Pastors who routinely tell their congregations that "we do everything by the Book" and still perform this ironclad liturgy are simply not correct. (In their defense, the lack of truthfulness is due to ignorance rather than overt deception.)
You can scour your Bible from beginning to end, and you will never find anything that remotely resembles our order of worship. This is because the first-century Christians knew no such thing. In fact, the Protestant order of worship has about as much biblical support as does the Roman Catholic Mass.' Both have few points of contact with the New Testament.
The meetings of the early church were marked by every-member functioning, spontaneity, freedom, vibrancy, and open participation (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 14:1-33 and Hebrews 10:25).' The first-century church meeting was a fluid gathering, not a static ritual. And it was often unpredictable, unlike the contemporary church service.
Further, the first-century church meeting was not patterned after
One scholar defines tradition as "inherited worship practices and beliefs that show continuity from generation to generation" (White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 21).
The medieval Mass is a blending of Roman, Gallic, and Frankish elements. For more details, see Edmund Bishop's essay "The Genius of the Roman Rite" in Studies in Ceremonial: Essays Illustrative of English Ceremonial, ed. Vernon Staley (Oxford: A. R. Mowbray, 1901) and Louis Duchesne's Christian Worship: Its Origin and Evolution (New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1912), 86-227. The ceremonial aspects of the Mass, such as the incense, candles, and arrangement of the church building were all borrowed from the ceremonial court of the Roman emperors (Jungmann , Early Liturgy, 132-133, 291-292; Smith, From Christ to Constantine, 173). The first-century church meeting is being observed today on a growing scale. While such gatherings are often considered radical and revolutionary by mainline Christianity, they are no more radical or revolutionary than the first-century church. For a scholarly discussion on the early church meeting, see Banks, Paul's Idea of Community ch. 9-11; Banks and Banks, Church Comes Home, ch. 2; Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament (Chatham, UK: W. & 1. Mackay, 1961),1-136.
the Jewish synagogue services as some recent authors have suggested.' Instead, it was totally unique to the culture.
So where did the Protestant order of worship come from? It has its basic roots in the medieval Catholic Mass.' Significantly, the Mass did not originate with the New Testament; it grew out of ancient Judaism and paganism.' According to Will Durant, the Catholic Mass was "based partly on the Judaic Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation.""
Gregory the Great (540-604), the first monk to be made pope, is the man responsible for shaping the medieval Mass." While Gregory is recognized as an extremely generous man and an able administrator and diplomat, Durant notes that Gregory was also an incredibly superstitious man whose thinking was influenced by magical paganis-tic concepts. He embodied the medieval mind, which was influenced by heathenism, magic, and Christianity. It is no accident that Durant calls Gregory "the first completely medieval man.""
The medieval Mass reflected the mind of its originator. It was a blending of pagan and Judaistic ritual sprinkled with Catholic theology and Christian vocabulary1.4 Durant points out that the Mass was
See Banks, Paul's Idea of Community, 106-108, 112-117; Bradshaw, Origins of Christian Worship, 13-15, 27-29, 159-160, 186. Bradshaw argues against the idea that first-century Christianity inherited its liturgical practices from Judaism. He points out that this idea began around the seventeenth century. David Norrington states, "We have little evidence to suggest that the first Christians attempted to perpetuate the style of the synagogue" (To Preach or Not, 48). Moreover, the Jewish synagogue was a human invention. Some scholars believe it was created during the Babylonian captivity (sixth century BC), when worship at the Jerusalem Temple was impossible; others believe they emerged m the third or second century BC with the rise of the Pharisees. Even though the synagogue became the center of Jewish life after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in AD 70, there is no Old Testament (or divine) precedent for such an institution. Joel B. Green, ed., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: (nterVarsity, 1992), 781-782; Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Mclean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1883), 431. Furthermore, the architectural inspiration for the synagogue was pagan (Norrington, To Preach or Not, 28).
The word mass, which means "dismissal" of the congregation (niission, dismssio) became, at the end of the fourth century, the word for the worship service that celebrated the Eucharist (Schaff, History of the Christian Church 3:505).
The story of the origin of the Mass is far beyond the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that the Mass was essentially a blending together of a resurgence of Gentile interest in synagogue worship and pagan influence that dates back to the fourth century (Senn,
Christian Liturgy, 54; Jungmann, Early Liturgy, 123, 130-144).
Durant, Caesar and Christ, 599.
Gregory's major reforms shaped the Catholic Mass into what it was all throughout the medieval period up until the Reformation. Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 4:387-388. Durant, Age of Faith, 521-524.
Philip Schaff outlines the various Catholic liturgies which climax in Gregory's liturgy. Gregory's liturgy dominated the Latin church for centuries and was sanctioned by the Council of Trent (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3:531-535). Gregory is also the person who developed and popularized the Catholic doctrine of "purgatory," although he extracted it from several speculative comments from Augustine (Gonzalez, Story of Christianity 247). In effect, Gregory made Augustine's teachings the foundational theology of the Western church. "Augustine," says Paul Johnson, "was the dark genius of imperial Christianity, the ideologue of the Church-State alliance, and the fabricator of the medieval mentality. Next to Paul, who supplied the basic theology, he did more to shape Christianity than any other human being" (History of Christianity, 112). Durant says Augustine's theology dominated Catholic philosophy until the thirteenth century. Augustine also gave it a Neoplatonic tinge (Durant. Age of Faith, 74).
deeply steeped in pagan magical thinking as well as Greek drama." He writes, "The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass."'
In effect, the Catholic Mass that emerged in the sixth century was fundamentally pagan. Christians incorporated the vestments of the pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purification rites, the burning of candles in worship, the architecture of the Roman basilica for their church buildings, the law of Rome as the basis of "canon law," the title Pontifex Maximus for the head bishop, and the pagan rituals for the Catholic Mass."
Once established, the Mass changed little over a thousand years." But the liturgical deadlock underwent its first revision when Martin Luther (1483-1546) entered the scene. As various other Protestant denominations were born, they also helped reshape the Catholic liturgy. While the transformation was a complex one that is too vast to chronicle in this book, we can survey the basic story.
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