A Messy Spirituality (my third post on radical orthodoxy)

I think their spirituality ties in with the problems they have with theology and politics.  A book that probably helped me (or did the most damage, depending on your perspective) was Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Faith.  He essentially argued, in a very crude manner, that we should get back to the Patristic style of worship.  I agree.  However, I think when you divorce this style of worship from its apostolic content, then you open yourself up to much silliness.

It gives you people who “want to kick it old church style,” but simply look and act like hippies with beards (I am not accusing Prof Webber of doing this; simply his followers at Christianity Today).  Now those with a more conservaive bent who try to celebrate a more participationist liturgical worship can come up with something very nice (I have in mind the Covenant Renewal churches), but I fear that might be just a generational thing.

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Another book–better written and better argued, but wackier at the end, is James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? The book has many good philosophical points and challenges, and its defense of icons and materiality in worship is good and suprising, especially coming from a Calvinist!  However, the last chapter on worship seems to be “Three cheers for multi-culturalism.”  It talks about using Afghan music along with Sumatran coffee (which replaces incense), etc., etc.

Again, this is why even though I like high liturgy–very high liturgy–I fear that if you remove these practices from their apostolic foundations, this is the result.

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5 Responses to “A Messy Spirituality (my third post on radical orthodoxy)”

  1. As Ouspensky explains in his work, the relationship between “style” and “truth” is an important one when it comes to Christian art, liturgy, etc.

    One can’t simply copy the “style” of Byzantine art and write an Icon. It requires the Holy Spirit and an apprehension of the Truth and Theology being expressed.

    The way Orthodox and Catholic worship coalesced in the 4th and 5th centuries was not the result of multi-culturalism but Spirit-inspired transfiguration and utilization of Creation and culture. It isn’t about “willy nilly,” but doing what Christ and the Apostles have handed down to us along with our linguistic and cultural “influences” (when it comes to form, not content, necessarily).

    That was probably more confusing than helpful. Look for a blog post on this soon…

    Peace,
    GVM

  2. ***The way Orthodox and Catholic worship coalesced in the 4th and 5th centuries was not the result of multi-culturalism but Spirit-inspired transfiguration and utilization of Creation and culture.***

    That’s very true, and in that book, despite all the good points, that is essentially how the book’s aesthetic argument boils down.

  3. So what are the criteria that distinguish “aesthetic” multiculturalism from “Spirit-inspired transfiguration” and can they be delineated in a way that isn’t self serving? I.e., Afghan melodies *bad* but late Byzantine chant *apostolic*?

    And we are called to a kind of holy multiculturalism, aren’t we? Not one-world sentimentalism, but the ingathering of all nations, tribes and tongues into a holy fellowship? How do we practice that hospitably in worship? Is there something wrong, say, with Reconciliation UMC in Durham, which has a mixed congregation of blacks, whites and Hispanics, and so incorporates practices and music from all three backgrounds?

    Granted, I haven’t read Smith’s book, but I do want to probe your reaction because I’m wary of reifying any particular liturgical tradition, no matter how beneficial I conceive it, as apostolic. In other words, I’d be very happy in a church with smells and bells, vestments and so on. Do I believe this is God-honoring and set apart the liturgy as a holy time and place? Sure. Is this “apostolic” in such a way that, say, a Pentecostal meeting with tongues interpretation, an itinerant evangelist, multiple speakers (all biblical practices, and an implicit liturgy no less) isn’t? I couldn’t make that claim.

    • tesla1389 Says:

      we do we want to avoid so-called “imperialism” (whatever that means), but at the same time not all cultures are equal. Ice Cube rapping the 8 tones keeping it crunk with his hommies is not the same as a Byzantine doing it. one is superior. The form often determines the content. But to be fair, I am very open to middle eastern styles of worship. Even though I am Celt at heart, I have no problem with a properly done Middle Eastern chant.

  4. ***Is this “apostolic” in such a way that, say, a Pentecostal meeting with tongues interpretation, an itinerant evangelist, multiple speakers (all biblical practices, and an implicit liturgy no less) isn’t?***

    There was a Pelikan quote on how the holy Sts Cyril and Methodius gave birth to the slavic nation by introducing liturgy in its own tongue, more on that later.

    To your quote: If I were operating from a sola scriptura platform, your objection is unaswereable. It would then be my interpretation versus yours, and who’s to say which one is correct? Scripture? ah, but that’s the problem.

    It’s stuff like this that is driving me to Holy Tradition.

    But let’s go back to the Pentecostal service. I am sceptical for a moment. We both know that in central Louisiana the Pentecostal thinkers usually had only one chapter in their bibles: Acts 2. I was told routinely that, “Bro Jacob, get ready at our church cause we about to start barkin in the service, running laps in the sanctuary, rolling on the floor, etc.”

    Now, are all Pentecostal churches like this? Probably. But what about the ones that actually try to be biblical? My own guess is that they, too, will degenerate into the above scenarios because of what one author called “the heresy of formlessness.”

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