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Deep Church as Third Way 7

posted by Scot McKnight

ThirdWay.jpgIs there a Third Way for worship?  Jim Belcher, in Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional examines this question and contends there is a genuine third way beyond the traditional and the emerging.

What is your church doing to recover the ancient worship traditions? What are first steps for discovering our roots?
Jim’s own experience might well express the whole issue: “I longed for the experience of God’s presence and desired the restoration of liturgical elements of worship. I had grown weary of the thinness of contemporary worship, which seemed so lifeless and often done by rote. But I didn’t want to return to the traditional style I grew up with …” (124).
So what does he want?


“… worship that embodied a genuine encounter with God, had depth and substance, included more frequent… Communion, was participatory, read more Scripture… creatively used the senses, provided more time for contemplation, and focused on the transcendence and otherness of God” (124).

His sketch is of Dan Kimball’s famous book: Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations  and what goes on at his church, Vintage Church, in Santa Cruz.
The beef of traditionalists: it is all consumerism. “If you pander to the consumer … you will eventually get burned” (131). But this consumeristic critique is in my view a cheap, common and not very insightful critique. Jim Belcher, though, gets to the heart of the issue:
Both traditional evangelical and emerging sensibilities are driven by an (often) unconscious low church theology that has almost no place for the Great Tradition or for the forms that were at work in Reformation churches. Low church evangelicalism and emerging are not plugged into the history of the Church when it comes to worship so all it can do is dabble and play with fragments. 
I recently posted about this here. We looked at Bryan Chapell, in Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice
. There are other good proposals, including:
D.H. Williams (Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church’s Future)
), and 
Tom Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity
, and 
Robert Webber (Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative
).
Belcher’s got it made: he started his church; he’s Presbyterian. The issue is deeper: what do low church evangelicals do, what can they do, when their churches are stuck — and deeply stuck — in the low church tradition and have no place and no history for the Great Tradition when it comes to worship.


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Rick

posted September 29, 2009 at 7:36 am


“what do low church evangelicals do, what can they do, when their churches are stuck — and deeply stuck — in the low church tradition and have no place and no history for the Great Tradition when it comes to worship.”
Beginning to teach on the importance of the Great Tradition and the theology behind the practices is a start. You cannot just make the change without some introduction.
I also think it the type of “low church” it is.
A small, rural Baptist church on a hill may have a hard time incorporating this. The low church tradition can be very strong, and suspicious of change.
However, a large city mega-church may have an easier time, especially if they are getting the sense that it is something people (culture) are already interested in. I have seen studies that indicate that people (the unchurched for example, or those who have experienced in their past/childhood) do appreciate that type of service.
Likewise, the issue of pluralism may make the introduction of the change more acceptable. If people feel they have, at least, some common ground with their RC or EO friends, they may welcome it.



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dopderbeck

posted September 29, 2009 at 8:52 am


This part of the book really resonated with me. It’s particularly an interesting situation when you’re part of a “low church” evangelical setting that already passed through a set of “worship wars” in transitioning to “contemporary” worship music over the past ten years or so. The “contemporary” format now is in equilibrium, so no one really wants to rock the boat again!
It’s also difficult for most “low church” evangelicals because we really don’t have a meaningful theology of the eucharist. Jim mentions in the book that his church celebrates communion every week — and that’s great! I think the Reformed churches have a “higher” view of the communion meal than most evangelical churches, which would help with that sort of thing.
One thing I’ve thought about in my setting is trying to institute an adjunct to the main Sunday service that would comprise simply a eucharistic celebration. The idea here is not an “alternative format,” but an opportunity during “off” weeks for those who wish to do so to take communion, with a few simple prayers and readings. But even that can be hard to implement.



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Patrick O

posted September 29, 2009 at 8:55 am


I don’t know about low church and emerging not plugged into the history of the church. Which history of which church?
Are Quakers part of the history of the church? Is Tertullian part of the history of the church?
There’s a long list of “low church” folks who have been around in all kinds of settings for a while.
Which tradition? This past Sunday evening I went to a Yom Kippur service at a Messianic congregation. Certainly, this would be a Great Tradition, as it relates to not only actual Scriptural mandates in the Old Testament, but also the tradition of the earliest Christians. Or what about the Orthodox liturgies, which use 4th and 5th century guidance to help steer their services?
Why makes a tradition great? At what point in history did God give a mandate of liturgical expression that should be the model? I suspect the Reformation, while important, isn’t exactly the moment in which God said, “Now I’m going to have them do church right.”
Absent the establishment of a standard liturgy isn’t seeking after a Great Tradition more about assuming God wants what we feel we need?
I certainly do appreciate the reverence of depth of liturgy, but I’m not sold on the fact that low-church or emerging folks need to tap into such a thing, as if they are missing an essential component, especially as it’s the Pentecostals, quite non-liturgical, who seem to be making the most significant Spiritual impact in previously strongly liturgical areas.
Seems more of a cultural preference that has some value for some spiritualities rather than a consistent deepening experience for all involved.



