In today’s western secular culture, the dominant posture towards Christian belief and practice is at best indifferent, and at worse, hostile. It is widely concluded among theologians, historians, pastors, and policymakers that the present era is one that is far entrenched in post-Christian culture. Post-Christian culture stems from a worldview giving birth to beliefs, values, ethics, morals, and ideologies, where human beings supplant God’s authority with their own pride, aggrandizing themselves to be creator, lawgiver, and savior.
Considering the negative posture towards Christianity in post-Christian culture, are discussions of Christian liturgy even worthwhile? Does the Church need ignite a radical theological and methodological shift away from all resemblance of Christendom to reach a post-Christian culture? Is the Church required to fight culture with the forms and tactics of secular culture in attempts to “win” culture? Relating to such questions, Scott Aniol offers a well-informed response in his work, By the Waters of Babylon, providing a substantive conclusion upon which this paper will operate. Aniol argues that rather than catering to secular culture, or separating from culture, or contextualizing worship in attempts to transform culture, the Church should hold fast to historically-informed, scripture-guided worship which rehearses and enacts the gospel. Aniol contends, “the most missional worship is that which acts out the gospel and communicates God’s truth using forms that are regulated by the authority of the Word of God.” Worship characterized by such qualities supplies the optimal means to respond to the mounting secularism prevalent in today’s post-Christian culture.
Worship which enacts the gospel while regulated by God’s Word contains a consistent pattern of worship movements, offering the framework for what is typically espoused as gospel-shaped worship. This liturgical form publicly proclaims and enacts the spiritual realities of the gospel and reflects the pattern of the progress of the gospel on the heart. Among the core components of gospel-shaped worship, the confession of sin will be the focus of the remaining discussion. Confession, while often neglected in many evangelical contexts, is intensely relevant for deliberating how biblical worship interacts with post-Christian culture. Thus, this paper will argue that liturgical confession functions as a countercultural practice serving to be preventative and curative against the symptoms of post-Christian Culture.
I will argue this thesis by first defining post-Christian culture, to then proceed in explaining how cultural formation occurs through liturgical practice. The definition of post-Christian culture will largely appeal to Gene Edward Veith’s understanding found in his recent work, Post-Christian: A Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (2020). The thesis of his book proposes the core symptoms of post-Christian culture. Veith writes, “Rejecting God, human beings are attempting to place themselves in his role as creator, lawgiver, and savior.” Therefore, using Veith’s categories of creator, lawgiver, and savior, I will show how confession of sin provides a counter-formational antithesis to each of the core symptoms of post-Christian culture.