OPTING FOR MAGIC OVER GRACE
The Stage-Managed Emotionalism of Today's "Worship Experience"

January 2001By Eric J. Scheske

Eric J. Scheske is an attorney who resides in Sturgis, Michigan. His articles have appeared in publications such as Culture Wars, Gilbert!, and Touchstone.

“The person who translated the Bible into clear, excellent French prose is chiefly responsible for the collapse of Christianity in France. But the translators who put the Bible into archaic, sonorous and often unintelligible English (i.e., the King James Version), gave Christianity a new lease of [sic] life wherever English is spoken.” Some ten years ago Thomas Day quoted these words from a 1923 article by H.L. Mencken. The King James Version, Day went on to explain, is a good translation because it is poetic and “poetry begins with the poet transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, something which goes beyond the practical and necessary.”

Peter Kreeft, in the same vein, recently wrote the following in these pages (April 2000) about worship and the liturgy:

But in order to “work” in edifying man and glorifying God, in order to be sanctifying and holy, the words of the Bible and the Mass must be at least a little strange (like Christ). For “holy” means “set-apart,” different, distinctive, not ordinary, not secular, not to be confused with an inter-office memo…. Language that sounds like pop psychology might comfort us and make us well-adjusted (to our fallen selves and the world), but we need linguistic “height” to sanctify us.

For the most part, Mencken’s, Day’s, and Kreeft’s words aren’t acceptable to modern man because modern man doesn’t want something set apart, something above him. He only wants those things that he can grasp and control, the “practical and necessary.” And this is turning worship from a religious act into something that resembles a magical pursuit.


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