Monday, January 20, 2014

High Church?

These two links recently caught my eye:

The point here isn’t to get into a fight about who has more converts, but simply to highlight the fact that the trickle of noteworthy evangelicals going to Rome tends to get a fair amount of coverage while the stream of young people leaving Catholicism for Protestantism seems to receive far less...

That said, there is still an interesting discussion to be had about millennial Christians who aren’t happy with the state of evangelicalism and who are looking for something different. There’s a type of younger evangelical who is a conscientious, thoroughly orthodox believer who feels frustrated with the triviality and faddishness of popular evangelicalism.

In that second link, Peter Escalante quotes from the Council of Nicaea:

FORASMUCH as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the Holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

He continues: I myself don’t really buy the reasoning that seems to be behind this particular canon, but that’s not the point. The point is, this was a widely held view in the ancient church, and not so widely held in [today’s] “high church.”

My point would be, much of what we see that goes by the name “ancient church” really begins in the 4th century. People who want something like a more genuine Christianity as it was “in the beginning”, that is, in earliest Christianity, would do better to look to the Baptist Pot Luck Lunch.


  1. I think you assign too much of the motivation to move to "High Church" traditions to some liturgical practices. Some people are attracted to the smells and bells, but I really doubt that is most of them. Personally, I'm a Protestant High Church Anglican. I really have no desire to go to Rome or give up the Reformation in any way, and I do not even really like smells or bells, and I have no particular affinity for lace. I just have a high view of the Visible Church and with it a relatively high view of the sacraments. It does not matter if those are in a Cathedral or someone's garage celebrated around a plastic table. I just think that is what is taught in Scripture, not that it is some kind of infallible tradition.

    High views of the Visible Church and the sacraments, and some kind of attachment to the historical Church (because of the high view of the Visible Church) are what seem to attract people to High Church traditions. The shallowness of modern Evangelicalism does not really help the matter, along with the low profile of the Protestant High Church traditions. For many people there are two options: Rome or shallow Evangelicalism. Is it really a surprise when some find the former the better option? I find it depressing, not surprising. There is no need to give up the Reformation in order to be attached to the Historical Church and have a high view of the sacraments. In point of fact, I think you can only find real attachment to those in High Church Protestantism, particularly Anglicanism.

    1. Hi Nate -- I can appreciate your high view of church and sacraments. I attend a PCA, though I find, the more I look into the origins of the sacraments, that I gravitate more toward Zwingli on the Lord's Supper. (Not the "bare memorialism" that he often gets attributed with, but something more along the lines of "symbolic presence") Something that's been useful to me has been Paul Bradshaw's work on "Origins of Christian Worship".

    2. I was baptized in a PCA Church myself, and I would say my views on the Sacraments and the Church are of a "Strong Calvinist" nature. I just have a really high view of the Spiritual Presence. I also understand that the "bare memorialism" often associated with Low Churchmen is rather unfair. Most mainstream Evangelicals I know seem to think they spiritually nourish in some way even though they do not really define it.

      Sacramentology tends to be an outworking of Ecclesiology, or visa versa. The higher the view of the Visible Church, the higher the view of the sacraments and the ministers who administer them.

  2. Also, I shall look into that book. I've read up on the issue a lot lately.

    1. Nate, if you're interested, Thomas Schreiner has a very good work out, by a team of Baptist authors, on the topic of the Lord's Supper. It's about 2010. It gives good exegetical overviews of the Gospels and the ECFs, plus treatments of the various Reformation traditions (not Anglican, though).