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Bill

posted September 29, 2009 at 9:30 am


“Low church evangelicalism and emerging are not plugged into the history of the Church when it comes to worship so all it can do is dabble and play with fragments.”
Some of it is willful. Tradition has been treated, at times, by some, as if it was just one step above satan worship. History (including Quakers, Tertullian, etc.) have been back-burnered by some out of what I consider evangelical arrogance. The belief being that history has nothing to offer us. It is not dismissed out of hand but simply ignored and marginalized. It’s as though worship was not done in the church prior to 1920 and Jesus did not live, die, resurrect and ascend until 1950.



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Pat

posted September 29, 2009 at 9:58 am


I agree with Rick: “Beginning to teach on the importance of the Great Tradition and the theology behind the practices is a start. You cannot just make the change without some introduction.” Too often in churches, changes are made with no education and leaves the people confused as to what is going on and in what direction the church is going.
Patrick O. asked the question about which Great Tradition, but I would suggest that each denomination has a tradition on which it can pull. He asked about Quakers and as one, we do have our own tradition upon which we can pull. My particular meeting (church) is evangelical, but I have introduced a Wednesday night unprogrammed prayer meeting to pull on our tradition of silent, unprogrammed worship. Our pastor has introduced times of silence into the worship service. So, probably every denomination has traditions upon which they can pull to enrich their worship experiences. Many of these things were foundational and to throw them away as having no value for today is shortsighted.



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Travis Greene

posted September 29, 2009 at 10:44 am


I again will resist the labeling of emerging churches as lacking in tradition.
“… worship that embodied a genuine encounter with God, had depth and substance, included more frequent… Communion, was participatory, read more Scripture… creatively used the senses, provided more time for contemplation, and focused on the transcendence and otherness of God”
Yes. This is great. It’s also what we’re trying to do.
Maybe the problem is with labeling, and maybe it’s with the fact that emerging churches are by no means monolithic, but with many of these criticisms or warnings, all I want to respond with is “that’s what we’re doing!”
So maybe I should just relax and let Jim (who has been kind enough to engage in these conversations) know that there are many emerging churches out there which absolutely agree with the necessity of tapping into the tradition of Christian practices from all times and places. Which affirm and practice the centrality of the Eucharist (every week, unlike my youth in which we did it a measly four times a year). Which, I believe, marry the best of the low and the high church into a form of free-church sacramentalism that is both deeply traditional and innovative.



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Jim Belcher

posted September 29, 2009 at 10:45 am


Scot,
You really framed your blog post well!
“What do low church evangelicals do, what can they do, when their churches are stuck — and deeply stuck — in the low church tradition and have no place and no history for the Great Tradition when it comes to worship?” Well said.
This is a real dilemma. I think Rick is right that you must begin with some teaching on the Great Tradition and explain how a particular low church is really part of this Tradition because they are part of what God has been doing in the history of his church.
Maybe a first step is to have the leadership read the books Scot suggested above. Even though Redeemer Presbyterian is tied into the Great Tradition (the Reformation never broke from the Great Tradition even though it broke from Rome’s interpretation of parts of it), there are aspects of our history that have been influenced by low church worship. For example, although set-prayers were part of 16th Century worship in Calvin’s Geneva, for example,100 years later they had been dropped in favor of free prayer. Although Calvin wanted the Lord’s Supper celebrated every week, the reaction agaist Rome was so strong that the authorities only wanted to celebrate it monthly. In Scottish Presbyterian circles it became common to celebrate it once a quarter.
So when I planted Redeemer I had a dilemma. I wanted to tap more deeply into the Great Tradition. So I did my research and realized that the Lord’s Supper and set prayers were not only part of our early tradition (small t) but an important part of the Great Tradition (big T).
One book that really helped me was Horton Davies, “The Worship of the English Puritans.” It shows how the Presbyterians gave up aspects of their liturgical worship in order to side with the low church congregationalist against the Anglicans and the Prayer Book wars. The politics dictated a great deal in those days. From Davies I realized that for Redeemer Church to bring set prayers into our worship and weekly communion was part of the Great Tradition. That is why today we use a few prayers from the Common Book of Prayer as well as our own liturgical tradition. Of course as Scot says, this is a lot easier when it is a church plant situation, starting a church from scratch! It is a lot harder in an established low church tradition.
Are there ways that the liturgies of the Great Tradition could be added slowly, maybe a small piece a year?
I have another question. I make the case in the book that as thrilled as I am that my emerging friends, like Dan Kimball, are bringing back pieces of the Great Tradition in their worship, I worry that they are only enjoying the fruit but are missing the roots that sustain it. What are your thoughts on this? Am I off-base on this? And if I am correct, what could be the result of taking the fruit of the Great Tradition but not drawing deeply on its roots? What happens to the fruit over time? Why are the roots necessary in the long term?
Keep the conversation going. For the next few hours I have to get my kids off to school (we are on the West Coast) and then I will be in some meetings. So it could be a few hours before I check back in. But I will! Love this topic!
Shalom,
Jim



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Travis Greene

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:04 am


“I have another question. I make the case in the book that as thrilled as I am that my emerging friends, like Dan Kimball, are bringing back pieces of the Great Tradition in their worship, I worry that they are only enjoying the fruit but are missing the roots that sustain it.”
Jim, what do you mean by this? Are the roots theology? Doctrine? Organizational affiliation? Scripture?



