The Liturgy Trap: The Bible versus Mere Tradition in Worship

The Liturgy Trap: The Bible versus Mere Tradition in WorshipA short book filled with theological accuracy and OCR errorsI am a voracious reader of James B Jordan and most of the time think he is one of the finest minds in the theological world today I have this book in print and thought it was one of his finest, despite it thin size If you have anyone considering leaving the Reformed or even Protestant camp for Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism buy him this book They may still go, but it will be with eyes opened.However, since my Kindle goes almost everywhere I do, I purchased the Kindle version as well Here my marks are not so high Whoever is is charge of using OCR to convert the print to Kindle could not have even proofread it once At times the mistakes make the text almost unintelligible For example To be sure there are diTerent callings, diTerent oUces, and diTerent degrees of maturity, but there is no category diTerence between Wrst class and second class believers After a time you can figure out the pattern to the errors W fi but what a distraction In any case, a 5 for content and a 2 for OCR processing to the Kindle edition. Here Jordan deals with that approch to worship liturgy which is often described as a strict regulativist approach But he also deals with the venerated traditional liturgies i.e., Roman Catholic, Anglo Catholic and Eastern Rites Very informative. We Hear All To Often That Someone Has Decided To Leave The Evangelical Christian Faith And To Join The Church Of Rome, Or Eastern Orthodoxy, Or High Anglicanism The Lure Is Liturgy And Tradition, And Since The Evangelical And Reformed Churches So Often Have Such Poor Worship, It Is Not Hard To Understand The Pull Exercised By Those Churches That Have A Heritage Of Formality, Sobriety And Beauty This Cure, However, Is Far Worse Than The Disease The Answer To The Weaknesses Of Evangelicalism Is Not A Turn Toward The Fallacies And Errors Of Rome, Orthodoxy And Anglo Catholicism, But A Return To Biblical Patterns Of Worship Just As There Is True And False Doctrine, So There Are True And False Worship Patterns In This Book, James B Jordan Sorts Out The True And The False In The Area Of Worship Practice, Discussing The Cult Of The Saints, The Veneration Of Icons, Apostolic Succession, Virginity And Celibacy, The Presence Of Christ At His Supper, And The Doctrine Of Tradition There are some precious gems in this book.And dog droppings. This book is the worst of all Jordan s books Most of it is just plain useless for anyone who wants to be pulled back to Protestantism This book made me want to leave Protestantism NOT RECOMMENDED TO ANYONE. A short warning against protestants returning to Rome, by critiquing their doctrines of 1 the saints, 2 veneration, 3 Apostolic succession, 4 Celibacy, 5 real presence, and 6 tradition Punchy, profound, blunt Virtually free from Jordan s typical weird interpretations. To be honest, when I read a review by someone else on goodreads that said this book was too short, my response was to laugh at the typical Reformed view on everything from sermons to theological treatises longer is always better I thought that 100 pages was a nice length to address some of the issues of liturgical denominations I think I might have been wrong So many of the little chapters ended just as he solidly stated his point, and than once, I have frustrated scribbled margin notes that say Follow up on THIS point or Here s your real argument, so run with it I m assuming the brevity is because Jordan considers this short book an essay, which is sad He should really shoot for a whole book I think there are some concerning elements to Orthodox theology that could be addressed The atonement, anyone Man engages in ascetic experience to lift himself up to God p 27 Jordan discusses the Pelagian original sin did not taint human nature leanings of the liturgical traditions, but does not flesh them out I think that the belief that humanity is stained by sin but not fatally flawed by it has so much to do with the way the Orthodox approach their worship experience Jordan would also have strengthened his arguments about Marian doctrines if he had better explained the Platonic ideals that fed the asceticism of some of the sects of the early church say, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who essentially nearly killed himself with his ascetism and the rise of the celibate clergy The Greek traditions also have some strong roots in the mystery cults and ancient gnosticism, which it would be fascinating to delve deeper into I think that Jordan has some very good points, especially about the veneration of saints and Mary, but his chapter Real Presence Real Absence 5 is where I think he finally hit his stride On page 63, he identifies the crux of the problem with veneration of the saints, where after a discussion about worship s very definition as where two or three of you are gathered together Matt 18.20 Jordan states that i t is a false cure, however, to substitute icons or other visible objects for the living saints I wish Jordan would have given us a bit about his concept about living believers as the True Images It should be clarified to readers of this blog that the Eastern Orthodox tradition of praying to the saints is different from our concept of praying to the saints, having to do with petitioning believers who have gone before than worship this is a simplification, but it will have to do for this venue I think that a good discussion of eastern versus western concepts of time as