If You Can Take Passion Out of Sex

Why do you want to keep it in worship?

Garrett Kell explains that sex is not supposed to be all zowie and pizzazz:

God created sex to be a bond between a husband and wife that strengthens over time. Married couples make love on their honeymoon and after a miscarriage. They make love to conceive children and after they bury them. They make love when bodies are healthy and during battles against cancer. As a husband and wife pursue each other through intimate service, sacrifice, and struggle, God blesses them in a way the world can never know. . . .

That doesn’t mean sex is always enjoyable or easy for married couples. Because marriage is the union of an ever-changing and ever-growing pair of fallen people, we can expect that sexual intimacy to have both sweet and sour days and seasons. That is part of God’s wise design.

He has called a man and a woman to be committed to each other and to make love with each other during every season of life. Lovemaking on a honeymoon may be wonderful or awful. Intimate times are shared when buying a new house or burying a parent. It is pursued when God gives conception, and when he withholds it.

So if sex and passion can be ordinary and even sour, why have New Calvinists insisted that worship much be intense, earnest, deeply heart-felt if it is genuine? If married couples have seasons of less and more vibrant sex, Christians may also experience worship that is true and genuine even if all the religious affections aren’t bubbling.

Or maybe it was a mistake in the first place to introduce the language of passion and hedonism into the realm of piety. The Bible invariably uses agrarian imagery to explain the Christian life. Farms and gardens do not produce the intensity or sound of fireworks. Sure, Spring flowers pop (and they last a lot longer than even the best fireworks display). But even the flowers fade. That’s why we need less passion and more routine in worship.

What married couples do in the boudoir is on them (sheesh).

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98 thoughts on “If You Can Take Passion Out of Sex

  1. I disagree with the premise of the referenced article (somewhat), and definitely with this post. I can’t find a single Psalm that says, “God, I’m just not feeling it today, forget drums and cymbals and dancing, I’m just not up for worshiping you with my whole heart.” Even Psalm 88 “cries out” to the Lord, even in anguish. The point is, every Psalm “bubbles” with some emotion.

    To continue with the sexual metaphor, if my wife and I aren’t making love passionately it’s usually because there is an underlying flaw in our relationship. Hence I reject the premise of the article: passionless sex isn’t “normal,” even for a season. If it’s missing, the relationship has problems, and as all husbands learn over time, it’s always our fault. If our worship lacks earnestness, it is because our relationship with God is flawed, and that is certainly always our fault. Rather than simply accept a passionless relationship with God as a “season,” we should prayerfully examine ourselves to identify any sin or attitude (probably lack of thankfulness) that has dulled our passion and intensity for Him. We should rejoice in the Lord “always,” as Scripture admonishes repeatedly.

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  2. VV, maybe a less icky and more biblical analogy would be marriage itself. Surely you can see it now: just as marriage has its highs and lows, so does the Christian life and worship. But whatever the analogy, the point is that human beings are complex and have a whole range of experience. That seems hardly controversial. So why when it comes to the Christian life in general and worship in particular believers like thyself all of a sudden forget that reality and foist a new law of passion on everyone is baffling.

    PS ew, Robin spoke too soon (sticks fingers in ears and starts humming).

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  3. VV,

    But how is a lack of earnestness in worship always a sign of sin? Maybe your infant isn’t sleeping through the night yet and your fortunate enough just to make it to church at all? Maybe your breakfast bagel was bad and is giving you indigestion? I mean, there can be other things going on.

    Then there’s also the issue of our natural dispositions. Some people are simply more given to “feeling” passion than others.

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  4. Zrim – yes, every marriage has highs and lows because there are two sinful human beings in marriage. In our relationship with God there is one perfect Being and one sinful being, and therefore the “lows” in the relationship are always the human’s fault. Even though it happens to everyone, we shouldn’t just accept it and pretend it’s a part of life. If we should always fight sin, even if that is inevitable, so should we fight against malaise in worship, even if that is seemingly inevitable.

    Robert – sure, there are things that may predispose us to tiredness or grumpiness or whatever, but if someone walked up to you with a dump truck full of $100 dollar bills, or a lifetime supply of the best beer on earth, or whatever material thing excites you, I’m sure you would perk up and your mood improve in a hurry regardless of your lack of sleep the night before. And I would too – we all would. That’s the point: the problem isn’t our lack of sleep or our breakfast, it’s or lack of awe and wonder at our Creator. Look, I’m not trying to get on a high horse here. I don’t approach God with passionate love and devotion in worship the way I should on many, if not most occasions. My mind wanders during worship, I get hungry and start fantasizing about lunch, etc. But I’m not pleased with that and don’t accept it as normal. It’s a deficiency that needs correcting, and just as we should always strive to improve our relationship with our spouses, so should we strive for perfection in our relationship with Christ.

