On liturgy as formal recitation...

The aim and effect of the liturgical system is to make the mass of worshippers as independent as possible of the individual minister; the aim, if not the effect of our system, is to make individual ministers as valuable as possible to the worshippers, for their instruction and edification.

The one system may secure a uniform solemnity and decency, but the other system tends to secure the more important qualities of fervor, energy, and life; and we believe, whatever fastidious critics may allege, it does to a considerable extent secure them.

At lowest, the non-liturgical method secures that the worship of the church shall be a true reflection of her life, and therefore, however beggarly, at least sincere.

- A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve; n., p. 58.

(TB)

Comments

I've put this up before and Fr. Bill immediately responded, "Flummery." I don't return it to the home page to frustrate Fr. Bill, but to remind us of the dangers of high churchism and all its pomp and circumstance. Liturgies are everywhere present, and often more rote and monotonous in those lowbrow churches that pride themselves on their spontaneity. Many Baylyblog readers grew up in such churches. However, there is an opposite danger we must keep in mind, and that danger I would label formalism. We must keep watch against that, too.

Similarly, there is a danger of those of us repenting of our feminism to eviscerate the authority of church officers by our teaching and practice of fatherhood of the home. The Sacraments, for instance, are given to the fathers of the Church--not the home. And wives and children rightly appeal to the fathers of the church, the elders, for relief from serious sins committed against them by their husband or father.

Life must not be a reaction.

Wherever we find man we find sin.

" ... and Fr. Bill immediately responded, 'Flummery.' "

And he has not changed his mind as far as this quotation is concerned. Whatever your own thoughts, Pr. Tim, A. B. Bruce's comments here are worth assigning to a student of rhetoric so he might identify and expound specific examples of special pleading, non sequitur, and related fallacies of analysis.

"I don't return it to the home page to frustrate Fr. Bill, but to remind us of the dangers of high churchism and all its pomp and circumstance."

Fr. Bill is not frustrated, for he knows better than to attempt many things that cannot be accomplished.

"Liturgies are everywhere present ..."

Which they must be if there is to be anything actually corporate in worship. Ten or ten thousand individuals sharing ~solely~ venue and time (e.g. a church house on a Sunday morning) do not constitute a corporate body for the purposes of worship. That ten or ten thousand has far more in common with a pile of freshly raked leaves than it does with a corporate body worshiping as a body.

"... and often more rote and monotonous in those lowbrow churches that pride themselves on their spontaneity. Many Baylyblog readers grew up in such churches."

You mean in "lowbrow churches that pride themselves on their spontaneity" though they are "often more rote and monotonous" than, say, a Prayer Book worship service? This is exactly the kind of church in which I spent the first 30 years of my church-going life!

"... formalism. We must keep watch against that, too."

I cannot tell if I would agree or not. It would depend on what "formalism" means. I hope you don't mean "that which displays form" as over against something which strives to avoid anything evincing a form.

"Life must not be a reaction."

Agreed. Far more salubrious to follow the patterns and precedents of Scripture. Where the Church has done so, her worship looks ... well, it looks very much the same down through the centuries, because it takes its cue from the same things, preserved for us in the same place.

"At lowest, the non-liturgical method secures that the worship of the church shall be a true reflection of her life, and therefore, however beggarly, at least sincere."

Where is the battle in today's American Church? If you have a liturgical service then be careful not to leave your first love. The Churches who suffer from formalism, by and large, are dying out. Their dead worship flows from a dead book and reflects their life - or lack thereof.

But an overt liturgy is not how most churches worship in the West.

A beggarly worship service for a Great God cannot be made beautiful with individual sincerity. Naval gazing, mumbled praise chorus while the band rocks the house, performance pastors and clumps of individuals with no love for their brothers across the isle is as damning as any formalistic worship, no matter how sincere brother Carl is his refusal to sing the Gloria Patri with his brothers.

al sends

As someone who is a member of a liturgical church, using the Book of Common Prayer to guide our worship is a beautiful thing. It unites all parishioners in church at that service, when we say our responses during the appropriate times, confess our sins together, pray together, and take the Eucharist together, in a pattern that is scripturally sound and has familiarity, which allows us to focus and guide our worship. We also follow a lectionary so we will hear most of the Bible (including the New Testament twice) over a 3-cycle, rather than having Fr. X or the Rev. Z preaching on their favorite scriptures.

The liturgy is never boring -- as my mom, a lifelong Lutheran said, it was boring until she accepted Christ, then it all came alive.