regards the dead would help us better understand where they are coming from.The chapter on tradition was also particularly good Jordan s points about how in the Old Testament, the symbols of sacrifice were animals, thus the false idols set up and worshipped in place of Yahweh were animals Aaron s golden calf at Sinai, Jeraboam s calves in the book of Kings whereas now, when man is called to be a living sacrifice, the danger of false idols comes in the form of men veneration of saints, icons If you only read one chapter of this book, let this be it It addresses the dangers of leaning too heavily on the traditions of man while admitting freely that without the traditions of man, we would not be where we are today.I did have quibbles on a couple of finer points Jordan has a rather nasty habit of chucking out a startling theological opinion with nothing to back it up and then careening merrily on his way, as if nothing just happened Perhaps I only noticed because I was reading cautiously At any rate, I think perhaps they would have been taken care of with a little careful editing.The only main point I found disturbing was Jordan s failure to clearly explain his own feelings about the place of bowing in worship On page 23 he states that bowing down is certainly a legitimate part of worship e.g Ps 95 6 He goes on to say that the early church often bowed towards the east or the front of the church, as the symbolic direction of Christ s return Then, on page 57, he is discussing the danger of saying that Jesus is in a corner of the sanctuary and bowing towards his invisible presence He states that it is very important that we refuse to bow toward anything in worship I think I understand what Jordan is trying to say, but even to me, this required much page flipping and confusion I thought, okay, so it s okay that the early church bowed towards the east, but it s not okay to bow towards the corner of the room to honor the presence of Jesus Once we get that worked out in our heads, five pages later, we are told that the only acceptable bowing in worship would be the bowing of the minister to the congregation and the congregation in return, to the images of God alone since nothing else isthe special image of God I m sorry In the Psalm Jordan mentions on page 23, the bowing in worship is done to the Lord Oh come, let us worship and bow down Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker For He is our GOD Ps 95.6 This is true of other references to bowing in the Old Testament If we are consistent with our Reformed theology of worship, the ONLY bowing that should be done during worship should be TO THE LORD Not to any part of His creation, not even the pinnacle of His creation Jordan himself acknowledges the strong pull to worship the visible work of the creator rather than the invisible creator himself, and I think that to bow to other believers during the worship smacks of this I do accept that bowing to the authorities of this life is acceptable, but that is not in the context of worship I agree, very strongly, with Jordan s assertion that we should not bow to the invisible presence of Jesus, instead we should be bowing to the omnipresent creator Himself When reading this essay, I feel almost as if Jordan s feelings about bowing in worship developed as he wrote, and perhaps if he had articulated it completely, in one place, he might have come to a different conclusion.If Jordan were a student who had turned this essay in, I would have given it a B Solid in points, off on tangents in others At any rate, I thought this book was an excellent beginning to a conversation I have SO much I could say, especially about how the draw of Eastern Orthodoxy in particular is especially strong to Platonic philosopher types, and how so many conversations with them about theology are going to end badly simply because you re starting from different assumptions about sin s effect on the world. Bite sized and teasing, Jordan s small collection of essay rants are perfectly stimulating, designed to fondle the like mind into rabbit holes of delightful church criticism His brutal emasculation of contemporary evangelical worship music The serious Bible loving Protestant is compelled to sing some of the worst poetry ever written to some of the most appalling music ever conceived left me salivating for utter deathblows Some arrive, while other church errors and heresies dance and taunt so wildly before Jordan he can hardly tuck one into its deathbed before chasing another, bloodied axe in hand The chases blur and swirl at blog like pace And oh, the nuggets he drops along the way paganism and gnosticism underneath the creaking floorboards of tradition, his appeal to the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of man, visible content v context in worship space, the three means of grace, eschatological optimism Lines such as God has said that celibacy is not good fall from the sky, like rain, like mana, like the devil, like bombs, like emergency supply kits for the liturgically starved and deserted Protestants soiled in crumbling rags and humming, maybe without even knowing, some shimmering Hillsong melody. Jordan defines the Liturgy Trap as seeing worship as a technique for evangelism xiv Whatever else our liturgy may be, it must always be a response to the Word of God Said another way The Word of God comes first The rest of the introduction explains why evangelicals would be tempted to high church traditions Since that s is fairly well documented by theologians and sociologists Christian Smith et al , I won t belabor the point.The SaintsShould we venerate