The Gospel Hammer, the Idolatry Bludgeon, and Blogging Discussions

I attended the Band of Bloggers meeting in Chicago on Tuesday.  It was a lot of fun and instructive.  I had a chance to meet a few people and we had some interesting discussion on the dangers and blessings of blogging.  Before I make my point, let me share some of the things that were discussed.

  • The thrust of the meeting was “gospel-driven blogging” – what could be more noble?  But one of the discussion leaders (I didn’t take notes and can’t remember who said it) said that “gospel” is in danger of becoming another undefined buzzword, much as “missional” has been.  Actually, this is the point I will build on later.
  • There was a fascinating discussion of the fact that blogging is inherently self-aggrandizing is some sense.  I start blogging believing that I have something to say that the world should hear.  We’ve got to be very careful that we do not allow our blogging to become an exercise in egotism.
  • One of the ways to build readership is to blog on controversial issues and to write in a provocative way.  I track the traffic at this blog, and there is no doubt that controversy brings attention.  But, is it our goal to glorify God or to build traffic?  It is right and good to deal with controversial issues as they come up, but there is a place at which it stops glorifying God or enlightening God’s people and one becomes a scavenger, gnawing at the bones of an issue.
  • Another presenter mentioned the importance of humility in blogging.   Some bloggers act as if they are the arbiters of all truth and speak with the authority of the OT prophets:  “Thus saith the Lord.”  It is hard to discuss with these people, because they leave no room for discussion.  In a world of uncertainty, people are often drawn to such dogmatism, and those who agree love to have their prejudices bolstered.  But one thing I have come to see is that on most issues we discuss, there really are different ways that faithful Christians can see the issue.

Now, I would like to make two points about discussions that took place at the Band of Bloggers and some that have taken place here – especially related to Howell’s articles about patriotism in worship services.  I have said some of this in comments in that discussion.

The Gospel Hammer

I have seen a growing tendency to use the term “gospel” as a hammer with which to nail one’s theological opponents.  The presenters at the BoB meeting addressed this issue.  The gospel is about Jesus and his amazing grace.  It is right and good that we would try to live out the gospel in every area of our lives.

I am concerned though, that it is becoming something of a buzzword, especially among us Calvinists.  We use the term “gospel” as a synonym for Calvinist.  Being gospel-focused by implication is working out the effects of Reformed theology in our churches and in our lives.

I am calvinistic in my theology, but I do not believe a lot of the Reformed trappings of the sovereignty of God are as biblical as some think they are.  I’m not interested in having another discussion of the “doctrines of grace” (another term I have a problem with – if you aren’t Calvinist, you don’t believe in grace?).  My point is pretty simple.

The gospel is not a hammer for me to use to nail those who disagree with me.  The gospel is about Jesus and his wondrous grace.  I should be very careful to use it in my discussions on disputed issues.

In a discussion with a friend recently, he continually used phrases like “you are not understanding the implications of the gospel.”  Wow, that leads to healthy discussion.  By disagreeing with his point, I was evidencing a lack of understanding of the gospel.

Of course, there are equally intemperate examples among the anti-Calvinists in our convention.  One bloggers posts a relentless series of attacks against Calvinists that demonstrate neither an understanding of Calvinism nor any desire to engage in productive discussion.

I am calvinistic in my theology, but I don’t have a Calvinistic agenda in my church.  But I have non-Calvinistic and even anti-Calvinistic friends who love Jesus and the gospel.  I just think it is wrong to try to co-0pt the gospel on one side of the issue or the other.  If we are truly gospel-centered, would we not extend grace to those who disagree with us on issues like this.

Let’s discuss in a reasonable and biblical way the issues related to Calvinism.  But as long as Calvinists insinuate that those who are not Calvinist do not understand the gospel, and as long as certain bloggers keep on employing theological McCarthyism against Calvinists, we will not be able to have a productive discussion.

The Idolatry Bludgeon

I have been out of touch for several days, and have only checked in on SBC Voices from time to time.  I have the cutest and most wonderful grandson in the world and he takes priority over this gnarly lot of bloggers!  Sorry, but it is so!  But I have watched some of the discussion of Howell’s posts.  It has been pointed, but all in all productive.  I think the topic of patriotism is a discussion we American Christians need to have.

