This is a comment from a Q&A at the Strange Fire conference,
[Moderator] Friel: Let me play devil’s advocate. “Your problem, Pastor MacArthur, is you like organs and cellos. This is our way of expressing ourselves in worship. What’s the problem with our way of worshiping?
John MacArthur: It’s mindless emotional hysteria. It’s not about worship. Worship only goes high when understanding goes deep. The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. In fact, I sometimes wish the music would all go away, and that I didn’t have to deal with sensations along with my thoughts. Low understanding of God, superficial, shallow understanding of God, leads to shallow, content-less, superficial hysteria. That’s not worship. Why have you been singing hymns this week? Because there is rich theology in hymns. We don’t have to go hysterical. We want your mind fully engaged.
I was disappointed to read that.
John MacArthur obviously has a love for God. He has been gifted by God intellectually and part of the result is that his ministry and his writings have blessed many.
It seems grossly unfair to me that he can think only by having a greater understanding of God can you have a greater experience of worship. (Incidentally I am using the word worship in the way Dr MacArthur appears to, though readers of this blog will know I believe biblical worship is far more than singing a song.) Does it mean that god finds worship offered by intellectuals more acceptable than that of people with a lower IQ? Do I need an M Div to acceptably worship God? What of the widow who in giving two copper coins worshipped in a deeper way than those giving untold riches? Jesus seemed more than happy with her worship. What of a forgiven woman “wasting” a jar of perfume (which cost a years wages) by pouring it over the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair? Jesus had no problem with such extravagance.
What is wrong with simple people singing simple songs of passion and adoration to their glorious Lord and God? They might never attain to the educational heights of Dr MacArthur but surely that doesn’t mean their worship is any the less acceptable to God? In simplicity they cry tears of adoration, their prayers are simple unsophisticated declarations of love. Is that in any way wrong, does not being a sesquipedalian mean God cannot hear prayers offered in mono/disyllabic words?
Worship is aided by our minds but it is not finalised there. Worship stirs the whole of our being in adoration to God – body, soul and spirit sing in joyful adoration of our King.
I am not a clever man Dr MacArthur, possibly by your standards not clever enough to offer real worship to God. I am simple. I love Jesus, love the Lord my God. And I worship him as best I can.