Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why non-Liturgical Worship Cannot be Lutheran.

In the last post, Boaz says that he can't see how contemporary worship contradicts Scripture and the Confessions. He also wonders if my insistence that it does isn't just a way of baptizing my own musical preferences.

First, I'll concede a point of Boaz's. I'm very biased against contemporary worship simply because it's in bad taste. It's irritating, loud, and the music sounds bad to me. When I was a teenager I never listened to rock. My first CD was Wagner. I actually watch the entire Ring cycle on public television with my father when I was in the 4th grade. I did get into rock music when I was in college, but less popular stuff. So you've got me. Part of the reason I don't like contemporary worship is that aesthetically it's kind of a turn off.

After conceding that point, I want to expand on some things I said earlier and make a larger case. Just because I admit that I'm naturally biased against it doesn't make it by default theologically correct. This is a logical fallacy known as "poisoning the well" (actually this fallacy is basis of most modern biblical scholarship, but that's another post- so I digress.)

I would put forth the following reasons why contemporary worship is inconsistent with Scripture and Confessions:

1. It promotes a false view of evangelism: Let's start by asking the question, why does anyone adopt contemporary worship? I would bet you 9 times out of 10 it's not because the 80 year German grandmas in your congregation can't bear to go to church one more Sunday without hearing an Boston or Eagles concert instead of the liturgy. It's always for the sake of evangelism (at least in the LCMS). The argument goes that the young folks (and I remember this argument, because I was one of them not very long ago) can't relate to the liturgy and in order to keep them we've got to relate to them through rock music. Usually this is accompanied with some sort of threat by the part of someone in the congregation that if we don't adopt this, then people will end up in Hell.

The first problem is that it actually never works. Often times congregations will literally lose people when they do this or their decline will persist. My parents' old church in Des Moines was an example. They made the 11:00 service the rock concert service in order to draw in the young families from the school or to keep them. When they started they had 120 kids going to the school. After 5 years of contemporary worship, they had 80.

In a sense, just on the basis of marketing, Lutheran shouldn't try to adopt these practices because they don't work for us. The Baptists will always do them better than us and if we send the message that we're no different than the Baptists, then why choose us over them? Secondly, you basically end up alienating people who are already loyal Lutherans- like my parents. Although faith is not a choice, where I go to church is a decision "below me" as Luther would put it.

The second point is that all this ultimately assumes an anthropology that we don't possess. Namely, that people are rational and autonomous beings who can "make their decision for Jesus." This was the whole premise of Revivalism, which comes out of Pietism. Since the Spirit doesn't effectively work faith through the mere proclamation of Word and sacrament, then you've got to somehow supplement it with a dog-and-pony show. Ultimately, it's about marketing. How can we influence people to make this decision? That's one of the reasons why all the televangelists end up getting in trouble. If the premise is that you have to manipulate people to get them to do the right thing (believe in Jesus), then you'll be tempted to manipulate them to do other things as well once you have that power over them.

Ultimately then, the move to contemporary worship is based on a desire for evangelism that contradicts the Confessional Lutheran concept of grace and free will. God predestines the elect and causes them to have faith through the Word and the sacraments. There is a set number of the elect. If we adopt contemporary worship, there will be the same number of people in heaven as there would be if we didn't. Hence, we should simply proclaim the Word and not worry about manipulating people into "making their decision for Jesus"

2. It promotes a false anthropology: Let's expand on the point I made earlier about the false concept of human powers after the Fall. Contemporary worship also promotes an idea that is common in the Mainline right now as well. The idea that practice makes perfect. In other words, by doing exciting, emotional worship, it will form us into a Christian community and make us better Christians. This is one of the reasons why Pastors in these congregations are thought of as "leaders" and not as "Ministers of the Word," that is, pastoral healers. "Leaders" direct us somewhere and therefore get us to do something. "Minister of the Word" gives us the goods of Christ's benefits which we receive passively.

