Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Presbyterians & Liturgy - Part IV

Continued from Part III

But now we need to move on to the tougher questions. Why is American Reformed theology so characteristically a-liturgical? What is it about our theology or our ecclesiastical life and history that has created such an a-, even anti-liturgical consciousness? Why don't our theologians even attempt to write a theology of worship? And why are our theologies written without any attempt to integrate and address liturgical texts and practices?

Sure, we have all sorts of books on worship, but not one that attempts to provide a rigorous theological account for a Reformed liturgical service. What we need are serious academic books that would analyze and interact with not only the whole Bible but the history of liturgy in order to bring about a creative synthesis. I guess what I am looking for is something along the lines of what has been done by Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox theologians.

I would suggest five broad areas of theological problems that have contributed to English/American Reformed theology’s a-liturgical bent:

1) a characteristically Reformed misunderstanding of the purpose of the Lord’s Day Service,

2) an unbalanced emphasis in post-continental, especially English/American Reformed theology on the immediacy of the Spirit’s work in individual souls,

3) an unhealthy preference in discussions of the regulative principle on discrete “elements of worship” over against questions about order and sequence,

4) an almost complete disregard for the mutual conditioning of liturgy and doctrine (lex orandi, lex credendi) in the life of the church, and

5) a failure to acknowledge the fact that the NT does not simply abrogate but transforms the sacrificial typology of the Old Testament by explaining its fulfillment in Christ and his body, the Church.

In future posts I will comment on each of these five problems.

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