Nicholas Wolterstorff Lecture 1: The Project

Nicholas Wolterstorff to give Kantzer Lectures in Revealed Theology

Lecture 1: The Project (review)

I had never heard of Nicholas Wolterstorff before, but I am glad to have heard of him now. After listening to his first lecture in the Kantzer Lectures and Revealed Theology series, I have discovered that I agree with many of the things he says. He will be giving several lecturers over the course of this week and I will attempt to observe as many of them as I can. I hope to attend a couple of them in person and hear the rest via online streaming. After hearing or observing the lecture, I will attempt to provide some of my thoughts on the matter via my blog.

First things first: I am certainly not of the theological caliber as Dr. Wolterstorff. I do not pretend to be able to observe the things he talks about at the same level that he does. These views, to the train scholar, will undoubtedly seem very surface. I ask that you forgive me for my lack of understanding and do your best to appreciate where I am coming from. Long time readers of my blog will know that I come from a Baptist background and that I attend the Evangelical Free Church in Libertyville which is called Crosslife Evangelical free Church. The lecture series deals with liturgy, which is not a common topic for a Baptist to deal with. Having said that I have learned a great deal already in the first lecture. Here are some of my thoughts in more detail:

Dr. Wolterstorff talks about correctness rules for various forms of liturgy, depending on what background you are talking about (Orthodox, Catholic, Reformed, Episcopalian, etc). He then says that there are no correctness rules for Baptist Liturgy, but there are certain traditions. All liturgies run according to some sort of script. This would be argued by Baptists, but while our script is loose, it is actual. Anyone would know the general order of service a baptist setting. We know that it includes an opening song, announcements/welcome, a few more songs, an offering, and then the sermon and a closing song.

I had never heard of a Baptist liturgy until tonight. I would venture to say that very few, if any, Baptist believe that they ever take part in liturgy. At first, I rejected it as well. While the definition of liturgy focuses on the higher forms of worship, it is actually, simply, defined as a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances. Does the word liturgy fully encompass the order of worship for Baptist? Probably not. However, as we have seen in the previous paragraph it does represent a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances. Therefore, I would have to agree with the Dr. Wolterstorff that the term liturgy applies to us us as well.

Another interesting concept that he brought up tonight is that through the liturgy, the church actualizes herself, though it is not the only way that happens. He went on to explain that while the church actualizes itself also through ministry caring for the poor and other ways, warship is a key proponent. So worship is one of the ways that the church actualizes herself, but she is to be actualized in all ways. I could not agree with this more! Especially in higher forms of worship, the congregation becomes part of the process of warship and does involve itself through each member. I don't know that that really happens in the evangelical services. Aside from joining the worship band or organist and singing the songs, there is not a great deal of give-and-take between the congregation and the leadership.

He also suggested that no liturgy has been started from scratch. Being built on previous versions, it is impossible to know all of the theological understanding of the composer. Liturgy is essentially theology in code.

Liturgy does not replace the sola scriptura principle. It enhances it. I have wondered about this myself in the past. Therefore, I am grateful that he brought it up. It seemed to me, particularly in Catholic circles, that liturgy and confessions relieved he can confess her of the need for the gospel message in the Bible. In particular, I felt that it allows the confessor to avoid seeing directly what the Bible says about an issue. Therefore, I was glad that he addressed the issue and did much to put my mind at ease. I'm not completely ready to jump ship, as it were, and join a high worship church, but he did make me more comfortable with the concept.

Why not evangelical liturgy? Dr. Wolterstorff asked rhetorically. It is weakened...not confession of sin by the congregation, just a praise band, a prayer, and a sermon. Wow I believe that this does make a form of energy, I have to agree with the professor that Evangelical forms of liturgy black in-depth theology. Most of that for the Evangelical service is included in the sermon, or embeded in the songs that we saying (though I would highly doubt some of the songs we sing enjoy any theology at all). At any rate, it is clear that studying the theological concepts of evangelical liturgy, as defined by the professor, would be a less-than-productive use of time.

Overall, I enjoyed the lecture very much. I look forward to listening and on foreseeing in person the rest of the series. If you are able to stream online, click this link and see the lectures. For a schedule, click here.


Unknown said...

Don't forget the Baptist liturgy to always skip the third verse.

As always nice article.

The Navy Christian said...

Ha! Of course! Thanks for remembering!