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quod pro nobis traditum est

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bible and Liturgy

"Bible and Liturgy", an introduction to a study of divine revelation and divine worship, is available here as a .pdf file. This is a work in progress . . .

2 comments:

Chris Jones said...

Father,

The relationship and interplay between Scripture and liturgy is a subject that has been much on my mind lately, so I was glad to be able to read your thoughts on it.

In this paper you speak of Scripture and liturgy in parallel, as fulfilling the same function (though perhaps in different ways). For example, you say In both divine revelation (Bible) and divine worship (Liturgy) God reveals Himself to people in the man Jesus Christ; and Both Bible and liturgy speak to main's need to turn away from self and turn to the Lord and the neighbour; and The Bible and liturgy are all the work of God in raising us from death to life.

My question is, if liturgy is in fact a means through which God reveals Himself in Christ, and through which He gives us forgiveness and new life (and I firmly believe that it is), then how does that relate to the Reformation principle of Scripture Alone? As Lutherans, we do not follow the "Regulative Principle" of the Reformed. Indeed, such a principle is historically untenable, because the liturgy in its structure and essential function was in place long before the New Testament was written. So, rather than the Scripture "regulating" the Church's liturgy, the Scripture presupposes and finds its context in an ecclesial liturgical life which was already ongoing.

You correlate Scripture and liturgy as two realities which have in common that they are "not private", but are always held in common as it was handed down to us. Although you do not come right out and say it, where it appears that you are going with this is Scripture and liturgy are both included in the Apostolic deposit of faith, in the treasure that has been handed down to us; and that neither is derived from the other, but both come down to us from the Apostles.

What then becomes of Scripture Alone?

Rev. Timothy May, M.Div., S.S.P. said...

Chris,

If Scripture is taken "alone," that is, for what it says of itself, then any "regulative principle" is easily dispelled. Within the Scriptures themselves is the clear witness of an ongoing liturgical life that the Lord upheld and fulfilled even to the point of following the rubric of reading the appointed lesson.

The Scriptures, written by men carried along by the Spirit (Luke 1) point to the present reality of Christ Jesus even as they recorded that which happened prior to the Creation and that which follows the Last Day. The Scriptures are revelation from God about God in Christ. He precedes the Scriptures, is revealed in the flesh through the Scriptures, and brings all things to their fulfillment, as is revealed in the holy writings.

Therefore, any "regulative principle" undermines that which it undoubtedly hopes to uphold. The Scriptures become an end in themselve ("Scripture alone") and separate the eternal reality of Christ from the fleshly reality of His life bestowed and lived in the Church (thus, for example, we hear that Christ is present in the Sacraments but not in the liturgy).

For many years I held to this same misunderstanding ("Scripture alone") as it is deeply rooted in and prevalent in my own church tradition. Ironically, a reading of Scripture alone clearly upholds both an oral and written tradition passed on to the faithful from generation to generation. This is reflected in the liturgical life of the people of God in both Testaments and continues in the liturgy handed down through the Church to the present time.

I considered leaving your response alone as it is well-stated and answers well the very question you pose. The Scriptures are never alone. The Sacraments are never disconnected from the people for whom they have been instituted. The liturgy is never disconnected from the Scriptural and Sacramental reality of Christ in the flesh who comes to us bringing forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

You state well, "As Lutherans, we do not follow the "Regulative Principle" of the Reformed. Indeed, such a principle is historically untenable, because the liturgy in its structure and essential function was in place long before the New Testament was written. So, rather than the Scripture "regulating" the Church's liturgy, the Scripture presupposes and finds its context in an ecclesial liturgical life which was already ongoing." Later on you add, "...Scripture and liturgy are both included in the Apostolic deposit of faith, in the treasure that has been handed down to us..."

In conclusion, the principle "Scripture alone" is inconsistent with both the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions the following quote by a Reformed author is provided: "The Calvinistic reformers and the Reformed confessions often referred to sola scriptura passages (e.g., Dt. 4:2, Pr. 30:6) as proof texts for the regulative principle of worship. When sola scriptura is consistently applied to worship, the result is Puritan and Reformed worship." (source: http://www.reformed.com/pub/sola.htm)