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  5. VV, but that perfect being knows our frame and remembers that we are dust, which is to say he has pity on and patience with our weaknesses and frailties in both life and in worship. I don’t hear that coming from you. In fact, it seems like you’re improving on God. Could it be that you’re putting already-expectations on imperfect creatures still living in a not yet-age?

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  6. VV,

    But I’m not pleased with that and don’t accept it as normal. It’s a deficiency that needs correcting, and just as we should always strive to improve our relationship with our spouses, so should we strive for perfection in our relationship with Christ.

    I’m not sure anyone is advocating for being pleased with less than the best. The problem is making the zeal of Jonathan Edwards the ideal to which we all must aspire. It’s a form of legalism.

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  7. why have New Calvinists insisted that worship be deeply heart-felt if it is genuine

    New Calvinists? I thought it was Jesus that insisted on it

    maybe it was a mistake in the first place to introduce the language of passion
    The problem is making the zeal of Jonathan Edwards the ideal to which we all must aspire.

    John Edwards? I thought it was the zeal of the Lord the Lord is in the process of conforming us to.

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  8. @ Ali:

    From Jesus I read “in Spirit and in truth.” I read “they worship with me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

    Where are you reading “heart-felt” or “passionate”?

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  9. Agreed Robert. We also agree, I know, that this side of eternity we all fall short of the glory of God, to our great sorrow.

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  10. The wcf tells that,

    True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted…by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

    Now it seems to me that if God in his wisdom may choose to withdraw the light of his countenance from the believer, perhaps we shouldn’t expect Piper-esque passion in all our worship. While we shouldn’t expect the Christian life and worship to be just drudgery, neither should we expect mountain top experience all the time. It may not be sin, it could be God teaching us something.

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  11. Mountain top experience? Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, strength. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you. Whatever grace He supplies is sufficient, always, for everything, and we are to always make our requests known to God which He always answers perfectly.

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  12. Frank Sheed on sex…

    Sex does not live on illusion but illusion, is what it tends to breed. As Shaw says: “There is less difference between one young woman and another young woman than the average young man thinks.” This has always been so, but among today’s believing Christians there is one illusion sex has not often bred before. I must have read hundreds of articles and letters written by Catholics in protest against [Humanae Vitae]. What interested me most was what the writers thought not about the encyclical but about sex itself. For the most part they struck me as of a purity so refined I felt coarse and earthy by comparison. The sex act they saw as love’s highest expression. The ruling purpose in their own intercourse seemed to be the enrichment of their partner’s personality. One wondered how refinedly they bore the discovery that she did not want her personality enriched that night. I mentioned this particular point to a couple thousand women at a luncheon in Los Angeles. They laughed and laughed. I got the impression that each of them was seeing one special face, not looking its best.

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  13. New Calvinists are not alone in wanting worship to be intense. Pentecostals and charismatics have sought to create that kind of worship for years. But who said that all new calvinists seek that kind of worship?

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  14. vv, you present as someone who is culturally literate (hence your fondness for TKNY). But you don’t seem to have ever seen When Harry Met Sally. I hear that women fake it all the time.

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  15. Jeff Cagle says: @ Ali:From Jesus I read “in Spirit and in truth.” I read “they worship with me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”Where are you reading “heart-felt” or “passionate”?
    D.G. Hart says But Piper. There you have earnest.

    Jeff, where do we read : wcf Q1…”enjoy” Him
    But I think we all agree the chief end of man is to glory God and enjoy Him forever.
    So why the beef with John Piper? Does anyone help us THINK better about this than he?
    Not you guys. – who seem to always speak ‘such as’ duty, mundane, routine, meh, whatever …..which neither glorifies God nor reflects enjoyment of Him.

    sdb: where do we read: wcf …by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance

    because offhand I think of ‘ever increasing light’ 2 Cor 3:18 Prov 4:18, etc

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  16. Ali, “Does anyone help us THINK better about this than he?”

    Lots of people. Prophets and apostles. Heard of them?

    Put no trust in celebrity pastors. Especially earnest ones.

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  17. Curt, well, what should anyone think when the new lifers band together so regularly with the P&Cs? Ever hear of Sovereign Grace, you know, the P&C para outfit that churns out new lifey hymns and choruses for new lifey P&R churches to intersperse between (denominationally approved, ahem) hymnbook selections, the ones so well designed at massaging the emotions needed to slip hands up high and raise the roof.

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  18. Ali, what’s not being enjoyed? God knows our frailties and condescends to us and endures our humanity. That’s not enjoyable? Evidently not to the more-passionate-than-thou crowd.

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  19. At the risk again of being all CAPPED dgh- I love John Piper. And he would be the first to say 1 Cor 3:4-7. ‘Course, hope your ears can handle it- I love you guys too.(Matt 19:26)

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  20. Zrim – certainly God shows great forbearance toward us in our weaknesses and sin, but that’s doesn’t mean He accepts or approves them. He may sympathize with and forgive us for our failure to worship Him with our “whole heart” (Psalm 138), but that doesn’t mean He likes it or that it’s His ideal.

    Robert – and I would respond to you the same way I responded to Zrim: none of us have the fervor in worship that we should, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept it as “normal” anymore than we should just accept sin as normal.

    sdb – the ellipsis in your quote of WCF 18.4 omits a crucial part of the text: the CAUSE of God “withdrawing His light.” The full paragraph says that such withholding of light is due to our “negligence” or “special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit.” The proof text is Psalm 77, a community lament in which the people plead with God not to be angry with them for some unspoken sin. And that makes my point exactly: failure of passion in worship is due to deficiency in us, often sin. It’s not a normal rhythm of life.

    DGH – I don’t know if seeing When Harry Met Sally qualifies someone as culturally literate, but I have seen it and I love Katz’s Deli, where the “faking” scene takes place. And I wouldn’t equate orgasm with passion, for men or for women. If you think Tim Keller’s sermons are not passionate, you haven’t listened to his sermons.

    Curt – passion in worship does not mean raising hands or sweating or shrieking or leaping in our seats. It means authentic worship from a loving and grateful heart rather than simply going through the external motions of singing and praying and reading the word.

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  21. VV, wait, God doesn’t accept our weaknesses in Christ? There goes that odd neo-Cal thing again.

    Re your comment Curtward, how about new life as semi-Charismatic? You know, white folks with that extemporaneously half-raised hand and subtle sway, the stuff full-on Charismatics find precious (and full-on P&R annoying)?

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  22. Zrim – again, you are subsuming sanctification under justification. God accepts us because we are covered by Christ’s righteousness in a forensic sense, but He by no means accepts all of our actions in an immediate sense. Otherwise why does He discipline us, as sdb points out in WCF 18.4?

    And the half-raised arm and gentle sway is pretty much de rigueur in any Southern Baptist worship service, and many of them have brought it over to the PCA. It’s hard to find good ol’ frozen chosen worship these days.

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  23. VV, worship is a good work (the primary good work, in fact). When offered imperfectly it’s still accepted.

    WCF 16.6:

    Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

    Is acceptance not sufficient for you?

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  24. Zrim – but the goal isn’t to be merely “acceptable.” The ideal is perfection, even if that ideal is unattainable in this life. Put another way, getting a C is acceptable, but getting an A is the ideal. Going back to the sex analogy, does your wife want acceptable, or…?

    cw – dance performance like that is a violation of the RPW. I believe dance can be appropriate in worship if it accompanies congregational singing. But this was a performance, and it is unacceptable in worship. I agree about the passion, though – he certainly gets credit for that, and for technical excellence as well.

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  25. VV,

    none of us have the fervor in worship that we should, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept it as “normal” anymore than we should just accept sin as normal.

    I don’t disagree with your point. Now define what the fervor we should have looks like. Edwards-esk mysticism? Pentecostal jumping around. Solemn Presbyterianism?

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  26. VV, but that’s part of the point–the ideal isn’t the already, it’s the not yet. In other words, imperfection is just part of the territory right now. The point isn’t to be satisfied with imperfection but to be realistic about what it means to live and move and have being in this present age. Older Calvinists get that and are the adults in the room, newly fashioned ones are the wide eyed teenagers.

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  27. “Passion” in worship for New Calvinists = “active participation” in liturgy for Norvus Ordo Catholics. In both cases it usually translates into praise bands and overemoting and funky Bible versions and other pleasantries. Got to be real!

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  28. Vae Vic:

    A couple of observations.

    (1) VV: but the goal isn’t to be merely “acceptable.” The ideal is perfection, even if that ideal is unattainable in this life. Put another way, getting a C is acceptable, but getting an A is the ideal.

    Your analogy suggests a merit-based acceptance of our worship, whereas Zrim is highlighting the fact that our worship is accepted in Christ. My guess is that you agree; but whence the talk of A’s and C’s?

    (2) There is a history to the notion of passion in worship, reaching back in US Presby times to the 1st GA and the New- and Old-Lights. The definition you give of passion, It means authentic worship from a loving and grateful heart rather than simply going through the external motions of singing and praying and reading the word is a mostly Old-Light definition (except for the squishy word “authentic”). But the insistence on passion is a New-Light thing.

    Here’s a test: Is there a visible, outward difference between your type of passionate worship and the other type? What is it?

    I would argue that external motions of singing, praying, and reading the word are either accompanied by faith, or else not. If the former, then genuine worship; if not, then not genuine. Passion plays no role here.

    (3) Fantasizing about lunch, eh? New one for me.

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  29. sdb – the ellipsis in your quote of WCF 18.4 omits a crucial part of the text: the CAUSE of God “withdrawing His light.” The full paragraph says that such withholding of light is due to our “negligence” or “special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit.” The proof text is Psalm 77, a community lament in which the people plead with God not to be angry with them for some unspoken sin. And that makes my point exactly: failure of passion in worship is due to deficiency in us, often sin. It’s not a normal rhythm of life.

