Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Does traditional theology require traditional liturgy?

I missed Issues Etc. when it was gone, so I was glad when it came back. One reason I missed the original show is that it was the only talk show I’ve ever heard that discussed issues of liturgy and liturgical music.

I’ve been listening to its first month back on iTunes. Of the new shows I’ve heard so far, the most substantive was the July 18 segment with Pastor Klemet Preuss. Pastor (and blogger) is the author of the The Fire And The Staff: Lutheran Theology In Practice.

Given that book, it’s not surprising that the July 18 show was entitled “Doctrine and Practice.” He makes some interesting points about liturgical choices:
  • The divine service and historic liturgy are a “gift of God to us,” and thus it would hard to improve upon it: “You have bible passages put together in a structured and wonderful way so beautifully and so consistently thtat you can’t improve upon it.”
  • Churches that use more modern worship believe that approach is the only way to reach potential new members (i.e., seekers), but is rare that they
  • The modern worship approach has the goal of “they want to elicit and immediate and emotional response to what is going on on Sunday morning,” but of course the goal of liturgy is to bring us closer to God.
  • The modern liturgy is oriented towards quick conversions, but overall no denomination has been able to grow based on this approach.
Pastor Preuss is not very ecumenical in how he views traditional interpretations of the historic liturgy, praising only traditional Lutheran worship. I can’t tell if that’s due to ignorance, chauvinism, or perhaps (due to his position and responsibilities) because his concern for appropriate practice is limited to the LCMS.

Despite, the half-hour show is thought-provoking. It suggests that his book (which attacks the Church Growth movement) would provide good ammunition for someone seeking to argue for traditional worship.

I’d love to believe Pastor Preuss is right that modernized worship is inherently a bad idea: after all, I’m a big fan of the traditional+traditional corner of the liturgy matrix. But such a big fraction of the Schism II Anglicans are liturgical modernists — consonant with the Evangelical wing of the communion — that it’s hard to rule out the possibility they could also holding a valid liturgical alternative. So is traditional worship a must or merely a want? The jury is still out.

No comments: