Emperors With Clothes



The Outhouse has added another sitter to the roll. If you haven’t tossed around Nick Mackison’s Restless and Reforming you might think about it. He reminds me of what it was like all those years ago coming to the Reformation from the impoverished glitz and glamour.

Many evangelicals in recovery veer off the Durham Trail toward the little town of Geneva like The Clampits rattled toward Beverly Hills. Some ironically never really make it yet think they have arrived (read: Young, Restless and Reformed, the past tense is key here). Others, like Nick, tend to conceive of themselves as yet on a trajectory and are unsure they know what they are doing and so forth. These are the birds who are more arrived than they think (maybe a little more ways to go for good measure). One sign is that they aren’t quite as sure of that reality, while the Neo-Reformed come off as emperors without clothes.

I liked one recent post of his (“Pentecostal Subversive Slavery”) in which he wonders about how Pentecostalism has crept into Reformed environs. All good stuff. But I think it might be worth pointing out that certain gestures and acts of worship in the stated service are actually perfectly legitimate, so long as we are all doing them at the same time and at the right time. I recall my wife asking me once what I thought of the young man in our church who does the “waist high hand raise” during the benediction (don’t go too high, you know, because this is a Dutch Reformed church). I said I had absolutely no problem with it. She looked aghast, lost that there had to be some sort of catch. So I followed up by saying that the problem, to my mind, is actually that not everybody else is doing it along with him. Since my Kuyperians love transforming things, I’d transform his outburst into a legitimate gesture of worship by having us all do it and even raising our hands much higher than his weak move.

Apologies, though, to would-be revivalists. Unlike sitting, standing, bowing, upraised hands and even kneeling–all of which can be found in the Bible–peanut gallery gestures like weeping, swaying, barking, “Ayymenning!” and eye-rolling–all of which cannot be so located–are very hard to get everyone in-sync on, so they’re out.

A good read on this is With Reverence and Awe.

This entry was posted in Outhouse news, Reformed Confessionalism, Revivalism. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Emperors With Clothes

  1. I am truly honoured to have my name on the Outhouse wall! At least my phone number isn’t there too.

    You add a well needed qualification to my article on worship. Scripture does say that “all men” should lift holy hands in prayer, not just the Pentecostal who’s had a shiver in his intestines.

    God bless the Outhouse dudes.

  2. Zrim says:

    Spelling “honored” with a “u” is cool.

  3. Mark says:

    What is the use of raising our hands in church when most people don’t have the need to do it, it isn’t traditionnially done (and being a Dutch reformed person I know it isn’t) and doesn’t add anything to the service or the experience?

  4. Zrim says:


    Well, the immediate question of this gesture is less “does it add anything to the service?” and more “does scripture teach it or not?”

    Bob Rayburn says it well:

    “Presbyterians, however, have made a principle of worship being biblical. That is, we have argued that we ought very strictly to take our direction in worship from the Bible itself: do what it tells us to do and refuse to do what it does not tell us to do (the regulative principle of worship). In this case, we were not loyal to our own principles! In the Bible we are commanded to kneel in our worship (e.g. Psalm 95:6) and we are shown saints kneeling for prayer together, not merely when they are alone (e.g. Nehemiah 8:6; Acts 20:36; 21:5). There is plenty of biblical support as well for the raising of hands (Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 141:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). Similar support can be found in the Bible for standing for prayer. It is doubtful that the Bible anywhere commends sitting for prayer, though, of course, we know that prayer can be offered anywhere, at any time.”

    Here’s the fuller context:


  5. Using a ‘u’ brings colour to grammar.

  6. Todd says:

    In the OT, to raise one’s hand was a sign of commitment. I don’t think Paul in I Tim was prescribing body posture, but admonishing the men to be pray as those committed to the Lord.


  7. Zrim says:


    Fair enough (I’m no exegete!).

    It’s worth poiting out, though, that the larger point here is that if we are not raising our hands that nobody else should be. And if we have decided that it is appropriate biblical posture in worship we all should be doing it in unison, etc. Outbursts one way or another are not Reformed.

  8. D G Hart says:

    What do you think about attire? Maybe we should take the robes away from the choir (do they still have those things?) and give them to the congregants. That way, we are all wearing the same thing (and I don’t need to see the labels of the American companies that use cheap overseas labor). I’m serious.

  9. Zrim says:


    1. Disband the choir, put them back into the congregation; if there were robes give them to the homeless or donate them to rock groups that use choirs for backups.

    2. We all don’t have to wear the same attire because that is (required) circumstance.

    3. I’m serious.

  10. D G Hart says:

    I’m an advocate of uniforms and uniformity in formal settings. I’m still serious. Imagine how much the saints could save on Sunday fashion.

  11. Zrim says:


    Good luck with that.

    I have a sphere sovereignty notion of uniformity in formal settings: parents should tell kids what they will wear to church and kids should obey. After that, all I ask fellow adults is that you wear something, unless you’re the pastor, in which case I have yet to hear a good argument against robes (preferably Genevan). I’m still just as serious.

    BTW, what’s the “G” stand for? (I had a favorite hippie prof once with a middle “G” which was for Günter and was employed, he said, when his alter ego wanted to teach. Turned out that meant it was for the days he was stoned.)

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