In this contemporary scheme, the Pastor brings in the new worship program. It forms peoples emotions to be "on fire for God." Then he gives a kind of moralizing message so that they'll "effect real change in their community" or something. In other words, specific practices create faith and promote morals. By doing them, we become something.

Part of this is a bad doctrine of creation. The idea here is that we create ourselves by our actions. This makes us God and is in fact what the serpent promised in the garden of Eden- "eat this and become God." Also, bear in mind, this is precisely the idea that Luther rejected in Aristotle and the via moderna when he started the Reformation. We are God's objects through proclamation. He speaks us into existence as justified sinners via Word and Sacrament. We do not create ourselves by our actions.

3. It moves in the wrong direction!: Contemporary worship is praise worship. Praise worship moves the wrong direction. It moves from us to God. We read the silly and repetitive verses off the projector. We ascend by our praises to God. We move to God, God does not move to us.

The structure of liturgical worship is to opposite. It moves from God to us and back again. In Genesis 1, God speaks forth creation and therefore creation glorifies God in return. God's initiative prompts the return of praise. In liturgical worship, the Pastor speaks the words of grace and therefore frees the congregation to praise God. This back and forth is part of the structure of creation and new creation, as Revelation 4-5 suggest.

4. Non-liturgical worship is a break with the biblical and ecumenical heritage of the Lutheran Church: The Old Testament Church had liturgical worship. All churches had liturgical worship until the 17th century the "Holy Fairs" began to emerge in Northern Ireland and Scotland. These evolved into the American camp meetings and the modern church-growth style worship settings of modern Evangelicals.

The Formula of Concord states that we should not abandon any of the traditions of the Church unless they contradict the Scriptures. This is partially because they help maintain continuity with the Church-catholic (which is important if we don't want to be a sect), but also because they teach the faith even when we have faithless teachers.

A good example of this is during the Arian controversy. In spite of the fact that Arius and some other Bishops were teaching the faith incorrectly, a great many of the laity were still saved by the fact that the liturgy contained true expositions of the faith. Liturgy saves us from unskilled or heretical pastors and teachers. It promotes and preserves the faith.

Free-form worship can't do this because it is subject to the whim of any given church-leader that comes along. Instead of teaching the faith, it seeks to promote a sub-cognitive faith based on meaningless formulas that are repeated over and over again. It seeks to promote emotions that will manipulate people into doing things, not create real faith, which always integrates the total person, intellect and emotions. This is one of the reasons why when they do surveys in churches that have non-liturgical worship and church-growth techniques they without fail can't even correctly explain the Apostles Creed.

Boaz, I hope this answers your question. I invite comments of concern and clarification.

UPDATE: Boaz, I forgot about your question regarding why if contemporary worship has evangelical and Arminian implications, why liturgical worship wouldn't have Roman Catholic ones. Historically, Lutherans have purified the liturgy from Roman aspects. Namely, Luther got rid of the Eucharistic prayer and Flacius fought the Augsburg Interim which attempted to impose it again. The Eucharistic prayer assumes that humans take the initiative in coming to God in holy Communion and not the other way around. Hence the present ELCA adoption of it again is not acceptable, as historians like Oliver K. Olson have pointed out.


  1. I would also add that it's not really about the music as far as I'm concerned. I don't think you need organ music to have a liturigcal church service. Strings, including guitar, and percussion when used to support the text, not overwhelm it are fine in my opinion. They may be in poor taste (or good taste), but there's nothing inherently less godly about them than the organ. The organ just happens to be good for supporting congregational singing. Unlike my husband, I grew up listening to soft rock and didn't really get exposed to classical music until I was in grad school. Yet, I still always thought a liturgical service was the best option, even though it wasn't the kind of music I would listen to in my spare time.
    In terms of what would make for a good liturgical Lutheran service in practice, I think you've got to have a service of the Word and service of the Sacrament and some form of the ordinaries of the mass (kyrie, gloria, creed, sanctus, and agnus dei) to maintain our confession that we are no sect. Within that structure, there's plenty of room for different types of music (provided the text is strong) and other variations.