Finally, I may be the only person who believes this, but during worship, I imagine all the other Anglicans throughout the world using a liturgy somewhat like ours right now or elsewhere that Sunday and feel unified with them. (Of course, I also realize that Lutherans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Baptists, etc., are also worshiping throughout that Sunday and I praise God for them, too.

None of this means that I think non-liturgical worship is "wrong"; just putting in my .02 about what liturgical worship means to me and my church friends.

"The liturgy is never boring -- as my mom, a lifelong Lutheran said, it was boring until she accepted Christ, then it all came alive."

Right on. And, unless the minister is born again, the rockin'-est praise band and most simple, scaled down non-liturgy will also be lifeless. The pastor and people who come to look for their life in Christ will find it. Those who look for their life to be infused, inspired or otherwise directed by the words, personality, or talent of man, will lose their life.

Much like the man who refuses to write out or to read his prayers because that would be too formal. If he is a lifeless man, his prayers will slide down into the deepest formal rut. In that case, GET A PRAYER BOOK, or read from Valley of Vision. At least that way your words will cover the ground your soul will never travel and your people might be edified.

I'm with Fr Bill on this one - having started my Christian life in a Pentecostal setting which, in its way, made liturgy a very attractive way to do things when I came across it years later.

We're not talking about liturgy, here, but a liturgy that consists of only repetition of prescribed words year round. Every church has a liturgy, as I said earlier, and often the AG liturgy has more sameness week in, week out, than the Roman Catholics/Anglicans/Lutherans.

Listening to the discussion, though, might lead some to think there are no dangers inherent in the high prescribed liturgies of Roman Catholics/Anglicans/Lutherans.

We all know that's not true. So what are the dangers, or were the 2,000 Puritans of Ejection Sunday a bunch of idiots?

Meanwhile, to state the obvious, few here on Baylyblog need to be convinced that contemporary blah and sentimental mush liturgies don't honor God.

Love,

I know Erasmus is no Reformational paragon, but it is interesting to note that when reflecting on Christian history in his "Manuel of a Christian Knight," he recognized an inverse relationship between ceremonies and piety:

"The bishops anon after were corrupt with ambition and covetousness, and the common people also fainted and waxed cold from that charity which was in the primitive church: and for this purpose did Saint Benet seek a solitary life, and then after him Barnarde, and after that divers other did associate themselves together, for this intent only that they might use the pure and simple life of christian men. From whence ceremonies came. Then after in process of time when their riches and ceremonies did increase, their true godliness and simpleness did abate and decrease."

He goes further to say that those who push ceremonies hardest are not to be trusted as faithful guides:

"And whosoever will mark it shall perceive that amongst these religious men, no man causeth the ceremonies to be more straitly observed than they which under the precepts thereof doth bear rule and serve their bellies rather than Christ."

He does not reject ceremonies altogether...

"I in no wise rebuke or check the corporal ceremonies of christian men and devout minds of simple persons: namely in such things that are approved by authority of the church. For they are now and then partly signs of piety and partly helpers thereunto."

However, he disparages them as little more than training wheels for babes in Christ...

"And because they are somewhat necessary to young infants in Christ The use of ceremonies., till they wax older and grow up unto a perfect man: therefore it is not meet they should be disdained of them which are perfect, lest by their example the weak person should take harm."

Drawing on this, he gives the following warning to Christian men:

"Moreover if thou stop not there whence thou oughtest to ascend to things more near to health: but to worship Christ with visible things instead of invisible and in them to put the highest point of religion, and for them to stand in thine own conceit, to condemn other men, to set thy whole mind upon them, and also to die in them, and to speak shortly that thou be withdrawn from Christ with the very same things which be ordained for the intent only that they should help unto Christ: this is verily to depart from the law of the gospel which is spiritual, and fall into certain superstition of ceremonies like unto the Jews..."

I think this warning is sound, and should be well-taken by those of us (like me!) coming out of the cultural poverty of the fundamentalist ghetto, for whom the upward call of smells and bells is a real temptation. Erasmus sounds a lot like the Apostle Paul, who warns of the danger of being led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2Cor 11:3).

This may be a little off-topic, but prayer books can be useful for lay people, too. The Book of Common Prayer, for example, includes prayers that cover almost every situation. Our rector recommends them for people who don't know how to pray about a certain situation. He calls them "starter prayers" and says after you use them for a while you'll get better at praying on your own.

I don't mean that the Book of Common Prayer is the only or best prayer book. Other denominations probably have their own (the Lutherans do) and if not, clergy probably know of nondenominational ones.

Even if we wish to accept Erasmus as a guide we should bear in mind that the context in which he wrote was radically different than ours with its rampant deification of the autonomous individual, radical egalitarianism (sexual, musical, hierarchical, etc.) and a general worship of informality.

>The Book of Common Prayer, for example, includes prayers that cover almost every situation. Our rector recommends them for people who don't know how to pray about a certain situation. He calls them "starter prayers" and says after you use them for a while you'll get better at praying on your own.

I too have been greatly helped by these and like prayers, Sue. However, I resent how infrequently BOCP Collects address God as Father. It's almost always, "Almighty and eternal God...", or "Blessed Lord...", or something cold and distant along those lines. Jesus taught us to pray to God our Father, and while these prayers are beautiful, and in many ways helpful (I've used a lot of them in leading worship at Clearnote), I've long thought they must point up a serious flaw in the Anglican Doctrine of God. I usually change the address to include "Father" when I use them, and I encourage you to do the same.

>we should bear in mind that the context in which he wrote was radically different than ours with its rampant deification of the autonomous individual, radical egalitarianism (sexual, musical, hierarchical, etc.) and a general worship of informality.

Uh-huh. The point is not to over-correct. But it seems nobody is willing to think that's a problem, which is, I'm pretty sure, how history repeats itself.

>The point is not to over-correct.

Agreed which is why we should inform our worship by the historical practice of the church.

>we should inform our worship by the historical practice of the church.

I don't see anyone here arguing otherwise.

"However, I resent how infrequently BOCP Collects address God as Father."

Amen. I would extend the criticism to our low-church evangelical brothers who simply say, "Dear God..." and then blather on and on with the "we just want..." business.

I attribute this to 1) a American anti-ritual bent that can't stand to say something that smacks of a "form(ula)" and 2) the father-hunger that the Baylys frequently bewail.

To call an earthly man "father" is a marvelous privilege; how much more the Maker of heaven and earth?!

Mr. Bruce seems to argue otherwise, at least to some degree.

Not such a fan of the quote, but appreciate the Bayly's commentary. Which corrective we need depends on which side of the horse we are falling off. Early in the history of Saint Peter church I had lunch with an ex-baptist member. He asked me, due to several read prayers in our liturgy, why I didn't trust the congregants to pray, why I was so afraid they might pray wrongly. I replied, "We don't read prayers so that you don't pray wrongly. Rather we pray prayers so that WE can pray together." Corporate worship is corporate, and so should include the whole body and the whole Body.

"We don't read prayers so you DON'T pray wrongly..."

All of our corporate worship is liturgical. I would imagine that at clearnote, just like at my conservative presbyterian church, a sunday liturgy is followed. Call to worship, opening hymn, prayer, children's message, hymn, confession and intercessory prayer, offertory, hymn, teaching, hymn, benediction? That's a liturgy if ever I saw one. I would second some of Sue's comments- although I wouldn't trade in expository preaching, even though I grew up in a faithless denomination, I heard the bible through and through doing it thanks to the lectionary. I got a great grounding in theology and God's grace from the prayers we read, even if we didn't take them seriously. I don't see the liturgy in and of itself as the problem here. I think that it protects people from bad preaching just as much as it might stifle someone else. If the pastor isn't born again and preaching the gospel, it doesn't matter a whit what liturgy is or isn't used, and if He is, and the liturgy is biblical, I'd imagine it's a joyful thing for the congregants to worship in an orderly, corporate way, especially if it is a historically tried and true one.

"Call to worship, opening hymn, prayer, children's message, hymn, confession and intercessory prayer, offertory, hymn, teaching, hymn, benediction ... That's a liturgy if ever I saw one."

Actually, no. Since Roger opens a door for clarifiction, I'll sally through it!

What Roger points to here is an order of service, not a liturgy. "Order of service" is self-expounding once you understand that "service" here is a use of that word in a religious context to signify "worship." "Serve the LORD" does not mean to get a To Do List from God and to go out and to do all the tasks on the list. Rather, it means to worship, as in NKJV rendering of these verses in the Psalms: 2:11, 97:7, 100:2 (part of the Venite which we always sing as prelude to our singing of the Psalm appointed for that Sunday), 102:22, 106:36.

The whole point of an order of service is the order! In the Baptist worship service in which I came to faith and in which I lived for so many years, the invitation came at the ~end~ of the service. It is irrational to put it anywhere else! The offering came early (but not first!) rather than after the sermon, and so forth.