    You are misreading this article. Let’s break this down as it seems to be central to our understanding of what the state of our emotion in worship tells us about the condition of our heart:

    True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted;

    So there are a multitude of causes that result in how we feel about the state of our salvation. They include:

    1. as, by negligence in preserving of it
    2. by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit
    3. by some sudden or vehement temptation
    4. by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light

    I don’t see why you would read this as a causal chain. I certainly see how one of these might lead to another, but the wording does not indicate that it must be so.

    yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

    Now this reads to me like one in a state of “spiritual depression” might be wise to avail himself to the means of grace even if out of a state of duty. To be sure not an ideal state, but neither necessarily a consequence of sin.

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  30. to all,
    I was simply making an observation. But should new lifers not associate with P&Cers? Should any Christian not associate with them?

    While at homecoming at ORU, one of my classmates commented on the rather forced enthusiasm of the worship. But that is a P&C issue. Haven’t been to a new life worship to see if passion is forced there too.

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  31. Reread the post.
    What married couples do in the boudoir is on them (sheesh).

    Exactly. Same with worship

    how bout we let the Spirit lead (which never conflicts with the word of God), for all who are led by the Spirit are sons of God;
    and we let the Lord, who alone know the hearts of all the sons of men,judge hearts;
    and let each of us be in charge of guarding our own heart against “a despising-Michal heart”. It did not go well with her.

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  32. I would argue that external motions of singing, praying, and reading the word are either accompanied by faith, or else not. If the former, then genuine worship; if not, then not genuine. Passion plays no role here.

    Triple dog ding.

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  33. @ Curt: “homecoming at ORU…”

    It’s always fascinating to get additional context on people’s thoughts.

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  34. Zrim says: Passion plays no role here.
    Triple dog ding.

    well, praise to the Lord, for His

    קִנְאָה

    For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
    And the government will rest on His shoulders;
    And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
    There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
    On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
    From then on and forevermore.

    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

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  35. Jeff and Robert – there is no consistent outward expression of passion. I might come across as the most passionless person in worship based on my demeanor, but that doesn’t mean I’m not stirred internally. By passion in worship I’m not suggesting we go anywhere near the standard eeeeevangelical or Pentecostal external exuberance. What I am saying is basically what Jeff said: our participation in worship should be stirred by a heart of gratitude toward and longing for God ultimately animated by faith. If it’s rote participation with no inward “spirit,” then it is passionless. And that is not normal or something we should just shrug our shoulders and accept because we are still in the flesh. Flawed worship is still accepted by God in Christ, but we should still strive for perfection in worship, should we not?

    Zrim – the fact that we cannot worship perfectly in this life does not mean we shouldn’t strive for it (see above). We will never be sinless in this life, but the constant refrain of the Bible is faithfulness and obedience. We strive for perfect obedience even though it is an impossible ideal, and in the same way we should strive for fervor/passion/enthusiasm (at least internally) in worship, even if that will never be perfect in this life.

    sdb – yeah, it can be read either way. Their use of the semicolon is, well, 400 years old and outdated. I read it as the causes for lack of assurance are (1) negligence and (2) sin *semicolon*, and the results are (1) vehement temptation and (2) withdrawal of His light. But regardless, I will concede that God does withdraw His light in some cases for reasons other than sin. But that hardly matters, because our response should be a passionate plea for it to return (a la Psalm 88), not indifference.

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  36. ….and this the Lord’s zeal through David –

    2 Samuel 7:18 Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19 And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future. And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD. 20 Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD! 21 For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. 22 For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself, and to do a great thing for You and awesome things for Your land, before Your people whom You have redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, from nations and their gods? 24 For You have established for Yourself Your people Israel as Your own people forever, and You, O LORD, have become their God. 25 Now therefore, O LORD God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken, 26 that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is God over Israel’; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You. 27 For You, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. 28 Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. 29 Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord GOD, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”

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  37. VV, you may be trying to say what Jeff is (faith is the fulcrum, not affections) but you’re not being heard that way, and it’s probably because in nothing you say do you let believers have their weaknesses of affection in worship. You seem intolerant of their failings, which again, doesn’t correspond with the biblical witness of God himself who is quite tolerant. Whatever the PC re-definitions are, tolerance doesn’t mean affirmation, it means enduring with what is corrupt without making much ado about the corruptions.

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  38. Striving for perfection? Somehow this is going to make mincemeat of the pedagogical use of the law. The law destroys it doesn’t inspire or scold. The route of perfected consecration is monasticism. Gratitude isn’t a virtue born of striving for perfection. And where does fervor, passion and enthusiasm come from? I hear from Paul, maturity, self-control, sobriety, quietness. There’s a lack of maturity that fails to reckon with one’s actual frailty. The kind of striving proposed here reminds me more of Disney Jr. virtues.

