Praying with the Church 9 – How the Anglicans Pray with the Church

Posted: August 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Praying with the Church | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Praying with the Church 9 – How the Anglicans Pray with the Church

These are reflections on Scot McKnight‘s book, Praying with the Church, that I wrote and shared with a small circles of friends in 2006. I’ve decided to publish them here only lightly edited. Since they are four years old, they don’t necessarily reflect exactly what I would say today, but they do accurately capture my reaction at the time.

Once again, at least one online example of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer is here: http://vidicon.dandello.net/bocp/index.htm

The origin of the Book of Common Prayer dates back to the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. We have to remember that Bibles were rare and expensive through much of history. People gathered to hear it read because that was the only way they could. Cranmer’s goal was to so institutionalize the practice of reading Scripture that the entire Bible would be heard each year. Each day the church bells would ring (morning and evening) and the locals would gather at the service, where they would begin to learn the Bible. That is what lies at the heart of the BCP. Cranmer provided a book that provided daily written prayers and daily readings from Scripture. The BCP has been revised a number of times over the centuries, but that has remained its core. Like the Liturgy of the Hours, the BCP also, when used properly, will have its adherent recite the whole Psalter every month.

Scot also notes, amusingly, how bound up we get in our traditions. Y’all know what “Amen” means, right? It’s the transliteration of an Aramaic word that means, “I agree”. It was a word for public, not private, prayers. Originally, the person praying in public would not say “Amen”. (Surely a person agrees with their own words.) Instead, those listening would say Amen to verbalize their agreement with the prayer. Praying with the Church in written prayers, “Amen” or “I agree” is especially appropriate if used thoughtfully. We are challenged by the prayers of others and challenged to stand with the Church in our agreement with them. That can take courage and require that we set some of our own prejudices aside.

Another contribution in the West by the BCP is its focus on morning and evening prayers. The full Liturgy of the Hours is difficult, as we already explored, to fit into the life of the lay person. Condensing it to morning and evening made the BCP more accessible while still covering much that the Hours covered. It is not as rigorous, but it is still a good rhythm and one modeled on the most basic use of the Shema (though perhaps not intentionally).


Baptists, Eucharist, and History 1 – The Reformers

Posted: July 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Church History, Eucharist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I decided that in order to explore this topic, I needed to spend a little bit of time to establish and define the history and shape of the modern Baptist view of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. That will provide a reference point for comparison as we then step back into the first millenium. In order to sketch the modern background, in this post I will briefly outline the perspective of the three main early Reformers on the Eucharist. I will not be looking here at Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation. That was really a different path with different goals and a different result from the Protestant Reformation. Anglicans are not exactly Protestant. Nor are they Catholic. By intent, they stand between the two traditions.

When it came to the Eucharist, Martin Luther‘s primary issue had to do with the abuses and odd practices and beliefs that had arisen in late medieval Roman Catholic Church from the specific theory called transubstantiation. The theory of transubstantiation itself had only been developed several hundred years earlier by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. He used Aristotle‘s terminology in his effort to explain the mechanics of the change. In those terms, the substance or essence, the true reality of the bread and wine were changed into the body and blood of our Lord even as the accidents or those parts available to our five senses remained bread and wine.

In hindsight, Luther might have been better served had he simply returned to the prevailing perspective in both the East and the West prior to Thomas Aquinas. However, he was a product of Western scholasticism himself and leaving things unexplained and in tension probably was not something he could have done. So Luther developed his own theory of how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Luther called his theory consubstantiation. I’m not going to delve into that theory here, since I’m primarily exploring the Baptist connection to history.

In stark contrast to Luther, Huldrych Zwingli held that the bread and wine signify the body and blood of Jesus and are a memorial to his sacrifice on the Cross rather than any sort of participation in it. Zwingli and Luther met a number of times, but were never able to come to any sort of agreement or find common ground. According to his own later statements, Zwingli did not believe the elements were mere bread and wine. Nevertheless, his view came very close to that perspective. Clearly, much of modern Protestantism draws their perception and understanding of the Eucharist from Zwingli.

John Calvin, the third of the early Reformers, tried to take a middle way between Luther and Zwingli. On the one hand he held that since Jesus is bodily at the right hand of God, there can be no material connection between between bread and body. However, the bread and wine do more than signify. In some sense, they are the body and blood, at least spiritually. So Calvin made it a spiritual meal and a spiritual feeding. His middle way had little effect on the other two. Calvin’s rejection of an actual material connection between the bread and wine and the body and blood of Jesus made his view unacceptable to Luther. And Zwingli would not accept that we even spiritually eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. He insisted that the bread and wine have no connection to the body and blood, not even a spiritual one.

Those three men represent the three streams that shaped pretty much all of Protestant belief about and understanding of the Eucharist.