  2. "Unlike my husband, I grew up listening to soft rock and didn't really get exposed to classical music until I was in grad school."

    Yes, it's true. I admit it. My wife love of Boston and Journey has been and remains a deep area of tension in our marriage.

    (Just kidding, of course).

  3. I do think somehow we need to make a distinction between the entire musical-styles-tastes question and the non-use of liturgy. They are two separate questions. People world-wide have different tastes in music. Music has not stayed constant through history. Why not then determine the musice styles of the Middle East from about 75 A.D. and say let's stick with that?

    Yet this should not be confused with the Liturgy. I do not have the answers. But I think it's very interesting the Romans aren't saying "let's do contemporary worship to attract the young people." The Mass/Divine Service is the constant as people depend on God reaching out to them week by week and can trust in Him being there.

    Hymns come and go - the Word and Sacrament are what remain true. My question would be isn't there some way the music should grow but the liturgy and confessions and theology stay true and constant?

  4. Tim- You make a good point. I think that there is. When I talk about liturgy I mean a particular structure of worship. Again, I don't mean particular music or instruments necessarily, though I think that the musical choice should be reverent. I think that there a lot of very modern sounding liturgies which are good. I don't think you need to use the Red book or anything to be an authentic Christian. The point is the structure of the music exchange between between the congregation and the minister of the Word. Also, that the liturgy actually convey the content of the faith and not merely be meaningless repetition that makes us feel good.

  5. I'd want to reinforce your claim that contemporary worship is put forward as a means to the end of attracting young people, and that it doesn't work. I don't doubt that some young people do go in for this kind of thing (perhaps especially when their musical tastes are shaped by their praise worship churches), but in the congregations where I've actually seen it implemented it turns out to be baby boomers who call for it, bring it about, and end up swaying and clapping the tambourine in the praise band/choir, without any influx of young worshippers. Your reasons 1 and 3 are especially on point.

    I maintain it is theoretically possible for there to be good edifying Christian rock music, even if I haven't heard any yet, based on my experience of good rock music that was produced in service of other causes (and yes, there has been awful politically motivated rock as bad as some of the Christian rock I've heard). The key is that it be worship music and not a marketing exercise.

    To add to the echo here, it is important that the structure and components of the service be maintained, since they teach as well, and the traditional form has been tested. In college I went to a church that had "Youth Sunday" where the youth would do most of the work of the service: read lessons, even give a short sermon. A common practice, but at this church, they went so far as to have the kids rewrite the creed "in their own words" and have those words printed in the bulletin for the rest of us when the time came. The first time I saw this a mild panic came over me. It was like coming upon one of those legalese boxes of text you need to agree with in order to run most computer software (without ever reading), but with a much higher liability risk.

  6. I think Mike is right about the baby-boomer interest in "CW". When it was started at my home church it was started by boomers and the idea was to attract other boomers, not young people per se. Not being a "baby boomer" myself, I'm unclear if they really see this as a mean of attracting teens and young adults or are more concered about bringing in other like-aged people.

  7. Jack, I love your blog and see it as a great form of continuing education for clergy. You have tremendous insights into our theology. However, I think you are on the wrong track in the way you are applying the doctrine of election to the question of contemporary worship. You are not alone in using this doctrine in this way, many otherwise orthodox men are making the same mistake.
    I believe that this is a theology of Glory/Hidden God kind of argument. The fact that God in His hiddenness has chosen some and not others is absolutely beyond our grasp and will only be understood in the light of glory. We have the Gospel of Christ in which we are to find our election. This Gospel reveals God's universal grace and God's desire that His Gospel be proclaimed to all the world. This Gospel is the means by which God saves sinners. Bringing the Gospel to the lost is certainly and act of love to God who is glorified by our confession of Christ and whose will we are obeying in sharing the Gospel. It is also an act of love to our neighbor because that Gospel is the power of God to salvaton to all who believe. This is the knowledge of God we have in the light of the cross, this is the revealed God's will. Our desire for evangelism is not diminished by the doctrine of election because God in His hidden counsel has given us this desire for evangelism and has chosen us to share the Gospel with the world. I have long felt the bringing of election into this controversey is a theology of Glory. I love your blog but I disagree with you on this point.

  8. Greg- I thank you for your words of praise. I think you misunderstood what I was trying to convey with my point on election. My point is that technique doesn't get people into heaven. It's the Word's power. My point isn't that we shouldn't worry about evangelism (which I am all for of course) but that we shouldn't believe that technique creates real faith in people hearts. It may create temporary numbers increase, but wouldn't create real faith.

    So, just to clarify, I'm not like the old Calvinist who when confronted with a young Pastor saying "I'm going to go to India and convert the Indians" said "not so fast, God will save the Indians when he wants to." Rather, I'm saying preach the Word and let the chips fall where they may.

    Nevertheless, I agree that your concern is well placed.

  9. I think that the reason election is brought up in these discussion is to counter the arminianism exhibited in the rhetoric of the pro contemporary worship crowd.

  10. Thanks for answers. These are probably the best responses I’ve gotten yet playing devils advocate on confessional blogs. A few more thoughts.

    On 1, I don't think the fact that many people engaging in a practice have wrong-headed motivations make the practice itself unscriptural or unconfessional. Fasting for example. The fact that many who advocate fasting do so under the belief that it earns merit doesn't make fasting a bad practice. Anyway, I don’t think the motivations for contemporary worship in LCMS started out as theological. Self-absorbed baby boomers pushed their preferences for playing and listening to praise band music on all types of Christian churches, including Lutheranism. Decision theology made a convenient justification for the switch, but most of these people aren't theological, they just really like crappy soft rock (especially the women). If you could prove with statistics that a praise band drives professionals away from church, disorients most men and the elderly from worship, and ultimately decreases numbers, it wouldn't matter to them because they really like the way it sounds. The 4 piece band is the sound of our culture. Nobody is taught to understand or appreciate good music in our society.

    On 2, that error exists whenever any practice is relied on for merit or faith, apart from the Word. My understanding is that the Orthodox believe that man is made holier by participating in the Divine Liturgy, but only so long as liturgy is in a particular FORM that is connected to history and tradition. I don’t see how that error is different than Pentecostals saying we receive the Spirit only when using a worship FORM that instills certain emotions. For both, the person’s participation in a particular FORM of ceremony is what counts. Lutherans should strongly disagree with both, and say the FORM of the ceremony is completely irrelevant so long as the FORM contains and promotes Word and Sacrament. The false belief that our practice earns merit or makes us holy apart from the Word seems likely to occur wherever a church mandates a specific particular FORM, as it is easy for ignorant parishioners to assume that the required FORM is special in and of itself. Unfortunately, it seems quite a number of Lutherans have fallen to that heretical belief and become Orthodox. I’m not sure why we aren’t more concerned about Orthodox and Catholic beliefs about liturgy seeping into the synod.

  11. On 3, if I wasn't in devil's advocate mode, I would generally agree. The idea that we come together to RECEIVE benefits from God in worship is so central to Lutheranism that a FORM that contradicts that idea is bad doctrine. Singing praise songs before there is anything in the service to remind about the things God has done isn't quite on the same level as making the eucharist a sacrifice, but it's of the same type of error. I think it is becoming more common in contemporary Lutheran worship to reformat the service to reflect God’s benefits first. (like the convention service.)

