Classical Protestantism: Doctrine and Liturgy

Peter Leithart describes what he calls “classical Protestantism.”

The Reformation was not … simply a doctrinal movement. It certainly was that, but it also involved liturgical Reformation. And this liturgical Reformation was not a rejection of liturgy. It was an affirmation of liturgy.

Prior to the Reformation, the liturgy was not leitourgia; it was only minimally the “work of the people” because the people didn’t know the language, didn’t sing the Psalms, rarely shared the Eucharist. The Reformation put the laos back into liturgy. Recent Catholic efforts to revise the liturgy for greater lay participation make the Mass more like Protestant worship (to the horror of traditionalist Catholics). 

The Reformation put the Supper as Supper back into the heart of the liturgy, restored the Psalms as the song-book of the church, ensured that worship would be dialogue – ultimately love-talk between Christ and His bride, visibly a dialogue between minister and people. Concretely, Reformation liturgies revised, rather than renounced, the Roman Mass…. Preaching and teaching took their proper role in the liturgy, and the Mass itself was revised in accord with biblical norms…. 

So, a convergence toward classic Protestantism would involve massive liturgical reform of much of contemporary Evangelical Protestantism, reform that would “feel” Catholic to many. In fact, moving toward a liturgy that looks like a “revised Mass” is a move toward the Reformation….

Classic Protestantism isn’t the end of history, either doctrinally, liturgically, or pastorally. Classic Protestantism should be open to continuing reformation from the word of God in doctrine and practice, and that openness should extend even to doctrines and practices that were fundamental to classic Protestantism.

I would only add that a liturgical reformation is, by its very nature, a doctrinal reformation. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

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