Monday, July 28, 2008

Transformationally Informal: Submission and Reverence Not Required

I like turning nouns into adverbs even if there is no such word adverbially speaking. It can often create its own genre of debate, discussionally trying to define what is meant by the speciously new terminology. A new species can become terminal, only if it generates its own life. Like missionally, a word that never before existed until it began to be used. Creative adverbing might be the only proof of evolution, actually. In the case of transformationally, it is an adverb, actually. Culturally, relationally, informally expressing ourselves is not always legitimate. Then again, without some liberty to transform what exists, legitimately, life and language would be communally, impossible.We have, today, an interesting phenomena known as the emergent church. I would not be surprised to find out that emergent was adapted from evolutionally specific auditory utterances, terminologically. Like audial, no one ever observed the use of the noun form. Well then, see, obviously audios have evolved decendantly (ascendantly?) from some unidentified parental line. Where in the case of missionally we can observe its lineage parentally. Phenomenally, emergent churches have descended from the parent churches who were in the ages past, formally organzied according to the prevailing culture. Call it a mutation or a anti-gen(erational) corrective if you will, what the emergent represents is the rejection, not of formality per se, but the exclusivity of it. But informality breeds its own problems. One of those is the lack of definition.Transformationally informal churches go along with such deconstruction and reconstruction permeating, culturally, society, subversively reassigning meanings not germane to the subject. Inch by inch, step by step, slowly we have turned in to a grunge culture. Which I have to admit, being a product of the sixties, that I had a part in said transformation. As is the case with most things subject to the laws of nature, I eventually regressed toward the mean. I no longer grungeally approach society, nor do I maintain a flip attitude toward such formal entities as the organized church that I once, pre-emergentally, loathed and distrusted. Grunge, I have had to recognize, is not just a look, or slovenliness, it is a more generally, diffusely, distributed attitude, impacting demeanor, propriety, correct handling, and sober-mindedness.

Continuing from Mr.(note formal address) Machine Gun's post I offer this program from White Horse Inn. You see I agree to great extent to what Rhett was saying about the necessity of reverence and the otherness of the church, at least in corporate worship as a formal gathering to honor and learn of the Lord. And, I didn't mean to sidetrack the discussion. The Hortonites speak to the same issues. Reverence carries certain weight of authority over against the apparent irreverence of informality. There are some things by which we should be identified by the world and by which, we should identify ourselves with one another. Which is why I wear only clean t-shirts without holes, a fresh pair of pants and my best tennis-shoes ;)

To some this will still not make the grade and with others it will be all formally and stuff, by all means something to be avoided. Both those extremes are, however, one, in a self-richly sorta way.

Wisdom does teach us at least this:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
There are some requirements. Spiritually speaking, what is the key to reverence, is it not this last phrase?
walk humbly with your God.
James tells us, also, what can happen when reverence becomes showiness, then formalism and formalism a sacramental expression of spirituality. Let us then keep the focus upon what he then says: the poorly dressed may well be the more highly praised in God's estimation. On the other hand, we should be clothed in humility, no matter what state we find ourselves in, showing the proper deference to the King who has invited us into his banquet.


Ferris E. Plankeye said...

Though I am not sure I agree with your conclusion here, this post had some witly moments.

I'm not saying everyone needs to dress like me. But they should dress for church in a manner that conveys at least a smidge of respect. Dress is a cultural issue.

I get that, but the fact that it's cultural doesn't automatically give us warrant to dismiss it as useless. I fear we Reformed can turn into iconoclasts pretty easily: whatever the culture does, we have to rebel, even if there's nothing sinful about that thing the culture does...we just have to show them our sanctification by doing something different.

I'm suggesting that every culture has features that it trots out when it desires to show respect and reverence. And, in the current West, dressing up is part of how that is done. I don't see the sense in despising that just because we can peg it as cultural, which it surely is.

I wonder if the reason we do despise it is because of another cultural concern: we're so into showing our genuineness by despising everything that might possibly sniff of "putting on airs." If it's not how I dress on a normal day, than it can be nothing other than posturing and hypocrisy, that sort of thing.

I do respect your right to choose a more low-brow culture. Where your T-shirt in all godliness and clear conscience, please.

But we ought to keep in mind that the root of "culture" is "cult" or "cultus," having to do with religious expression. Faith and culture are related and it is vain to try and divorce them. By observing a culture, you can tell what is really worshipped among the people. So, yes, dress codes are cultural...and that means something.

Strong Tower said...

I thought I said that. I didn't go as far as you, but you are right.

My reasons for wearing what I do has really to do with nothing in particular. I am who I am. I have at times felt the eyes and even the derogatory comment. I remain who I am evenso at peace with God in what he has made me to be.

