Weekly Q&A – 20140614

Choose one of the following theologies and explore how they are emphasized both in historic liturgical forms (i.e., the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) and in the German Lutheran Messe: theologia cruces, sola fide, the Real Presence of Christ.

My interest in this question stems from the fact that we have only one theology, that of the Cross.  Particulars such as sola fide and the Real Presence of Christ are part and parcel of the Theology of the Cross (theologia cruces).  Critical to this is that in his writings, specifically the Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther focuses three theses (19, 20 & 21) on defining who is and who is not a theologian.  Only later does Luther set forth the Cross as “our theology.”  Thus, it is that theologia cruces defines the theologian, but also the praxis of our theology in liturgy forms.Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

The medieval Mass retained many elements of the theologia cruces, including the penitential Kyrie, the laudatory Gloria, the confessional Credo, the laudatory Sanctus and the penitential Agnus Dei.  Because these parts of the Mass remained focused on Christ’s work and our creaturely position, Luther kept them in the Messe.  As such these should remain as part of any modern liturgical forms.

All liturgical forms should remain focused upon ‘suffering and the Cross.’  Recently, two threats to the Lutheran liturgical form of proclamation have returned, these are the ‘decadent pietism’ identified by Forde and ‘functional Arminianism’ identified by Curtis.  These threats can be qualified as personal affirmation (of oneself and of others) and ‘making a decision for Christ.’  Each are a danger to true worship and are a degradation of the liturgy.

As theologians of the Cross and responsible liturgists, we should be on guard against these threats as we consider what is included and excluded from our services.  Over the years older hymns (chorales) and modern hymns that focus on God and His Christ as the actors and we as the passive recipients of His actions can and should continue to be included.  Modern and camp meeting (gospel music?) songs should be view critically before inclusion as they tend to affirm us and reinforce our own idolatry.

We must continue to teach and preach that all of us should be very cautious of what is brought into our congregations.  Very few, if any, resources found at the local ‘Christian’ bookstore have been seriously vetted as meeting the standard of ‘suffering and the Cross.’  All pastors and teachers should use the theological analysis that was discussed in class.  Although our class focus was on hymn analysis, these points seem to be a good starting point for what should or should not be included in the liturgy.  The points were: 1. Is the form about God’s grace and thanksgiving?; 2. Does the form include works righteousness?; and 3. Is the Cross central in the form?

Additionally, one could add that the forms should be true and beautiful.  Ultimately, those historical and modern liturgical forms that give all might, majesty, dominion, power, and all the glory of our salvation to God alone, have and will stand the test of time.  No other forms are more important and far-reaching than standing firm in the theologia cruce.
SDG

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