Saturday, March 13, 2010

Taking Zwingli to Task

As a certain controversial friend has noted, I haven't posted anything on this blog since the Reagan administration. Well, JK, since the market demands it, I will oblige by putting forth this tidbit I posted on the discussion board for my Christian Worship class this week. Since anti-Gnostic crusading is one my favorite hobbies, I couldn't resist taking a pot shot at the Reformer who didn't even allow singing in his services. Sorry, Brother Ulrich.

For most of my life, my experiences of corporate public worship have been haunted by the specter of the Platonic Protestant from Z├╝rich. I don`t mean to speak badly of one of our great Reformers, but Zwingli`s errors are with us still today causing all sorts of problems. When we think of worship exclusively as internal, as purely spiritual, or as a primarily individual affair, when we think the whole point of worship has been to simply learn something about God, when we see religious matters moved from the public sphere and placed outside of life in the real world and relevance to daily life, we have met with his influence. It`s no wonder I was so carnal when I was a Zwinglian.

Unfortunately, I`m still far more the Zwinglian than I want to be, but I`ve come to see far more and more that the goal of public worship is to see God in his glory, exult in him, love the brotherhood, and go forth transformed to do his work in the world each time I come from the assembly of his people. Zwingli was right to point us to the Word of God as the content and source of our worship, but thank God for the liturgical reforms of John Calvin, through which God`s Spirit has been freed to utilize that Word more effectively for its full effect on worshipers in all of their capacities--and this for the renewal of the Church and the world.

I`m not saying this can`t and doesn`t happen in a Zwinglian context. It can and does because of the enlivening influences of pietism and revivalism, but I have found in my own life greater transformation in the context of classical Calvinian worship through Word and Sacrament. It feeds heart, mind, body, and strength, and I crave it week after week.

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