If you want to see a truly startling order of service, check out The Ordeal of Boiling Water from the 12th or 13th Century.

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/water-ordeal.html

Liturgy, however, requires something more than an order. Liturgy is ~communal~. I can "do" the order of service for Evening Prayer all alone (it makes for a sterling private devotional time of prayer), but it is not thereby a liturgy. It's a liturgy when I follow this order of service with the men of my parish -- same elements in the same order, same prayers, always a psalm, always lections from OT, Epistles, and Gospel. But, each man has his part, sometimes in unison with all the other men, sometimes in sequence to what other men are saying/singing.

Much of things said/sung are the same from meeting to meeting. Other parts (Scripture that is read or sung) are cyclical, following a three-year lectionary. Still other parts (the individual prayers offered by the men) are unique to that meeting.

C. S. Lewis likened liturgy to a communal dance. He's right. In a liturgy, however, one is never dancing alone. You're always dancing with someone else, and in liturgy "more is more." An "amen" thundered by a host is always better than one squeaked out by two or three scattered apart.

This distinction between "order" and "liturgy" helps to avoid talking past one another in certain parts of this conversation. Roger correctly notes that ~everyone~ follows an order or service (excepting, perhaps, the most chaotic assembly of pentecostals). However, in 99 percent of evangelical churches today the only thing done that is truly liturgical is the singing of a hymn.

Finally, Roger writes: "... even though I grew up in a faithless denomination, I heard the bible through and through doing it thanks to the lectionary. I got a great grounding in theology and God's grace from the prayers we read, even if we didn't take them seriously. I don't see the liturgy in and of itself as the problem here."

Indeed! Not only is the liturgy NOT a problem, it was the vehicle for spiritual blessing and advancement in the otherwise spiritually sterile (maybe even toxic) environment Roger describes. God's Word never returns to Him void, and where it is present, it will quicken any who receive it. I remember clearly the moment it dawned on me that if a worshiper believed what he heard in the Prayer Book Eucharistic liturgy he must perforce be a child of God.

Roger writes, "I'd imagine it's a joyful thing for the congregants to worship in an orderly, corporate way, especially if it is a historically tried and true one."

Amen!

Nowhere in scripture are we informed that God delights more in extempore prayer than in prepared ones. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray he said,"Say: Our Father …". That is a command for a set form of prayer. Hooker argues that God delights to hear that prayer over and over because it was given to us by his beloved Son, and is the best example of prayer. We say it every time we meet for common prayer.

There is nothing in the BCP that is contrary to scripture, which is surely the true measure of the acceptability of a liturgy. Liturgy is not a sin. Where did God say that he dislikes formality, or prefers informality? Nowhere. The BCP 1662 will give you more scripture read, expounded, prayed, and sung, than most people today can accommodate, and more than you will find in any non-liturgical service.

By the standard of scripturality and scripture being present in worship, it is unsurpassed. We have been using it in modern English for six years now, and not one congregant would go back to the evangelical norm, and not one is bored or feels stifled by dead formality.

Pastors Bayly, perhaps you have confused liturgy with pompous show? They are different things. The BCP has none of that - no curtains for clothes, or burning handbags and processions.

>>perhaps you have confused liturgy with pompous show?

Sadly, the comments do not give me confidence that anyone has thought through their worship enough to know the dangers of both high and low liturgies. Again, men, everyone has liturgies.

So what was the Great Ejection, and why did it happen? Why did Calvin and Knox decide NOT to go the high liturgy way (although you can argue it is high liturgy compared to what most Evangelicals do and don't do in their liturgies today)? Why does Presbyterian worship differ from Lutheran and Episcopalian/Anglican? Has anyone here read Horton Davies's two volumes of history of worship?

As we've pointed out here before, both Christ the Word and Clearnote Church, Bloomington have a liturgy that's more high than low in which we employ set forms and written prayers and litanies and the old Scottish Book of Worship Lord's Supper service etc.

Please don't confuse warnings about the dangers of set forms and formalism with opposition to set forms and formalism. This sort of confusion is what indicates we're reacting rather than acting.

So now again, brothers, what are the dangers unique to high liturgy? You've done a good job of showing you don't like the question. I get it. But anyone game to take a stab at answering it?

Love,

>Why did Calvin and Knox decide NOT to go the high liturgy way (although you can argue it is high liturgy compared to what most Evangelicals do and don't do in their liturgies today)?

That's pretty much what I'd argue.

>Why does Presbyterian worship differ from Lutheran

Calvin's liturgy didn't differ that much from the Lutheran, particularly if he'd had his full druthers. Absolution is different. Different material for congregational singing.

>So now again, brothers, what are the dangers unique to high liturgy?

Love of form over God, pride against those who choose less Biblical forms of worship, a failure to listen to what one is saying and apply it to the heart, essentially to rebel against the actual content of what one hears and says by failing to follow Luther's admonition that each day for the Christian should be marked by repentance, genuine not merely formal.

Every form of worship is conducted by sinful men and can be fruitless. But a formal liturgical structure has a better understanding of fallen man and his proclivities. But as you observe that doesn't make it devoid of dangers.

I might add that some I think are tempted to place inadequate emphasis on the Word preached. Again this isn't inherently so but the fact that so much of the Word surrounds you in a good liturgical service doesn't reduce the need for the Word preached.

What do you mean by high liturgy? I have never heard the term. Do you mean lots of ceremonies, dressing up, and theatre?

I know what High Church is, and I suspect that high liturgy is the same thing. The English High Church tradition (sic), even though it is a recent innovation, was a result of the rejection of the Reformation in favour of a pre-Raphaelite taste in church art, Romanticism, and theatre, inspired in part by the uniforms, flags, and spectacular processions that the Salvation Army invented at the time. It involved throwing out the Reformed BCP 1662 in favour of almost anything else.

Mitres, Shepherds crooks, and elaborate vestments until then associated with transubstantiation became compulsory, and were seen for the first time in the Reformed CoE since the Reformation.

The basic problem with it is that it is the expression of a newly invented religion - catholic looking Liberalism.

You wrote,

Jesus taught us to pray to God our Father, and while these prayers are beautiful, and in many ways helpful (I've used a lot of them in leading worship at Clearnote), I've long thought they must point up a serious flaw in the Anglican Doctrine of God. I usually change the address to include "Father" when I use them, and I encourage you to do the same.

Something that I never thought of before. Thanks for this food for thought.

David Gray observes, "I might add that some I think are tempted to place inadequate emphasis on the Word preached. Again this isn't inherently so but the fact that so much of the Word surrounds you in a good liturgical service doesn't reduce the need for the Word preached."

What you point to here is likely the ~main~ reason for the pathetic quality of pulpit ministry in Roman, Lutheran, and Anglican churches. Indeed, to judge by the pulpit "skills" of most clergy from these climes I've ever known/observed, it's clear that their serminary training omitted 90 percent of what I received in seminary 30 years ago.

When you preside at a service that contains generous lections from all parts of the Bible, when the set prayers, when the prayer of consecration, when the litany (if it's included) are composed almost completely of allusions, paraphrases, and outright quotations from the Bible -- when all this is true and you contemplate placing your own words into this mix, is there not an understandable reluctance to appear to be competing with the Apostles and Prophets with your own paltry platitudes?

Now, laziness can also make its contribution here. The lazy liturgical clergy will rathionalize thusly: "Why go to extra trouble? There's already so much Bible in the worship liturgy! Why try to poke even more into it?"

But, even where laziness isn't a factor, I suspect a keenly felt inadequacy is, especially when the clergyman knows very well he has no training, no practice, no models, except for the clergy he knows, who step out of the pulpit after a five-minute "homily" reminiscent of a bed-time devotional following Kum-ba-ya around the bonfire at a United Methodist summer encampment.

Pr. Tim,

You write, "You've done a good job of showing you don't like the question. I get it. But anyone game to take a stab at answering it?"

Some of us "don't like the question" because the question doesn't completely make sense to us.

When I hear your warnings, it sounds very much as if a father were warning his little boys against the dangers of catching falling objects. The trouble is this: as I observe his little boys at play, there are no falling objects! They are, instead, rolling heavy-looking balls across the floor at one another.

So why warn them so vigorously against catching falling objects when what they're doing is so
fundamentally different? Did the father happen to see them bouncing a ball toward one another from time to time? Or, does the father know of a
playground in the next block where the boys ~only~ play by catching something that falls out of the sky?

There is, possibly, an opposite problem: the priestcraft of Protestantism. Can ~that~ possibly be a motivation for the boys rolling balls to look with interest toward the boys catching balls that fly through the air?

Here is Eric Mascall's analysis of Protestant clericalism, rooted in the ~Reformation~ and contrasted with the clericalism of the Romans
dating from before the Reformation. It's taken from the introduction to his work _The Recovery of Unity_. Numbers in brackets are page numbers.

