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Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community Paperback – August 12, 2006
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"This book is an eloquent and well-reasoned critique of many trends in evangelicalism today, and it challenges ministers to examine the liturgical decisions they make for their churches." (Zach Gautier, Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 2008)
"Chan's volume represents a step forward in the evangelical discussion of ecclesiology and deserves to be engaged with care by those who, like Chan, hope to overcome evangelicalism's ecclesiological deficit." (W. Ravis McMaken, Evangelical Review of Theology, October 2008)
"This is a book for Catholics as well as Protestants. Its modest title doesn't do justice to its fundamental critique of Evangelical Christianity in the West, or its wisdom in pointing toward those churches' true identity." (L.P. Fairfield, Touchstone, September 2008)
"Evangelicals need to care enough about their Lord, His word, and the people gathered at worship on Sundays to read this book. Lutherans and other Christians from liturgical traditions who imitate (or are tempted to imitate) American Evangelicals MUST be encouraged to buy and read this book." (PJC,Liturgy, Hymnody, & Pulpit Quarterly Book Review, Vol. 2, issue 4)
"Chan issues a call to evangelicals to develop a mature theology of the church." (Theology Digest, Spring 2006)
"The book is accessible and the best work written on church, ministry and sacraments in a very long time." (Trinity Journal for Theology and Ministry, Fall 2007)
"Simon Chan offers here a timely word to the evangelical church. Things 'liturgical,' once shunned by some, are now being embraced by a generation of believers who have renewed interest in ancient practices and ritual arts. This book provides a solid theological framework for the working-out of best practices as the evangelical world renews its worship." (Clay Schmit, Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook Associate Professor of Preaching and Academic Director for the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts, Fuller Theological Seminary)
"Convinced that the practices of the liturgy shape and form faith and life, Chan has written an utterly compelling book that calls the evangelical tradition to a new commitment to worship. It is just the wake-up call that evangelicals need to hear." (Leanne Van Dyk, academic dean and professor of Reformed theology, Western Theological Seminary)
"Worship both expresses and forms us in a particular theological vision. Oddly, evangelical Christians have been reluctant to explore this topic. Indeed, an 'evangelical proposal' for 'liturgical theology' still sounds like an oxymoron. But this reluctance must end--and kudos to Simon Chan for helping the cause. He explores the significant worship-theology relationship in conversation with a wonderfully broad range of Christian theologians. The result may not only change how you think about worship, but how you practice it in your congregation." (John D. Witvliet, director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and associate professor of worship, theology and music, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary)
"In this day of confusion about the meaning and purpose of worship, Simon Chan returns worship to its place of belonging in the church. His calling to return to the catechumenate, to the ordo of Sunday worship and the reinvigoration of the historic liturgy is especially timely given the postmodern moment in which we live." (Robert Webber, Myers Professor of Ministry, Northern Seminary)
About the Author
Simon Chan (Ph.D., Cambridge) is Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He is the author of Man and Sin, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life and Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community. He is also the associate editor of the Global Dictionary of Theology and the Dictionary of Mission Theology.
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This means that the church is most clearly herself at worship. Drawing largely from the Great Tradition (of the first five centuries), he sees the normative liturgy as constituted by Word and Sacrament, flanked on both ends by the welcome and the dismissal. Within this order, he sees the Eucharist as the basic centre that gives shape and orientation to the liturgy. This is a corrective to the evangelicals' tendency in seeing the whole service as revolving around the sermon. It is the Eucharist, he contends, that realizes the Church in her most basic character as communion.
Chan then fleshes out his proposal as he looks at Christian initiation (Catechism)and the Sunday Liturgy and concludes with some thoughts on how the church can be formed spiritually through 'active participation' in worship. His program is a far cry from the mass appeal, humanly contrived and instant gratification models we see so much in the popular evangelical scene but if taken seriously and with perseverance, the church may for those rare times find herself buoyed up again by God's own Spirit to be what she has been called to be from before the foundation of the earth.
Chan's writing is eloquent and lucid, evident of a first rate theological mind with both feet planted firmly on the ground. His relatively simple prose may mask deep insights that can be mined only through patient listening (lectio divina!), ruminations and further readings. My only small 'complaint' is that the book is too short, leaving some assertions less rigorously argued than I would wish for (but he did make clear that this is not a full-blown work on liturgical theology) and this gifted teacher needs to write more and bless the Church with his refreshing insights.
