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Carl Trueman on Liturgical Forms

Explaining how a principled Reformed person ought to think about the question of formal liturgy, Carl Trueman says:

The difference is not between churches who have liturgies and churches who do not; it is between churches who have intelligent ones that are theologically informed, which they acknowledge and upon which they reflect, and those who do not.  Whether one writes them down or not, and indeed how elaborate they are, is irrelevant when it comes to the question of formalism.   Formalism is a matter of the heart, not of the written page.   After all, unless one speaks in tongues, one is probably using written liturgical tools such as psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

This is exactly right, and we shouldn’t miss the fact that both proponents and critics of “liturgy” often end up sharing the same flawed assumption– that liturgy is something other than a prudential application of biblical wisdom by particular people. Instead, both the advocate and opponent assume some sort of sacred law and proceed to build their case that way, supposing that the liturgy in and of itself is either required or forbidden. But on magisterial Protestant grounds, the forms are dependent upon their intent and use.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

One reply on “Carl Trueman on Liturgical Forms”

What connection do you see between what you term “formalism” in worship and received tradition in worship? I am interested in whether you see value/necessity in adhering to certain received forms such as recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creeds.

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