*************

By the end of the Middle Ages the Western Church had become almost completely clericalised, and nowhere was this more evident than in the supreme act of the Church's life, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Gone was the conception of the Liturgy as the great corporate act of the Body of Christ, in which all the orders of the clergy and the laity had their distinct, but equally important
and interwoven, parts .... In place of this there had grown up the conception of the Mass as a sacrificial action whose [5] sole executant is the priest who celebrates it.

... it is less often recognized that in a different form [this clericalism] persisted in Protestantism too. It must, of course, be admitted that great
attempts were made in Protestantism to make Christian worship intelligible to the laity; the restoration of the vernacular is the most obvious indication of this.

However, to make the laity understand what is going on is not the same thing as to give them an integral share in its performance, any more than to perform a play on the stage audibly in the vernacular is the same thing as to have the audience acting in it themselves.

And, in Protestantism no less than in post-Reformation Catholicism the liturgy is something performed by the minister, even if he performs it
for the edification of the people. Thus we get the intolerable verbosity of most of the reformed liturgies, in which the minister prays and reads and exhorts and preaches, but in which the laity are hardly allowed to say a word from start to finish.

It is, however, in the place which the sermon has come to occupy that the clericalism of Protestantism is seen at its highest; it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that what
Protestantism did to the religion of Western Europe was simply to substitute a clericalism of the Word for a clericalism of the Sacrament.

[6]Indeed, the Protestant was even more at the mercy of the cleric than the Catholic was; for a badly celebrated Mass would be unlikely to be invalid, whereas a badly preached sermon could be positively misleading to its hearers. The Protestant's religion is far more dependent upon the moral goodness and the technical efficiency of his preacher than the Catholic's religion is upon the same qualities in his priest. ... the tremendous emphasis which Protestantism has placed upon the sermon as the central feature of the Church's worship has in practice produced a clericalism of the Word which is every bit as radical (and we might add as unprimitive) as any clericalism of the Sacraments has ever been in Catholicism.

>Thus we get the intolerable verbosity of most of the reformed liturgies, in which the minister prays and reads and exhorts and preaches, but in which the laity are hardly allowed to say a word from start to finish.

Someone's visited my church...

"When you preside at a service..."

I think this is one of the major pitfalls. Some clergy merely "preside"...they orchestrate the service to be consumed. When you ask a congregant how their service was, they will typically say: "lovely", or "wonderful", and go on to describe those forms.

I'm not saying this is always the case. I've visited a number Lutheran churches and Episcopalian. All of them used high forms...but each so very different. An LCMS church my wife and I visited in Toledo was warm...We couldn't follow the liturgy, but a member helped my wife and I follow it. Afterward, there was warm fellowship as well. I found them to be the exception, however, in Lutheran churches.

Forms, whether it's "high church", or an intricately constructed experience at a "seeker" church becomes a consumable. In fact, when I was youth leader at an RCA church in Ft. Wayne, my pastor told me of the mega LCMS church down the road...very seeker-senstive, while the RCA church was pretty basic. Vestments, but not sparkly. Prayers, hymns, and an expostion of Scripture. The LCMS pastor told him there was definitely a market for traditional worship. He had a different market, however.

And he's right.

It just takes a man (or woman, I guess), to preside over them.

>>I think this is one of the major pitfalls. Some clergy merely "preside"...they orchestrate the service to be consumed. When you ask a congregant how their service was, they will typically say: "lovely", or "wonderful", and go on to describe those forms.

I'm not sure you understood what he meant. His very point in the following point is that generally Protestant (and Reformed) services the congregation behaves primarily as an audience rather than a participant. A historically ordered liturgy does not have that problem the way all evangelical churches I ever attended did and too many Reformed do.

The false opposition that I am trying to counter is between high and low, liturgical versus evangelical. The real opposition is between scriptural and non-scriptural. The BCP 1662 is scriptural to the Nth degree, whereas the liturgies that Americans are familiar with are not - they are liberal and/or popish.

The reason is that the Episcopal Church got its liturgy from the Scots, not England, after the American War. Later they bought fully into the Anglo-Catholic thing, which became catholicy-looking Liberalism. In England you can get a BCP 1662 Protestant and Reformed service at many, many parish churches if you go to the early service.