Chan critiques evangelicals and their lack of any form of ecclesiology (theology of the church) and claims that a good ecclesiology is central to the church. Within that, how a church worships (its liturgy) will form the church, and thus "liturgical theology" is very important for the church. So Chan spends some time taking the readers through a form of liturgy and explaining the purpose behind it.
Overall, I found the book quite interesting and it challenged many of my notions of what the church is. I read it for my ecclesiology class at seminary, and it really helped me think through my own ecclesiology and the importance of worship (and how we worship) for the mission of the church. If you want to think differently about church, I'd recommend you read this book. You may not agree with everything Chan says, but it will definitely make you work through your pre-conceived definition of the church.
By: Simon Chan (Ph.D., Cambridge)
Article written by: rm Kocak (please visit my blog for a more comprehensive article: [...])
"What marks Christians as God's people is that they have become a community that worships God in spirit and in truth. This is what the church must aim at in mission. Mission does not seek to turn sinners into saved individuals; it seeks, rather, to turn disparate individuals into a worshipping community."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 45.
I first began reading Simon Chan's Liturgical Theology last summer when I was in St. Louis on a tour with the Air Force. As I pieced through my notes to write this book preview, I realized how influential and timely Chan's book was for me. Chan gives stinging critique of some of Evangelicalism's `bad habits' (I would call it EPS: Enlightenment Presupposition Syndrome); however, Chan clearly states, "If my critique is severe, it is because the tradition is worth correcting." Chan's premier concern in the the book is not to bash Evangelicals (he is one), but to develop and articulate an ecclesiology (view of the church) that is rooted in Scripture, Church History, and worship.
After a page of acknowledgements and an introduction to the book, Chan plots a course that deals with two aspects of the church:
The Ontology of the Church
The Worship of the Church
The Shape of the Liturgy
The Liturgy as Ecclesial Practice
The Sunday Liturgy
Liturgical Theology uses an occasional theological word or two that the average person may not be acquainted with (I even learned a few new theological terms myself), but don't let this deter you from working through this MUST READ book (a pocket dictionary of theological terms or a Google search will help).
THE BIG IDEA
"We are not saved as individuals first and then incorporated into the church; rather, to be a Christian is to be incorporated into the church by baptism and nourished by the spiritual food of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Failure to understand this fact has led to a reduction of the church's role to a largely sociological one of a service provider catering to individual believers' spiritual needs."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 24.
Chan's chapter on the "Ontology of the Church" awakened me to a deeper reality of what it means to be a member of the Church, the body of Christ. Chan echoes the famous assertion of Cyprian: "He who has not the Church for his mother, has not God for his Father." Chan further develops the church's ontological relationship with the triune God in terms of three biblical images: the people of God, body of Christ, and temple of the Spirit.
SEED IDEA #1
"... truth is not part of living worship but is almost exclusively confined to the sermon... The operating assumption is that teaching people the right things will lead to right living... Right belief and right practice (orthopraxis) can only come from right worship (orthodoxia), and vice versa."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 52.
In the chapter on "The Worship of the Church," one can find a treasure chest full of seed ideas concerning various aspects of worship. Chan develops his view of worship by looking at the dialectical nature of worship and theology. Chan refers to the use of liturgy in worship as participating in "primary theology." It is out of this primary theology that secondary theology (Doctrine) arises. There is a connection between the rule of praying (worship) and the rule of belief. A section that is particularly worth reading in this chapter is concerning worship and divine glory. God's glory is characterized in the following ways: First, it can never be something we do for God. Second, it is its own end. Third, it is a response to God's total character, more specifically to the triune God (53).
SEED IDEA #2
"Sunday points to the transformation of time. It is one of the days of the week, the first day, yet it points beyond present time to the new creation, the kingdom `not of this world, ` the eighth day. "By remaining one of the ordinary days, and yet by revealing itself through the Eucharist as the eighth and first day, it gave all days their true meaning. It made the time of this world a time of the end, and it made it also the time of the beginning."
- Liturgical Theology, pg. 81.
Chan has a way of articulating the significance of liturgy in a way that is not sterile, dry, or lethargic. In studying the sacramental theology of the Reformation, I have found very few Reformers (perhaps maybe Calvin) who have articulated the eschatological nature of the Eucharist (as evidenced in the liturgies of the early Church). Chan does well in exploring the church calendar, liturgies, and sacraments in light of eschatology.
THE TAKE HOME
Whether you come from a sacramental background (Chan is ironically, a Pentecostal), Liturgical Theology remains a MUST READ for seminary students, pastors, and worship leaders.
Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence
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