the saints We should at least ask, What does the Bible say Critics might respond, Yeah, well the Bible doesn t say anything about the term T rinity, either this is a specific quote from Orthodox Bridge True, but assuming the Bible to be part of tradition which I don t assume , shouldn t we at least pretend it is the most important part Jordan first notes there is no biblical warrant to pray to saints 18 Since the disciples asked Jesus specifically how to pray, and he gave them a specific template, it is telling that venerating saints is absent Jordan then gives the standard biblical arguments against necromancy, pointing out that Saul was condemned for talking to the dead Samuel.Interestingly, had the early Christians talked to dead people, the Jews and Judaizers would have had a field day condemning them, yet we don t see that.Jordan writes,The notion that the saints can hear our petitions means that a given saint can hear thousands of petitions coming from people all over the world This means that the saint has become virtually omnipresent What happens when that saint gets his resurrection body and is once again limited to being in one place at one time 21 Of course, and my critics hate to hear this, but this is a movement back towards chain of being and Hellenistic philosophy.The Second CommandmentThere is no problem with the actual act of bowing The problem is to what do we people in the context of worship and liturgy The second commandment is very clear that we are never to bow in giving veneration toward man made objects 24.The second commandment isn t saying there should be no pictures of God a point for another day , but that no image of anything can be set up as an avenue of worship to God and the court of heaven 24.Only one peselPesel is the Hebrew word for carving Jordan neatly takes the argument a step forward by pointing out that there is another pesel in the Book of Exodus The Ten Words, which God carved with his own finger 26 The opposition is between God s content filled graven Words and man s silent graven images God s pesel is how he relates to us The relationship is verbal It is personal It is God initiated Jordan comments, When men set up a pesel it is always man initiated 27 The veneration of man s pesel is not a conversation with God, but prostration before a man made object This is the one objection even the most articulate anchorite cannot answer is conversation words possible Anchorites love to counter that Well, God commanded Israel to make various carvings So he did We say, however, what is prohibited is the creation of a contact point with God in the likeness of other creatures 28.Jordan makes an interesting observation nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures do we see God s people condemned for making a picture of God Rather, they make up images of God and use them as mediators 29.Application God initiates the mediation between himself and us, and He controls it 29 God s mediation is verbal God s mediation is his pesel, the Word Manmade mediators are images Jordan concludes the chapter with a reflection on God s 4th generation curse on image worshipers.ConfirmationJordan s specific target in this next chapter is the rite of confirmation I want to expand the sights If you are in the Really True Church and I am not, yet you are kind enough to consider me a Christian, then the only conclusion one can draw is that I am a second class Christian Yet the New Testament knows nothing of this Jesus gives his Spirit as an arrabon to his people Full Stop.Two Stage Christianity is simply an advanced form of gnosticism.Apostolic SuccessionA true apostolic succession is the royal priesthood which is succession through baptism.If we want to wax Trinitarian, then the Church is a creation of the Spirit from eternity by procession, not succession 46.Here is the key question should we place Mary in the context of her Hebrew background see Judges 11 37 40 or in the thought patters of St Jerome The strongest argument that Mary had sexual relations with Joseph after Jesus s birth is the text itself I know of the backbending anchorites engage in to make the text say the opposite of what it says It simply doesn t work.In the bible perpetual virginity is a tragedy 47.The strongest argument for perpetual virginity is that Joseph would have been overawed by Mary s high calling in giving birth to God himself that he wouldn t have polluted her womb with dirty sex afterwards Peter Gillquist, Becoming Orthodox A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, Brentwood, TN Wolgemuth Hyatt, 1989, 118 Here are the problems with such a view Even if correct, it is pure speculation If one partner refused sex to the other, he she would have grounds to divorce the other Exodus 21 10 11 Neither Mary nor Joseph knew that Jesus was God incarnate until after his resurrection They would have known he was called, perhaps even Messiah, but that didn t necessarily mean Logos Incarnate 51.Angelic CelibacyRoman Catholicism is guiltier of this than Orthodoxy, though both share the same unbiblical presuppositions If we may reason analogically, the High Priest is sort of an analogue to the Bishop today Yet the High Priest could marry Why may not the Bishop Why use the analogy at all if you are going to reject it when you don t like it Secondly, God has said that celibacy is not good The entire scale of being ontology falls with those two words. Originally posted at GoodWyrds.com.Many young Americans myself included have become increasingly disillusioned with an American pop evangelicalism that is an inch deep and 2500 miles wide