Voices in Christian Formation: Robert E. Webber

BY Doug Jones

November 29, 2012

Robert E Webber

Voices in Christian Formation is a series of posts to help introduce some of the contemporary authors and speakers we can learn from as it pertains to our Christian formation. The posts focus on critical components of our Christian formation and provide a short bibliography to investigate each topic further.

Robert Webber (1933-2007) was a popular theologian known for his work and writing in the area of worship and the early church. What streams through much of his writing is the endeavor to recover the theological, liturgical, and spiritual resources of the Christian tradition for today’s church. Webber’s is an important voice for us to hear in youth ministry since we often are focused on making the message pertinent to an audience often chasing the new, novel, and next.

The following is an example of Webber’s challenging and helpful writing:

The real underlying crisis in worship goes back to the fundamental issue of the relationship between God and the world. If God is the object of worship, then worship must proceed from me, the subject, to God, who is the object. God is the being out there who needs to be loved, worshiped, and adored by me. Therefore, the true worship of God is located in me, the subject.

If God is understood, however, as the personal God who acts as subject in the world and in worship rather than the remote God who sits in the heavens, then worship is understood not as the acts of adoration God demands of me but as the disclosure of Jesus, who has done for me what I cannot do for myself. In this way worship is the doing of God’s story within me so that I live in the pattern of Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Here is the shift: the biblical God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not the God who sits in the heavens but the one who acts in this world. The Triune God creates, becomes involved with creation, becomes present in Israel, becomes incarnate in Jesus, dies for sin, is victorious over death, ascends to heaven, and calls the church into being by the Spirit to witness to his work of redeeming the world… Narcissistic worship is situated in the worshiper, not in the action of God that the worshiper remembers through Word and table.  

The Divine Embrace, pp. 232-233

Additional must-reads from Robert Webber:

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