    There seems though, to be a difference between having a sense of humor and having a sense of appropriateness.

    Two couples on their wedding day may both have great “sense of humor” and be quite the comedian. And perhaps even have some joking around at various elements of the ceremony and particularly reception. However, this doesn’t man that they would consider it appropriate to during the ceremony act as if it was a free for all comedy routine, or have the minister sing karaoke[which would all be appropriate at say the pub perhaps]

    It’s a matter of both what is appropriate given a particular time and place and purpose. What is conducive to order as opposed to chaos. And what demonstrates the nature of the event. I wouldn’t dress like a clown if I were to meet the Queen, or like act like a bufoon if I went with my wife to the symphony. It’s one thing to adopt cultural practices and Christianize them thoughtfully [like Christmas trees], but it is another to turn Worship into a “show”.

    What I don’t understand is you more radical evangelicals will be all concerned about such things in weddings and funerals and diner parties, and when meting human dignitaries and graduation ceremonies. But when it comes to worshiping God Almighty, suddenly all this is debatable and utter chaos may be allowed to reign.

    Trueman may have overstated the issues with the particular service he attended, but I think he is right about worship in the “evangelical movement”.

  4. Ferg Breen May 13, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    So we should come to the Lord as reserved adults and not as little children?
    I semi see your point Wesley but that article was ridiculous and I’m so surprised that it’s even given credence by being regurgitated here. Perhaps I’m not surprised but that in itself is a shame.

  5. Christopher Lake May 13, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    Ferg,

    Coming to the Lord as “little children” does not mean turning a worship service into a comedy skit (and if you think that there are no such services, do some searching around on Youtube).

    The Lord wants us to come to Him with the attitude of simple trust and love which children generally have. Such is child-like faith. However, many contemporary church services are more *childish* than *child-like* in the atmospheres created therein. There is a right seriousness *and* a right happiness about the things of God. Neither seems to have been present in the church service of which Trueman writes.

  6. D.J. Williams May 13, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    Great article by Trueman – a funny illustration of Neil Postman’s timeless reminder that the medium is the message.

  7. Matthew Staton May 13, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    D.J., nice synthesis to Postman. However, I doubt Trueman is against the entire medium of drama but rather against frivolous use of it. I imagine he would allow for the appropriateness of some recorded music that is not Kenny G.

    I think Trueman has a point. It’s possible to take ourselves too seriously and put others off. But it is also possible to take God not seriously enough and so muddle our own message. I think we should look for appropriate “idioms of particular cultural manifestations” to express worship to God and truth about God. For example, I like the music that Denny has linked to by Flame. I grew up in a legalistic environment that rejected the medium of ALL contemporary music, let alone rap. Flame is redeeming that medium and using it appropriately.

    I would hope that Trueman would allow for some levity. There is humor in Scripture and some sermons lend themselves to humorous moments. I say let the text drive the message. If humor is appropriate, use appropriate humor. But don’t let invention be the mother of necessity: don’t use it just because you want to. When appropriate, be humorous. But never be frivolous. In addition to the occasional funny sermon, I think announcements might lend themselves to a lighthearted delivery. This does not mean stand-up comedy but the announcements do not require being pronounced in monotone reverence.

    The balancing concern here is whether someone is more in love with the seriousness of the church service than God himself. Some people like church for its own sake. Neither seriousness nor frivolity should replace real relationship with God and others as we gather to worship.

  8. CH May 13, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Ferg,

    Do you think the point of the service Trueman described was to have fun? If that’s the case then I’d say liberal Christianity is the humorless bunch.

  9. Ferg Breen May 13, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    The service actually sounds like it was rubbish. My point goes along with the words, bathwater and baby.

  10. Gim Anderson May 13, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    I’m not sure I’d go as far as to describe Trueman’s argument as moronic.

  11. Reformed Sinner June 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Those that dismissed Trueman as another hateful conservative totally misses the point, and demonstrates a lack of critical reading.

    True’s point is that what has happened to the Church? When we are worrying more about offending people that we go as far as altering the revealed Word of God, the very words that God personally breath out.

    Then, sermons are no longer a place where God’s lamb are fed with God’s Word, Truth, teachings, and the Gospel but rather a place to subjectively rant about personal disatisfactions about how this world is, but nothing about how the Gospel of Christ confronts, relates, and redeems the person and the society.

    Finally, the Church is worrying more about entertaining its flock rather than challenging and feeding its flock with God’s Truth.

    Someone mockingly said they forgot God doesn’t allow humor. Well, I guess even God enjoys a good joke but God never jokes around when it comes to dealing with sinners, guiding His people, leading His flock, and redeeming the world. You can joke around all you want but when it comes before the presence of the LORD the attitude of OT believers were “fear and trembling” and the NT believers are joy in the glory of His name and salvation. Not a good stand-up skit by the apostle Paul.

    Like someone else says we don’t take it as a joke during a funeral – we don’t demand the funeral director to hire clowns and play Tom Cruise movie music. We don’t take it as a joke during graduations – we don’t demand the University President to give a speech rivals that of Saturday Night Live. We don’t take it as a joke during Business meetings – next time try to tell your boss casual Friday means I can wear a clown outfit to work. Yet when it comes to Church, a place of our most high God, we think everything is free game.

    Sorry, you’re right, I don’t get it.

  12. Scott June 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Is there a point to regurgitating a topic almost one month old? Trueman’s “watch dogs” never tire of making the rounds, huh?

  13. Fred T Henderson February 8, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    You have to be a fool to have a problem with Trueman’s analysis here. People who are disagreeing with him are giving the most inane reasons.
    It seems that logic & wisdom has been disregarded in the modern world and most people just don’t miss it at all.

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