Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Christianity without Repercussions: Faith Pt. 1

In my last post in this series I touched upon the difference between the Orthodox view of Salvation and the Protestant/Evangelical view of Salvation. I still have a lot to delve in to on the salvation end of things (such as the difference in the views of atonement), but I'm going to leave those alone for right now and focus on the Faith aspect of things.

To start, I wouldn't say that our faith is in and of itself different, but the way we practice that faith is different. Two of those huge differences are worship and prayer. Yes, I know that I gave Prayer it's very own section in my original blog post of this series, and it will still get it's own post. But prayer is tied to faith, so it makes sense to add it in this post as well.

Let us start off by looking at the difference in worship. Your usual Evangelical worship service (as opposed to just general Protestant, since there are liturgical Protestants) is started off by singing a few hymns out of the hymnal (with the music minister holding up his fingers to let you know which verse to sing, or if your younger, a projector screen with a power point of the hymn), a Bible reading usually tied to whatever topic the preacher wants to preach about), the sermon with references to different Bible verses (that "prove" the preacher's point), one or two more hymns (sometimes with a heart wrenching altar call during the last hymn that keeps repeating just one verse of a hymn ad nauseam), and a prayer or two thrown in for good measure. If you think I am over generalizing please see this link, and this one.

Let us break this down into an easier to read bullet point outline,
  1. Opening prayer
  2. Selections from the hymnal
  3. Bible reading
  4. Sermon
  5. More hymns
  6. Altar Call/ Closing prayer

I've noticed that the above holds true for most denominations, including the non-denominational, rock music playing, wearing jeans and a t-shirt kind of churches.

I'm not bashing here, just pointing out the typical structure of Evangelical worship.

Question: when was the last time that all five senses were used in your local Evangelical worship service?

How much scripture is referenced and used in your typical Sunday worship service?

On a Sunday the Orthodox services start with Matins/Orthros (comparable to the Roman Catholic Lauds). Usually, not too many parishioners attend all of Orthros, rather they will come in around the end and grab places to stand/sit before the Divine Liturgy starts (obviously the priest [and deacons if there be any] and readers are there for Orthros). I'll leave you with this link to a Wikipedia article so you may read more about Orthros and see the details therein. If you do click that link, I suggest that you take particular notice of how many Psalms are read, and also where the priests censes

Immediately after Orthros is the Divine Liturgy, which is broken into three parts, the Liturgy of Preparation, the Liturgy of the Catechumens, and the Liturgy of the Faithful. The outline for Liturgy follows;

Liturgy of Preparation

This part of the Liturgy is private, said only by the priest and deacon. It symbolizes the hidden years of Christ's earthly life.

Liturgy of the Catechumens

This is the public part of the Liturgy, where both catechumens and baptized faithful would be in the nave:

Liturgy of the Faithful

In the early Church, only baptised members who could receive Holy Communion were allowed to attend this portion of the Liturgy. In common contemporary practice, with very few local exceptions (e.g., Mount Athos), all may stay. However, in most places, catechumens are formally dismissed for further study.
  • First Litany of the Faithful
  • Second Litany of the Faithful
  • Cherubikon chanted by the Choir as spiritual representatives (or icons) of the angels
  • Great Entrance—procession taking the chalice and diskos (paten) from the Table of Oblation to the altar
  • Litany of Fervent Supplication—"Let us complete our prayer to the Lord"
  • The Kiss of Peace
  • Symbol of Faith (the Nicene Creed)
  • Sursum Corda("Let us lift up our hearts..." (Greek: "Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας")
  • Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer)
    • The Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy…")
    • The Eucharistic Canon, containing the Anamnesis (memorial of Christ's Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, and the Words of Institution)
    • Epiklesis
    • Calling down the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Gifts (bread and wine) to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ
    • Commemoration of Saints and Theotokion (hymn to the Theotokos)
    • It is Truly Meet (Αξιον Εστιν) (on certain days replaced with various hymns in honer of the Mother of God)
    • Commemoration of bishop and civil authorities—"Remember, O Lord…"
  • Litany of Supplication—"Having called to remembrance all the saints…"
  • Lord's Prayer
  • Bowing of Heads
  • "Holy Things are for the Holy"
  • Communion Hymn
  • Holy Communion
  • "We have seen the true light"
  • "Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord…"
  • Litany of Thanksgiving
  • Prayer behind the Ambon
  • Psalm 33
  • Dismissal
That sure is a lot of stuff to go through, certainly looks like more than what a Protestant service does, but don't worry, they can be about the same time in length (depending on your preacher). A typical Divine Liturgy takes about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to complete.