I had a rule about suits, they are for marrying and burying. Don't necessarily hold to that anymore and there is in me now a sense of this thing for credibility. Yet, I know that it is not the collar, nor the tie, or any other vestment, but truth. Still, the judgement of others is not mine and if my clothing causes them to stumble, yes, even to reject what truth I might bring, then my clothing must change. I have been in several different congregations and in each there was always a mixture of people, dress and culture. I fell somewhere in the middle of them all. What remains is that it is not the outward appearance but the heart of the inward man that matters.

I agree with the cultural inport of dress. I think that it was cultural and not Spiritual reasons that influenced the Sunday dress tradition. Something not bad in itself. I have concluded that we should have reverence, always. How that is expressed is another matter. As you said, what society does is often to dress to occasion out of a sign of respect or decency or ingroup/outgroup pressure, or whatever, but for the wrong reasons. We should be different, somehow, which is why I mentioned James. It is not the outward show that sets us apart. There is something deeper. You see to me it does not matter if it is the local Anglicans, or Presbys, Pentecostals, Baptists or emergents, if what they dress in, or what they do, or how they speak is what identifies them. To do so is to identify with the outward. What really sets us apart is our love for one another because we identify with what is within. That is only the second comandment, though. Our first love is for the Lord. If in our heart we stand condemned by the opinions of men, or approved by them, then we are yet to learn that we have but one judge. If we would judge ourselves by that standard, we would not fall into judgement.

When I come before the Lord in assembly, it is not as the observer of others. I understand who my judge is and it is to him that I present myself. I therefore seek to know him and by that more clearly know myself, for that is the essence of humility, to know him even as we also are known

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

What I want to know is how did Jesus' parents dress when they went to synagog. Did they have special garments that they put on for the assembly or did they wear the same old Sunday to Friday tunic and robe. Can we rightly asume a regulative principle of "church clothes" from the scripture?

By the way, Strong Tower
your article was facinatingly facetious and pithy.

Ferris E. Plankeye said...

No, I'm betting that Mary and Joseph didn't dress up for synagogue. Neither did anyone else, probably.

That's because it wasn't culturally normative for anyone at that time to do such a thing. I'm betting they found other ways to express special reverance for the Word of God that might look strange to us, though.

I just think that if you had a week's notice that your favorite famous person in all the world was going to stop at your house, you might tidy up a bit and consider wearing something other than your normal grungies to answer the door in.

No, it's not an RPW thing. It is much more secondary than that, or even tertiary. I wouldn't make it a matter of law or anything, or bind anyone's conscience. I'm just saying that spiffing up a bit in our dress is a culturally valid way of showing respect; and we seem to have landed at a place where we're not allowed to do anything "special" or more-than-normal in our attempts to show that we think we really are doing something special. It's like dressing up for church is invalid precisely because it's not something we do every day, and I confess that logic escapes me.

Machine Gun Kelley said...


The White Horse Inn episode you linked to was just what I've been thinking about lately. Thanks!


Strong Tower said...

Thanks bob. I accomplished then something I intended. Quite a constitutionally rare event for me.

When I was posting I kept thinking about the early Christians who met on the first day of the week which is the last day now, but would have been a work day. Would that mean that they showed up in work clothes ready for the day? Good question.

ferris said- "I'm just saying that spiffing up a bit in our dress is a culturally valid way of showing respect; and we seem to have landed at a place where we're not allowed to do anything "special" or more-than-normal in our attempts to show that we think we really are doing something special." My thought exactly. I was a worship leader and the "worship pastor"(whatever that is) was really negative on solos or anything that was extra-ordinary, though he was forced to adopt a mondern format of worship. The bottom line was that it was not appropriate to him to draw attention to ones self. Even David's example didn't make a dent. Proper show of respect, I don't believe, rules out self-expression of praise if indeed the focus is on the Lord. It would therefore follow that each one should be convinced in his own mind and not violate his own conscience. Neither should we violate another. The trade off is that we need liberty but at the same time sensitivity to the brother who might take our liberty as offense. The way to do that is not to be flippant and careless. Instead we should speak the truth in love and spur one another on to good works. That includes the necessity of not pushing ahead of one another when we come to the table. Out of true concern we should esteem others better than ourselves. To that, fellowship is not isolationism. It requires that we invest in knowing one another. If we would pursue that we might be less likely to be offended or give offense. I agree, there is no reason not to set a day for special honor and if that means dressing out of respect as a cultural norm, let us grant the freedom to others that we expect for ourselves.

Dress, I do not think, would have anything in particular to do with the regulative principle. It is a matter of indifference.

Hey Rhett, could we get the full window for responses?