Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Federal Vision's Liturgical Movement

As long time readers will know, I believe that the Federal Vision is nothing more than a second coming of Mercersburg Theology, including the foundation of Historical and Theological Development. There is a rising parallel in the way the debate is headed as well. In the original Mercersburg movement, the debate began with a discussion of Theological Development. It was the closest Schaff and Nevin ever came to being convicted of heresy. Schaff actually found himself on trial. Federal Vision managed to skip this dangerous portion of the debate. Something I hope that will be remedied one day. Next, the Mercersburg controversy went to the sacraments and justification. Nevin’s book The Mystical Presence spearheaded that campaign. That is when the Mercersburg movement began to be noticed across the spectrum of Presbyterian and Reformed churches even earning a rebuttal from Charles Hodge and Princeton. Federal Vision began at that step, and they too have taken heat from every corner of the Presbyterian and Reformed spectrum. Perhaps not as much as many would want, but they still have taken it. Thus the third step. The Mercersburg movement then began to concentrate on a liturgical movement. They reformulated the German Reformed Church liturgy from a pulpit dominated liturgy to an altar based liturgy. The Theological Development step was dangerous, the Sacramental theology step was hazardous, but the liturgy step won the battle. Yes, a long fought war, but in the end, all the goals of Mercersburg were accomplished. The altar liturgy sneaks a sacramental theology in the back door, and it prepared the way for Christian Union with other churches, which Schaff said was the great goal of Theological Development. The Federal Vision men are beginning that step.

Yes, it is harder and harder to find the Federal Vision men propagating or openly defending their views on Covenant and Sacraments. Yet, they appear to be eager to expound on elements of the liturgy such as kneeling and clerical collars, and robes. Admittedly some of these men have long been promoting High Liturgy, but others are just now leading their churches through a change. Others promoters of liturgy are Jeff Myers, Mark Horne, and Tim Gallant. It appears as though the church will suffer through a tumult over the liturgy. Churches such as the OPC and PCA may soon find themselves making room for high church altar based liturgies. In so doing they will give away everything. I hope the Federal Vision liturgy movement will end better than the Mercerburg liturgy movement ended.


Anonymous said...

Beginning? Lee you are completely out of your mind. This has been going on for decades. And it involves a great many people including some staunch opponents of the alleged "Federal Vision," including R. C. Sproul and Michael Horton.

You are some completely ignorant about the things you confidently claim. It is staggering really.

Lee said...
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Lee said...

Mr. or Ms. Anonymous,

I am sure that there have been people agitating for liturgy for some time now, as I admitted is the case concerning James Jordan in my post. What I am saying is that a high liturgical movement is fairly recent. I suppose we may have a differing opinion on what constitutes such things as a movement, and it is also possible that I am just now coming into the loop. But in my readings I have been impressed with the number of blogs by laymen (and women) that have recently started to discuss elements of high liturgy, and these people are not members of high liturgical churches. Also, within the past year and half, Tim Gallant and Peter Leithart have written about developing their worship services into more ‘high liturgy’ services. It is events like these that I believe mark the beginning of this movement.

Take R.C. Sproul Jr. for instance. He has long made his feelings known about his desire for incense in worship, but his church, in accordance with the Westminster Confession of Faith, has never had incense in worship. Mere willingness does not a movement make. However, having an ordained man in the PCA like Peter Leithart institute a more altar-based liturgy in his church does mark a significant change. Sproul Jr. and Leithart both submit to the same Westminster Confession of Faith, but only one has actually implemented a more liturgical service.

As for my ignorance being stunning, so be it. You are always welcome to try to educate me if you wish. Open discussion is encouraged on this page.