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Chris Rollwitz

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:07 am


This is an excellent topic and one I addressed last night with my students (christian leadership program).
As with any attempt to enact change, there must be an analysis of our context and culture. As Rick pointed out, the pastor must look into his or her congregation and note where they fit within the Great Tradition – what is strong and what is lacking.
As with any change process, you establish a sense of urgency. You can expand and promote what aspects of the Great Tradition exist to show that there are other areas that are lacking. From there, you can set opportunities from either pulpit or Sunday School ministries to teach on the complete/total Tradition.
So….we should, ad Ed Stetzer notes in his book on Breaking the Missional Code, to “exegete our community”. In this case…exegete the congregation. Know your people. Rub shoulders with them. Groan with them. Then…seek to engage them in the totality of the Great Tradition. And then…how that is exemplified in your culture/tradition, is within the context and culture of your community of believers.
Chris



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nathan

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:14 am


i’ve had the privilege of helping guide the life of corporate worship in churches for about 10 years. i directly credit the emerging conversation as responsible for giving me “permission” to seek out and learn from The Great Tradition. It was precisely the emerging church that raised a critique of worship practices disembodied from the culture…and i took that to mean not just the culture of my zipcode, but the “culture” of the community of Church that represents 2000 years of practices.
it was at ec type gatherings that i was able to enjoy connecting and conversing with people like Bob Webber and others who embraced ancient practices that seem “new” to so many…
it was the ec that helped guide me and affirm my interest in the patristics and helped me discern, identify and affirm my basically “anglican” theological orientation/praxis.



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Barb

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm


very interesting–I’m going to come back and carefully read everything–but I want to make this comment.
As an Elder in a PC(USA) church my challenge is to help people understand that we actually have these deep roots and that we don’t need to chase after the next “new thing”.



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Dan

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm


I find this all interesting as when we say we have “deep roots” or “traditions” established and we don’t need to change, it doesn’t make sense to me. In PCUSA and other denominations, those traditions of what happens in worship gatherings were developed in a specific time period and specific culture. Certain phrases and terminology, what the pastors wear, the building layout etc. all are not from Scripture but from a specific culture. The music, the way communion is served etc. all from a specific culture that had meaning in that time period. Robes meant something since they were modelled after academic robes and that was something they needed to show (they were knwoledgable) etc. but today those things send different signals to people because we are in different cultures.
When we say “tradition” what tradition are we talking about? To be truly “traditional” and go back to our roots then we should be serving communion as part of a full meal, meeting in homes, greeting each other with a holy kiss. So to say “we shouldn’t be changing or to change is trendy” – I would then say we are trendy by having an organ in the church. That music was a trend 500 plus years ago and then brought into the church after culture was using it. It wasn’t in the early “traditional” church etc. Or robes, or how most of what we do is done today. even suits and ties are a reflection of culture, not the earliest tradition we know of the early church. So as I am reading some of the comments here, they seem like consumerism because it is a matter of personal preference, not something coming from Scripture. The Scriptures teach we need to have leadership, teaching, prayer, the Lord’s Supper etc. when we meet. But as “tradition” is described here and thought of it is about personal preference of how those things are done. What time period and tradition does one prefer.
But then you have those who may say We must stick with the early church practices and that becomes the same thing, personal preference. Because it is not prescribed at all that we need to only meet in homes to do these things – and I haven’t been to home churches who stick with the original and are greeting each other with a holy kiss every time they meet.
To me the bigger issue is asking no matter what we are doing, are we making sure we are not compromising the gospel or doing anything out of bounds that the Scriptures would say not to do? If not, we have a lot of freedom. And the question is as the church meets and gathers are people being spiritually formed? Are we seeing people putting faith in Jesus? Are we seeing people love each other more? Are we seeing people loving others more and serving the world?
I am not writing about doctrines and Creeds needing to change or breaking from historical orthodox doctrines and theology. But I do believe we need to be adding to the Creeds with doctrines we teach and hold to that aren’t mentioned in the Creeds (the inspiration of Scripture, the atonement etc) which are issues we need today to solidly teach. But because during the time periods of the Creeds they were wrestling with other issues – we also wrestle with issues today. I don’t see that as personal preference, but eternal truths.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm


Jim, I’ve been teaching. I totally agree with you on the “fragments” idea. One can’t partake in the Great Tradition of Orthodoxy by buying an icon and putting it up in one’s home or devotional room — icons emerge from a theology of spirit and nature and, apart from that, it’s just sampling and toying with the Great Tradition.



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dopderbeck

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm


Jim (#7) — regarding “fruits and roots” — great point. But here would be my question back: My Catholic and Orthodox friends say the same thing about _all_ protestants. If we really want to get at the “roots” of the Great Tradition, don’t we really need to join an Apostolic / Nicene community — i.e. the Roman or Eastern Orthodox church? As heirs of the Reformation, we’re inevitably appropriating only _pieces_ of the rituals, symbols and creeds originally designed for the one true visible church. We’re all Donatists, and we all “protest” against the trajectory of the Great Tradition at some key points. My friend the Catholic Priest is just baffled by the multiplicity of “sects” within protestantism.
It seems historically arbitrary to suggest the Great Tradition flowers only in the “ecumenical” councils — even the term “ecumenical” is a bit anachronistic because there simply weren’t multiple “denominations” of Christianity in the fourth century. The context at that time was always that there was one true visible, Apostolic Church.
So, it seems to me that there are two broad options: (1) accept Rome or Constantinople as the true Apostolic community; or (2) selectively appropriate bits of traditional beliefs and practices on an ad hoc basis. So long as you opt out of option (1), it seems to me difficult to criticize the ad hoc nature of the practices of other protestant groups, be they emerging, Reformed, Baptist, or whatever.



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dopderbeck

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Scot M (#13) — but as protestants, aren’t we all just “samplers” and “remixers” of the Great Tradition? That’s what my Catholic friends tell me, and I can’t see any strong arguments to the contrary.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm


dopderbeck,
While I don’t agree with all things Protestant as they developed after the Reformation, I believe the Protestants were faithful to the Great Tradition and called others to be more conforming to that Great Tradition.
How’s that for turning the whole thing around?



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beckyr

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm


I think being able to worship does not depend on the surroundings nor what is being done. I mean, think of it, there were worshippers in concentration camps. Worship depends on me showing up to worship, even in the worst of places.



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Travis Greene

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm


Scot,
I have to disagree that ecclesial eclecticism is a bad thing. Sure, buying an icon with no knowledge or regard for Orthodox sacramental theology may be a bit shallow, if you’re using it solely for decorative purposes, but are you suggesting that one has to be Eastern Orthodox to appreciate icons? Must I become Anglican to appreciate the BCP? Mennonite to adapt their stance of non-violence? Pentecostal to speak in tongues?



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David B. Johnson

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:27 pm


Scot,
At our “Baptist” church where we have moved toward to a more liturgical emphasis in our worship, the push-back we have received from those rooted in low-church evangelicalism, has been mostly centered around set prayers. So we have tried to find creative ways to utilize the set prayers without them sounding like they are being read.
I am still curious, however, as to why certain people struggle so much with a prepared prayer. Is there a theological reason? Is it simply their own narrow tradition in which they are rooted that compels them to prefer spontaneous prayer, which by the way, I believe comes closer to the vain repetitions Jesus warned against in Matthew 6.
So I would be interested in hearing from anyone out there in Jesus Creed Land, about your experience in helping God’s people understand the beauty and value of learning how to pray from the Church through what we have called the set prayers. What is the core reason behind their negative reaction? (I have used Scot’s excellent book, “Praying With the Church” and Mark Galli’s “Beyond Smells and Bells”).
For the most part I have been pleasantly surprised at the positive response to the weekly celebration of Communion. At this point, the collection of essays, “Baptist Sacramentalism,” edited by Anthony Cross and Philip Thompson, proved very helpful. The people needed to know they could have a sacramental theology and still remain Baptist.



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kent

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm


I am curious, is the term being used “the great tradition” well known? I am not sure what the great tradition actually includes or how it is defined. While there is a boat load of references on google for this term, none of them point to the conversation on this blog. Just curious.



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kent

posted September 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm


Wikipedia doesn’t have a clue either.



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David B. Johnson

posted September 29, 2009 at 2:11 pm


I longed for the experience of God’s presence and desired the restoration of liturgical elements of worship. I had grown weary of the thinness of contemporary worship, which seemed so lifeless and often done by rote. But I didn’t want to return to the traditional style I grew up with …
I resonate deeply with these words. Many of my colleagues and I have felt this way for some time. Why haven’t others grown weary of the thinness of contemporary worship? Is it because of our theological education?



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nathan

posted September 29, 2009 at 2:35 pm


thank God for the depth of the collects in the BCP.
they were a soul soothing relief from the concatenation of shallow psycho-babble’s of just this and just that and just now and just just just…they made me really listen to prayer again and helped me rediscover prayer as a corporate activity, not the aggregation of self-centered individuals futilely hanging onto prayer as some kind of christian magical incantations to get what we want.
the resistance to set prayers is silly…at best.



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dopderbeck

posted September 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm


Scot (#16) — sounds like what Luther would have said. But it’s a tendentious statement, of course. One could equally argue, as my Catholic friends do, that the individualist philosophy that informed the Reformers led straight to the darker side of the Enlightenment.
I don’t think history is anywhere near so simple as “the Reformers were the true heirs of the Great Tradition over against the Catholics.” There was, after all, a counter-reformation.
I’d further ask this: almost 500 years later, isn’t the Reformation basically over? After Vatican II and developments in Catholic (and protestant) theology over justification, how are we protestants still justified in maintaining the breach of unity that occurred in the 16th Century, if what we claim to be doing is upholding the “Great Tradition?”
The more I think about it, the less I’m buying “Great Tradition” as a helpful category. Contemporary evangelicals are ages away from the Puritans and Reformers, who are ages away from the Fathers. I’m not sure the common thread is a “Great Tradition” so much as it is simply the person of Jesus Christ. The ecumenical creeds are helpful because they crystalize our thinking about the person of Jesus Christ, but the kind of flattening of history we have to do in order to claim that _we_ are the true heirs of the Fathers seems unsustainable.



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Patrick O

posted September 29, 2009 at 3:07 pm


As I think about it, I come back to the book of Acts.
Is this not just about the same issue that was being dealt with between the Jewish and Gentile believers? Jewish Christians did not think that Gentiles “got” the Messiah unless they entered into the liturgy and life of the Jewish story. This story included the marks of faith, particular holy days, and patterns for both worship and life throughout the week and year.
Seems that the only story to understand the Christian faith is to enter into the Jewish story first. But, so many of the traditions have utterly nothing to do with a Jewish messiah. And this seems to have been approved by the early church, who did not insist Gentiles enter wholly into the Jewish story in order to embrace the continuing story of God in this world. Gentiles were, we might say, able to pick and choose the elements, and indeed come up with new holy days and new patterns and new languages and prayers. Over the centuries the Gentiles began to insist their new methods were God’s own method.
Set prayers are useful because they give us words to learn and say. Liturgies are useful because they give us patterns to respond and grow. But if there is no room for the prophets to speak by the Spirit, if there’s no space for the words of each participant in the Body to add to the great story of God’s work in this world, do we leave behind awareness of the Spirit in the midst of the gathered community? Listening and reading are never listed as spiritual gifts in any of the lists Paul gives. So what are we left with? We leave behind the Jewish tradition and forget even the traditions in Acts.
That’s not to say liturgy and set prayers don’t have their place, but when they are the only place… it seems there’s something quite important missing that seems to be pretty important in the New Testament era.



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Jim Belcher

posted September 29, 2009 at 3:57 pm


Hey Friends,
Back from two hours of meetings and an interview with the Bob Dutko show out of Detroit.Did anyone hear it? :)
The best guide I have found on retrieving the Great Tradition is Dan Williams. http://tinyurl.com/ybd5rgn
Dan is a Baptist, who has not converted to Roman Catholicism because he already is, as he says, a catholic, small c. He makes the point, convincingly, that our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends, don’t hold a monopoly on the church fathers or the Great Tradition but that it belongs to all of us. He makes a great case for how to maintain the Tradition, the continuity, but realize that there is also discontinuity with it as well. In a sense, it is always reforming. And the reformation was just a small part of this.
David B. Johnson I am so excited to hear about your Baptist Church (I grew up in Conservative Baptist Church in Rhode Island) that has moved to weekly communion and other aspects of the Great Tradition to deepen your worship. Awesome. Our church can’t imagine weekly worship without it.
Someone mentioned the nervousness against set prayers. Horton Davies in his book “The Worship of the English Puritans” talks in great lengths about the arguments against set prayers. His book convinced me that set prayers are biblical and important. At Redeemer we have balanced set prayers (not too long) with extemporaneous prayers (not too long, I grew up Baptist with really long prayers!), which evangelicals are more used to. It has become a nice balance.
Chris #9, mentioned the importance of implementing change. I could not agree more. If more churches realized the dynamics of change less conflict would take place.
There is nothing wrong with appropriating aspects from other streams in the history of the church. We use one or two set prayers from Thomas Cranmer and the Anglican Prayer book. We are not Anglican but we are part of the Great Tradition with them, having sunk our church into the same roots.
I mentioned in my comments above about Dan Kimball and our differences. Just to give Dan equal time in this dialogue here are his thoughts on tradition and Deep Church. http://www.dankimball.com/
In the book I list three things that need to be kept in mind as we formulate our worship: Bible–Great Tradition–Cultural Context. My view is that, generally, the emerging church looks to the Bible and the Cultural context. The traditional church looks to the Bible and small “t” tradition in forming their worship. But what is missing from both is the Great Tradition.
I make the case in the book that we need to recover this so that we will remain both biblical faithful in our worship and contextually relevant without being overly tribal or overly syncretistic with the culture. The Great Tradition becomes the plumb line for keeping us biblical and at the same time relevant.
Do you agree with this three part method of looking at worship? It has been sooo helpful at our church to help us keep evaluating and accessing our worship–is it biblical and yet relevant at the same time? We just made some changes to our musical instrumentation because we wanted to contextualize more.
What are your thoughts?
Jim



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Travis Greene

posted September 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm


Jim,
I think your 3 part method is pretty good, as long as “Great Tradition” is understood expansively.
I will reiterate that “the emerging church looks to the Bible and the Cultural context [leaving out the Great Tradition]” hasn’t been my experience at all. As other commenters have noted, the emerging church is where we discovered the Great Tradition. If “deep church” is just another name for this, fine.



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dopderbeck

posted September 29, 2009 at 5:33 pm


Jim (#26) said: He makes the point, convincingly, that our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends, don’t hold a monopoly on the church fathers or the Great Tradition but that it belongs to all of us.
I respond: I have a hard time either agreeing or disagreeing with this notion. On the one hand, I agree. I’m not Catholic or Orthodox and don’t suspect I will ever be. I couldn’t agree more that evangelical / protestant theology needs to be informed by the Patristic sources and that our liturgies need to be informed by historic practices.
But, I disagree in part, because I think this too blithely brushes aside the arguments of the churches that claim apostolic succession. Maybe it’s because I work at a Catholic institution and have lots of Catholic friends. I would worry about my own arrogance if I said to my Priest friend “we own the Fathers just as much as you do.” He has some pretty good reasons why that might not exactly be so. I think we need to hear those reasons, consider them very carefully, and make sure our claims about our connection to the “Great Tradition” are appropriately humble and qualified.



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Blake Schwendimann

posted September 29, 2009 at 6:09 pm


Jim,
Good thoughts. Your three pillars remind me of Richard Hooker’s ‘Three Legged Stool’ – Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Reason is what we seem to use today to determine cultural context. From an older perspective, just have your liturgy in the vernacular is a huge step.
I confess I have not read “Deep Church”, so I am still looking for a working definition of ‘depth.’ In my personal experience, “Depth” has been “consistency” or “faithfulness.” There have been times when my desire to go to church or read the scriptures has been no more than an act of the will – and this act of the will has paid dividends. Perhaps it is like working out, or learning a new language.
To incorporate the Great Tradition, one must submit to it. As some have said, modern man is a barbarian – not knowing his past or future. We must begin to dig into the depths of that tradition.
Our worship will shape and inform our theology. This is my biggest gripe with modern evangelicalism: Theology & Worship are two separate realms. We pick and choose them according to – I do not know. Worship that emphasizes the holiness of God, the sacrifice of Christ, the unworthiness of man, and Gods love towards sinners will shape our theology. We have to realize that everything that speaks to our senses teaches us something.
We learn by what we see, what we hear, what we taste, what we touch and what we smell. I believe a holistic approach to the Great Tradition will point us to the depth we desire.
Peace,
blake



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Travis Greene

posted September 29, 2009 at 8:42 pm


To myself @ 27,
That last line is a little dismissive. Consider it withdrawn.
dopderbeck,
Don’t we all claim apostolic succession, just differ on what that means? Just as we would (mostly) all claim one catholic church, yes?



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Tony Stiff

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:30 pm


If the presence of the “Great Tradition” along with the bible and cultural-context is what is missing (what leads to a third way), then how is the presence of the “Great Tradition” embodied in our worship? When do we know all three are present? I found myself asking is there an apostolic pattern of relating to tradition that predates the “Great Tradition” that could inform us in how to understand our liturgical posture toward the “Great Tradition?”
As I asked this question I was reminded of a book in college I read. Ralph P. Martin’s book “Worship in the Early Church.” I remembered particularly when he talked about some of the cultural influences that shaped the Early Churches worship; “The background of early Christian worship must be sought in these two Jewish institutions of the Temple and the synagogue.” (pg. 19)
It appears that even for the Early Church there was a “great [Jewish] tradition” that informed their understanding of worship. Martin goes on to document how they were able to rethink their “great tradition” through communal reflection on and application of the person and work of Christ (Temple and synagogue were rethought), and through the testimony of the Spirit to the one people of God Christ was making in Peter and Paul’s missionary contexts. Perhaps embodying “Great Tradition” as a third way lies in him, in the “Great Tradition’s” incarnational definition of him.
In him we get the biblical-story fulfilled and embodied (Christ as Israel in Matthew). We get the foundation for the “Great Tradition” as the regula fedei rears its head in the pre-Trinitarian tensions building up in the biblical text as the authors try and connect the Son and Father and Spirit’s work; and in the Christological hymns (ex. Phil. 2.6-11, Heb. 1.1-4, etc..). We get cultural-context in his incarnational life and ministry. The third way in the worship wars would be nothing less than a retrieval of the apostolic understanding of Christ as Temple, etc..
Maybe I’m heading off on relatable but redundant point here. As I read your chapter these where thoughts I was processing.



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Jim Belcher

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:54 am


Hey friends,
Just getting back to the discussion after a busy day. I did two radio interviews today and the topic of worship kept coming up. Obviously this is a topic that everyone likes to discuss.
Tony (#31) writes, “Perhaps embodying “Great Tradition” as a third way lies in him, in the “Great Tradition’s” incarnational definition of him.”
This is profound. I will need some time to think and ponder it. You quote Ralph Martin. I was blessed to take a class from him at Fuller Seminary.
Here are some questions I have for everyone. Do you think that the average evangelical understands what worship is? Who is the object? What is the purpose? Why God wants us to worship? What we are supposed to do (beyond singing)and express? whether it is for evangelism primarily or for the transformation of the Saints? How much of this deficit in understanding is the fault of pastors like me who have failed to teach the people in our churches?
One more thing. We like to say that worship is all about God. So we need to get our eyes off ourselves. Haven’t you said this before? I have. But is this true? Robert Webber taught me that God uses worship to heal the dislocations of our hearts. Do you agree with this? In this sense, worship is about us and what we get out of it. It is how God changes us? Could this mean there is something profoundly sacramental about worship?
Shalom.