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  39. VV,

    Flawed worship is still accepted by God in Christ, but we should still strive for perfection in worship, should we not?

    It’s a difficult question. Part of me wants to say yes, and yet I know perfection is an impossible ideal so is it even possible on this side of glory to strive for perfection?

    We should always be striving to please the Lord, and yet there is rest to be found in knowing that we could always do better and yet God loves us perfectly anyway.

    My main issue with this discussion is the definition of passion and affection. I don’t in theory have a problem with such language as long as we understand that the passion of Edwards isn’t our ideal or even something we should necessarily strive for. The problem with DG and the original post that Darryl quotes is that Edwards is the measure of true piety.

    There’s also a development of passion over time. I’ve been married eleven years, and I can say my passion for my wife is greater now than it was then. But if we are using common external measurements of passion and adopting common cultural connotations of it, then an outsider might make a different evaluation. My love is deeper for my wife now, but there have been changes in how that love is expressed. And that’s a good and right thing.

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  40. Sean – striving for perfection is what believers are called to do. WLC 77 uses that exact language (“growing up to perfection”), as does WCF 13.3 (“perfecting holiness in the fear of God”), not to mention the numerous Scripture references in both OT and NT. For fervor, passion, and enthusiasm, read the Psalms. It starts in Psalm 1: “His DELIGHT is in the law of the Lord…”

    Zrim – sure, God tolerates our failures, but He doesn’t approve of them. Shouldn’t we aim for the best form of worship rather than settle for the minimum?

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  41. VV, 77 has an eye toward glorification. In 13.3 and 77 the idea is the Spirit’s sanctifying power bringing them to perfection, or if you will, on the road to perfection which not only has the idea of glorification(ultimately) but more so, the Spirit’s work/power/infusion which is the supply/source of perfection. The perfection is the Spirit’s infusing power.

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  42. If modern worship isn’t exactly sexy, it certainly has a heavy tilt towards sensuality and appearance. Are the worship leaders ever ugly? Nope. Imagine if Keith and Kirsten Getty had looked like Buster Bloodvessel and Olive from On the buses. Would they have been as successful? I highly doubt it. Folks can kid themselves it’s all about the songs theology, but it only comes, surprise surprise, in a lovely largely cellulite free package of beautiful people. And how far, how very far, it is from the Biblical worship of the psalms.

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  43. Sean – of course the process of our “perfecting” is ultimately caused by the work of the Holy Spirit. No one is denying that. But we still “grieve the Spirit” when we sin or fail to worship as we should worship.

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  44. D. G. Hart says: Ali, haven’t you heard that public worship is public. Bedrooms are in private homes. Sheesh.

    ok. But there is neither public nor private heart, per Jesus, and per Jesus, it is all about the heart, at all times, everywhere, per Jesus that is.

    Jeremiah 24: 7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

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  45. Sean – again, no one is arguing that the ultimate cause of our sanctification is anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit. But part of that process is the transformation of our desires and our will to conform to Christ. So part of sanctification is increasing our desire for holiness, which leads to striving for holiness. Calvin puts it this way (Institutes 3.6.3, emphasis mine):

    “Ever since he who is our head ascended to heaven, it is befitting in us to withdraw our affections from the earth, and with our whole soul ASPIRE to heaven. Ever since the Holy Spirit dedicated us as temples to the Lord, we should make it our ENDEAVOR to show forth the glory of God, and guard against being profaned by the defilement of sin. Ever since our soul and body were destined to heavenly incorruptibility and an unfading crown, we should earnestly STRIVE to keep them pure and uncorrupted against the day of the Lord. These, I say, are the surest foundations of a well-regulated life…”

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  46. Sean – you said this: “Striving for perfection? Somehow this is going to make mincemeat of the pedagogical use of the law.” Now, if you are arguing against striving on our own merits or believing perfection can actually be attained in this life, then I agree with you. But I do not believe we should ever stop aiming for perfect righteousness in this life, or aiming for completely pure affection/passion in worship. If our goal is holiness, then perfection should be our aim.

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  47. VV, I’m aware of what I said. Your controlling M.O.(striving for perfection) has a naturalistic bent and doesn’t adequately account for our fallen nature and the practice of false religion(Col. 2). The phenomenological religious reality that must be reckoned to, is fallen nature , complete destruction before the law(imprisonment in terms of capacity), and a religious realization of the monergistic work of God in our salvation and sanctification. Are you sure you’re grading yourself on the scale of perfection and complete pure affection? It sounds good but are you reckoning yourself to it? If you’re reckoning to the law as perfect, you should be despairing.

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  48. @ Zrim: But why get annoyed at someone else’s handraising? If it’s not superior to your hands-on-pew-back, still it’s also not inferior.

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  49. @ Vae Vic:

    I’m still unclear about your relationship of faith to affection and passion.

    * Would you say that God is pleased with our faith, with our affection, or with our passion, or with all three?

