Worship wars: Jeff Meyers and Peter Leithart have won...

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I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  - 1Corinthians 1:14-18

Luther didn't bother writing a systematic theology because his dear friend Melanchthon had. Luther held Melanchthon's volume of systematics titled Loci Communes (Commonplaces in Theology) in such high esteem that he declared them worthy of inclusion in the canon: "Invictus libellus non solum immortalitate, sed quoque canone ecclesiastico dignus."

Considering the current fascination with all things sacramental among the Federal Vision crowd and Covenant Seminary alumni... 

note Schaff's summary of Melanchthon's views on the Lord's Supper:

2. As to the Lord’s Supper, [Melanchthon] first accepted Luther’s view under the impression that it was supported by the ancient Church. But in this he was shaken by Oecolampadius, who proved (1530) that the Fathers held different opinions, and that Augustine did not teach an oral manducation. After 1534 he virtually gave up for himself, though he would not condemn and exclude, the conception of a corporeal presence and oral manducation of the body and blood of Christ; and laid the main stress on the spiritual, yet real presence and communion with Christ.

He changed the tenth article of the Augsburg Confession in 1540, and made it acceptable to Reformed divines by omitting the anti-Zwinglian clause. But he never accepted the Zwinglian theory of a mere commemoration. His later eucharistic theory closely approached that of Calvin...

At the center of Jeff Meyers's Covenant Renewal Worship is the recapitulation of Old Testament sacrificial ritual. Showing they hold a sacramentalist DNA in common, Meyer's Theopolis House colleague, Peter Leithart, seeks reunion with Rome and his Protestant wish list for Rome does not quibble with Rome's sacramentalism, transubstantiation, or perpetual sacrifice of our Lord. Instead Leithart complains that Rome will not allow him to eat and drink their idolatrous mass with them:

When I attend Mass, I want Catholic priests to let me share the Eucharist with my Catholic brothers.

For well over two decades now, Covenant Seminary has lacked theological or Biblical conviction. "Peace in our time" has been its mantra and thus it has become a trade school for pastors who know the value of grace in keeping their customers satisfied. Covenant students with a desire to guard the good deposit have had to look for their dogma elsewhere, and often the Lutherans at Concordia Theological Seminary have stepped into the gap.

Following his M.Div. at Covenant, Meyers did a couple more graduate degrees from the Lutherans at Concordia and his Lutheran pedigree is obvious in his work deforming Presbyterian and Reformed worship. His so-called "Covenant Renewal Worship" is best understood as the repudiation of Presbyterian, Reformed, and Puritan worship and the inculcation of Lutheran liturgy and sacramentology. Predictably, it hasn't quite satisfied its adherents who, now in increasing numbers, are speaking of "catholicity" and following Peter Leithart in his hankering after the Mass. As Roman Catholics have always told us, there's simply nothing like transubstantiation to give the Eucharist the gravitas it and its celebrant deserve.

Reformed pastors have taken our eyes off the ball. We may protest against Meyers and Leithart's writings all we want, but having succeeded in revising worship in PCA and CREC churches along Lutheran and Roman Catholic principles, they've already won. Change worship and doctrine follows.

Worship is culture and this is why Luther and Calvin divided. Calvin was committed to completing the Reformation by returning worship to New Testament simplicity, with the preaching of God's Word and Gospel at its center, but Luther was bullheaded in his fixation on the proper definition of our Lord's presence in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper defining the boundaries of Christendom. Thus opposite Calvin's theologians at the Marburg Colloquy, Luther said: 

It disturbs you that I hold fast to the words, "This is my body." I do so because they are sufficient for me. Prove the ones that you employ. I profess Christ in heaven, but I also profess Christ in the sacrament...

We hold the flesh of Christ to be very, indeed to be absolutely, necessary. No text, no interpretation, no employment of human reasoning can take it away from us. If you wish to regard the flesh of Christ as unnecessary, then you may do so as far as I am concerned; the word of God is our support. But the word says, first of all, that Christ has a body as I believe; second, that this same body rose to heaven and sits at the right hand of God as too I believe. It says, further, that this same body is in the Lord's Supper and is given to us to eat. ...He is present in the sacrament in the same bodily substance as when he was born of the Virgin.

And then, to end the colloquy, there is this exchange between Luther and Calvin's beloved Bucer:

BUCER: I ask you, do you recognize me as a brother, or do you believe that I am in error? This I ask to the end of correcting my error.

LUTHER: As I am not your lord, not your judge, not even your teacher, so our spirit has nothing in common with your spirit. To the contrary, it is apparent that we are not of the same spirit. For we cannot be of the same spirit when on the one side the word of Christ is believed in innocent faith and on the other this same faith is censured, contested, slandered, and violated with all sorts of outrageous blasphemy. For this reason, as I have said before, we commend you to the judgment of God. Teach as you wish to be judged before God.

Over the past twenty years, much of the Reformed church here in North America has become a mongrel conglomeration of Lutheran/Roman Catholic worship in the sanctuary and Westminsterian/Three Forms of Unity doctrine in the classrooms with the pulpit AWOL in Graceland. Need I say the center will not hold?

To the degree that there is any growth in confessionalism today as a response to perceived weaknesses in the church, it's not at the Image of God in man and thus the value of human life, nor is it at the Fatherhood of God in man and thus the meaning of fatherhood in Adam and his male descendants.

Rather, the growth in confessionalism today is at that place where Reformed pastors have abandoned the preaching of God's Word in the power of the Holy Spirit convicting men of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and have turned aside to stoles, four-part harmonies, and sacrificial rites.

When men and their wives, seeking the hope of Heaven for their children, choose a church for it's practice of infant communion and weekly administration of the Eucharist, the battle is over. Worship has won.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!