I have long thought and taught that the right road into Christian theology is taken by reflecting on Christian worship in the light of the Bible. The Bible is supremely a manual of worship, but too often it has been treated, particularly in Protestantism, as a manual of ethics, of moral values, of religious ideas, or even of sound doctrine. When we see that the worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world, that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, “the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (Heb. 3:1), the doctrines all unfold from that center.
—James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, 9
Sing the Bible, pray the Bible, read the Bible, preach the Bible.
—motto of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi
Lathrop suggests that Lutheran liturgical hermeneutics offers two guiding principles for decisions about the relationship between worship and culture. The first is that “in worship, the center must be clear: the assembly gathers around the gift of Christ in Word and sacrament.” The second guiding principle is that the gifts of diverse cultures are to be welcomed and honored, but “these cultural patterns must not become their own new law or usurp the place of the center…They must be broken to the purpose of Christ.”
—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, 64
The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.
I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri. [A man of one book.]
And the Reformers were clear that in order to control and check the movement of Christian tradition from age to age a norm was needed. That norm was the written Word, and so the Bible was for them the supreme “given” element in the Church and the final authority for all our forms of worship.
—Rev. D. H. C. Read, “The Reformation of Worship,” Scottish Journal of Theology 8:1 (March 1955):73
The Bible is forever a critical prodding presence among us.
—William Willimon, The Bible: A Sustaining Presence in Worship