Robin Parry’s Worshipping Trinity, now in its second edition, is a solid overview of Trinitarian theology and its implications for worship. He opens with an overview of the Trinity in Scripture and sums of Christian orthodoxy before turning to liturgical questions per se - to Trinity in prayer, song, lament, preaching.

Salvation has a Trinitarian structure: “The Father draws us close to his own heart (having reconciled us in Christ’s death) by stretching out the hand of his Spirit, which draws us to the hand of his Son. Then, grasped between the hands of the Spirit and of Son we are drawn to the Father and held in a Trinitarian embrace” (40). And the pattern of redemption is, for the Trinity-shaped community of the church, the structure of liturgy.

The book is in part a critique of Evangelical worship, and here Parry’s analysis of liturgical song is notable. He surveys music from Vineyard worship services, discovering that only 1.4% are “three-person songs,” while over half(51%) are “You Lord” songs that do not reflect a Trinitarian outline. Another 30+% are Jesus-only hymns (114-5). Parry knows that Vineyard doesn’t equal Evangelicalism, but the dominance of You-Lord and Jesus songs does seem fairly widespread.

Along the way, a couple of alarms went off in my Puritan head, beginning with the analysis of songs. While I of course have no quarrel with explicit references the Trinity in hymnody, I don’t think this should be the main emphasis of Christian liturgical music. Rather, the recovery and mastery of the Psalter should be central (which is Trinitarian hymnody, when sung Augustinely). Party also suggests that the Trinity might be communicated in various media - dance and art, as well as in preaching and Eucharist. But in a church that doesn’t even do the Eucharist, are we really well-prepared to adorn our worship fittingly? 

Which leaves me thinking that we should spend a generation or two striving for richly Trinitarian preaching, regular Eucharist understood as a Trinitarian event, Psalms sung as the songs of Jesus before we know what worship is well enough to think about enhancing it.

More on: Trinity

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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