However, I’d like to weigh in on the use of the term idolatry to describe the mixing of patriotism with Christian worship.  I’m only going to weigh in on the discussion in the most general of ways here.  But I think that the term idolatry can be used a lot like the term gospel – as a bludgeon with which to beat one’s foes.

In my church in Cedar Rapids, we used to have a service near the Fourth of July in which we used some patriotic hymns as part of our worship.  I have been idolatrous in my life at times.  Sports has been an idol which the Holy Spirit has convicted me of many times.  I remember watching the Boston Red Sox win the series in 2004 (also known as the Year of Great Evil.)  It was an abomination, and I watched the fans rejoicing with such hatred in my heart, that suddenly I found myself under conviction.  “How can you hate people for whom Christ died (I’m not a five-pointer) just because they live in Boston.”  So, no, I am not immune from idolatry.  None of us is.

But I do not believe that what we did in our worship services was idolatry.

  • We thanked God for the blessings he has given us through our nation.
  • We “render unto Caesar” respect, but worship was given to God alone.
  • In my messages, I always make it clear that America holds no special place in God’s heart, that he does not love Americans more than anyone else.  I make it clear that our first loyalty is to God.

You can disagree with how we did it, and by all means, you are free to decide as a church how you will handle these things.  I just think that bludgeoning those of us who do this with the term idolatry is unfair.  Why can people not disagree with a practice without using terms like this?

The Point

So, let me lay it out for you.  I think that we need to realize an important fact.  On most of the issues we discuss, people who love Jesus, honor the Word and center their lives on the gospel can disagree.

Why not say, “I disagree with you…”?  Why do I have to say, “You do not understand the gospel”?  Why do we have to accuse people who disagree of idolatry when it is simply a different approach to honoring God?

Calvinists and non-Calvinists both love Jesus and the gospel.  Let’s not use terminology that implies that one side is not gospel-centered.

I don’t know of ANYONE who worships America.  I know some who do not distinguish the goals of the nation and the goals of the Kingdom of God.  They are unwise and need to be instructed.  But idolaters?  Really?

We need to leave these tactics behind except in the most extreme and warranted instances.  I didn’t even mention the “liberal” brass knuckles, the “moderate” horsewhip, or the “heretic” handgun.  There is a place for each of these.  There are liberals and heretics and gospel-deniers and everything all around.  But most of the time these words are used, I am convinced that they are completely unwarranted.

So, in my very best Rodney King voice, I will ask a simple question:  “Why can’t we all just get along?”



  1. Dave Miller says

    I’m not sure why this didn’t publish when it was scheduled. Probably was idolatrous liberals who do not understand the implications of the gospel.

  2. says

    Dave, I don’t use the term “idolatry” loosely. I think it’s the first time I used the term on this blog? But, I can’t say for sure. We’re giving honor that should belong to God alone, to our nation, people, etc. I don’t think anyone is arguing against thanking God for our country, soldiers, etc. I’m coming against giving honor that belongs to God alone during corporate worship to our nation, soldiers, etc. If this is indeed what some are doing, is this not a form of idolatry?

    • says

      Since I do not accept your assumption that those who give thanks to God for the blessings of this land are “giving honor that should belong to God alone” I do not accept your premise that such is idolatry.

      • says

        Dave, let me be clear. I’m not against thanking God… I’m against thanking and honoring people and country during a time set aside for God: corporate worship. We publicly thank God for our country, health, soldiers, leaders, freedom, etc. all the time. We however do not honor men, women, or country during worship.

          • says

            Dave, sure… so long as they’re not mingling the praise of God with the praise of man.

            Dave, what you’re suggesting doesn’t sound like idolatry; however, check out Howell’s worship service. There’s no distinction at many points in his worship service between God, soldiers, and country.

          • says

            Dave, that’s not what I’m saying at all. There is a line that I believe Scripture draws. All I can do is submit to Scripture. You evidently disagree with me; but, you have a line as well. And yes, if someone disagrees with your line, won’t you tell them they’re committing idolatry… assuming they cross your “idolatry line”?

  3. says

    Dave, do you think it is possible for a Patriotic worship service to be idolatrous? If so, what would one look like from your perspective?

    • says

      There was an interesting discussion at the band of bloggers about the need for humility, for understanding that many things can be seen from different perspectives and approached in different ways.

      I just wish we would discuss issues without the use of bludgeons.

      • says

        Of course there are truths that are fixed and need to be held uncompromisingly – gospel truths, the nature of God.

        But not every issue is a gospel issue. Not every disagreement is an idolatrous act.

      • says

        Dave, I don’t think I’m “bludgeoning” anyone.

        What do you call when someone gives honor due to God alone to someone or something else?

          • Dave Miller says

            Obviously, Jared, you will not accept the proposition that someone could see this differently than you do.

            I think you should accept the proposition that that which bothers you does not necessarily offend God.

          • says

            Dave, I don’t understand how we can call our services worship services while other people and things are honored along with God. I’ve yet to hear a argument in favor it… other than “church autonomy.” Which, isn’t an argument.

            Dave, what are you accusing me of? Arrogance, being unkind, intollerant, judgmental?

          • Dave Miller says

            Jared, I wonder how often you make an effort to see things from the other person’s perspective.

          • Dave Miller says

            Jared, arguments have been made on the other side. Evidently you did not notice them.

          • says

            Dave, I tried to see Howell’s perspective; but, he just said they do things this way because of the pragmatic reasons around his church, and various personal reasons. I think this conversation goes beyond pragmatism and personal reasons to Scriptural reasons.

            Your critique is heeded concerning my lack of trying to understand the “other side.”

            To be fair, have you tried to understand me? You realize that you’re accusing me of being judgmental by judging me as too harsh or as delivering the idolatry hammer. Anything I’m doing to others, you’re doing to me. Can you not see that you’ve drawn a line that I’ve evidently crossed… and I disagree with your line, but you refuse to consider that I may be right. So, instead of considering my view, you’re dropping the “un-gracious” hammer on me.

            I’m done for the night ladies and gents.

          • Dave Miller says

            Jared, simply, you are not my Holy Spirit, nor am I yours. I am content to let people study God’s Word and be led of the Spirit.

            On issues of fundamental import, we should stand without compromise.

            On other issues, we should advocate our positions while maintaining the humility that says that someone can disagree with me without necessarily offending God.

          • says

            Dave, I believe this is a “fundamental” issue. We’re talking about an essential aspect of Christianity: the weekly worship of the gathered local church. God doesn’t just accept all forms of worship that are carried out in His name.

            I agree as well that we should be able to have humility. I assume that you believe I’m not being humble… but, how does someone who is humble tell someone else that he’s not humble?

            Just because an issue is more important to me, or I believe it’s more fundamental to Christianity than you do, does not mean that I’m lacking humility. I listened to Howell; and I even watched his worship service, which was over an hour long. I didn’t see the distinction to separate honoring God from honoring men. Instead, I saw the line blurred. I believe this encourages a form of idolatry.

            I think you’re quick to pull the “ungracious” card when someone disagrees with you. When in reality, you’re being just as ungracious by pulling the ungracious card. You’re not letting me “disagree with you without offending God.” For, if I’m lacking humility or am being ungracious toward my brothers, then I’m offending God.

            Have you tried to humbly understand my position before accusing me of being ungracious? I don’t think you have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

            I do agree that we need to be careful with our language; and that we need to love one another, and be gracious to one another. What you don’t understand is my love for Christ’s church. I believe in protecting her more than I do her leaders. Her leaders are held to a higher standard. I am not concerned with being right, or with winning an argument. I’m concerned with the holiness of Christ’s church. I love Christ’s church, therefore, I want her to be biblically faithful in revealing God’s glory to a lost and dying world.

            I still believe it’s a form of idolatry; what I don’t understand is how you see a difference between me calling certain types of patriotic worship services “idolatry” and you inferring that I’m ungracious. How is what you’re doing “ok,” but what I’m doing is “a lack of humility”?