This is not an argument against formal liturgy (again, we use one at Clearnote), but a warning against a typical abuse of it from the example of Israel:

In 1 Samuel 4 we find the people of God trounced in battle by the Philistines. 4000 men were slain. Back in the Israelite camp, the question on everybody's mind was, "Why has the Lord defeated us today for the Philistines?" It is clear, however, that this was an accusation against God and not a sincere seeking to know His mind. They did not humble themselves. They did not root out the sin in their midst. They did not pray. They did not consult the prophet. Instead, thinking to oblige God to their aid on the battlefield, they sent to Shiloh for the ark of God, rejoiced with great shouting when it was brought into their camp, and confidently carried it up against the Philistines. Again, however, they were defeated. Only this time much worse--30,000 foot soldiers were killed, the cursed Hophni and Phinehas perished in fulfillment of God's Word, and the precious Ark was captured.

Reflecting on this example, Matthew Henry comments:

"...they thought that, by paying a great respect to this sacred chest [the Ark], they should prove themselves to be Israelites indeed, and effectually engage God Almighty to appear in their favour. Note, It is common for those that have estranged themselves from the vitals of religion to discover a great fondness for the rituals and external observances of it, for those that even deny the power of godliness not only to have, but to have in admiration, the form of it. The temple of the Lord is cried up, and the ark of the Lord stickled for with a great deal of seeming zeal by multitudes that have no regard at all for the Lord of the temple and the God of the ark, as if a fiery concern for the name of Christianity would atone for a profane contempt of the thing. And yet indeed they did but make an idol of the ark, and looked upon it to be as much an image of the God of Israel as those idols which the heathen worshipped were of their gods. To worship the true God, and not to worship him as God, is in effect not to worship him at all."

Evidently it is possible for God's covenant people to exhibit a zealous commitment to the external forms of religion, while having no regard for God. To hold to a form of godliness, while denying it's power. To think ourselves cleansed by the sacrifice of praise, rather than the sacrifice of Christ. To trust in the Ark of the Lord, but not the Lord of the Ark.

Brothers, may it not be so with us.

Formal recitation is to liturgy as reading manuscripts is to preaching. Both are helpful, particularly for beginning pastors. Charles Simeon read his manusctipts for the first five years or so. But at some point, a preacher should preach in a way that allows him to speak to his flock and specific sheep on the fly. And this is to depend upon the Holy Spirit to illumine the needs of the day rather than simply the needs of the race or of believers or of his flock annually or monthly.

The pastor who pastors knows how often family members he's heard about in counseling will show up unannounced on a Sunday morning and place themselves under the preaching of the Word. Shall he simply read the sermon he prepared with no thought of them? Is that pastoral? The pastor who pastors knows how often he will see the eyes and posture and faces of the souls in his flock and know the man is back in adultery that week; the woman is rebellious against her husband again; the student is thinking of abandoning the Lord and His Church for an unbelieving woman he's started dating and been warned against by his college pastor; and so on.

Shall the pastor stick to his manuscript trusting God's Spirit to apply the Word and convict as He sees fit? Has He not called and ordained and set apart this man known as the pastor to shepherd his (but really His) flock, and shall that man not make every effort to be helpful? The pastor who thinks it's abuse of the pulpit to form his words preaching the Word in such a way as to take into account that, for instance, he's in Athens; he's speaking to a marriage on the verge of divorce--he sees it in their eyes; he's preaching to a man who is on the edge of apostasy--he's been counseling the man and knows he's in play; that man is not a pastor. He's a hireling with a sinecure.

In other words, the words and sentences of church officers should be helpful, and not simply cosmically, but also locally and in a timely way. Prayers of confession, explanations of the Sacraments, encouragements and warnings at the Table, contextualizing statements during the bride's vow explaining to the roomfull of pagans why she's vowing to "obey" her husband, benedictions chosen for the people's courage after the conclusion of the sermon, pastoral prayers after Doug Wilson's visit shook the community and the formal liturgical recitation for that Lord's Day service is oblivious, stuff like that.

Words, sermons, litanies, collects, explanations of vows, fencings of the Lord's Table, and homilies at weddings should all be contextualized, and not simply for English-speakers (so one chooses a book of united prayer that's in English), but also for American English speakers and Midwest American English speakers and Midwest university community American English speakers, and Protestant and Reformed and Evangelical university community Midwest American English speakers; and Dick and Jane fighting again and on the edge of despair this morning Protestant and Reformed and Evangelical university community Midwest American English speakers. You get my drift?

Formal repetition of liturgy can be a fine place to hide when one doesn't want to shepherd his flock. Formal reading of a sermon can be a fine place to hide when one doesn't want to shepherd his flock.

And finally, rote repetition of books of united prayer as the liturgy, and reading of manuscripts as the sermon, can be the ways a pastor not wanting to look to the Holy Spirit for inspiration and application covers up his lovelessness, sloth, or rather his spiritual decline or death. How often we pastors resort to rote repetition long after it has become vain repetition because we have nothing to say ourselves to our own flock.

