Short but Sweet: Stellman on Liturgy

How many times have we heard evangelicals (especially of the Jesus-people variety) claim that they don’t get caught up in the “religiosity” of “churchianity” as expressed in things like “liturgy”?  While the simplistic notion that a church doesn’t have a liturgy is easy enough to refute, Jason J. Stellman puts it succinctly:

All churches have a “liturgy” (a word that comes from the Greek term that means “religious service”).  The real question, then, is not, “Is your church liturgical?” but, “Is your church’s liturgy biblical?

Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet, pg. 11.

Well put.  Very well put.  Looking forward to posting more on this nice little book about how pilgrims are to live in this “time between the times”  as citizens of two spheres – those of common and special grace!


8 thoughts on “Short but Sweet: Stellman on Liturgy”

  1. Sounds like something I’ve read somewhere else:

    Our English word “liturgy” comes from an ancient Greek word for “service.” From this word we get the idea that worship is service, as we said above, both God’s to us, and ours to God. A liturgy is simply the order in which this service takes place. Every church, therefore, is liturgical. “Liturgy” is not something only a few churches have, such as the Roman Catholics or “traditional” churches, but every church in the world has liturgy. Whether or not a particular church has a more structured or informal service, or whether a “liturgy” is printed in the bulletin and followed or not, does not make some churches liturgical and some not. The question we must ask ourselves, is not whether a church has a liturgy, but since we have one, let us put it in the light of Scripture to see whether it is biblical or not.

    Daniel R. Hyde, What to Expect in Reformed Worship: A Visitor’s Guide (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2007), 10.


  2. I’m not sure which is worse – Jason’s lack of a footnote or your shameless plug!!! [grin!] Just kidding, Danny! Thanks for pointing that out!

    (Ahhh, nothing like elbowing a fellow URC brother in the ribs!)


  3. I suppose for me I am not 100% convinced that we should look to the OT for how to order our worship. Is there any hermeneutical key that we should follow the covenant renewal service of call, confess, communion, and commission (I can’t recall the one I’ve left out) as in Lev. 1?


  4. Hmm, not sure, Richard. I’d have to think about that a bit more.

    In so many ways, though the OT covenant community was ultimately saved under the same covenant of grace as the new, the administration of the externals of that covenant are so different that they are rendered almost totally irrelevant for structuring and informing the worship of the NT community.

    Of course that is not to say that the OT does not apply to the NT church, only that *how* it applies is a much more difficult subject. I’ll need to work out some of those details a bit more in my thinking, but I know there are some great resources out there; I’ll be able to stand on the shoulders of many who have thought through this long before me!

    You’ve inspired me, however, to quick throw a quote up by Scott Clark from Recovering the Reformed Confession on the role of the OT Temple in Christian worship! Not that it addresses your comment per se, but it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend several years ago about the Temple and our worship. Just piggy backing on it, I suppose!


  5. Hi Andrew, thanks for the reply. At least I know I am not the only one who struggles with this! My thoughts derive from thinking about the church calendar (see here) and I find myself in agreement with RSC that the Temple does not provide a paradigm for NT worship. I suppose also my thinking has been shaken up by a reading of biblical criticism in that when we read 2 Chron. 29:25 “He stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets” I wonder to what extent this is ‘what really happened’ rather than what the later community of faith believed happened. When you gather your thoughts I’d be most interested to hear them.


  6. Well, and especially when one considers the difficulty of the whole “priests *and* levites” problem in the OT, that doesn’t help gain much clarification on what the Chronicler is doing!

    I’ll think more about this, but I’m sure it’ll come down to wrestling with how the world *in* the text is projecting itself upon the Christian church rather than the only analogically accessible world *behind* the text… now sure how that’ll fit into worship matters, but time will tell!


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