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Paul Tillich on Contemporary Worship - a brazen extrapolation.

April 20, 2017

Religion is inescapably bound with culture.  Paul Tillich, a  systematic theologian, devotes considerable thought to this notion.  He explains that religion is formed from culture, and vice versa. Tillich asserts that religion and culture share a common substance.  He explains that there is a symbiotic synergy between culture and religion.  Tillich writes:


“Such a relationship definitely prevents the establishment of a dualism between religion and culture. Every religious act, not only in organized religion but also in the most intimate movement of the soul, is culturally formed.”   


[from: “The Church and Contemporary Culture," World Christian Education - Second Quarter (1956): 41-43.]


Tillich cites that culture helps to create and define religion while religion helps to create and define culture.  I find Tillich’s theology helpful in looking at contemporary worship as a natural response to the interconnection between religion and culture.  Many of us resist the influence of popular culture infiltrating our religious practices.  Tillich reminds us that this is natural, necessary and unavoidable.  Likewise, it is natural, necessary and unavoidable that our religion influences our culture.  Live contemporary worship music is witnessed more in American culture than any other type of live music.  When we consider the thousands of people in thousands of churches across our country listening to live contemporary worship music each week, its easy to assume that no other form of live music even comes close to the number of people in attendance.  I see this as an opportunity to convey the Gospel, through music, in a way that profoundly affects our culture. 


[1] Paul Tillich, “The Church and Contemporary Culture," World Christian Education - Second Quarter (1956): 41-43.

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