Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

1. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come. This hymn by Henry Alford is found in many hymnals, including Cantus Christi. Yet, the last stanza radically contradicts the theological perspective of the historic faith and of the editors of this hymnal. It is a witness to how we tend to bounce along unthinkingly through metrical hymns, which is something we would not do when chanting a text. The fourth stanza says:

Even so, Lord, quickly come. Bring thy final harvest home.

Gather thou thy people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin,

There, forever purified, In thy garner to abide.

Come, with all thine angels, come; Raise the glorious harvest home.

Now, as we’ve had occasion to say before, the Biblical expectation is that Jesus will successfully disciple all the nations of the earth, making all into theocracies under His rule, before any final apostasy and His return to judge the living and the dead. The “quick coming” in the book of Revelation has to do with the events of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Oikumene. Asking Jesus to come quickly and end history is very wrong. It is asking Him to fail, asking Him not to evangelize the heathen. The fact is, though, that the first three stanzas of this hymn are excellent, for they only state that Jesus will someday return to judge. We should keep this hymn, but omit the last stanza.

2. Lo! He comes, with Clouds Descending. This is a second-coming hymn, and like many Arminian hymns, this by Charles Wesley, the assumption is that Jesus will return to the earth to reign. This is completely false. According to 1 Corinthians 15:24, when He returns, having destroyed all enemies, He gives the Kingdom to the Father. According to the catholic faith, Jesus is presently seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, any hymn that teaches us that Jesus will return to reign is communicating false teaching.

The end of stanza 1, “God appears on earth reign,” can be changed to “Christ the Lord forever reigns.”

The final stanza is more of a mess: “Saviour, take the power and glory, Claim the kingdom for thine own. O come quickly, O come quickly, O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come.” Well, no. That’s all very bad. Change to this:

Lord, Thou hast taken all the pow’r and glory,

Thine the Kingdom e’er shall be!

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou dost reign, and we with Thee!


By the way, the best tune for this is Helmsley by Arne.


Read Full Post »

This is a fine hymn by John Mason Neale, based on an ancient Greek church hymn. The opening question is particularly powerful: “Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground, how the powers of darkness compass thee around?” Yes, the devil strikes in the very church and her worship as much as he can, just as he struck in the holy garden in the beginning.

Good words, but too often cheesy goofy music by John Bacchus Dykes. You may know the tune:

Spooky, spooky, spooky; spooky, spooky, spoooooook.

Spooky, spooky, spoooookeeeey; spooky, spooky, spoooook.

Happyhappyjoyjoy, happyhappyjoy!

Happyhappyjooooyjooooy, happyhappyjoy!

Read Full Post »


Peter J. Leithart & John Barach, eds., The Glory of Kings: A Festschrift in Honor of James B. Jordan (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

Foreword — R. R. Reno

Introduction — Peter J. Leithart


1. The Glory of the Son of Man: An Exposition of Psalm 8 — John Barach

2. Judah’s Life from the Dead: The Gospel of Romans 11 — Tim Gallant

3. The Knotted Thread of Time: The Missing Daughter in Leviticus 18 — Peter J. Leithart

4. Holy War Fulfilled and Transformed: A Look at Some Important New Testament Texts — Rich Lusk

5. The Royal Priesthood in Exodus 19:6 — Ralph Allan Smith

6. Father Storm: A Theology of Sons in the Book of Job — Toby J. Sumpter


7. On Earth as It Is in Heaven: The Pastoral Typology of James B. Jordan — Bill DeJong

8. Why Don’t We Sing the Songs Jesus Sang? The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of English Psalm Singing — Duane Garner

9. Psalm 46 — William Jordan


10. A Pedagogical Paradigm for Understanding Reformed Eschatology with Special Emphasis on Basic Characteristics of Christ’s Person — C. Kee Hwang

11. Light and Shadow: Confessing the Doctrine of Election in the Sixteenth Century — Jeffrey J. Meyers


12. James Jordan, Rosenstock-Huessy, and Beyond — Richard Bledsoe

13. Theology of Beauty in Evdokimov — Bogumil Jarmulak

14. Empire, Sports, and War — Douglas Wilson

Afterword — John M. Frame

The Writings of James B. Jordan, 1975–2011 — John Barach

Read Full Post »

I begin here a series of criticisms of hymns commonly sung in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. I begin with the hymn “I bind myself,” commonly called “The Lorica.