Like sugar, it s fun at first, but at some point you realize if you don t get something a little substantial, you are going into a coma.Enter high liturgical traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism These traditions are old defiantly old, excepting Anglicanism They make grand claims of ancient historicity, and everything they do in worship certainly has the appearance of age, even to the point of the use of antiquated dead languages There is unabashed acceptance of the mystical which stands in contrast to the heightened scientific rationalism of much of the reformed church, and the coarse anti intellectualism of a lot of the non reformed church And apart from all of that, their worship and liturgy are downright beautiful.My own attraction to these things I ve had to question and hold in check One major question I ve had is this is this just a fad Am I just falling in lockstep with obvious generational cultural trends One can purchase a device from Sharper Image that looks like an old landline phone, but connects to your iPhone Cassette tapes are almost cool again And rockstar musicians at the top of their game dress as though they are 19th century farm hands from the Irish countryside The point is, though much of this vintage attraction has behind it some right criticisms and good desires, much of it is a facade.In The Liturgy Trap, James Jordan is conciliatory to the frustrations of those in Reformed and Evangelical camps who are drawn in this direction But the cure, he says, is far worse than the disease The meta point of The Liturgy Trap is that while church tradition has its proper place and should be shown a great deal of attention and respect, still it must always submit and conform to God s Word If it is elevated to be on par with scripture or to stand in authority over scripture then we commit the same pharisaical sins that Jesus condemned This, of course, is not a new argument it was at the core of the Reformation But Jordan s burden is not to convince Catholics, Orthodox, or Anglicans to leave their traditions.The Liturgy Trap is for Reformed and Evangelicals who are tempted to abandon their churches in search of the greener grass of ecclesial antiquity.Jordan spends the majority of the book laying out some critical theological differences between these traditions the veneration of Mary, saints and icons two stage Christianity in the rite of confirmation sexuality and the exaltation of virginity and celibacy and the nature of the presence of Christ in the Lord s Supper.The final chapter deals with another area in which Reformed and Evangelicals disagree sharply with their Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican siblings, but as previously mentioned it is really an overarching disagreement At the end of the day, one may make biblical arguments until blue in the face, but if the ultimate trump card, Tradition, is played, then those biblical arguments don t amount to much The appeal to church tradition as the authority on what scripture does and does not mean subjugates an objective, infallible, unchangeable authority to a subjective, fallen, ever changing one This, Jordan explains, is one of the reasons these traditions have been so susceptible to the errors of the higher criticisms characteristic of liberal theology.Rebellion is in our blood Despite the claims of modern philosophy, we can t control or exercise dominion over scripture Tradition, however, we can control Scripture has come to us objectively, passed down faithfully, protected by the Spirit Tradition, good and helpful as it may be, is a human invention Jordan says this There is a very important difference between Scripture and tradition We cannot obey tradition we can only follow it Custom and tradition cannot come to us as law, because they are not authored by God s voice They are not written In the Bible, however, we are confronted by the Person of God, and we are confronted by words He has spoken and caused to be written I highly recommend this book, especially for my Reformed brothers and sisters who s big hearts and aesthetically oriented minds sometimes lead them astray I know full well this danger The Reformed church desperately needs us to stick around We see the world in a way that our churches cannot afford to lose We are image bearers who resemble our Father in creativity, compassion, beauty and justice At the same time, we desperately need our black and white seeing, proposition making, truth loving brothers and sisters to help us rein in some of our passion They are image bearers who resemble their Father in truth, steadfastness, and clarity One body, different parts The temptation is to say, I m an eye, and I m not really seeing any other eyes here, and the ears are making me uncomfortable, so I m going to go find a body made entirely of eyes That would be a monster Instead, let us walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all Ephesians 4 1 6 ESV

James B Jordan is a Calvinist theologian and author He is director of Biblical Horizons ministries, a think tank in Niceville, Florida that publishes books, essays and other media dealing with Bible commentary, Biblical Theology, and liturgy.Jordan was born in Athens, Georgia, and he attended the University of Georgia, where he received a B.A in comparative literature and participated in Campus

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  • Paperback
  • 97 pages
  • The Liturgy Trap: The Bible versus Mere Tradition in Worship
  • James B. Jordan
  • English
  • 21 August 2019
  • 9780975391495

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