Written during the 1970's when much of the Church's traditional positions were under constant attack by theologians and first published in 1980, Geoffrey Wainwright's Doxolgy was and still is a groundbreaking book. Rather than jumping on the modernist bandwagon, Wainwright goes back to the central event in the Church's life - it's worship - and using this theme attempts to build bridges between what is good in modern scholarship to the strengths of the Church throughout its history.
At almost every turn, the Wainwright's allegiance to ecumenicity and catholicity is clear. The book avoids the old battles and an irenic spirit is present throughout its pages. The theological divisions within the Church (ancient vs. modern, East vs. West, Catholic vs. Protestant) are overcome in a manner that the reader may gain an understanding of what is "other" without surrendering cherished distinctives.
Wainwright divides his examination into discussions of God and the Church, Scripture and Tradition, and the surrounding context of the Christian experience. The thread running through all of the discussions is the worship of the Church. Worship is seen as both informing reflecting other elements of the Church and its life. Central to this discussion are the chapters on Lex Orandi and Lex Credendi - reflecting the two phrases of the Latin saying that sums up this relationship.
There are certainly points on which we may make objections. Much of this may in fact be due to the period of time in which the book was written as well as the ecclesial environment from which Wainwright was writing. As part of the movement towards ecumenism between Catholic, Orthodox, and the major Protestant groups, Wainwright was perhaps overly optimistic of the future success of this endeavor. As part of the Methodist contigent to these discussions among the "established" churches, he perhaps underestimated how the balance of power within Protestantism was moving away from the "mainline" groups and towards more Evangelical and often strictly sectarian forms of Christianity. The rather benign view of some modern theological developments also might seem hopelessly naive. Still, such things are more sidebar issues and do not affect his central theme.
Wainwright's work stands as important development in the desire among Protestants to regain a sense of the catholicity of the Church and a connection to its ancient faith and practice. Achieving to some degree a balance between extremes, he gives the ancient faith and practice of the Church a new life in a modern setting. Perhaps some of his elements of his work has aged poorly, but this does not detract from the profound influence it has held for a generation. By any reasonable measure, Doxology is essential reading.
Doxology is a good book and well worth the price. However, as with many books, some chapters stand out to me more than others. In chapters 7 & 8 Wainwright deals with the old Latin phrase LEX ORANDI LEX CREDENDI (rule of prayer rule of belief). Like the old chicken and egg question, but with greater importance, Wainwright discusses which comes first, prayer or belief. That is, do we create our doctrines to match our worship or do we design our worship to reflect our beliefs? Before you answer that question too quickly I need to add that this is of fundamental importance to the ongoing dialogue between Catholics and Protestants.
on October 16, 2015
An epiphany which answered many long-held concerns about the relationship between worship, belief and Christian action.Set out in a logical thesis, this well researched and very readable exposition, came at the right moment for me when there are many attempts to make Sunday worship trendy and relevant to the perceived cultural needs of this time. The author draws upon profound Biblical scholarship and knowledge of the writings of the Church Fathers. The work is illustrated from the liturgies of all denominations. Highly recommended for all who are concerned about the public face of the weekly worship in their church.
on May 5, 2006
It may not be the definative theology of the century, but it is one of the best. For any Christian or student looking to understand the nature of and relationship between Christian worship and belief, this text is a rich resource.
The central premise of this text is that theology is secondary to the worship, the experience, of Christianity. He is influenced by, but not beholden to, the Phenomenology of Ninian Smart. Used in moderation this gives Wainwright another perspective by which to address his main thesis, that Christianity developed as much out of its evolving practices as it did its evolving ideas.
By looking at Christianity as an experience as opposed to a system of beliefs, Wainwright has developed a fantastic perspective as to how Christianity has formed, and what the beliefs of Christianity actually mean. He has a good understanding as to some of the principle aspects of Christianity- notably its scriptures, its worship and its traditions, that open up new thinking into Christian practice. It is neither a comfortably Protestant nor Catholic theology, but seeks to be eccumenical. Reading his ideas on the development of tradition can be reassuring and challenging- they sometimes remind us that we are once church, and occassionally he will say something alien to our customary understandings (both Catholic and Protestant), but not necessarily wrong.
My only critique is that the reader needs to take care to be aware of how Wainwright feels about the authority of tradition. While he explicitly points out worship and scripture as foundational for Christianity, one should realize that tradition plays a large role in this text- Protestant readers often seem to misunderstand his call for a 'magisterium' by not appreciating this.
Doxology is an absolutely unique, absolutely readable systematic theology. It incorporates practice, tradition and scripture in a reasonable, understandable way that seeks to be open to most denominations. This text is valuable to both scholars and churchgoers. There's a lot to ponder here.
"The intimate relation between Christian theology and the praise of God now seems obvious to a great many theologians." Editors
Liturgy and Stamps:
`Liturgy,' means `work of the people,' and is the way in which all Christians have expressed their belief in public fellowship. It is a communal way, in which the worship of churches is similar in core, even if varies with time, space, and culture.
Dr. Inge, the late Dean of St. Paul's, was asked by his neighbor, a distinguished liturgist, while dining at a high table in Oxford whether he was interested in liturgy; 'No,' replied the gloomy Dean, 'neither do I collect postage stamps'. It is, thus, a fairly rare occurrence for the theme of the rule of worship and faith to be treated by an eminent Protestant theologian, who sets in this work's scope; "One of my purposes in writing has been to rescue this interplay of worship and doctrine-with both its problems and its opportunities-as an area of interest for Protestant theology."
Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi:
An appropriate alternative title for 'organizing principle' in professor Wainwright's perception and elaboration of the vital relation between Christian theology and the praise of God. Doxology sets the frame for the rule of worship and belief, in a unique exploration of the relation of worship to doctrine and life. These themes, most influential of Geoffrey Wainwright's contributions to systematic theology and ecumenism started to attract the attention of thoughtful Protestants, and many other Catholic and Orthodox believers, anew. The impressive author seeks to identify and describe the core of Christian life, to trace its modes and traditions, genuinely developing a systematic theology of worship.
Fellowship of Praise:
It is amazing how he very well proves his point to my delight; "in collecting the texts of Eastern rites for publication in the Western world; the doctrinal question raised by the existence of these generally orthodox rites in the officially heterodox churches of the Monophysites and Nestorians did not escape the attention of the discerning. The Oratorian E. Renaudot prefaced his 'Liturgium orientalium collectio' with a theological essay in which he argued that Eastern liturgies, not being simply the words of one great doctor (Cyril of Alexandria)to whom they might be attributed but having apostolic roots and having received the unanimous and un interrupted approval of entire churches, possessed a value equal to Latin and second only to the scripture as witness to the tradition."
After reading Wainwright's book, you will want to look for another one just like it--only it doesn't exist. His sweeping survey of ... theology through the lens of liturgy is highly suggestive; what is it that truly binds the church universal together? ... he does ask important questions. Read this book to get some perspective ... on the unique beauty and suitableness of worship for human knowing. "Quetzalphoenix"
Rev. Dr. Wainwright is an advocate of ecumenism, understood as unity in the truth of a the preached gospel. A member of WCC Faith and Order, who played a leading role in the Lima declaration on "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" (1982); and since 1986 he has co-chaired the dialogue between the World Methodist Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
He studied at Cambridge, Geneva, and Rome, is an ordained minister of the British Methodist Church. He taught Scripture and doctrine at The Queen's College, Birmingham, then moved to the United States, first to Union Theological Seminary, New York, as chair of systematic theology, and later to Duke.