    On 4, I don't think any argument to restrict or require a practice based on tradition is scriptural or confessional. I could cite all the confessional statements against binding consciences to human ceremonies and rules but I'm sure you know them. As Luther showed, he wasn't bound to tradition in ceremonies. He didn't just drop the bad parts of the Mass, his version removed agnus dei, paraphrased the creed, made the gloria optional, and added a lot of congregational singing. If I remember, he also wanted to abandon the alter and thought small group worship would be ideal. From my limited reading of Luther on worship, particularly intro to Deutsche Mass, Freedom of a Christian, and the Confessions, Lutheran doctrine isn't concerned with preserving historical practice; it is very concerned with teaching and reminding of the Gospel, not upsetting superstitious and parochial parishioners, and preserving unity. Usually that means no drastic changes, (and those who introduced contemporary worship over the past 30 years did a terrible job upsetting people and breaking unity.) The mass was retained because as modified, it taught the Gospel, preserved unity, and avoided upsetting people. Latin was retained for the same reasons, and because there was a lot of beautiful music in Latin. Those confessional statements about retaining Mass and retaining Latin Mass were to demonstrate that true Christian doctrine permits their use; Christian Freedom allows us to modify and keep them. I don't understand where Lutherans are coming from when they those statements to SUPPORT the very argument being made by the Romans against the Lutherans: that true Christian doctrine requires preservation of the Mass. (but why not in Latin then, when the confessions say we retain the Latin?).

  12. Jack- I am delighted that I misunderstood you on election. I agree with you that the power is in the Word and not in any technique. Now as to evangelism and contemporary worship I don't think that evangelism is what has really driven the adoption of contemporary worship in the Lutheran Church. Frankly, I don't think the unregenrate care one bit about what kind of music we play in the church. What this is really about is the desire of Lutheran Grandma's and Grandpa's to keep their children and grandchildren in the church. In Southern California many non-denominational churches are filled with ex-Lutherans and ex-Catholics. Stoping the outflow of Lutherans is I think what is the real concern behind the adoption of contemporary worship.

  13. I agree with all the benefits of historical liturgy, but my concern is that promoting something as beneficial is very different than saying something is mandated by Scripture and the Confessions. That means it’s required of all Christians, failure to meet it is a sin requiring repentance. It binds consciences. There are some matters on which scripture is clear and we do bind consciences: communion only to those instructed and examined for correct understanding of the sacrament, ordination only of those meeting scriptural requirements, preaching only the theology of the cross, worship that is orderly and does not cause offense by its chaos or shirking of cultural norms. etc. But the church can't use law to bind consciences to its own man-made traditions and practices, even if the practice would be good if chosen freely. If I'm wrong, then why can’t we require fasting, require church attendance, require individual confession, ban expensive cars and dress, etc….

    here’s a hypothetical. Suppose a Pentecostal congregation becomes enamored with Luther and calls a Lutheran pastor to preach and administer Word and Sacrament properly, but it continues to follow its old form, modified to promote the idea that worship is to RECEIVE Christ's benefits, and continues to use guitars and a drum set for worship music, though carefully selected for doctrinally correct lyrics. It seems our options are (1) condemn that congregation as heterodox for its liturgical form and musical style, (2) admit they are doctrinally Lutheran and in confessional fellowship, but point them to the benefits of the historic liturgy and exhort them to conform practices and style to the main body for unity and to minimize offense, while at the same time respecting their Christian freedom in human ceremonies, (3) admit them to fellowship and let them promote their revised forms and songs so as to spread Lutheran doctrine and reform other Pentecostal churches.

    It seems the internet “confessional” Lutherans are at 1. I’m usually at 2, though if there were a modern day Luther born in a Pentecostal church, I think he'd be a 3. Kieschnick and the hard-core church growthers would be (4) let them keep their old Pentecostal forms and promote them in all Lutheran liturgical churches, though hopefully they'll come around to 2 or 3.

  14. Boaz,

    There is a world of difference between retaining only that which agrees with the Gospel and removing only that which conflicts with the Gospel. The latter is the Confessional stance, the former is the Calvinist "Regulative Principle of Worship" (which they had to limit to being "of worship", since it would be shown to be an utter disaster if it were applied to all of life--and all life is liturgical, or at least worship, if you like).

