The Ecclesiastical Pendulum Swing

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Bert Perry's picture

One of my roommates in college went Anglican, noting that one thing he really didn't like about a lot of evangelicals was a consistent pressure on the young to marry.  No, he's not homosexual or anything (married with 2 kids actually), and it wasn't a pressure that I felt, but that was his perspective.  Another roommate decided to go towards the E Free churches from Baptist churches more or less because of a lot of the cultural rules he couldn't find a justification for in Scripture.  

Personally, having attended Anglican/Methodist/Catholic services while traveling and visiting family, one thing I notice, especially about the Anglicans and Catholics, is that there is a sense of anticipation and beauty in their churches, especially the older ones, that is largely absent from most fundagelical churches.  I'm not contemplating crossing the Tiber myself, but I do have to wonder whether "our camps" could recover some of this without violating the Solas or the Fundamantals.

Another thing that strikes me is something a friend from college mentioned to me about his time at Moody; that he felt that he was being taught what to think about certain subjects, not how to do so.  Really the same finger I'd point at a lot of secular schools, just with one closer to our camp.  And for better or worse, "high church" churches aren't placing the same premium on conformity that we do--nor do churches like the EFCA.  

Food for thought, I hope.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JBL's picture

That this author is a PCA pastor who seeks to push the view that a non-liturgical reformed church is the best moderation between the extremes of evangelical fundamentalism and high liturgical traditionalism is probably not purely coincidental.

Of course, he just gives the anecdotal evidence of ONE (Robert Webber) as proof that a significant number of congregants of fundamentalist churches are making the migration as described.  I'm not convinced that this was ever of any material consequence compared to the fundamentalist defections to other religions or world views.

We should be concerned whether the defections are being conducted for biblical or non-biblical reasons.  If we are off in our theology or doctrine, or how it applies to worship and practice, the defections should be a very bright warning flag.

John B. Lee

Ron Bean's picture

A conservative Christian acquaintance made the move to conservative Anglicanism because he wanted "an atmosphere of worship" when he went to church.  Sunday morning church services that included "shake hands with your neighbor", little children singing "Father Abraham had many Sons", soloists who seriously couldn't carry a tune and whose performances embarrassed friends he brought to church, and pastors trying to tell jokes and funny stories were just some of the things that wore on him.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

Again, you don't have to cross the Tiber to do this, but if you haven't already, walk into a Catholic church--preferably one built before the first Roosevelt lived in the White House--and take in the solemn hush.  Let your eyes look up--yes those statues are somewhat idolatrous, but take in the effect.

And then contemplate how one might so "bow the knee" (one root meaning for "worship") in your own church.  Again, I treasure the Solas and the Fundamentals too much to go to the Anglicans or Catholics, but there is a Biblical command to worship that we ought to take seriously enough to get some kind of solumn hush going, a reverent awe at going to meet with our Lord.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think you can pick up good tidbits from a whole bunch of different places. I can say one thing about high-liturgical churches - their service is beautiful. Compare the formal liturgy for the Lords Supper in a Lutheran church (for example), with the trite irrelevance of so many hip evangelical churches. Set aside the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord'a Supper, and just consider the majesty and solemnness a formal liturgy brings to this ordinance. Can we take something away from that, to make our own services better?

When I was a Pastor, I was inspired by John Hammett's book on Baptist polity to intentionally make the ordinances more formal than they typically are. I wrote two "orders of service" (e.g. codeword for "liturgy!") for the Lord's Supper and Baptism. They were really pretty bare bones, but I wrote out my Pastoral prayers before-hand, and included a pre-written corporate confession at the start of the Lord's Supper. For baptism, I asked a series of questions to the candidate. They were theological questions, intended to emphasize the importance and significance of he ordinance. They were aware of them in advance, but the overall effect was very somber, very serious and it told the congregation this was a very important event. The candidate understood that, too.

I think it helped. A lot. High liturgy can eventually become ritual formalism with no heart. But, I think there is something there that Baptists can take away for our own services. We should at least consider bumping our own "low church" atmosphere up a small notch or two in certain circumstances, and see if it conveys the proper sense of awe and somberness to worship among the congregation.

Food for thought, at any rate.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Newman's picture

While this phenomenon isn't really new (research John Henry Newman if you don't believe me), we do have to pay attention to the fact that our faith is an ancient one and we do well to tie it to the historical faith in ways that make sense. To me, the reading of Scripture and the unified prayer with the congregation can be part of that "tie" in a standard fundamental/evangelical church. Is this also a reaction to the schlocky entertainment-worship and the prosperity gospel overreach? I do believe these also make many more hungry for real worship, and some will find it in the most ancient paths.

Rob Fall's picture

away from my time serving with the Russian-speaking Baptists is their observance of the canonical\liturgical calendar. They observe not only the usual Christmas and Easter. But, they also observe Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, and Pentecost. To my mind, each of these days gives us a good reason to preach on a solid truth. 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joeb's picture

I read an article that said that the church that was experiencing growth in the US was the Eastern Orthodox Church for the reason stated.  This growth was from Evangelicals seeking out a more serious worship atmosphere of their Lord.   I don't recall where I read it but I will research the matter again.