          • says

            ” he just said they do things this way because of the pragmatic reasons around his church, and various personal reasons.”


            I do not believe that I said any such thing, but maybe interpreted that from something I wrote. I could quote you chapter and verse (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17; John 4:21-24), but we will obviously interpret these verses differently when it comes to what is and is not idolatrous in worship. I’m in no way comparing myself to Dr. Adrian Rogers or am I saying that he was perfect, but if you want to call what occured in our July 4th worship service idolatrous, you need to call what he did in his services that as well. If that is a hill on which you want to die, then be my guest.

          • says

            Howell, I love Dr. Rogers. I disagree with him on this issue though.

            Based on the verses you quote, are you saying that anything commanded in Scripture should be done in corporate worship? or, can be done in corporate worship?

          • Dave Miller says

            A fundamental issue? Really?

            Fundamental means essential to biblical christianity. So, are you saying that those who practice patriotism in worship are not true christians? Are denying fundamental doctrine?

            Well, I guess I am glad that I do not have to stand before you to give account.

          • says

            Dave, yes, I believe worship is a fundamental doctrine. What if the church gathers, Christ isn’t mentioned, the gospel isn’t mentioned, the bible isn’t opened, prayers aren’t prayed, and some form of moralism or self-help is preached?

            I’m not saying that Christians must worship perfectly in order for God the accept it; however, there is correct worship and incorrect worship.

            If worship isn’t fundamental to Christianity, then do you believe anything is fair game in worship? Or, are there elements that are fundamental in order to have a Christian worship service?

            BTW: I think you’re being ungracious at this point.

          • says

            Dave, my point is that Christians worship. It’s what we do. If we don’t worship God through Christ, we’re not Christians. John even argues that if we refuse to worship Christ with the church we’re not Christians.

            From the church’s formation in Acts, we worshipped corporately, and by the end of Acts, we worshipped on the Lord’s Day corporately. Worship is essential/fundamental to Christianity.

            And… I’m not asking you to play any games; just explain why you believe worship isn’t essential to Christianity. You have some sort of line in your head that you’re not sharing. Where do you draw the line in worship?

          • Dave Miller says

            Can anyone else see anything I said that indicated that I believe that “worship isn’t essential?”

          • says


            Of course you didn’t indicate that you believed that “worship isn’t essential” anymore than I said pragmatism led me to include patriotic elements in a July 4th worship service. Little did I know that my posts would cause quite the discussion. And, yes, it is hard to have a conversation under certain parameters. I do think that this entire dialogue — in both my posts and in this post — have been instructive and eye-opening.

            I have stated before that I appreciate Jared’s candor and clarity on this issue, even though I disagree with his conclusions. If we were at a joint worship service where the pledge of allegiance was said or the National Anthem played, I would not expect him to stand and recite or sing. And, in his church, he can do whatever the Lord leads him to do.

            But, when pastors are called idolators for choosing to honor (i.e., “highly esteem” per The MacArthur Study Bible) folks during a corporate worship service in their own church (not Jared’s church), then I think we have a mighty big problem. I have no doubt that Jared’s opinions are shared by many of the more Reformed brethren in the SBC, but not too many of them have the courage to be as straightforward as Jared. I’m afraid, though, that if Jared’s position is actively embraced by more folks, then we shall see one of the SBC’s major faultlines split wide open. And, to leave you with your Seinfeld quote for the night, “That won’t be good for anybody.”

          • Dave Miller says

            The building block of productive discussion is the honest attempt to understand and accurately represent the viewpoint of the person with whom you disagree.

            When that is absent, productive discussion becomes difficult at best.

  4. says

    I have a tangential question that dovetails from the other discussion and I figure this is a better place to ask it. I would be very interested on your take on this if you view patriotism in a church service as idolatrous. Do you think it is idolatrous for a church to have a Christmas tree in the sanctuary during the Christmas season? Why or why not?

    • says

      Jeff, are we talking about a tree being in the worship service? If it’s not a distraction, I don’t care if it’s in the service. It’s just a tree? Now, if we’re going to “honor” the tree, then yeah, I have a problem with it being in the service.

      • says

        Is it “honoring” the tree to give it a prominent place on the platform for several weeks? How do you make that judgment call? What if some in the congregation are really attached to having a tree and some are not?

        • says

          Jeff, I would have a problem with it taking the place of the Lord’s table, or it being placed at the pulpit like it’s preaching. But, not a huge problem; because this is just symbolism… although it was very important in church history. Most of our members don’t know about this symbolism today though.

          • says

            There are some Christians who argue that the Christmas tree has pagan origins and therefore represents idolatry of a much more heinous sort than the patriotic stuff we have been discussing in the other threads. What would you say to those people?

          • says

            Jeff, i would say “find me someone in this community that believes its an idol.” Otherwise, we’re free in Christ to have a Christmas tree in a worship service. It belonged to our God before it belonged to theirs’. He created it, not some false god.

          • says

            But, not a huge problem; because this is just symbolism… although it was very important in church history. Most of our members don’t know about this symbolism today though.

            I could be wrong about this, but I think many of those who see allowing patriotic observance in the midst of a worship service as acceptable, would say much the same thing about that as you just have about the Christmas tree.

            Of course, I am open to correction on this point. Personally, I am not a big fan of having a Christmas tree in the sanctuary at all, but I have ruffled feathers on that point before with some impertinent words. For the record, I can take or leave having the flag on the platform as well. Not because I am not patriotic. I tried to find my way into the military and if they didn’t care about my blind eye I would have.

            Considering the past history of America, it represents a powerful symbol to many of the freedom we have been given by God and the blessings He has bestowed on us who are privileged enough to call it home. The freedom that our Founders gave for religious expression is something we can all be thankful for and I am willing to concede that it can be done without it becoming an idolatrous focus even in a worship service setting.

          • says

            i would say “find me someone in this community that believes its an idol.”

            Can we do the same thing with the flag and the patriotic service? How many in such a service would say they are “idolizing” America?

          • says

            I’m back I guess.

            Jeff, you’re comparing apples to oranges. We’re not honoring a tree in corporate worship. We’re honoring countries and people in corporate worship. I’m against honoring anyone or anything (trees or countries) other than God in corporate worship. I don’t have a huge problem with a flag being there; but, it doesn’t “have” to be there either. Both the American flag and the Christian flag are in my church’s sanctuary right now.

            My big question is this: “If we’re not idolizing America, soldiers, or veterans in our patriotic worship services, then why are they honored in our worship services?” Why include this in worship? I just don’t understand the reasoning. Why not separate it from worship, since we say we’re not worshiping our nation or soldiers?

          • says

            We’re NOT honoring a tree in corporate worship.

            I find it interesting that you think this is apples and oranges. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is referred to as a Christmas tree. Thus it is being identified with Christ by carrying His title as “anointed one” in that sense. You find it very easy to distinguish between giving a tree a place of prominence in a sanctuary and worshiping a tree and yet find it hard (I don’t want to say impossible) to see how others can distinguish having soldiers recognized(given a moment of prominence) in a service without that being considered worship by those participating.

            Are you really unable to see any similarity between the two? I know people (I have been one of them but I got a little older and wiser) who would point to the tree in the sanctuary as potentially idolatrous. How would you feel about someone telling you that having a tree in your sanctuary is idolatrous? What if they think that you are worshiping the tree even though you know you are not? Would it be possible to convince them otherwise?

          • says


            First, I wouldn’t allow a tree to have a position of prominence in the sanctuary. It wouldn’t be emphasized. I wouldn’t thank the tree during worship; or honor it. It being in the sanctuary doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a tree. I don’t care what they call it, unless someone in the community worships it.

            Second, I don’t really care what anyone thinks unless they have a biblical reason. Paul says that false gods are nothing; so, just because a false god claims something belongs to him does not make it so. All trees belong to our God alone.

            Third, It wouldn’t bother me if someone outside of my church thought that we were worshiping the tree. It’s never mentioned, pointed to, honored, etc. Now, if one of my members showed concern, then we can get rid of the thing due to their weak conscience. Out of love for them, we can submit to their consciences for a few hours a week.