    "the FORM of the ceremony is completely irrelevant so long as the FORM contains and promotes Word and Sacrament..."

    Couldn't you say the same thing about the Confessions here? One might argue that the "form" of the Confessions (i.e. the actual words) is irrelevant so long as it is a correct exposition of Scripture. After all, we can't say that the exact words were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet we don't try to access the "substance" of the Confessions directly if we want to find out what they confess; we have to read the actual words, which are their form, in order to understand the substance they confess (and this is all if one wants to work with the form/substance distinction).

    I don't mean to say that we're bound to the Liturgy like we're bound to the Confessions; we subscribe to the confessions but we retain the Mass, and those are two different things. All this is simply to say that for Lutherans there are texts which are not of Holy-Spirit-inspiration but are nevertheless binding. And for the churches who subscribed to those confessions, and for the confessors who wrote them, there were the church orders which were enacted across entire political states, not as commands of God, but still with a definite form.

  15. Phil, is the person who said this a confessional Lutheran?

    But the third sort of Divine Service, which the true type of Evangelical Order should embrace, must not be celebrated so publicly in the
    square amongst all and sundry. Those, however, who are desirous of being Christians in earnest, and are ready to profess the Gospel with hand and mouth, should register their names and assemble by themselves in some house
    to pray, to read, to baptize and to receive the sacrament and practise other Christian works. Here there would not be need of much fine singing. Here we could have baptism and
    the sacrament in short and simple fashion: and direct everything towards the Word and prayer and love. Here we should have a good short Catechism about the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer. In one word, if we only had people who longed to be Christians in earnest, Form and Order would
    soon shape itself.

  16. Also Phil, the confessions say that "among us the Latin lessons and prayers are retained" and "we retain the Latin language on account of those who are learning and understand Latin."

    Yet I can't find any Lutheran anywhere advocating for Latin services for people like me who are learning and understand Latin!

    Or maybe I'm misinterpreting the confessions and ignoring context...

    Here's some context:

    We believe, teach, and confess also that no Church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles, as also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei, Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith.

    Accordingly, we reject and condemn as wrong and contrary to God's Word when it is taught that human ordinances should be regarded as in themselves a divine worship or part of it and when such ceremonies, ordinances, and institutions are violently forced upon the congregation of God as necessary, contrary to its Christian liberty which it has in external things.

    Or maybe this one:

    if different people make use of different rites, let no one judge or despise the other, but every man be fully persuaded in his own mind [Rom. 14:5]. Let us feel and think the same, even though we may act differently. And let us approve each other’s rites lest schisms and sects should result from this diversity in rites—as has happened in the Roman church. For external rites, even though we cannot do without them—just as we cannot do without food or drink—do not commend us to God, even as food does not commend us to him [I Cor. 8:8]. Faith and love commend us to God.”

    I could go for a long time with these types of quotes. Christian freedom applies to liturgy.

  17. A: What Confessional Lutherans teach is binding Lutheran doctrine.
    B1: Luther is a Confessional Lutheran.
    C: What Luther teaches is binding Lutheran doctrine.

    B2: Martin Chemnitz is a Confessional Lutheran.
    B3: Johann Gerhard is a Confessional Lutheran.

    (Hollaz, Vilmar, Loehe, Walther, Elert, Piepkorn, Forde, Dr. Kilcrease, you, me, etc...)

    The major premise is flawed. The Confessions are binding, not the doctrine of individual Confessional Lutherans--not even Luther's doctrine when it is not accepted by the Confessions.

