Thank you, Rev. Griess, for reminding us of the biblical warrant for the “Dialogical Principle” in the January 15, 2012 issue. As with any principle, its value is realized in its application. If we leave it as an abstract concept and don’t dust it off, we deprive the church of its benefits—pure and acceptable worship of our God. Unless the connection is made between theory and implementation, many will nod in agreement and then contradict in practice. Some brothers argue that defining application can unduly constrain “Christian liberty” and risk being proscriptive. Indeed the ultimate responsibility is with the Consistory to supervise the liturgy, but this should never be understood as license to suspend the “Dialogical Principle” or the “Regulative Principle” in the worship service.
There are many possible examples. I suggest a few here, but I am certain that the list is not exhaustive.
1. The insertion of “special music,” such as choirs and solo musical performances. Can this be rationalized with the dialogical principle? Aren’t these a “third party” injected into the dialogue? They are separated physically and acting independently of both the congregation and the preacher. Are they singing to God on behalf of the congregation or from God to the congregation? Neither option is defensible, not to mention that the temple curtain was torn in two, illustrating the direct access between God and His people. There has been an argument made that the superior quality of music justifies this third party. In response, we can counter that it is the expression of love and praise from His bride, the body of Christ, that He seeks during worship. Indeed, if God wants better quality music, He has legions of angels at His disposal.
2. The “guest speaker” who is given a place in the worship service to advocate for his cause. No matter how edifying the cause, it is clearly a third party intruding on the dialogue. In any throne room, while the King is in dialogue with his subjects, such an interruption would never be tolerated. It is a hijacking of a captive audience who gathered to worship their Lord and Savior!
3. The “exclusion of a subset” of the congregation from the sanctuary. One such group is children that are extracted from the covenant body for a separate worship/education activity. This creates a situation where one party of the “Dialogical Principle” is not fully represented; it is incomplete. God is looking out over the sanctuary seeking all His children, to converse with them. These missing souls are part of the bride’s body, yet they are missing in action.
It would be very interesting if you would produce an article that illustrates how the “Dialogical Principle” can be used to guard against these types of threats to our liturgy. While these threats may not have gained much traction or in-roads today into conservative Reformed congregations, they exist in the general Christian community that we can observe through friends, television, and movies. We need to inoculate ourselves in advance.
Guy Heerema, Calgary CANADA