Now the purpose of the outlines was not to show how much better one is over the other, but to highlight the difference of each type of worship service we are comparing (just be glad I didn't include the outline for Orthros).

Back to one of my questions above, how much scripture is referenced and used in your typical Sunday worship service? Well, in a typical Liturgy there are way over 100 scripture references (check this link for a detailed list, and this one for a brief overview). That's right, in one Sunday the Orthodox Christians quote and reference more scripture than a typical Evangelical gets in a month of Sundays (probably even a year of Sundays, but that's like, just my opinion, man). I brought this up for a reason, and I'll follow up below.

Ok, what about my other question about using all of the senses in a worship service? I mean use the senses in and for worship. In an Orthodox service; we see the icons that tell biblical stories and lives of the saints, we hear wonderfully beautiful and ancient hymns and prayers, we smell frankincense and myrrh when the priest/deacon censes the building and the people (done multiple times, not just at Orthros), we touch our lips - in an act of veneration - to the icons, and the Gospel, we taste and see that the Lord is good when we partake of the Eucharist.

From what I remember of Evangelical services, you can hear the singing of some wonderfully beautiful hymns, you may see a cross hanging somewhere - but it's not really there to help direct your worship, you might smell the person next to you if they are unhygienic (or others may smell you), there isn't much to touch in a reverential way (you'd get strange looks), and there may be a lingering taste of breakfast in your mouth.

One point that I am trying to make is that the Orthodox incorporate the whole self into worship. Everything we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste is geared to help us - all of us, with every ounce of our being-  worship God. We are active in what's going on, not just mere bystanders. 

Alright, so we have seen how immersive Orthodox service is, as compared to the typical Evangelical service. We have also seen that every ounce of the Liturgy has some sort of biblical reference attached to it, somewhere. BUT!!! And I know how important this is for Evangelicals, is there any biblical precedent for the Liturgy? Does the Bible tell us to worship in such a ritualistic way?

The answer is yes. The Orthodox worship the way we do because it was laid out for us in the Bible, Old and New Testaments.

 Revelation, the Liturgical Book
 - If you read Revelation through "liturgical eyes" you will see everything in an Orthodox worship in the Book. St. John received the Revelation while "in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day", which means while in the liturgy worshipping. When he looks around he sees what he would normally see in a worship service, but these items take on new meaning. Here are the things he saw and heard.
  1. "Vain Repetition"- Rev. 4:8: "Never cease to say "Holy, Holy, Holy"
  2. Altars - Rev. 6:9 Under the Altar, the souls of the martyrs. (8:3, 9:13)
  3. Incense/censers - Rev. 5: 8 The 24 elders with bowls of incense which are the prayers of the saints. 8:3 Angel with incense before the altar before the throne. The offering of incense was actually commanded by Divine mandate in the OT. It was not an option at that time It was when St. Zacharias was offering incense that the angel appeared to him, and brought him the tidings that he was going to be a father (Luke 1:9-13). St. Athanasius, citing Hosius, mentions the burning of incense as a prerogative of the Church, and not the Emperor (History of the Arians, Part 6:44, NPNF II 4:286). Egeria's Diary makes mention of the prolific use of incense during worship in 4th century Palestine (Diary of a Pilgrimage, Chapter 24, ACW 38:92). . The apostate act of offering a grain of incense to a statue of the emperor was considered worship by the early Church and the pagans. Evening Prayer (Vespers) Psalm: "Lord I have cried unto Thee--hearken unto me; hearken unto me, O Lord! Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me; attend to the voice of my supplication when I cry unto Thee: Hearken unto me, O Lord. Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up my hands as an evening sacrifice; hearken unto me, O Lord." (Psalm 140:1-2) And Scripture prophesied that the Gentiles everywhere would offer incense to God. "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My Name shall be great among the Gentiles. And in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering; for My Name shall be great among the heathen,' saith the Lord of hosts." (Malachias 1:11)
  4. Other Liturgical References: Candle stands, candles (1:12, 4:5), Vestments and Robes which were mandated by God for His OT priests (1:13,15:6, 4:4, 6:11, 7:9-13) Prostrations (5:8, 7:11), Golden bowls (5:8, 8:3), Scrolls( 5:2, Thrones (where leader sits 11:16, 5:1)), temple (15:5). (Ancient Faith
I encourage you to read the rest of that link (it is really not that long). 