    * You’ve noted above that the passion required in worship may not register in outward demeanor. OK. But are you aware of the history, from 1st GA up through today, of believers decrying the worship of other believers as “cold” or “sterile” or “dead” because of their lack of outward passion?

    When you say that “passion is required in worship”, it becomes hard to separate yourself from that history.

    Whereas if you were to speak of faith, understanding, grace, and reverence — even “grace in the heart” — it would be in line with Confessional worship.

    Why “passion” or “affection”, if your intent is not to relitigate the New/Old Controversy?

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  50. Jeff, because as I said it’s *extemporaneous* hand-raising. I’ve no problem with raised hands so long as they’ve been bidden raised and is done in unison–you know, the dialogical principle which has a nice way of guarding against emotionalism. In fact, I’ll see hands raised and raise some kneeling. It’s a biblical posture. Why are the P&Cs emulated but not the Episcy’s?

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  51. Ali, and Jesus said don’t do stuff in public because only God the Father sees the heart.

    But once strangely warmed, you guys think you have x-ray vision.

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  52. @ DGH:

    I’ll cheerfully push back on that last. To think more about optics entails thinking more about what other people think about your worship, to be more self-conscious about how you look in worship.

    Methinks that is precisely the wrong habit to encourage.

    On the first, I know hand-raisers. Not a pretentious bone in the body (as far as humans can tell such things).

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  53. Jeff, doesn’t humility require some awareness of how you come across to others? Imagine if Keller had not made that info graph about humility. How much more relaxed would he be?

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  54. @jeff pushing back on your push back…. doesn’t Paul show concern for optics when he writes, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?1Cor14:23”.

    The call to orderliness at the conclusion of this chapter is motivated by several considerations, one of which is “what will the neighbors think?”. Just as there are behaviors that might be acceptable while I am lounging in my recliner at home that are unacceptable when I am sitting crammed in between two strangers on a nine hour flight (and having just returned from such a flight, let me tell you I really wish folks cared more about what others think!), it seems to me that Paul’s point in Corinthians 14 is that practices that are great for private worship may not be appropriate in public. Submitting to the lead of our pastor is one way of loving our neighbors. That would seem to indicate we shouldn’t be doing our own thing in worship.

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  55. Jeff, presuming we’re speaking of public worship, it is corporate, right? If so, it’s not obvious how optics among worshippers is so irrelevant. You’re teaching your children something about God in worship and you’re encouraging your peers as well as to what is fitting, etc. IOW, corporate isn’t a bunch of individuals getting together.

    sdb, is it really true that what is not fitting in public worship is “great for private”?

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  56. DG Hart says Ali, and Jesus said don’t do stuff in public

    ok. But, not so simple. We are to pray in secret and in public; work in secret and work in public. It’s all about the heart, per Jesus, that is. Also, don’t think we are to exalt the Lord ‘ in secret’, so no one knows.

    Anyway, just thinking of you guys.
    May-as well start getting practice to expressively join in with all the angels, the living creatures, the twenty-four elders, every living creature, the great multitude from every peoples -who expressively fall down, fall on their faces, sing, cry out in loud voices worshipping around the throne. Hate to to have to look over across the throne during all these goings-on and see hands stuck in robe pockets and have to say sheesh.

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  57. @z not quite how I’d put it. Rather I would say that the fact that something is not ok in public worship does not entail it is necessarily problematic in private. Paul uses the example of tongues. Jesus commends the guy who beats his chest and cries out, “have mercy on me a sinner”. Great thing to do in private…not the sort of thing one ought to do in the corporate confession of sin.

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  58. I used to think a lot about this subject too. Obsess is more like it. “Should I raise my hands? No, because people might think I am trying to be pious.” If you’re not wanting to make a show, and you just want to orientate your body to what your mind and heart knows and feels, there is no false piety. There is such thing as real piety, real devotion, real sorrow, real reverence( that can make one go down on their knees, or raise their hands.) If your liturgy doesn’t include some public bodily gesture, maybe you should talk it over and incorporate it. Outside of the liturgy, I often see people kneeling in prayer. The doors are unlocked for many, many hours for people to come approach God in private prayer. The church should be a house of prayer( Matthew 21:13), and that means private as well as corporate. There really are sacred spaces.( I remember RC Sproul talking about such a things as a “Threshold Experience”)
    If a man is praying for his dying loved one and he’s standing there before the altar, hands raised and crying, or if someone just received an answer to prayer and is standing with their hands raised and smiling, who am I to think they are making a spectacle of themselves? The bad judgment and condemnation of false piety is on me, not them.

    I’m a lot less self-conscious now when it comes to what I am doing in church. The rules are there because there are real tangible things going on. I learned how to conduct myself in the Household of God. I cross myself to remember my baptism, I genuflect to the altar where the once for all sacrifice is re-presented to the Father, and I genuflect to the Host( Jesus really present under the species of bread). I participate by paying attention to the readings and liturgy of the Mass, and offering my prayers for the world, and the church here on earth and in purgatory. Christian worship is very incarnational. That’s why Catholics and Orthodox have sacraments that involve material things, and sacramentals.

    If I struggle with personal perfectionism that leans too much toward Pelagianism, then I have to correct myself according to the truth and that is, that without Grace, I can be and do nothing. Emotional Pelagianism is a thing and probably comes from pride. The cure is humbling oneself before God who truly knows your heart and not caring what anyone else thinks.

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  59. Susan, and now that you’re on the other side of the Tiber, you should obsess about how your church determines saints, and how you lost your sainthood once you crossed the river.

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  60. Sean – for the third time now in this thread I’m recognizing sanctification as monergistic work of the Holy Spirit – how many more times do you want me to say it? Part of that work is creating in us a heart and will that yearns for obedience and to glorify God. That leads to striving for obedience and true passion/affection for Him. Your comments seem to imply a sort of quietist “let go and let God” view of sanctification, which is out of accord with Scripture and the Confessions.

    Jeff – God is pleased with all 3, assuming affection and passionate are ultimately derived from saving faith. I understand the history of the First GA, and again, I’m not advocating external exuberance in worship as evidence of an affectionate heart. I am arguing against this from the original post: “why have New Calvinists insisted that worship much be intense, earnest, deeply heart-felt if it is genuine? If married couples have seasons of less and more vibrant sex, Christians may also experience worship that is true and genuine even if all the religious affections aren’t bubbling.” We shouldn’t just accept periods of less affectionate worship as a part of life any more than we should accept sin as a part of life. Both may inevitably occur, but that doesn’t mean we should not fight against them. Again, how many times does Scripture exhort us to worship/love God with our whole heart? Does that not imply deep affection and earnestness?

    Susan – you make a fair point about Catholic liturgy – far more reverent and catechizing than typical Reformed Protestant worship. On the other hand, while Catholics and Orthodox don’t typically raise hands individually in corporate worship (though I have seen it now and then), Catholics vary in how often and when they cross themselves, when and how they bow/genuflect to the altar, and some even literally prostrate themselves before statues of the saints (usually Mary). I actually don’t have a problem with any of this, just as I don’t have a problem with hand-raising in Protestant worship. I can’t judge the heart of any of them, and if it comes from true affection and passion then I believe it is acceptable, so long as it isn’t disorderly (see sdb’s point above).

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  61. VV, you accuse Sean of sounding quietist in sanctification but you’re sounding perfectionist in worship: “We shouldn’t just accept periods of less affectionate worship as a part of life any more than we should accept sin as a part of life.” But if he who says he’s without sin is deceiving himself, perhaps he who can’t tolerate sin as part of life is also a species of deception?

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  62. VV,

    I think the point is that on this side of glory our worship will never be affectionate as it should be. Knowing that, there is some kind of fine line to walk between wanting to be more affectionate and realizing that we’ll never meet that standard before heaven.

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  63. VV, -“Catholics vary in how often and when they cross themselves, when and how they bow/genuflect to the altar, and some even literally prostrate themselves before statues of the saints (usually Mary). I actually don’t have a problem with any of this, just as I don’t have a problem with hand-raising in Protestant worship. I can’t judge the heart of any of them, and if it comes from true affection and passion then I believe it is acceptable, so long as it isn’t disorderly (see sdb’s point above).”

    Well, if I didn’t understand before, now I do. The sentiment is the final/most important arbiter. Experience and sentiment may serve you well in other areas but it doesn’t hold up well in religion. People will assign themselves error or failure but rarely judgement worthy of eternal torment. Acceptable worship is learned not intuited.

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  64. Zrim and Robert – I understand your point. I’m not suggesting we live in denial about our capacity (or lack thereof) for obedience and proper affection for God. On the other hand, my argument is that we should not just accept this as a part of life to the degree that we stop fighting against it – as the WCF says, the Spirit is in a constant war against the flesh. We should never surrender that war and accept lack of affection as a fait accompli.

    Sean – I agree with your last sentence. But singing in worship – a commanded element of worship – may stir genuine affection in some people such that they raise their hands or close their eyes or look upward or whatever involves all their “members,” as Calvin says approvingly. Isn’t that a valid form of passion/affection in authentic corporate worship?

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  65. VV, there’s nothing in the old life piety that suggests a ceasing to fight against indwelling sin. But old lifers are
    skeptical when the new lifers seem to know what that is supposed to look like. Rarely do I detect among new life ranks much inkling that the outward appearances of affection can easily be creative fronts for hypocrisy, or that it could be the case that the fellow who appears stagnant could actually be fighting that war much harder than the sway babes. So what makes old lifery much more attractive is the sort of discernment that isn’t as easily fooled by outward appearances and actually has the capacity to see more going on in the just-showing-up than in the hippity-hoppity.

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  66. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: some (Catholics) even literally prostrate themselves before statues of the saints (usually Mary). I actually don’t have a problem with any of this
    -you don’t?

    Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: – as the WCF says, the Spirit is in a constant war against the flesh. .
    -you mean the bible?
    Galatians 516 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

    Letmesplainsean says: People will assign themselves error or failure but rarely judgement worthy of eternal torment. Acceptable worship is learned not intuited.
    -Not those listening to the Spirit; ditto He being the One Who confirms one’s acceptable worship (never in conflict with His word)

    Zrim says: So what makes old lifery much more attractive is the sort of discernment that isn’t as easily fooled by outward appearances and actually has the capacity to see more going on in the just-showing-up than in the hippity-hoppity.
    “my discernment is better than your discernment” doesn’t seem too attractive, nor does judgment about those less-capacity-easily-fooled ones

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  67. Ali, I know, this present life isn’t where you like to be, but discriminating between better and worse and passing judgment comes with the territory. Boo-hoo.

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  68. Zrim says: Ali, I know, this present life isn’t where you like to be, but discriminating between better and worse and passing judgment comes with the territory. Boo-hoo.

    Agree (on the better, worse part). We may agree on a lot, not sure. We are to learn to rightly judge. Mostly ourselves, but others not necessarily excluded, per Jesus. I know we agree on this, since it’s also per Jesus:
    encourage one another and build up one another;
    the proper working of each individual part causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love;
    any authority given is for building up and not for destroying, for building up and not for tearing down.

    Not sure your behind the scenes communiques, other stuff fits that bill, zrim

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  69. Zrim – no question that outward shows of affection can be fronts for hypocrisy. Outward affection isn’t necessarily wrong, but neither is it mandatory or indicative of a more fervent walk with God. The discussion is centered around authentic internal passion and affection, not outward displays.

    Ali – prostrating oneself before a statue is a problem, but kneeling or prostrating oneself as a genuine sign of reverence and humility before God is acceptable. And don’t pit the WCF against Scripture. The WCF is not inspired, but it is based on Scripture. When I quote the WCF the presumption is that is directly derived from Scripture.

    DGH – of course Keller isn’t perfect, and I disagree with him on some things (not many). But if I’m going to criticize him I do it for what he actually does/says, not what he doesn’t.

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  70. VV, I beg to differ–the conversation includes points about outward displays. But when it comes to “authentic internal passion and affection,” it’s not much different, which is to say that the individual can also just as easily fool himself inwardly as he can others outwardly. On top of that, examining inward affections seems to be just another instance of fruit inspection. Is sincerity good? Sure, but until the next age appears it’s a mixed and compromised existence for sinful saints. I think you understand that but would rather emphasize the coming ideal in the here and now.

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  71. Zrim – I agree with much of what you say in your last comment. Where we differ is that I accept that we will never be perfect in any way in this life (as do you), but I (imperfectly) strive for that perfection, knowing that our goal is perfect holiness, however unattainable that may be. You seem to just shrug off imperfection as a part of life and not worry about holiness or true affection because they will come eventually. I can’t get on board with that.

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  72. VV, or there are different notions of what striving is or might look like. Paul’s pilgrim imagery tends to be marathon-esque, which to those more inclined to sprinting probably looks shrug-ish. But if the Christian life really is a long and winding pilgrimage, it makes more sense. Sorry to be in your way, though, I’ll just move over here to the side of the track. Don’t burn yourself out too soon.

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  73. Zrim says: VV, or there are different notions of what striving is or might look like.

    weelll, we know for sure it doesn’t look like trying constantly to bring others down to anyone else’s lesser striving desire or mocking one’s greater desire (so that one can feel better about themselves perhaps?) I think you may be misrepresenting Paul as well.

    Hebrews 3:13But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
    Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
    Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

    Speaking of burning …2 Peter 311 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 14 beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

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  74. Zrim – your analogy isn’t a valid one. A better analogy would be two people running a marathon, and when they encounter a long hill on mile 17, one of them either gives up or takes an extended water break before walking up the hill, whereas the other one keeps going at the same pace. Put another way, would you rather run the best race possible, or simply finish?

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  75. VV, Paul said in Acts that his “only aim is to finish the race (and the task the Lord has given).” He also tells Timothy that he has “finished the race (and kept the faith).” Sounds like finishing is sufficient. Besides that, doesn’t ordinary experience teach that while there may be alotta hoopla cast on the the fastest and most graceful finisher, there is less worldly admiration for those who finish a hard fought contest?

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  76. Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
    let us also lay aside every encumbrance
    and the sin which so easily entangles us,
    and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the ]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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  77. Zrim – the context of Acts was Paul’s trip to Jerusalem and his belief that he would likely be imprisoned and die there – it was a choice between finishing the race or quitting the race. He was making no observations about the quality of the race, like he does in Titus 2:14 (“zealous for good works”) and Phil 4:8, and the way Peter does in 2 Peter 1:5 (“make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue”), and the way John does in 1 John 2.

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