Notes towards a defense of high liturgy

Earlier this year I had a debate with a Scottish covenanter on the proper way to worship God (and I agree with him–it is a most worthy subject).  Granted, most of these debates are usually exercises in intellectual masochism.  Still, it did point a number of things to me. I used a form of the following argument, but I didn’t have time to revise it.

THE ARGUMENT

Both the RPWist and the liturgist will appeal to Hebrews 9.  The RPWist will argue that Christ did away with ornate trappings and in the New Covenant he is only to be worshipped by bare walls, low ceilings, and cheap lighting.  And on first glance it seems he’s right.  I’ll quote the verse.

23Thus it was necessary for(AU) the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ has entered

The argument, then, seems that Christ coming did away with (a) Old Testament symbolism, and with (b) symbolism itself.

(a) is obviously true but (b) is by no means proven.  Also, it is by no means proven that Scripture warrants “no symbolism” in worship (and quite frankly, despite all the rhetoric about RPW, Scripture is remarkably silent on something as important as worship).    Now, for my argument; in fact, I will quote the same verse:

23Thus it was necessary for(AU) the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

I assume all sides will agree that the Tabernacle/Temple worship was a copy of the heavenly worship?  And this copy is done away with.  Agreement so far.  However, do we not also agree that New Testament worship should also copy, to the best of our understanding, the heavenly worship?  Interestingly, and I think this is the knock-out argument, Hebrews 9:23-24 says that the copies (Old Testament worship) were not simply done away with (though in a certain sense that is true) but purified.

And perhaps this explains why the early church didn’t write many apologetic explanations on high liturgy, but simply assumed it.

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2 Responses to “Notes towards a defense of high liturgy”

  1. St John’s Apocalypse seems to indicate that the way worship is conducted in Heaven is important and archetypal for the way we worship on earth. Why would we seek to worship in a way that isn’t patterned after Heaven?

  2. A noted Baptist recently wrote a book advocating such a view. About halfway through the book he (and others!) pointed out that if consistent, he is advocating incense and prayers to angels. At this point he said “you’re not supposed to do that in worship.”

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