Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Aesthetics Over Christ

Gracy Olmstead in an article titled "Why Millennials long for liturgy." in the January, 2014 issue of "The American Conservative", Rhapsodizes about the phenomenon of young adults leaving Evangelical Churches for "liturgical churches" like the Romanist, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox. She argues that some are drawing hope that these millennials represent the Christianity of the future.

I experienced a recent example of this in the congregation of which I am currently a member. After 11 years in the OPC, and before that having belonged to small congregations I find the Church I am in currently to be disturbingly "high church". The other Sunday morning I attended a Sunday school class and discovered a young gentleman in the class was teaching about the advent season. I entered the room and immediately observed lighted candles. For the next hour I heard extolled the importance of a more liturgical worship.

During the course of the class I was informed that there were traditions like Joseph being over 90 when he married Mary linked to the notion that Mary never consummated her relation with Joseph. (i.e. the Dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.) The class was then told to bring cushions the next week so that they could kneel while praying to "get out of their comfort zone." I was not there.

This is not surprising. One of the things I've noted how often liturgy and ceremony are substitutions for ideas and beliefs. Olmstead's examples of conversion to the "Church of the future" are people like Bert Gingerich of the Institute on Religion and Democracy whose journey from the United Methodist to Reformed Baptist to Anglican is celebrated by Olmstead, citing his love for the Beauty of the Eucharistic liturgy. Another example is a Jesse Cone who grew up in the Presbyterian Church In America (PCA). Attending Biola university he moved to Anglicanism then to Eastern Orthodoxy, "blown away bay the worship, doctrine and Tradition. She concludes with the apostate minister Jason Stellman who raised a Baptist moved to Calvary Chapel to the PCA ministry, to Romanism citing the Church fathers and the "liturgical beauty of the mass."
What do these individuals have in common? For one thing they all seem to have been Church-hoppers who, blown by every wind of doctrine drift from one group to another. They all seem to be obsessed with the externals of liturgy and the delusion that the "high church" of the Middle Ages was the same as the Church of the early fathers. Rather than a dramatic change of belief , they seem to have simply ran in search of someone putting on a better show.

As to the early Church, Does anyone really imagine that in the early Church facing persecution, meeting in hiding were focused on ceremonies and liturgies? No Cathedrals and masses. how dull and unsatisfying these early Christian services must have been. There was only Christ and that seemed to have been enough for them.

History show that the high liturgy and ceremony came with the corruption of the Church in the Middle Ages, as it became more wealthy and worldly. like Barnacles on the hull of a pure and pristine faith, the liturgy more and more replaced the Word of God, until the people became taught that salvation is ceremony and the scrtipures were walled off from the people.

It is interesting that none of the great revivals of Christianity were brought about by liturgy or ceremony but by a more faithful preaching of the Gospel. Reform movements of the past always moved to a simpler form
of worship to point people not to the pageantry of the high church but to Christ. 

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