Peter Leithart in Against Christianity points out that “Christianity” tends to be an ideology, and that Jesus did not come to set up an ideology but to found a kingdom: Christen-Dom.
Christendom is a total way of life, including thinking. But as a way, it is a walk, a path. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” The way to learn this path is through ritual. Ritual is essential to Biblical religion, but unimportant to ideology.
I recently read a remark to the effect that Old Covenant worship was ritualistic, while New Covenant worship is a celebration response to the resurrection. This was just an offhand remark, so I cannot pretend to know all that was intended it by the person who wrote it. It seemed to mean, however, that (within bounds) New Covenant worship is not patterned by the Bible. Rather, worship is a response to an idea, and if not spontaneous is at least free of any prescribed order.
Now, there is a long tradition of this, I think. Jesus instituted a ritual and prescribed it for the Church, and that ritual is obeyed by virtually no churches. It is clear that the churches have felt that they can do the Lord’s Supper any way they want. This, I submit, is the triumph of ideology. Consider: Jesus clearly commanded us to sit when we eat with Him. This is seen in every feeding of the 5000 and 4000 in the gospels. Jesus instituted the meal sitting. He prayed while sitting. Physical posture was important to Jesus, but is it not important to the gnosticized churches. An ideology about the meaning of the Supper pushes churches into having people stand around, or kneel in humility. Being seated with Jesus in the heavenlies as His queen is not the message in these churches.
Consider: Jesus used bread. How many churches use bread? Precious few. If your spouse asks you to drop by the store and bring home some bread, do you bring home crackers? Wafers? Cubes of pie crust (which seems to be the latest thing in some Reformed circles)? We pray “give us this day our daily bread,” and then we are forced to eat anything but common daily bread. This is a ritual heresy, for it communicates that the Son of God was not incarnated as an ordinary human being (daily bread) but as some kind of weird non-human wafer or cracker.
Consider: Jesus instituted wine. How many churches use wine?
Consider: If you have one cup, you have to drink as the cup is passed. Similarly, the bread was passed hand to hand and the disciples ate as soon as they broke off a piece. How many churches respect this? Precious few. A new ritual has been added of having everyone wait and then the pastor says something he’s made up and everyone eats and drinks together. Instead of each of us drinking and offering to die for the person next to us, we all drink in abstraction.
Consider: Jesus clearly ate the bread first, since He broke off His piece first. And it’s clear that the conception of the Cup is that Jesus drank of it first. Just so, in the prescribed ritual, the minister eats and drinks martyrdom for his congregation and sets the example. How many churches do this? Incredibly, it is now the custom for the minister to be served last of all!!
Consider: The elements are passed hand to hand, though the minister begins the ritual and speaks the words. How many churches do this? Denying the priesthood of all believers, the ideologists insist that each person be served individually by the minister. Plus is just feels holier and more meaningful. Understand: It is ideology that produces this perverted rite. It is an ideology so powerful that the churches are simply blind to the fact that they reject Jesus’ example and disobey Him.
Consider: Jesus instituted two rites, with two prayers. Only after everyone has eaten the bread is a new prayer said for the wine and the second rite begun. How many churches obey Jesus in this? Precious few.
So, we have seen that “Christianity” is alive and well. Obedience is rejected in favor of ideology. The most clear ritual pattern we have in the New Covenant is almost universally perverted to conform to one or another theological ideology. Let us be clear: Jesus did not say “Understand this” but “Do this.” It is the doing that is important. The Christianity churches, however, substitute ideology for obedience. Many refuse communion to people who do not have the right ideology about the Supper. And as we have shown, their various ideologies and notions create false rituals in disobedience to what Jesus instituted.
Christendom religion, however, leads in the opposite direction. Since the psalms were given to us in parallel lines, that is how we should sing them. Metrical paraphrases are NOT psalms, but hymns based on the IDEAS in the psalms. If we want to follow Jesus, walking with and after Him and not just thinking about Him, we’ll need to sing the psalms in lines.
Rituals are miniature temporal encapsulations of the walk, the way, the movement, the following of life. They train us in how to move and have our being. Indeed, rituals are microchronic recapitulations of the founding events of a world. That is what the rituals in Leviticus are, and that is what the move from bread to wine in the Supper is. The Christendom Christian rejoices in the patterns of worship seen in the whole Bible, especially in Revelation, because he wants a new and revised way of life, a new walk.
Far from wanting to be free from Biblical ritual patterns, the dominion Christian seeks to learn as much about the dance steps of the way and walk as possible, so as to keep in step with the Spirit’s music.