A Conservative Philosophy of Culture and Worship in the Church

A church hymnal inside an Anglican Church.

Christians often debate about contemporary worship vs. conservative worship, but often there is little understanding as to exactly what these philosophies entail. I’d like to briefly explain in this post how I would define a conservative philosophy.

I’d encourage you to take a look at A Conservative Christian Declaration or David de Bruyn’s book The Conservative Church for a much more thorough explanation. However, this post is meant to be a simple summary of a robust, consistent conservative philosophy of culture and worship.

Conservatism has, of course, a long tradition in the history of Western philosophy. From the perspective of the history of Western thought, Christian conservatism might be considered a subset of classical conservatism or “Realist Conservatism.” Classical conservatism is built upon two core pillars, which provides a helpful structure through which to explore Christian conservatism.

Belief in Transcendent Absolute Principles

First, Realist Conservatism holds that there is an absolute order of universals that defines the nature of things and exists apart from human perception. Defined this way, Christianity can be no less than Realist, affirming an absolute and unchanging reality that governs all nature and reveals its meaning and value. Generally speaking, classical conservatives divide the absolute order of universals into three “Great Ideas” by which we judge meaning and value in the world: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Where Christian realism progresses further is in rooting such transcendent, absolute principles in the sovereign will of the self-existent Creator. These principles are revealed to us in creation (Ps 19), in our consciences (Rom 1), and mostly perfectly in the written Word of God (2 Tim 3:16–17).

God as the source. Belief in these transcendent principles is rooted in a conviction that God is the source, sustainer, and end of all things. The Bible clearly proclaims that God is self-existent and self-sustaining, and all things come from him (Rom 11:36). There are no such things as brute facts apart from God; they are facts because God determined them to be so. Moral standards are not merely conceived out of convention apart from God; actions are moral or immoral based on how they compare to the moral character of God. And in the same way, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder; something is beautiful because it reflects God’s own beauty. With this in mind, Christians as image-bearers of God must be committed to thinking God’s thoughts after him, to behaving in certain ways that conform to God’s moral will, and to loving those things that God calls lovely. Conservative Christians are therefore concerned with orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.

Scripture as the expression. Conservative Christians also believe that Scripture itself communicates absolute truth, goodness, and beauty, not just discursively, but aesthetically through its various literary forms and devices. This belief is rooted in the doctrine of verbal-plenary inspiration. The Holy Spirit of God inspired every word in the original autographs of Scripture. This implies that while the word choices, grammar, syntax, poetic language, and literary forms were products of the human author’s writing style, culture, and experiences, we must also affirm that these aspects of the form of Scripture are exactly how God desired his truth to be communicated.

Those who hold to verbal-plenary inspiration rightly insist that what words biblical authors chose are important, as are how those words were put together into sentences and paragraphs, as well as literary forms, and how we interpret the meaning of biblical passages is directly dependent upon our understanding of the historical, grammatical, and cultural context. Verbal-plenary inspiration, therefore, requires that we understand the nature of truth expressed in Scripture as more than correct doctrinal statements condensed from God’s Word. Rather, truth includes particular sentiments, affections, moods, and imaginations that God communicates through the aesthetic forms he inspired.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Scott Aniol