Christians, Liturgy, and the Past—Part 2

Last week I guest posted the first part of a two part discussion of liturgy and the past on the Theopolis Institute, which we also discussed on the latest episode of Mere Fidelity. The second part of the article has just been published. Here is an extract:

Louis Marie Chauvet speaks of the dynamics of a “cultic conservatism” that replicates and maintains historic rites across many generations, yet in a manner that involves a growing “disjunction between the logic of their production and the logic of their reproduction.” The original purpose and meaning that rites possessed can be forgotten as the convictions driving their current practice shift from those that gave rise to their creation to others responding to the various unarticulated benefits that have come to be associated subconsciously with them.

This is a constant danger to which a conservative impulse is exposed: that the very attempt to preserve or reproduce the past is driven by logic alien to that which first animated that past. Perhaps the most basic form that this can take is seen in conservatism’s common propensity to value and preserve tradition as such over the things that the tradition itself once stood for

Chauvet illustrates some of the ways in which the conservative impulse to maintain the practice of a rite can be at odds with the logic that originally grounded it. He discusses the lingering desire for baptism among many who do not seem to hold to the meaning that baptism has within Christian theology.[7] He identifies, behind this desire, different ways in which the practice of baptism has come to answer a hunger for particular understandings of the sacred. Baptism can become the symbol for such values as tradition, social integration, cultural identity, morality, transcendence, beauty, celebration, or nostalgia for childhood innocence. Despite the preservation of the Christian tradition of the sacrament, through the distorting effect of a particular sort of a subconscious—and thus intensely powerful—conservative impulse, the rite has come to mean something quite different from that which it originally did.

Read the entire post here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Liturgical Theology, Society, The Church, The Sacraments, Theological, Worship. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Christians, Liturgy, and the Past—Part 2

  1. A thought provoking piece, thanks for posting this article.

  2. Swithun says:

    Sorry for filling up the com box, I’ve had trouble posting on wordpress…

    • What has been the problem?

      • Swithun says:

        It’s not a problem with your site as I’ve tried commenting on others. It seems for some reason, wordpress did not like my preferred display name despite it being my name on WordPress. Having changed it to the above there’s no longer a problem.

  3. mnpetersen37 says:

    My wife recently posted this quote from Out of Revolution which seems apropos:

    “I invite the progressive to look about and to recognize the fact that his insatiable thirst for newness may suck the blood out of the institutions on which he wholly depends for his progress. I invite the conservative to recognize the fact that his old institutions will decay if the sap of the tree is not given a new outlet into the timely institutions of today.”

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