‘Surely God is in This Place’ by R.C. Sproul

In this session R.C. Sproul began by outlining the historic differences between Luther and Calvin on the use of art in worship. Many of the Puritans, who took Calvin’s view to an extreme, choose to die on the hill of what kind of vestments they should wear. Although Sproul is more sympathetic to Luther’s views as opposed to the Puritans, his favorite book on worship remains Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs. In this work, Burroughs develops the “Regulative Principle” of worship (which Mark Dever has defined as using in worship only what is commanded or can be reasonably inferred from Scripture).
Sproul then argued that this must not be reduced only to the New Testament, but must also include the Old Testament. When we look to the Old Testament, however, we must be careful not to become Evangelical Judaizers (adopting all of the ceremonies, etc. of the OT).

While Evangelicals do not hold to a “dictation theory” of inspiration (contrary to the stereotype of the liberals), there is one place in Scripture where it comes the closest to dictation. That place is in the description of the construction and furnishings of the tabernacle. While Sproul acknowledged that Christ has fulfilled the tabernacle, he asked the question: “Are there principles for us today?”

Sproul believes the purpose for all the detail given by God in the construction of the Tabernacle, furnishings thereof and the vestments for the Levitical priests is, as found in Exodus 28:2 and 40, “for glory and beauty.”

Sproul argues that you cannot escape art. Every art has a form and ever form communicates something. Even those who claim to use no art are communicating something by that choice. The question, then, is not whether or not to use art, but whether it will be good art.

The Methodists used to be known for their refrain of “Fire, Fire, Fire.” The Baptists for “Water, Water, Water.” The Presbyterians for “Order, Order, Order.” Sproul sees the character of God summarized as three legs of a stool: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Presbyterians are known for emphasizing truth (sometimes at the expense of goodness and beauty). Baptist are known for emphasizing goodness (sometimes at the expense of truth and beauty). Episcopalians are known for emphasizing beauty (sometimes at the expense of truth and goodness). The problem is that in each of these, parts of the character of God are obscured. All that is beautiful points to God.

Dr. Sproul then pointed us to two texts in the Old Testament. First, Leviticus 10 which describes God striking the sons of Aaron (Nadab and Abihu) dead for offering strange fire at the tabernacle. God’s reason for killing these men, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified (regarded as holy), and before all the people I will be glorified.” Leviticus 10:3. And the Bible says that Aaron held his peace. He shut his mouth without any more complaints! We don’t determine how God is to be worshiped, He does!

Thomas Aquinas addressed the issue of the “seeker” in the Middle ages. He said none seeks for God. They seek the benefits that we know only God can give, but without God. In the “seeker-senstive” movement in America worship is being designed for unbelievers. Bill Hybels (founder of Willow Creek in Chicago) used to spend his summer vacations at Ligonier’s camp in PA. Hybels conducted a survey before starting his church in which he asked former church attenders why they no longer attend. The top two answers given were that (1) Church was boring, and (2) Church was irrelevant. R.C. told him that of all the encounters of God recorded in Scripture there are a variety of responses: some fell down, some laughed, some cried, others were reduced to silence. But no one was bored and no one found their encounter with the living God to be irrelevant!

R.C. believes in the concept of sacred space and sacred time. He appealed to Genesis 28 and its description of Jacob at Bethel. There Jacob received a dream of a ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending. After awaking Jacob declared, “‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’ 17 And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'” Genesis 28:16-17. R.C. then asked, “Do people talk this way about your church?” R.C. acknowledges the ubiquitousness of God (omnipresence). However, at special times God visits His people. And the place where God meets with his people is “holy ground.” The bulletin at St. Andrews Church contains the following quote:

We cross the threshold of the secular to the sacred,
From the common to the uncommon,
From the profane to the Holy.

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