            Fourth, I don’t see the similarity between the two because we’re not just setting soldiers or flags in the sanctuary, we’re singing songs to them and about them, and saying pledges of allegiance to them. I think you’re comparing apples to oranges.

          • says

            The only sense in which it is indeed apples and oranges is that we are talking about the difference between a tree and people. Scripture not only gives us permission, it also requires us to give honor to people. Since they are made in God’s image, it is more appropriate that we give honor in a proper way to others in all sorts of areas. This isn’t worship or idolatry.

            For instance, in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” There is a difference between worship and honor. It seems that you are unable to make that distinction in this area. I find that unfortunate. These service men and women have done something that many of us have not, they have fulfilled the command regarding greater love and laying down their own lives for someone else. Giving them a moment of honor is honoring God. It can be worship to God to do these things.

            I say this as one who isn’t generally in favor of doing a patriotic service myself. But I believe I can see where my brothers on the other side of this are coming from as well. It is certainly possible to overdo such a thing and cross the line, but that is true in most anything we do.

          • says


            In a “worship service,” I find it hard to separate honoring men from honoring God, yes. This is why I’m pleading with those that practice these “patriotic worship services” to clearly distinguish between honoring men and honoring God. But, they evidently don’t agree with me.

            Jeff, how can we worship God through honoring men in corporate worship? You say that this can be done in a worshipful way?

    • says


      Now I’m curious. Do you think that whether or not Patriotism in worship service is or can be idolatrous is contingent upon whether or not a Christmas tree in the sanctuary is or can be idolatrous?

      • says

        I wouldn’t say contingent, but I would sure hope to see some consistency for this. Can you see where there might be similarities in the two issues? In my discussion with Jared above I certainly can find some interesting parallels.

    • says

      I had a former youth pastor whose family did not have a Christmas tree because of a passage in Isaiah describing someone taking a tree home to worship and covering it in gold and silver. Ironically, they had a large (wooden) cross instead that they put their presents under.

      • says

        I think they were probably after the passage in Jeremiah (Jer. 10:1-4 specifically) about the Asherah poles as I have heard that before. It is a disturbing verse and can be easily taken as similar to a Christmas tree, although I would say that is a bad interpretation of it. That said, there is nothing in Scripture that explains why we would need a tree either; it is certainly an extra-Biblical practice and not worth much fuss in my view.

        • says

          thanks for finding that for me; the passage clearly speaks of fashioning the tree for making an idol out of it, not to putting tinsel on a Christmas tree for decoration. Christmas trees are not necessary (what tradition is?), but it is somewhat contradictory to tell everyone the Bible says you can’t have a Christmas tree, but to have a large, carved wooden cross instead (which may or may not have had one of those sparkling robe adornments on it either).

  5. says

    I am talking about a tree on the platform for several weeks, decorated and lit, or even just a “tree-trimming” service because I have seen those too.

      • says

        That would be a service where the church gathers together and sings Christmas songs and decorates the tree in the church. The ones I have seen were usually done on a Sunday night, like say the first Sunday night of December. It might be a more northern thing, I never heard of it when I lived in Arkansas.

        • Dave Miller says

          We call that the “Hanging of the Greens.” I’ve never been exactly sure what the Greens did to deserve that.

        • John Fariss says

          We did it in North Carolina, in Virginia, and now in Maryland. It is the highlight of our beginning the Advent season. We call it “Hanging of the Greens.” Sounds Irish, but I don’t know. It is all about the symbols of Christ, from the evergreens to the Chrismon ornaments to the poinsettias to the Advent wreath.

          John Fariss

  6. says

    Sounds like you had a good and thoughtful time thinking through some of these things. Many of those reasons and temptations are what pulled me out of blogging.

    I do remember once looking up the origin of the term “doctrines of grace” as I was troubled in the way I felt it was Scroogely used by some. The first use I could find was in a preface to one of Luther’s works where it described “doctrines of grace” in contrast to the Medieval Catholic merit system. So sounds like it should be fair game for all who believe in justification by faith through grace.

