The Unique Center

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

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Shared Communion

At the centre of the New Testament stands, not our religious experience, but a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father. No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him (Matt. 11.27; John 1.18, 17.25-26). This unique relationship is vividly described as one of mutual love, mutual self-giving, mutual testifying, mutual glorifying. Indeed, there is a oneness of mind between the Father and the Son, revealed supremely in the Cross, ‘to bring many sons to glory’ (Heb. 2.10), ‘that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Gal. 4.5ff)—that we might be drawn by the Spirit into that unique life of shared communion.

—James F. Torrance, “The Doctrine of the Trinity in Our Contemporary Situation,” in The Forgotten Trinity, 10-11

Christ in Our Place

In all our worship and prayer, private and public, informal or formal, we come before God in such a way as to let Jesus Christ take our place, replacing our offering with His own self-offering, for He IS the vicarious worship and prayer with which we respond to the love of the Father.

—Thomas F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 98

The Place of Worship

The true temple of God is the Body of Christ, the physical body of Jesus, His flesh, that which the apostles saw and touched with their hands. It is on this basic truth, as on a cornerstone, that the whole teaching of Peter and Paul about the Church as the Body of Christ and the Temple of God rests. The place of worship, therefore, is essentially the place where Christ is found. Now Christ is found where two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20). Hence the place of Christian worship is the assembled Church. It is not primarily a building but an assembly, and if, as we shall see, buildings made with human hands (cf. Mark 14:58; Acts 7:48; 17:24; Heb. 9:11; 24) can become places of worship, it is simply because they are intended to house the assembled liturgical people.  But it is the people who are the temple.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship Its Theology and Practice, 241-242

Worship at the Center

The cult [worship gathering] is in some sense the criterion of parochial [congregational] life: whatever is entitled to its place in worship, whatever stands the test of being orientated by worship, whatever provides conditions for the ready fruition of worship, is healthy; whatever does not stand up to these tests in unhealthy. A catechesis which had not the intention of supporting “worshippers whom the Father seeks” (John 4:23) would be faulty. A parochial organization which was indifferent to rooting itself first of all in the cult would be parasitic. A diaconate which did not clearly emerge as an answer to the Church’s intercession would be profane. When we see the agitation which overtakes some parishes and which causes them to confuse insomnia with vigilance, we sometimes feel that we would like to impose on them a sabbatical year during which they would abstain from all activity except that of the Church’s worship, in order that they should learn once again to measure by that standard what they must do and what they can leave aside. And probably they could leave undone many more things than they in their feverish activity imagine.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55

With One Voice

Your accord and harmonious love is a hymn to Jesus Christ. Yes, one and all, you should form yourselves into a choir, so that, in perfect harmony and taking your pitch from God, you may sing in unison and with one voice to the Father through Jesus Christ.

—Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians (c. A.D. 100) 4:1

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

—Romans 15:5-7