The Israelites, and later the Jews worshiped in a liturgical manner. Jesus, and His disciples were Jews, so a liturgical style of worship was what they were used to; a liturgy is what they knew for worship. 

Yes, the early Christians did worship in houses, but evidence suggests that they worshiped in a liturgical style, as opposed to how today's modern house churches worship.

In the beginning: The church of the first four centuries met in privately owned houses (Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2).
Today ‘house churches’ are all the rage, but they aren’t anything like house churches in the New Testament. A modern house is generally the residence of a nuclear family, but a house in the Roman Empire was a much larger building that was not just the home of an extended family, its slaves, and employees, it was also thehousehold’s place of business. A modern house church typically consists of a dozen or so people hunkered around the coffee table in the living room, some sitting on chairs dragged in from other rooms, but an ancient house church typically consisted of about 100 or so people standing in a large, mostly unfurnished public room called an atrium. Worship in a modern house church is very informal, but worship in an ancient house church was very formal. The closest equivalent to an ancient house church is a modern church. (Ken Collins)

 The Impact of Persecutions on WorshipThe persecutions shook this co-existence and steered the Jewish Christian worship transition into a more distinctly Christian form of worship. The first persecution was recorded in Acts 6 and 7, and involved the martyrdom of St. Stephen. The early persecutions were by the Jews, and aimed at this new sect that was winning converts from Judaism and was seen as heretical. With the persecutions, the life of the Church was changed because the result was exclusion from Judaism. And that meant exclusion from Jewish worship. Christians were no longer able to gather in the Synagogue , and were unwelcome in the Temple as well as described in Acts 21 when St. Paul is mobbed within the Temple grounds. The active Jewish persecutions excluded Christians from the Temple, and forced them toward new worship practices. 

The Core of Christian WorshipWhat was this resulting Christian order? The Synagogue worship structure, consisting of a litany of prayers, a confession, eulogies, readings from the Scriptures, an address or homily, and a benediction. This form constituted the core of what was to become specifically Christian worship.Evidence for this can be found in archaeological evidence from the earliest Syrian churches, as well as in the Apostolic Constitutions and the Didache... (
Ok, so we have established that a liturgical style of worship was proscribed in the Bible, and we also established that a liturgical style of worship was used even by the earliest Christians as they were spreading the Gospel to various areas.

Can we see at all the form of worship that the Evangelicals follow in the Bible? Not really, no. What we see is only liturgical worship. So for all of you Sola Scripturists out there, I'm sorry but your form of worship can not be found in the Bible, nor even evidenced in the Early Church. 

 So what, right? I mean it doesn't really matter how you worship as long as you are still worshiping God, right? God doesn't really need all of those rituals does He? 

Well, God gave us those rituals. He wanted us to worship Him in this way. Isn't it a little prideful to think that we don't have to worship in this way, especially considering who told us to? And, no, I don't think God needs the ritual, I think we do; I think that the ritual helps us to get into a more reverent mood so we can worship appropriately.

I also think that we should worship as God tells us to, lest we end up like Aaron's sons.

On Those Who Would Deviate from Prescribed Worship 
Nadab and Abihu died because they offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. Offerings not prescribed by the Lord are considered by Him to be worthy of death. 
"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the priests who are in the Church, those who, as I have shown, possess the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But it is also incumbent to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, looking upon them either as heretics or perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God - namely, strange doctrines - shalle be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abihu." (St. Irenaeus) (My notes, original quotes from the Orthodox Study Bible footnotes on Leviticus 10:1-2)
As we see from Saint Irenaeus (writing circa AD 180), the strange fire that Aaron's son brought before God is the same thing as as strange doctrines. Not following the prescribed method of worship can end very badly. 

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