As we move beyond the five hundred year anniversary of the Protestant reformulation on October 31, 2017, I have been looking back and examining the new things that Protestantism brought. In the previous installment of this series (The Cycle of Insanity) I took a look at the cyclical and symptomatic evolution of ‘The Praxis Conference’ and its goal to reclaim the historical church’s priority on liturgy, art, and sacred space into the modern-day evangelical context. The issues that The Praxis Conference is attempting to resolve have been instigated by the perpetual question posed to Protestantism; that is, ‘What is missing from our space?’ Yet, the more profound question, at least for the purpose of this installment, is, ‘What has pretended to replace what has been missing from their space?’
The Purpose of Sacred Liturgy
The liturgy was established and ordained by God so that man could communally and publicly offer Him worthy thanksgiving and sacrifice for their atonement. Look no further than the religious duties assigned to priests and Levites in the book of Leviticus to discover the particular beauty and necessity that God and man found in the rites and rituals of Jewish liturgy. We know that the necessity of liturgy did not pass away in the new covenant, because YHWH decreed in Exodus 11:14 that the liturgy of the Passover meal would be perpetual (i.e. neverending), and in Matthew 5:17 Christ Jesus affirmed that He came not to abolish, but to fulfill the law and the prophets.
In the New Covenant, it is through the sacred liturgy that Christ uniquely encounters and ministers to His people; most uniquely through the Sacraments of the Church, but also through the recitation of the breviary. For their part, the people meet the Christ who has come to them through the vehicle of the liturgy to offer Him due worship and thanksgiving, and to obtain blessings, sanctification, and graces. Liturgy is an activity of love for the mind, body, and soul. It is far removed beyond what can be experienced or perceived by just one part of the self. The liturgy not only duly requires the fullness of man to participate, but it necessitates that he encounters the divine while in the community of gathered who are being made holy.
In the Absence of Sacred Liturgy
With the early novelties in the Protestant Reformation, such as the Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodism there was and there remains to be a priority on liturgy; more or less. Yet, the reason why this priority could be sustained throughout the movement is because Protestantism, by its very nature, is indifferent to objective truth. It was the first-born child of
Outside of liturgy, faith becomes a private experience that is satisfied only by ones arousal of emotions. It becomes suspect to everything that is base and nearly paltry to what lies beyond the senses. On one spectrum, Protestantism practices a liturgy that is harmfully disconnected from the fullness of the sacred liturgy that Christ Jesus established through His Apostles, found only in the Catholic Church, and on the other spectrum, with all of these emerging novelties, such as I highlighted in ‘The Culmination of it All . . .‘, it has become so far removed from the sacred liturgy that religion has become nothing more than what the individual person believes at the moment.
Although Catholicism practices the sacred liturgy, we too find that Catholics who fail to immerse their whole self into the liturgy end up getting nothing out of it. Such individuals either end up going through life as a lukewarm Catholic or end up leaving the truth faith in search of something to satisfy the senses. Yet, at least Catholicism offers the means through which the fullness Christ Jesus is offered to His people. In contrast, because Protestantism offers either a neutered liturgy or none at all it has spiritually harmed countless people by making them slaves to their senses and emotions.
In absence of the sacred liturgy of the Sacrifice of the Mass, all the Protestant has is a church service to go to once a week. In absence of the perpetual Passover meal that YHWH commanded, Protestantism has attempted to fill that void with music, entertaining preaching, dancing, and visual displays that are all geared towards appealing to base senses and emotions. In the absence of presenting the visible savior as the Holy Eucharist, Protestantism has filled that space with a visible preacher, on whose personality and ability befalls the success or failure of the church. In absence of the Holy Eucharist, the preacher’s sermon has become the summit of the church service. In absence of ritual that informs us when to stand, kneel, sing, pray, and respond in decency and in order as a united community, Protestants have resorted to individuals deciding for themselves when to do these things. In absence of the spiritual climax and promise of salvation that reception of the Holy Eucharist offers, some Protestants have privatized the Holy Spirit’s gift of speaking and tongues and have taught that those who don’t receive it, aren’t saved. Others have made a doctrine out of promising wealth and material things for all who have enough faith. Others ‘handle’ poisonous snakes, jump and dance around, and/or faint after being ‘slain in the spirit’.
In absence of being able to offer anything beyond what can appeal to the senses, Protestantism has become disconnected from the true worship of God and of mystery. Altogether, it has created a situation where millions of followers of Christ now have an expectation to be entertained at Church. It has created a gathering of people who neither know how or are interested in immersing their whole self into an encounter with God. While their hope was to simplify our encounter with Christ Jesus, all they ended up doing was dumbing down and emotionalizing the faith.
SERIES ON THE ‘500 YEARS OF PROTESTANTISM’:
- The 38 Most Ridiculous Things Martin Luther Ever Wrote
- Luther and Calvin Destroy Marriage
- The Cycle of Insanity
- The Failure of Protestant Emotionalism
- The Ferguson Riots