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David B. Johnson

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:32 am


Jim,
James B Torrance says “worship is the gift participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.” I think this emphasis on the Trinity and the Incarnation is everywhere absent in the mind of the average evangelical. Torrance goes on to say Western worship is basically unitarian. In other words, worshippers imagine they offer their worship directly to the Father with no thought of the priestly mediation of our Incarnate Lord. I believe this absence has contributed significantly to the “worship wars” because the focus is on the experience of the worshipper and if he or she doesn’t connect with the style of the music or the personality of the musicians, then he or she doesn’t “feel like engaging in worship.”
However, if we agree with Torrance that worship is all about the grace (Yes, it is sacramental!!!) of what Jesus does in and through and for his Body, then worship becomes not something I do that depends on my mood, but about something that is already happening in the heavenlies into which we enter. (This is the truth that has ultimately lead me to pursue the “Great Tradition.”) Because of this we can say “God uses worship to heal the dislocations of our hearts,” because worship is really about receiving what Christ has done, is doing and will do on behalf of his Body.
Thanks so much for this book. It has struck a nerve of mine that has needed striking for some time.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:43 am


Jim (#32) — excellent questions — and David (#33) — very nice definition!
I think this notion of “participation” is what’s missing for me in much “contemporary” worship. (Having been through a “worship war” advocating for a “contemporary” service in an old-fashioned church, I still use that term, though ten years later, I think “contemporary” has become “traditional!”).
I often raise my hands and close my eyes when we sing in church. I love the visceral, symbolic aspects of physically lifting up hands. And yet… there are times when I feel like a little emoting island in the midst of a bunch of other little emoting islands. We often seem to equate “worship” with “emoting.” We emote and emote and emote, then sit down for a speech / sermon, then emote a bit more, then go home.
Not that emoting is bad, but I’d love to see us take a deeper view of the communion / Eucharist, because that’s where I sense the most significant connection with the “participation” aspect of worship — participation in Christ’s sacrifice, as well as participation with the communion of the saints throughout the world today and throughout all of history.



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pds

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:26 am


Peeling Dragon Skin
The standard New Testament and early church practice of celebrating the Eucharist in the context of a common meal is the 300 ton Blue Parakeet in the room. I see Dan (#12) made similar points.
Why should low church evangelicals look to the “Great Tradition” that became common practice in the 4th or 5th centuries, and ignore the Great Tradition of the NT practice that continued for the first 3 centuries of the church’s existence?



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm


pds (#35) — the Eucharistic meal became formalized well before the fourth century. Justin Martyr described the basic structure of the Eucharist in his “First Apology” in about 150 A.D., as follows:

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, ?Amen?. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.
The Didache, finalized around 125 A.D., also gives some detailed instructions formalizing the celebration of the Eucharist.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm


Here is my ongoing question for us “low church” evangelicals about the Great Tradition and the eucharistic meal: can we be faithful to the “Great Tradition” if we continue to hold a theology of the eucharist that sees it as only a memorial? In Justin’s First Apology we have clear evidence that the eucharist was considered by the early church to involve some sort of “real” participation or union with Christ. Can we practice “deep church” without a theology of real presence in the eucharist? (Personally, I’m not sure we can).



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David B. Johnson

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:35 pm


Dopderbeck (#37),
I’m in total agreement. Part of what drew me to the Great Tradition, was the inherent sacramental theology in the NT and in the early church. The key transformative element in our worship was embracing a sacramental view of the Table and consequently participating in it together each week.



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Rick

posted September 30, 2009 at 12:58 pm


Dopderbeck-
Although I agree with many of your comments in #37, there does need to be caution on reading Justin’s writings as representing the whole.
From Luther Seminary:
“Christians also early regarded this rite as primarily a eucharist, a giving of thanks. This is evident, for example, in the Didache. In the earliest centuries some teachers, including Clement of Alexandria and Origen, were inclined toward a symbolic view of Christ’s presence in the elements of bread and wine. Others, including Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr, thought of Christ’s presence in more physical terms. As early as the time of Tertullian in the third century, Christians referred to this rite as a “sacrament.”



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nathan

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm


#37:
to the question…
my answer is a simple “no”.



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Ken

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm


What is your church doing to recover the ancient worship traditions? In short, nothing. There is no scripture reading, only the isolated verses chosen for the sermon; rock music aimed at twenty-somethings, no recognition of 2000 years of musical tradition; communion once per month; no significant praying, such as intercessory or worship; preaching is how-to, not expository, contextual unfolding of scripture. It is as though it is a manifestation of recent American culture aimed almost exclusively at evagelization to the exclusion of worship, learning, and reflection. It is almost what someone on Jesus Creed described as “a half hour of rock music and a power point presentation”. It is as though the converts are all huddled just inside the door with a Christian experience that has an extremely narrow focus and vision.
What are first steps for discovering our roots? One either has to effect change where they are at or seek a place that is already working toward rediscovering the richness of our roots. Usually folks in small to medium cities have limited choices.