    In response to your quotation from 1526, I would cite Luther from 1533, in which he discusses a very public Evangelical Consecration. I'm not citing it as binding, either, only to show that Luther changed his mind over time:

    "For, God be praised, in our churches we can show a Christian a true Christian mass according to the ordinance and institution of Christ, as well as according to the true intention of Christ and the church. There our pastor, bishop, or minister in the pastoral office, rightly and honorably and publicly called, having been previously consecrated, anointed, and born in baptism as a priest of Christ, without regard to the private chrism, goes before the altar. Publicly and plainly he sings what Christ has ordained and instituted in the Lord's Supper. He takes the bread and wine, gives thanks, distributes and gives them to the rest of us who are there and want to receive them, on the strength of the words of Christ: "This is my body, this is my blood. Do this," etc. Particularly we who want to receive the sacrament kneel beside, behind, and around him, man, woman, young, old, master, servant, wive, maid, parents, and children, even as God brings us together there, all of us true, holy priests, sanctified by Christ's blood, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and consecrated in baptism. On the basis of this our inborn, hereditary priestly honor and attire we are present, have, as Revelation 4[:4] pictures it, our golden crowns on our heads, harps and golden censers in our hands; and we let our pastor say what Christ has ordained, not for himself as though it were for his person, but he is the mouth for all of us and we all speak the words with him from the heart and in faith, directed to the Lamb of God who is present for us and among us, and who according to his ordinance nourishes us with his body and blood. This is our mass, and it is the true mass which is not lacking among us. (LW 38, 208-20)

    Dr. Kilcrease,

    Regarding your update above, what do you think about the retention of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Swedish Church (with the reforms of Petri)? What do you think about Luther's words here that seem to suggest that the celebrant "eucharistically" prays the Verba to Christ (though they are also proclamation, since they are sung "publicly and plainly")?

  18. "there were the church orders which were enacted across entire political states, not as commands of God, but still with a definite form."

    If a congregation agrees to an ecclesiastical structure in which it agrees to be bound for the sake of unity to a single order, great. That's excellent use of Christian Freedom. I wish our LCMS congregations would do the same. DS3 please.

  19. Phil, I don't see how Luther is contradicting anything in that quote. He says the true mass is preaching the Word and properly administering the sacraments according to scripture. Amen! That is the true mass!

  20. Boaz,

    The Lutheran Church never abolished the Latin Mass (honestly, it didn't! The 1710 Leipzig Church Order prescribed a Latin Introit and Collect and options for the Kyrie in Greek and the Gloria in Latin, 130 years after the Book of Concord was published (Herl, 2004).). You do have Confessional authorization to ask your parish for a Latin Divine Service, although there may be other considerations. Deacon Gaba's blog has had some ruminations over a Lutheran Latin Mass as well.

    In your Luther quotation, he hypothesizes about a Divine Service celebrated in "some house", yet seven years later he is talking about "our churches" and going before "the altar." If Luther changed his mind about some liturgical things, he may have changed his mind about other liturgical things. I would be interested to see if you can find a citation in the Confessions where Luther's opinions on the Liturgy are made to be binding doctrine in the Lutheran Church (as opposed to, say, his doctrine on the Lord's Supper, which certainly is).

  21. Or was the quote supposed to relate to the use of the altar? He's not addressing whether an altar is required in that quote, or whether worship should be public. The point is, there is Christian Freedom not to use an altar, or to have private worship in a home using simplified worship forms. I think he's off base in thinking those options would better teach the Gospel. But the point is, the doctrine of Christian Freedom is the framework to address those issues. Not to bind consciences to tradition.

    I think my concerns are clear, so I'm done. I apologize for causing anybody offense in my fun playing devil's advocate. I think confessional arguments for liturgy too often lack nuance, fail to take account of Christian freedom, and come too close to Orthodox arguments, which really sets me off.

  22. Boaz,

    I hope you don't leave the discussion, and I should have been clearer. I was emphasizing Luther's mention of "our churches" and "the altar" (with the definite pronoun) to show that in 1533 he had in mind a very public celebration with a definite altar, whereas in 1526 he had more of a "house church" liturgy in mind. The point is not that the use of an altar is Scripturally binding but that, in seeing the normative Evangelical Mass as being celebrated in a particular public church with a unique altar, Luther changed the way he thought about things.

