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Jesus Creed

LutherX.jpgEarly in September October I sat down with Bryan Chapell’s new book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice
, and studied his chart on the order of services in the Church, what he called the “Liturgy of the Word” which is to be distinguished from a eucharist service (Liturgy of the Upper Room). He compared the ancient Roman order with Luther’s, with Calvin’s, and with Westminster’s (c. 1645). The witness to a common order was clear, and what each included – Catholic and Protestant – was a liturgy that involved the Psalms, an OT reading, a New Testament reading or two, a sermon, and some kind of ordered ending, involving either the Nicene Creed or a Psalm.  

The first thought that came to my mind was this: where did low church evangelicalism drop its connection to this ordered liturgy, this ordered exposure of God’s people to hearing the Word of God read, and to the connection to the Church of all ages?


For
a class I’m now teaching, we are reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition
, a magnificent (if dense) book on
the history and nature of the Christian creeds – its terms and its ideas and
its historical responsiveness and on and on Pelikan goes (as he always does).
That Nicene Creed of 323 AD, updated as it was with the Constantinopolitan
Creed, formed the bedrock of every orthodox church from the 4th
Century through the 17th Century and beyond. 

As I’ve been reading
this book I’ve had this thought: when and
why did low church evangelicalism decide to drop the historic Creed of the
Church and decide no longer to confess its faith publicly?

 I’ve
been wondering what it means to call oneself “Protestant.” There is lots of
chat these days, from a variety of angles – some narrow and some broad – about
who is evangelical and what constitutes evangelicalism, but I’ve not heard all
that much about what it means to call oneself “Protestant.”

Recently
I read on someone’s Facebook page that he now calls himself a “confessing
evangelical.” The expression struck me as odd. Why? Because “evangelicals” do
not often attach the word “confessing” to their prized word. For this person,
“confessing evangelical” meant “Reformed” but not Presbyterian in an official
sense. As I pondered this unusual expression, which I’ve seen a number of times
of late, I thought that this person simply wants to affirm the historic roots
of Protestantism and be evangelical — and it said something about low church evangelicalism. Why? Because this person’s term meant evangelicalism was not “confessing” — not confessing the great confessions of the Reformation.

To
be “Protestant,” so it seems to me – and perhaps I’m wrong, is to affirm the
Creed (Niceno-Constantinopolitan – Luther and Calvin affirmed these creeds) and
to have a Church order that reflects the historic order of the Church – some
Bible reading and an orderly set of songs and hymns that usher us into the
presence of God and keep us there in praise and remind us of our obligations
before God. And to affirm the Creed and have order in the context of a life-shaping belief in the adequacy of Scripture, justification by faith and such things as the priesthood of believer. The Creed is for such folks an accurate affirmation of the gospel, of what the NT teaches.

I’m
now wondering aloud, and I ask for your thoughts, if low church evangelicalism deserves to be called Protestant. Some
low church evangelicals I know don’t care, which just proves the point. Others
wonder if it matters but know what I mean, which also proves the point. Others
know what I’m saying and openly admit that they don’t even care, and sometimes
even wonder if that might not hinder what they are doing in their church. Low
church evangelicalism is too often theologically shallow, frequently chaotic in
its order of worship, nearly always lopsided in which parts of the Bible it
preaches and teaches and knows, and inexcusably ignorant when it comes to the
history of God’s people called the Church. These are marks that it has wandered from the gift of the Reformation. These are marks of groups that are not Protestant.

Those who go their own way often
get lost. 

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