"Word and Sacrament"

(Abu Daoud: I have heard this often, that the focus on liturgical worship and sacrament was part of some kind of post-Constantinian corruption of the faith. Rubish, that focus on the sacramental nature of Christian worship predates the closing of the NT canon.)

Many younger evangelicals now argue that traditional marks of the church (word and sacrament) and the classic liturgy are products of Christendom—the era from Constantine to the late 20th century, when Christianity was the culturally dominant religion of the West. But in a post-Christian era, they say, we need to rethink the church completely, from the ground up. What is your response?

Historically, it is not true to say that the liturgy of word and sacrament is a post-Constantinian invention. We see the pattern in Acts 4:42 and in Justin Martyr (2nd century). But the more compelling evidence is the number of incidental details that suggest that by the time of the writing of the New Testament, the Lord's Supper was not only a well-established practice, but quite entrenched in the early disciples' collective memory. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians the Lord's Supper was already "tradition." Why was Jesus recognized by the two disciples precisely when he broke bread (Luke 24:30, 31; cf. John 21:12)? Most evangelical churches do observe word and sacrament in their worship, but they do so haphazardly especially with regard to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because they lack theological reasons for observing word and sacrament consistently.

Evangelicalism is distinguished by its free church, entrepreneurial, activist, pragmatic, and mission-focused personality. Is it possible for this movement to seriously adopt your proposals, which suggest that it is these very personality traits that have gotten the movement into trouble?

Many evangelicals are already moving in that direction: the convergence movement, the Evangelical Episcopal Church, the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and a significant number of evangelical leaders who have joined Episcopalian, Orthodox, and Catholic churches in recent years. There are many indigenous churches in Africa that do not seem to have any difficulty being evangelical and liturgical at the same time. In fact, I do not only see this as possible but a necessity if the evangelical movement is to grow "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).

From Simon Chan

Comments

Joab said…
Perhaps part of the reason behind evangelical Christians poor sacramentality (and their undeniable familiarity with the Word) is their very foundations. They are "Bible only", and that supports the preaching of the Word, but the Church's sacramentality was passed down primarily in Holy Tradition, from apostle to bishop to bishop and so on.

They would not have necessarily lost this sacramentality at the Reformation, but I think that revolution went farther than Luther intended.
Joab said…
This movement could turn into a boon for Orthodox Christianity (rather than Catholicism) in the West. I could see, at some point in the future, many Reformed Christians embracing the early Councils and traditions of the Church. At that point, all they are lacking is apostolic succession.

Given the anti-papal background of so many Protestants, at that point it makes sense for them to become Orthodox rather than Catholic. Indeed, if they managed to acquire valid orders from an Orthodox or Catholic bihsop, and having professed the Creeds and doctrines of the Councils, they would essentially BE Orthodox.
Abu Daoud said…
Thank you Joab,

I think there has been some positive movement recently in terms of getting re-acquainted with the early Councils, I have seen this among Anglicans, Reformed, and even some Lutherans. Also, I see someone like Oden who emphasizes (as a Methodist, I think) the early Councils and the church Fathers.

I will tell you as someone who really appreciates Orthodoxy that the main problem in the US right now is a long-standing division among the Orthodox communities. There seems to more focus on Orthodoxy as an expression of ethnic culture than diversity centered around the Right Faith.

I mean, why do we still have Greek and Antiochean and Russian Orthodox churches? There are more Orthodox in the USA than in Albania, say, or Japan, no? Yet those countries have their own churches.

In my view this is the key weakness of Orthodoxy in the USA. That having been said I am excited about the Western Rite (St Tikhon) and I think that is a real step forward. It is a genuine sign that Orthodoxy need not ONLY be Eastern.

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