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pds

posted September 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm


dop #36,
Well, 150 years is a long time. And Tertullian spoke of the Agape meal in his Apology around 200 AD. The evidence is that the practice was mixed.
But the NT witness in Acts 2 and 1 Cor. 11 is clear. All I would say is we have to ask, “Did the church lose anything spiritually when it separated the Eucharist from the common meal?” “Is this practice of the NT church normative at all?” How certain can we be? I am not saying we should have a rigid practice of only celebrating it with a meal- just that we should consider it if we are rethinking our worship practices. And before you say low church evangelicals should be more high church because of the “Great Tradition.”
BTW, Alpha courses are successful, I think, in part, because most include a meal.



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dopderbeck

posted September 30, 2009 at 4:42 pm


pds (#42) — 150 A.D. is when Justin wrote the Second Apology. By that time, the practice he describes was well established, as also is evidenced in the Didache. Given that Christ died around 33 A.D., the evidence seems to be that the eucharistic service was formalized not later than the first generation after the Apostles. The “mixed” nature of the evidence has to do with whether that first generation thought of the eucharist in terms of the “real presence,” not whether the eucharistic practice had become formalized into the general shape of what would later be called the Mass.
My family was Plymouth Brethren until my teen years. The PB’s had a really beautiful “breaking of bread” service every week, which featured real bread and wine, and which was not formally structured nor lead by any professional clergy. However, IMHO, the PB’s were operating under the delusion that their very simple breaking of bread service and disdain of professional clergy mirrored the simplicity of the “first century Church,” a simplicity that was corrupted by the Roman Church, leading up to and after Nicea.
It seems clear to me that the truth is otherwise: most of the basic elements of the Roman Church, from the form and significance of the Mass, to the ecclesiastical structure of Bishoprics, to the process of catechesis and baptism, began to congeal and take shape in the fist generation after the Apostles, and derives directly from the Apostolic witness in scripture.
So, the question for me isn’t one of being faithful to first century practices and structures, because I think evangelical free churches surely are not. The question for me is whether the “Great Tradition” entails all of those practices and structures or just the theological outgrowths of those practices and structures reflected in the ecumenical creeds.
Which leads to a related question I’ve been meaning to ask: does the “Great Tradition” include only the creeds, or does it include also the canons adopted in conjunction with the creeds? If the canons aren’t included, why not? Can the development of canon law be elided from the “Great Tradition?”



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pds

posted October 1, 2009 at 6:51 am


dop #43
Not sure where you are getting your history. Dix perhaps? Take a look at Bradshaw, Eucharistic Origins.
The Didache? The Didache makes reference to a Eucharistic meal. It supports my point, not yours.
Christians breaking bread together in simplicity are under a “delusion” that they are doing what the early believers did? That is very harsh language for a clearly biblical practice.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2009 at 10:55 am


pds (#44) — um, no, the Didache lays out a liturgical practice for the Eucharist. Here it is:
Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:
We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..
And concerning the broken bread:
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..
But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”
Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:
We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
The Didache also is clear that there is to be a heirarchical institutional structure:

Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel. But to anyone that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

The delusion of the PB’s is that their (supposedly)non-hierarchical structure reflects the “simplicity” of the first century. It doesn’t.



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pds

posted October 1, 2009 at 11:33 am


dop #45
“The Didache lays out a liturgical practice for the Eucharist.” I agree. That is not where we disagree.
Read your own quotation:
“But after you are filled, give thanks this way . . .” Chapter 9 is prayer before the meal. Chapter 10 is prayer after the meal. See Bradshaw and his citations.
You seem to be begging the question of the meaning of “eucharist” and whether it is still celebrated in the context of a meal. In the Didache, it is.
What historical sources are you using?
Did you know that “bishop” is a translation of “episkopos” which simply means “overseer”? You are again begging the question. This speaks of a plurality of overseers or elders, just like in the NT.



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pds

posted October 1, 2009 at 11:58 am


BTW, the Didache tracks the order of Luke 22:
Blessings over cup, then over the bread before the meal. Eat the meal. Blessing over the cup after the meal. (The Jewish Seder had/has multiple blessings over the cup.)
14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.



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dopderbeck

posted October 1, 2009 at 8:17 pm


pds — yes, the term “overseer” is used for the office of “Bishop”; and yes, the eucharistic celebration tracks Luke 22, which in turn reflects the shape of the Passover celebration. And, I don’t mean to suggest the Roman offices and liturgy sprung up fully grown in the first century. But it seems clear that there was a gradual consolidation and institutionalization of the practices that existed from the time of the Apostles forward. There was no massive apostasy in doctrine or practice, as the PBs and other such groups suggest.
I haven’t been reaching directly into any sources other than the primary source documents I’ve mentioned, but Dale Ivrin and Scott Sunquist’s “History of the World Christian Movement: Vol. 1″ tells this story very well, both as to the eucharist and as to the development of Church offices. Here’s what they say (p. 29):

By all accounts these early fellowship gatherings were full-fledged community meals in which members shared with one another their daily sustenance. In addition to these larger fellowship meals, at which even non-baptized persons appear to have partaken, followers of Jesus from the earliest days of the movement in Jerusalem gathered regularly for a special meal known as a eucharist (“thanksgiving”). The elements at this meal were simply bread and wine.



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