19 June 2008

"Traditionalism" vs. "Legalism"

Check out Fr. Hollywood's blog for a great post, and equally great comments, on deflecting the charges of legalism when discussing the traditions and rubrics of the liturgy.

Here's a snippet to whet your appetite:
Sadly, people seem to forget that these "rubrics" (specific instructions about worship) are ancient, appear in Lutheran hymnals and/or liturgical guidebooks, are nowhere taught as meritorious for salvation and are never touted as such today by any Lutherans, and simply give direction about how to do things.

They are, in short, etiquette.
And here's the comment I just posted there:
Great post and a great discussion going on here! Thank you for some good, sanctified common sense (that, sadly, may not be so "common" for self-styled "Confessional Lutherans").

The Piepkorn quote mentioned above also reminds me of another way of approaching things liturgical: "noble simplicity." We conduct the liturgy with a view to both things--the nobility of being in the Lord's presence and the simplicity of acting both courteously and naturally. In fact, I would argue that the attention to rubrical details does indeed free us up to focus on what's really happening. After all, if one has constantly to worry about where to stand, which way to face, and if those things change from week to week or every so often, then such matters distract from serving the Kingly Lord in His house.

I'm also reminded of Dr. Korby's way of looking at "Christian freedom." We live in a time in which it's common to spout "Christian freedom" as "I don't gotta do that!" However, I like to turn it around. "Christian freedom" most certainly means that we can and do conduct the liturgy with the utmost in courtesy and reverence, nobility and simplicity.

Thanks again for a great post!


  1. Christian freedom is precisely that freedom by which we submit ourselves and our rights to that which is by definition not "ours," but "for us."

    Did I make sense?

    Christian freedom is not firstly "I don't gotta," but "I will, even though I don't want to."

  2. Contrary to CGM rebellionism, Christian freedom never asks, "What can I get away with today?" or "How far can I push it this Sunday?"

    True Christian freedom asks, "What shows Christ crucified most clearly?" and "What serves my neighbor best?"

  3. Or concerning Christian Freedom - it's not freedom from other people, but rather freedom to actually show love to others.

    Without Christ, I could show no true love.

  4. Well said, Eric. And specifically related to the Church's liturgy, Christian freedom shows love to others by *not* trying to get creative and dispense with the liturgy. Rather, it freely and gladly uses what's been handed down to us, saying, "We are free to use what our Christian ancestors have handed down to us." Why? In order to show love to those who worship and hear the Gospel now, precisely so that they will hear the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen.

  5. Working to enhance understanding of proper Lutheran worship is one thing, pining after Medieval Roman Mass forms is quite another.

  6. And who, Paul, is "pining after Medieval Roman Mass forms"? I sure did not get that from Pr. Beane's post, nor have I advocated that.