There is only one textual problem with the usual sung version of this, and that is the phrase “eternal rocks.” Obviously that phrase is heretical, and all Patrick wrote was “firmness of rock.” We should cross it out in our hymnals and substitute “enduring rocks.”

Musically, the tune used is St. Patrick (Stanford), also called St. Patrick’s Breastplate. The melody exists in two slightly different forms. The version originally published in Hymns Ancient and Modern is superior to the version in The English Hymnal, though unfortunately it is the latter that was used in the Cantus Christi hymnal. I suggest musicians obtain the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal (available from amazon.com) and play the version found there. It is only the opening line that is different, but the older version is much richer. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Rite Reasons: Studies in Worship
No. 90 Copyright (c) 2005 Biblical Horizons July, 2004 

At the last supper, Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples while saying, “Take, eat, this is My body given for you. Do this for My memorial.”

 What Jesus did was recognized by the disciples, because it took place every morning and evening. It was the rite of the Tribute, which is described in Leviticus 2. English Bibles generally mistranslate this as “grain offering,” or “meal offering” or “cereal offering,” or simply and very unhelpfully “offering.” But while this rite consists of grain or bread, the name for it is minchah, which means “gift” or “tribute.”

The daily Tribute is set forth in Numbers 28:3-8, and consisted of raw wheat flour mixed with oil. The other varieties of Tribute, however, were baked in various ways, and some were broken up. All were divided, with the priest receiving a portion after the Lord had been given His. The part given to the Lord was called a “memorial” (Lev. 2:2, 9, 16).

A memorial is an action done before God, or an object placed before God, that reminds Him of what He has done in the past, reminds Him of the covenant, and calls upon Him to come and pass judgment and renew that covenant. In a broad sense, all the rites done before God at the Tabernacle were memorials, but only bread rites are ever actually called memorials (Lev. 5:12; 24:7; Num. 5:15).

Read Full Post »

Ritual and Typology

This is a follow-on to my previous posting on ritual.

    I have noticed recently that a number of people are thinking of “covenant renewal worship” as grounded in “Old Testament” (whatever that actually is!) or Levitical ritual typology. Perhaps that is so for some, but not for me, and not for those of us who uncovered or recovered these matters in the 1980s.

    Of course, this depends on what is meant by “typology.” If what is meant is the post-Reformation intellectualist notion that types are simply symbolic forms slapped onto reality and designed to teach us things, then no, CRW (“covenant renewal worship”) has nothing to do with this. If what is meant is a Vantillian and arguably pre-modern view that “typology” is a revelation of the meaning of human life as imaging the life of God, then yes, CRW is indeed about that.

   The CRW pattern in common use today (Call, Confession-Absolution, Ascension-Word-Offertory, Communion, Commissioning) had its origin in my reading Dix’s *Shape* and noting that the shape of the communion is virtually the same as that of the covenant making rites in the Bible. From there it was a matter of noticing that the conventional Christian worship service with which I grew up, the Lutheran service of Luther Reed, was but an expansion of the steps of Dix’s *Shape.* From there, in discussion with Ray Sutton and Gary North, who were examining Meredith Kline’s covenant structures from a more Vantillian-creationist viewpoint, it became clear that (a) God’s initial formation of the world in Genesis 1 went through the same steps, and hence this was how the Spirit does things, and that (b) human beings inescapably move through five steps of laying hold, dividing and reforming, distributing with words, sampling, and enjoying. My work in the Leviticus Food Laws in the later 1980s forced me to outline Leviticus and consider all of it, and it became apparent that the sequence of the sacrificial offerings followed the same pattern. And sure enough, this order had been observed by previous liturgists. Jeffrey Meyers’s *The Lord’s Service,* (an admirable treatment of all this) shows how thoroughly this sequence had been observed and considered by previous generations of Christians.


Read Full Post »

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.


Read Full Post »

Readers of the BH blog will be interested in reading or listening to the presentations made a few days ago here in Dallas at the Colloquium on the Efficacy of the Sacraments. Will Barker, Rob Rayburn, Ligon Duncan, and Jeff Meyers (me) all made 30-minute presentations. You can find the links to the papers and the audio lectures here.

Read Full Post »

In a recent comment about the current discussion of the role of women in the church, Jim Jordan mentioned his Rite Reasons essay #41, “The Triune Office Reconsidered.” You can read it below.

