Many Adjustments No Vital Change

Our study of the liturgical history of the Lutherans (sixteenth century), Reformed (sixteenth century), Puritans (sixteenth century), Methodists (eighteenth century), Frontier-Revivalists (eighteenth to nineteenth centuries), and Pentecostals (twentieth century) uncovers one inescapable point: For the last five hundred years, the Protestant order of worship has undergone minimal change.'"

In the end, all Protestant traditions share the same unbiblical features in their order of worship: They are officiated and directed by a clergyman, they make the sermon central, and the people are passive and not permitted to minister.'"

The Reformers accomplished a great deal in changing the theology of Roman Catholicism. But in terms of actual practice, they made only minor adjustments that did little to bring worship back to the New Testament model. The result: God's people have never broken free from the liturgical constraints they inherited from Roman Catholicism.'"

White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 129. ^ The Great Awakening of the eighteenth century set the tone for an individualistic faith, something foreign to the first-century church. America was fast becoming a nation of rugged individualists, on this new emphasis sat well with the country (Terry, Evangelism, 122-123).

Frank Senn's Christian Liturgy compares scores of various liturgies down through the ages. Anyone who compares them will readily spot their common features.

Ii? Senn compares five modern written liturgies side by side, Roman Catholic Missal, Lutheran Book of Worship, Book of Common Prayer, the Methodist order of worship, and Book of Common Worship. The similarities are striking. (Christian Liturgy, 646-647). Ij- Some scholars have tried to tease out of the writings of the church fathers a unified, monolithic liturgy observed by all churches. But recent scholarship has shown that none of their writings can be universalized to represent what was happening in all the churches at a given time (Bradshaw, Origins of Christian Worship, 67-73,158-183). Furthermore. archaeological findings have demonstrated that the writings of the church fathers, who were theologians, do not provide an accurate view of the beliefs or practices of the garden-variety Christians of those times. New Testament professor Graydon F. Snyder's Ante Pacem is a study of the archaeological evidence that contradicts the portrait that the church fathers give of church life before Constantine. According to one seminary writer, "Snyder raises the question, do the writings of the intellectuals in early Christianity give us adequate portrait of the church of their ti mes? The question has only to be asked for the obvious answer 'no' to be heard on our lips. Do the intellectuals of any age tell it like it is in the trenches? Do Barth, Tllich, or even the Niebuhrs describe in any way what popular twentieth-century American Christianity has been like? We all know they don't, and yet we have assumed that the New Testament and the so-called 'Patristic' theologians give us accurately a description of Christianity of the first three centuries. In part, of course, this has been assumed because we have thought they are the only sources we have, and to a large extent this is true, as far as literary documents are concerned" (Robin Scroggs, Chicago Theological Seminary Register 75, no. 3 [Fall 1985]: 26).

As one author put it, "The Reformers accepted in substance the ancient Catholic pattern of worship'". . . the basic structures of their services were almost universally taken from the late medieval orders of various sorts."'"

In the end, then, the Reformers reformed the Catholic liturgy only slightly. Their main contribution was in changing the central focus. In the words of one scholar, "Catholicism increasingly followed the path of the [pagan] cults in making a rite the center of its activities, and Protestantism followed the path of the synagogue in placing the book at the center of its services."'' Unfortunately, neither Catholics nor Protestants were successful in allowing Jesus Christ to be the center and head of their gatherings. Nor were they successful at liberating and unleashing the body of Christ to minister one to another in the gathering, as the New Testament envisions.

Because of the Reformation, the Bible replaced the Eucharist and the pastor replaced the priest. But there is still a person directing God's people, rendering them as silent spectators. The centrality of the Author of the Book was never restored. Hence, the Reformers dramatically failed to put their finger on the nerve of the original problem: a clergy-led worship service attended by a passive laity.'" It is not surprising, then, that the Reformers viewed themselves as reformed Catholics.'"

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