    • Dave Miller says

      Thank you, Josh, for understanding the point of this. As a Calvinist, I find that term “Doctrines of Grace” to be unnecessarily pejorative and arrogant – like the current misuse of the term “gospel” to describe Calvinist belief.

      • says

        I always think it’s fun to show up and comment on the substance of the post itself, just to change things up for everyone.

  7. says

    Jeff, how can we worship God through honoring men in corporate worship? You say that this can be done in a worshipful way?

    I am dropping this down for a new thread just for convenience sake. If God commands us to show honor to other people, then why wouldn’t it be OK to do so in His presence. Ephesians 5 mentions this as well,

    19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
    – Ephesians 5:19-20

    Submission implies honoring someone and we are talking about singing here. This is worship right? How about 1 Corinthians 12:26? Is that excluded from being a part of worship? Where would such honoring occur otherwise for all to rejoice together?

    • says

      Jeff, this takes place outside of worship in everyday life.

      Concerning submission implying honoring someone, I don’t disagree… but it seems to go along with the rest of the passage instead of corporate worship: wives (Eph. 5:22-24), children (Eph. 6:1-3), servants (Eph. 6:5-8). Also, if he is discussing worship, then wouldn’t submission emphasize submitting to your leaders in worship services?

      • says

        Well, I am not a Greek scholar but it is given as one long sentence and the submitting clause is connected with the singing and so forth, and apart from Rogers and Hammerstein and others like them I don’t see many people singing to folks in their everyday life. For that reason, I get the impression that Paul is talking about a corporate setting. I certainly think he is speaking corporately in 1 Cor. 12 and that mentions honor as well.

        I am open to someone showing that the clause from Ephesians 5:21 belongs with the next sentence if such is the case. Otherwise, I think it can be appropriately tied with the rest of the sentence before it. If we need to go around singing more all day, I will gargle every morning and get ready.

        The hills are alive with the sound of music. :)

        • says

          Jeff, I’m not Greek scholar either; but, assuming you’re correct, what does submission to one another in a corporate worship service look like fleshed out?

          • says

            I won’t pretend to give a comprehensive list, but Paul indicates what that attitude should look like in Philippians 2. How does that look in a corporate worship service? I imagine we could do it by taking time to encourage one another, love one another, pray for one another and so on. 1 Corinthians 14 gives some hints of how to submit to one another in corporate worship: giving way for another to speak, listening to the one who is speaking. I won’t pretend to have a comprehensive list, but I can certainly see where giving acknowledgment to those who have sacrificed of themselves for others in the congregation would be appropriate as well.

          • says

            hmmm. I disagree with “giving acknowledgement to those who have sacrificed of themselves for others.” I agree with the rest. I don’t know that giving honor to anyone is acceptable in worship. This is the debate.

          • says

            What is Paul talking about in 1 Corinthians 12:26 when he mentions one person being honored and all rejoicing in your opinion? This comes in a discussion about the church as a whole. The word translated honored in that verse is usually translated as glory elsewhere.

      • Christiane says

        “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.
        If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
        you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
        For I have given you an example,
        that you should do as I have done to you. ”

        from John 13

      • WJ says

        “Then wouldn’t submission emphasize submitting to your leaders in worship services?”

        There you have it.

        No Patriotism, No Trees by the way NO CROSSES, No Lord’s Table, no nothing that “might” distract from the worship of the LORD. All you are left with is the Preacher standing (or sitting now days) in front of the congregation “Preaching the Word”. But wait, we had better get rid of him also as many times it is the minister who gets in the way of worshiping God and is held in “High Esteem”. I think we should get rid of them also if they might get in the way of someone worshiping God!!! After all, earlier someone took out the “eating of meat offered to idols” passage. If there is ANY possibility someone in the congregation might give Honor to the message bearer, you should be removed, less you offend someone.

  8. says

    What if the church gathers, Christ isn’t mentioned, the gospel isn’t mentioned, the bible isn’t opened, prayers aren’t prayed, and some form of moralism or self-help is preached?