Can you imagine what the Apostle Paul's letters would have been if he'd simply copied into the letter some good prayer from the five-hundred year old Hebrew prayer book; if he'd studied the rabbinical insights and inserted a few shaggy dog stories of hymn lyrics for affect? If he'd had a principle of avoiding naming anyone or being specifically helpful? There are explosions of helpfulness all over the Apostle Paul's letters and prayers. Is this one more place where we hide our sloth and fear behind the statement, "That was Paul. You are not Paul. That was Scripture and the Holy Spirit was inspiring him. You and I are not Scripture and the Holy Spirit is not inspiring you or me."

Poor pastor. Poor church.

A true shepherd will often have something pastorally helpful to say because of his hard work the previous week and day and hour, and also because the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding him--just as in court (Mark 13:11). Do we all remember that Calvin himself refers to the preaching of the Word as "the Word of God" to the people? Sounds blasphemous to those of us wasting our lives reacting against Pentecostalism.

A pastor is set apart to be helpful in his prayers, Scripture selections, words before and after the Sacraments, and of course his sermons.

Love,

Fr Bill, yes. Nailed it. Look, Isaiah 29 is very clear on the dangers of formalism, and so much of that problem is seen to have its roots in the hearts of wretched ungodly leadership, whether in the days before Samuel (long BEFORE Isaiah - 1 Sam 3-5), or in the days of Malachi (long AFTER Isaiah). But the danger today is not formalism; rather it is informalism, with its attendant problems: projection of and over-emphasis on the personality and emotions of the pastor into the liturgy (whatever liturgy there may be), inculcating a view of God that is 'light and informal', an incapacity to connect multiple generations (endangering, if not by practice at least outright denying the communion of the saints), and an inability to have the worship of God sound and look and smell totally different from an episode of American Idol or a Political Gathering. So Formalism has great dangers, allowing people with words and no heart to hide - sometimes right at the front - in sleepy hard-hearted disbelief and mock God with pseudo-worship. Informalism has great dangers too - which, it turns out, are exactly the same as formalism, with the added bonus of all the other problems I just mentioned.

I don't mind Bruce's warning - read it first many years ago when I was a champion of informalism - but its a straw man. It is, as Fr Bill has noted, Flummery!

>>Informalism has great dangers too - which, it turns out, are exactly the same as formalism

Actually, not. Which is the reason you wrote, "Formalism has great dangers, allowing people with words and no heart to hide - sometimes right at the front - in sleepy hard-hearted disbelief and mock God with pseudo-worship." Also the reason our Lord warned against "vain repetition" and the prophets condemned "temple of the Lord, temple of the Lord, temple of the Lord."

>>the danger today is not formalism; rather it is informalism,

Actually, the danger today IS most certainly formalism among those caught up in reaction against informalism (if you can dignify it with that word). Remember that this blog has a culture and those here are most decidedly vulnerable to the dangers of formalism if my knowledge of our readers is halfway accurate.

It's apparent that the promoters of liturgies of formal repetition have not read Horton Davies and do not know the arguments of the 2500 faithful ministers of the Word and Sacrament ejected from their parishes on St. Bartholomew's Day in 1662. They included Richard Baxter, Edmund Calamy, John Flavel, William Jenkyn, Joseph Caryl, Thomas Brooks, Thomas Manton, and Thomas Watson. Referring to the Act of Uniformity by which these men were ejected, Bishop Ryle said it was an "injury to the cause of true religion in England which will probably never be repaired."

Love,

>>Bishop Ryle said it was an "injury to the cause of true religion in England which will probably never be repaired."

Yet Ryle was an enormous fan of the BCP and made great use of it.

Perhaps I'm not as familiar with the culture of your blog as I need to be, though I did grow up in Indiana!

Look, the problem is not vain REPETITION but VAIN repetition. Repetition takes place in all kinds of liturgical settings. The issue is unbelief to begin with, and then disregard for reverence and awe, and so on. The dangers ARE the same for the simple reason that unbelieving leaders and members can hide just as readily in a pop band, free-form, who-knows-what's-next setting as they can accompanied by organ music and incense. Since I've led both I can testify.

All the best, and wishing you every fruitfulness and joy in service for Christ the King,

David

Yes, if the typical Protestant understanding of "vain repetition", the one I grew up with, is correct one could not regularly pray the Lord's Prayer.

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