SPEAKING OUT offers responsible Christians a forum. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Liturgical renewal leaders like Robert Webber and Tom Howard claim that many evangelicals are planning to leave the free churches and join a communion in a catholic tradition. What is motivating these people to set out for the Vatican, with perhaps a high tea at Canterbury en route?

Worship, we are told, is the heart of the matter. Howard assures us that he has never met an evangelical who “does not lament the desperate, barren, parched nature of evangelical worship.” He attributes this barrenness to two factors: First, that although evangelicals have some symbols, they are inadequate to conduct people into “the far reaches of spirituality.” Second, that evangelical worship does not meet the highest standards of good taste.

With regard to symbols, it seems odd that these liturgical revivalists proclaim the impotence of evangelical symbolism while forsaking churches that practice what Harvey Cox called the most powerful religious symbol of all: immersion baptism. Though I was only a boy of nine or ten, I remember the overpowering awe that struck me as I waded out of a cold Missouri creek. I knew that the Holy Spirit had met me. Where I now preach, a large baptismal pool, in which hundreds have reenacted the drama of redemption, has become a powerful symbol of grace, ever reminding people of their passage from death to life.

The indictment moves on from symbolism to beauty. These critics think the morning service at the local Bible church is ugly and cannot bring glory to God. Well, there always seem to be people who are unhappy with the sound of the organ or who do not feel they are worshiping unless there are ...

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