    Would you please indicate what part of these discussions has led you to conclude that anyone here is advocating such a thing? If you don’t feel that this is the case in these discussions then where did this statement come from? The discussion about patriotic worship is about adding something to a worship service that you feel in inappropriate, but that is not at all similar to the (for lack of a better word) strawman that you have erected with this statement.

    I appreciate your zeal for seeing worship that is proper and honors God. I just don’t see anyone suggesting abandoning worship here. I see brothers trying to have an honest discussion about whether it is permissible to show honor and appreciation for fellow humans who have served and sacrificed for them. I do not understand how that is getting misconstrued as worship of others.

  9. Tom Bryant says

    The 1st point about using the “Gospel” as a bludgeon is true about other words. In the last few years we have also used the phrase “Great Commission” to bludgeon people into supporting the GCR. On my side of the aisle, we use the word “Baptist” to bludgeon people.

    I think the point is that we can believe the Gospel whether we are Calvinists or not. We can believe in the Great Commission even if we think the GCR is the wrong solution to a problem. And we can be Baptists even if we have differing opinions about Calvinism and the GCR.

    Maybe we ought to start talking to each other on a phone or skype rather than write on – perish the thought – the blogs.

  10. Christiane says

    “The gospel is about Jesus and His amazing grace.
    It is right and good that we would try to live out the gospel in every area of our lives.”

    Amen, David.

    • says

      And that amazing grace is found only in Christ and in order to receive that grace, a person must consciously trust Christ and repent of their sins. What that means is that people of other faiths who worship something they call God but use a different name for (i.e. Vishnu, Allah) will not be shown grace if they don’t reject their false god and consciously come to God through Christ.

      No person will go to heaven and, upon getting there, will say “Huh, this whole time I was praying to Allah but I was actually saved through Christ? Seriously?? Never saw that one coming.” Rather, because they did not consciously trust Christ, they will spend eternity in Hell and will not be shown even a millisecond of pity or grace but will experience the full effect of God’s wrath consciously for eternity.

      Anyone who rejects that truth is not a Christian and has rejected the gospel that you just Amen’ed.

  11. says

    Dave Miller,

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this post and appreciate your rhetoric about other (non-Calvinist) camps believing in grace, too. I really believe you are a rational voice of reason. It encourages me that you strive to see “other” sides and alternative perspectives, even when you disagree. I admire the fact that you can agreeably disagree with others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, because I really enjoy reading what the Lord lays on your heart.

    Love in Christ,

    Ed Goodman

  12. says

    Thank you so much for the awesome blog post. Although I am not part of the SBC, I have been touched by it’s ministry and particularly by Pastor Tim Sheilds of the First Baptist Church in Carlin NV. He showed a former pentecostal pastor grace during a time of great pain in my life. It was because of the same grace to disagree that started me back on the path to ministry but with a lot less Arminian leanings. I so totally agree with what you said about the focus is on loving Jesus, not on our particular theological bent.

    Blessings to you all!

  13. says


    This is a well written post and a great discussion. As a fellow Calvinist I also want to echo your sentiment regarding non-Calvinist=non-gracers…no place in our lives!!!

    I also wonder what Mother’s Day & Father’s Day look like in Jared’s church. Seems like it’d be wrong to honor father or mother in a worsh…oh, rats! That honor father and mother thing…seems I remember it as some sort of commandment or something. Might that then be permissible during a gathering of the local body for worship?


    • says

      Scott, you started out so well, but then you sarcastically wrote about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

      That honor father and mother thing…seems I remember it as some sort of commandment or something.

      If this is the standard from which to answer the question of what is okay to honor in the Christian’s life and in worship, then where is the “commandment or something” in reference to one honoring their country in the same manner in which one should honor their mother and father?

      Do you think that the way Patriotism is displayed in a worship service offers a direct parallel to who fathers and mothers are honored?

    • says


      I know. I was answering Scott on his own grounds. My key question is this one (with typo fixed and clarity added)-> Do you think that the way Patriotism is displayed in a worship service offers a direct parallel to the way fathers and mothers are honored in a worship service?