    On the other hand, one could probably build a case that the Lutheran church orders, especially the one written by Chemnitz, an author of the Formula, prescribed the use of an altar. I simply don't have the German skills to do so, but I would think it could be done.

    I would also say that our understanding of the liturgy has been unduly influenced by Orthodox and RC sources in Schmemann and Kavanagh, especially in the understanding of the Christian Liturgy as one instance in the general category of "ritual" (which is not particularly Christian) and in an understanding, particularly in Kavanagh, which equates "lex orandi lex credendi" with "vox populi vox dei."

    The sainted Dr. Marquart had some interesting things to say about Kavanagh and Schmemann, although I don't think he necessarily said everything that could be said:


    Pax Christi.

  23. "Dr. Kilcrease,

    Regarding your update above, what do you think about the retention of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Swedish Church (with the reforms of Petri)?"

    I don't think it's a good idea. At best, it assume humans initiate their relationship to God enacted in Holy Communion, at worst it can suggest that we hold to the belief that an epiclesis is necessary to consecrate the elements.

    This later piece is especially bad, since it makes the basis of the consecration a man-made prayer "come Holy Spirit, etc." and not Christ's words of promise. Granted that was the going theory in most of the Ante-Nicene Church (Justin Martyr mentions it in one of his Apologies- so pretty early on), but it's bad news. We Lutheran go with Ambrose and the idea that the Words of institution are what are instrumental and that there is a real moment of consecration (that is, those of us who follow Luther and not Melanchthon and his receptionism).

    In the ELCA (and its predecessor bodies), the Eucharistic prayer was pretty much adopted without a lot of thought and with much protest
    from Oliver Olson. The ultimate source of all this is Luther Reed, who insisted that if we maintained our historic objection to certain liturgical practices that it would make us sectarian.

    If you go to an ELCA service where they do the Eucharistic prayer it's extremely galling. If one didn't know the official Lutheran position on it you would get the impression that the elements are consecrated by the prayer itself.

    "What do you think about Luther's words here that seem to suggest that the celebrant "eucharistically" prays the Verba to Christ (though they are also proclamation, since they are sung "publicly and plainly")?"

    I would also read Luther that way, as does my pastor. So, at my congregation we sing the Verba. It's very lovely.

  24. Boaz- You've said a lot. I unfortunately cannot address you point by point. My research and writing schedule right now do not permit this. Let me address a couple things though.

    1. I was intrigued by your hypothetical regarding the Penecostal congregation. My concern isn't musical instruments. I don't like drums in Church, but I see nothing in Scripture which prohibits them. Also, guitars are fine. Musical instruments don't matter to me. They would have to cease doing praise music though because of its structure. Again, my concern is with the structure of liturgy- the "back-and-forth" of proclamation and faith's sacrifice of praise.

    That being said, I wouldn't get ride of the praise format all of sudden. I would ease them out of it, just like Luther eased his congregation in Wittenberg out of certain practices gradually, until by the late 1520s they had something resembling proper biblical worship and eucharistic celebration.

    2. You keep on talking about FORM. I think it's important to recognize that FORM is a kind of content. What we do is as important as what we say. In fact, practice is a kind of visible language in and of itself. Both preach a message. So, there's really no divorcing form from content.

  25. "It's irritating, loud, and the music sounds bad to me."

    That's exactly the *Lutheran* spirit, and that's how I feel too. ;-D

    The Lord be with you!

  26. Thank you for this blog. I am a new Christian (<2yrs) and am having to stand up against the Purpose Driven program in my congregation. I ask why not the BoC? Too hard to read? Feh!

    I and my wife live in the liturgy, the LSB and hearing the Word in song. Thank you for supplying more steel for my backbone in matters of historic, true worship and theology.

    Tom Moeller