Thursday, July 11, 2013


Of all the accusations leveled at reformed worship, the unimaginative vitriol heaped against the Doxology beggars belief.  The accusations run along the same line.  "The doxology is part of Popish semi-Pelagian deceit.  Without demonstrating how absurd this characterization may be toward the reformed tradition, I wish to confine my comments to the Doxology proper.

The accusation that the Doxology comes from Roman Catholicism conflicts with the facts.  The familiar text comes not from Romish sources, but from an Anglican from the heady days of the Westminster Assembly of the seventeenth century.  Its current form reads thusly:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
This comes to us from the final verse from the hymn by Thomas Ken, a seventeenth century Anglican, entitled "Awake, my soul, and with the sun."  It is sung to the tune "Old 100th," a tune written by a Calvinist musician for the Geneva psalter for Psalm 134, but more commonly named for its use with Psalm 100 in the hymn "All People that on Earth do Dwell."

This deeply protestant history of the Doxology makes it admirably appropriate to our worship.  Even non-reformed traditions use the Doxology in worship.  For my four years of study at Pensacola Christian College, every chapel service began with the bell ringing and the student body standing and singing the Doxology.  You wouldn't confuse that body with anything reformed, anglican, or presbyterian, yet there they were singing the anthem created by an anglican with the tune of a French Calvinist.

What makes this anthem so appropriate to worship?  The text expresses key elements necessary for us to remember in worship.  Firstly, it reminds us that we worship as a response.  We do not worship on our own initiative.  We worship because of the grace God has given to us.  We worship remembering that God saves us from the judgment of God against our sin.  We worship remembering every blessing we receive in life.  The goodness of life impels us to worship.  The blessings of life, family, work, and relationship all conspire to drive us to worship.

Secondly, it reminds us that worship has cosmic implications.  We worship as creation does continually.    Jesus warned the Pharisees that if the crowds around Jerusalem failed to celebrate His arrival, the rocks would take up the doxology. (Luke 19:40)  Creation also endures the trials of the effects of sin and the hope of ultimate release. (Romans 8:19-23)  As God's grace to us impels us to worship, everything God created sees our redemption as assurance of its own.

Thirdly, it reminds us that our worship bears a heavenly component.  We join in worship with that worship that goes on continually before the throne of God.  We not only join with the worship of angels, but of the church triumphant, believers now in the presence of God.  We never worship alone.  We worship with one another in our congregations and with a tradition of the church stretching back through the centuries from the present to the original disciples, to the patriarchs, even to the first humans.  We are an intergenerational church.  We have a history, a heritage.  As we worship, we are part of a perpetual, contemporaneous, communal work of our ancestors.

Finally, it reminds us of the God we worship.  We worship a distinctly Christian deity.  In a world of competing gods, we use not merely the name "god" as one of many, but the triune God who alone is God.  Only the Christian God is three in one.  This divine mystery baffles human understanding.  No one can explain how one is three and three one.  We separate these characterizations by saying that God is one in nature and three in person, but these ontological niceties still fail to comprehend totality of God's ontology (being). We confess and worship three realities about God.  We praise the Father who ordained creation and redemption and sent His Son as the redeemer.  We praise the Son who came and did the will of His Father, sacrificing Himself for the sins of His people.  We praise the Spirit who empowered the mission and ministry of the Son, who applies salvation to the hearts of God's people, and sanctifies them as God's special people.

I can think of no better or more appropriate element of worship than the doxology.  Let those who accuse it of popishness amend their error.  Let those of us who neglect its use return to its beauty.  Let those of us to err in the indolence of familiarity recapture the blessed reminder it brings to our worship.

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