Also check out Jordan’s essays “Liturgical Man, Liturgical Women” parts one and two. He says, “My thesis is that the differences between men and women are, by creation design, fundamentally liturgical and only secondarily biological and psychological. To put it another way, my thesis is that the physical and psychological differences between men and women are grounded in their differing liturgical roles.”


Rite Reasons, Studies in Worship, No. 41
Copyright (c) 1995 Biblical Horizons

Traditionally, the three offices in the Presbyterian churches have been teaching elder, ruling elder, and deacon. These have been associated with priest, elder, and Levite respectively. We have seen that the deacon is in fact an apprentice and assistance elder.

We have also seen that Levites as well as priests went through a warrior stage and then matured to an elder stage of life. Levites were not mere assistants to the priests. At the tabernacle and temple, yes, that is what they were. But the Levites were also scattered in Israel for two other purposes. They maintained their own cities, including the cities of refuge, and they served as pastors of local synagogues throughout Israel. They were pastors and educators. As pastors, they ministered the Word of God in local assemblies. And because they were to teach Israel the Law of God, we can easily imagine that their cities were libraries and schools. In the cities of refuge, they maintained courts to try those accused of capital crimes, functioning essentially as defense attorneys “against” the prosecution brought by the avenger of blood and his local ruling elders.

Thus, the Levites did everything the New Covenant pastor does, except the sacraments, which were the unique duty of the priests. In the New Covenant, these two functions are joined, and so the New Covenant equivalent of both Levite and priest is the teaching elder.

This makes for two offices: ruler and pastor, with diaconal assistant/apprentices for each. Is there a third office?

We can begin by saying that the question does not come from nowhere. God’s triune personhood is replicated all over human life, and so it is proper to ask if it is also replicated in ecclesiastical office. Moreover, we can rather easily see that ruling elders “image” the Father primarily, and pastors “image” Christ primarily. Is there an “office” that images the Spirit primarily?

I believe there may be: the elder woman. In today’s climate of opinion, it is risky to suggest this, and I know in advance that there will be those who perversely twist what I am about to set forth in order to accuse me of error; but so be it.

First of all, an elder woman is not a ruling or teaching elder. She is not a pastor. “Churches” that have “woman pastors” are at best only Bible studies. When the “woman pastor” serves bread and wine, she is only serving bread and wine. There is no covenant renewal, and no sacramental blessing from Christ. This is because women cannot be pastors.

Note that I did not write that women may not be pastors, but that they cannot be. You and I cannot flap our wings and fly, because we don’t have wings. It is not a matter of permission but of fact. Similarly, men cannot get pregnant and have babies (except in movies). It is not a matter of permission but of fact. Just so, women cannot pastor churches. God did not design them for this purpose, and so they are simply unable to do it. Only a man can represent the Divine Father and Husband to the congregation. Similarly, women cannot rule as elders in the Church. It is not a matter of law but of fact.

With these caveats in mind, however, we must do justice to the “office of women” in the Church as the Bible sets it out. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Biblical Horizons 89, November, 1996

From time to time, when I’ve lectured on how to read the Bible, I’ve used art-music as one example thereof. When we listen to a simple folk song, we hear the same melody over and over again, but this is not how composers write “high” music. Let me amplify.

A composer will put out a theme (melody) clearly and forthrightly. You can hear it without difficulty. And, from time to time that melody will come back, and without difficulty you will hear it again. But what you probably won’t hear, unless you are trained to listen to music, is that the melody is being used in more ways. It may be broken down, and parts of it used in various ways in the overall piece. It may be played in the bass line, or in an alto line, underneath a more prominent second melody or theme. You’ll hear the new melody, and not notice that the old melody is being used underneath. The melody may be stretched out into slower notes (augmented), or played twice as fast (diminished). It may be used like a round (canon; ricercar; fugue), coming in over and over again on top of itself. It may be inverted (switching high and low notes), or played cancrizans (backwards). (A good listener can hear an inversion, but it takes a really good one to notice when the melody runs backwards.) The melody may be taken from a minor key to a major one, or vice versa. A composer will introduce one theme, and then another, and then play them at the same time.

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which starts with the famous four note theme (motif) “da-da-da-DAHHH,” actually uses that four-note motif and its inherent possibilities as the foundation for virtually everything in all four movements. We don’t notice it, however, until someone points it out to us, and shows us how it happens. And that’s okay. The symphony can be enjoyed either “naively” or “maturely.”


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »