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Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

Part One

Continuing through The Worship of the English Puritans by Horton Davies:

The author gives some of his own appraisals rather than immediately quoting Durel, even though that is how he began his chapter. In Davies’ opinion, while the Puritans would invoke their own interpretation of Scripture in order to condemn, say, Calvin’s Church in Geneva when a difference was pointed out to them, they were ultimately ignorant of the greatness of the variance between their own convictions and those of the Continental Reformed Churches.

They would probably have been surprised had they realized the extent of their divergence from the customs of the Reformed Churches. They would have been even more amazed that, in certain features of her worship, the Established Church in England approximated more closely to the Reformed Tradition than they did themselves (p. 38).

The main point here was the use of written prayers, as opposed to only extemporaneous prayers, in public worship. Some Puritans, such as Richard Baxter, had no such scruples against using written prayers. But many did. Their influence is seen in the Westminster Directory, which Horton Davies says, “brought Puritan practice nearer to Calvin’s” (p. 39), but couldn’t actually include written prayers to be read in worship.

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The Worship of the English Puritans by Horton Davies really valuable book for gaining historical perspective on the American Presbyterian scene. (I will note for the record that I don’t believe there is an objective definition for “puritan” and I wish historians would stop using it and instead speak of “English Calvinists” or “dissenters” or use some other label that actually designates a particular group by shared characteristics. But it is still a good book.) What is especially helpful is chapter 4: “Puritan Worship and the Continental Reformed Churches.”

Davies points out that it was “clearly the intention to bring English worship into line with Reformed practice” (p. 35). Furthermore, the Puritans would “appeal to the continental Reformed Churches for precedents.” Even the Separatists would do this.

Oddly, however, one John Durel, a Reformed pastor of a congregation in Savoy, France published an entire book arguing that the Anglicans were closer to the Reformed Churches than the Pruitans. It was entitled, A View of the government and Publick Worship of God in the Reformed Churches beyond the Sea (London 1662). On page 14 of that work, according to Davies, he wrote that the views held by the Westminster Assembly regarding the continental Reformed churches were, “mere Chimeras and Ideas; which, like the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, never existed but in their brain.”

Davies goes on in the chapter to examine Durel’s claims and evaluate them. As I have time I’ll post more about what he says on various practices and structures that the Puritans were advocating as “Reformed.”

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There is something in the nature of man that he feels the necessity to add to things. This can be a good thing as we transform the natural order from a raw state into a more gloriously refined state but it can also be twisted. Take our conception of and approach to the Eucharist. In the Puritan world an emphasis was put on the judgmental aspect of the Table and our unworthy disposition toward it. This led to, ironically, the same fearful disposition toward the Eucharist that Medieval Catholics had and that the Puritans were seeking to escape.   (more…)

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Ephesians is often treated as a pure type example of the Pauline method that “the indicative preceds the imperative.”

But what Paul does first is pray. Simply reading verse 3 and following involves readers in a prayer of thanksgiving to God–and much more so for those listening to the epistle read out loud in a Church gathering. This prayer then turns into a request for God to grant the Ephesians knowledge of what they have. And that practice, which involves the reader and listeners of the letter, sets the stage for the imperative at the end of the epistle, that the Ephesians should pray for everything.

God doesn’t begin with propositions. He begins by practice and teaching us by practice. That way we are in a position to understand both His propositions and his poems.

Theology should be compared more to dance than to book reading.

By the way, one of the astounding oddities I found reading the English translation of Bavinck’s first volume of Reformed Dogmatics (pp. 34, 35) is that he lists William Ames as a bad guy for defining theology as “the art of living to God.”

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Homo sapiens. Thinking man. That is, of course, the Latin phrase often used to describe and classify the human race. But does this description reflect a biblical way of thinking? Jim Jordan says no.

In “The Case against Western Civilization,” Jordan argues that man should be described, first and foremost, as homo adorans. Says Jordan:

“Human beings are not, as the Greco-Roman tradition teaches, homo sapiens, ‘thinking man.’ Rather, we are homo adorans, ‘worshipping man,’ something the Bible teaches and which the older pagans had not yet forgotten. Sadly, the Greek assumption seems to underlie most Christian education. Worship is basically left outside, and if included at all, is not foundational. As a result, education winds up being contextualized along a Greek, ‘thinking man,’ model.”

That doesn’t mean that learning to think and reason has no value; nor does it suggest that our worldly callings are simply what we do to kill time when not engaged in more “spiritual” things such as worship. Not at all.

The problem arises when we think of worship (whether consciously or subconsciously) as something extra tacked on to our regular lives, like pin the tail on the donkey. As Christians, we start the week gathered as the body of Christ to offer to him our praise and worship, where we are strengthened and fed. Then we go out to continue our labors. “Homo adorans” reminds us of who we are, and of the reason we can and should pursue our callings with zeal and joy, in service to the Lord who created us for himself.

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. . . and the whole thing gets muddled. The words we traditionally use to translate Hebrew terms in the “sacrificial” system are confusing and often convey the wrong ideas. If we are going to understand Leviticus and the old world system of sacrifices and offerings, the first thing we have to do is get the words right.

This was brought home to me again this past week at the AAPC lectures. Peter Leithart spoke on the “purification offering.” But, in fact, it’s really not an “offering” at all. And I don’t believe”purification” really best translates the meaning of the Hebrew term. I highly recommend Peter’s lecture. But even he could not avoid talking about all of the rituals in Leviticus 1 as “offerings.” It’s ingrained in us. It’s very hard to overcome. Let’s talk about it.

We use English words to translate some of the Hebrew terms in Leviticus that are not helpful, but are in fact loaded with all sorts of unfortunate connotations. The book of Leviticus is a book of rituals (mostly) and the Hebrew terms used are extremely precise. I believe our Bible translations make these rituals obscure because of traditional, but inappropriate designations.

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