10 Common but Bad Arguments for “Contemporary Worship”
and 10 Quick Rebuttals
1. “You Traditionalists aren't interested in outreach”
A: This is simply not true. We simply disagree on how it should be done. Worship should not be “targeted” to the unbeliever or “seeker”.
2. “You Traditionalists are afraid....”
A: If by fear you mean concern, yes. But too often the “fear” argument is used to diminish valid concerns without having to address them honestly.
3. “It's just your preference”
A: No, in fact, my preference for music is quite different than what I believe is appropriate for worship. You should be glad that my preferences aren't the standard!
4. “It's style, not substance”
A: There is much about style that affects and effects substance. I know a sad or happy or angry song when I hear it. “The medium is the message”
5. “Contemporary is more user-friendly”
A: There's an argument to be made here, but not without some holes. For one, user-friendliness is not without a cost. Also, user-friendly to one may not be to another. Finally, why not educate people about worship “bring them up?” instead of “bringing it down” to them?
6. Claiming Martin Luther's Mantle
A: Because Luther made changes, contemporary worship proponents must be like Luther? This ignores the reasons for and the substance of the changes Luther made.
7. “Traditional hymns are old”
A: Easily dis-proven by the existence of very new hymns in traditional settings. Conversely, many so-called “contemporary” songs are decades old.
8. “God is my buddy – so I can be casual”
A: While Scripture does teach us God is our friend, it also teaches us to worship reverently. How does a casual approach to worship express reverence?
9. “Traditional worship is boring”
A: Even if we concede this point, so what? This assumes its purpose is to entertain, which is not true. However, I don't concede the point. I'm still very interested in and learning about our rich liturgical worship life.
10. “The Holy Spirit is on my side”
A: This rebuttal takes longer, but often the argument comes from deep misunderstanding of who the Spirit is and what He does. Often, it's a confusion of human emotional experience with the work of the Spirit.
The purpose of this list is not to reduce all discussion on Contemporary vs. Traditional worship to simple statements and rebuttals. I've simply observed that many of the discussions hardly get much further than these types of bad arguments, which are easily answered.
I believe it's time to get started having the long, hard conversations about the nitty-gritty of what divides us most in the LCMS - worship. But perhaps to do so we need to first get past these kinds of shallow soundbytes and canards.