Putting the Loco in Logocentric

Rod Dreher reflects on the ways that even while denominational brands among Protestants are in free fall (and have been, I might add, since the Second Not-So-Good Awakening), the differences between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox abide:

And yet, some borders still matter — as Berger notes — at the popular level. When you’re a Protestant and you walk into a Catholic church, you know that something very different is going on there, and vice versa (though given the postconciliar Protestantization of Catholic church architecture and interior design, this is much less obvious in some places than in others). Visit an Orthodox church, and the contrast is even more vivid — perhaps surprisingly so for Catholics, who might reasonably have thought that given the strong Marian piety of Orthodox Christians, the Orthodox church was closer to their own faith than it actually is.

The vibe in a Protestant (especially confessional) church would be different in part because services feature, in contrast to the Roman and Eastern churches, the Bible read and preached.

So when you read Paul’s instruction to Timothy, Paul being an apostle and all and an author of an infallible set of books in Scripture, are you thinking of the atmosphere in a Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant service?

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Don’t let them fool you. The model for Protestant ministry is as old as the church in Ephesus that Jesus founded by way of Paul.


14 thoughts on “Putting the Loco in Logocentric

  1. DGH – “The vibe in a Protestant (especially confessional) church would be different in part because services feature, in contrast to the Roman and Eastern churches, the Bible read and preached.”

    This is simply untrue. There are at least 3 Scripture readings in every Catholic mass: OT, NT, and Gospel. There is always a homily. The EOC liturgy always includes Gospel reading and *should* include a homily. From the RCC/EOC perspective the Protestant service includes an extremely low view of Sacraments, and in the main they are correct.


  2. “This is simply untrue.” No, it’s not. At least not across the board. I tried long and hard to find a Catholic Church that actually used the Bible for anything other than a liturgical prop. As for Catholic *preaching*, ROFLOL… have fun defending that. I don’t even need to go there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joe m – here are the RCC Mass readings for today: Judges 13:2-7, 24-25; Psalm 3-6, 16-17 (responsorial), Luke 1:5-25 (http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121918.cfm). What Scriptures did your Protestant church read during corporate worship today?

    I don’t disagree that RCC/EOC homilies are often feeble. Can we agree that RCC/EOC generally undervalue preaching of the Word, while Protestant churches generally undervalue the Sacraments?


  4. Nice equivalency, VV. Hitler and Bugs Bunny were both sociopaths, right? Is that how it works? And you might know that confessional presbyterians (are you one, really?) believe that the two (2) sacraments are liable to misuse and superstition, and maybe can become harmful if divorced from the sound preaching of the word.


  5. And having a bunch of phony sacraments does not equal a high view of sacraments, it equals a low view of scripture as guide, which cannot bode well for preaching. Or discipline, or practically anything else regarding the church.


  6. cw – the RCC/EOC have a high view of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which most Protestants – and I would say including your average lay NAPARC member – do not have. Hence the reason most Reformed churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper only occasionally. It’s just as bad to divorce the Sacrament from the Word as it is the Word from the Sacrament. At least according to Calvin. You and DGH and others like to jump on the RCC/EOC for their anemic preaching of the Word. Fair enough. But where’s the criticism of the Reformed community – not to mention Protestantism as a whole – and their anemic practice of the Sacraments?

    And the RCC doctrine of seven (7) sacraments is wrong. The practices themselves are not wrong, but calling them sacraments is error.


  7. “But where’s the criticism of the Reformed community – not to mention Protestantism as a whole – and their anemic practice of the Sacraments?”

    VV, not sure I’d call it a criticism of the Reformed community, but here’s one real world example of addressing what lacks among us (shameless plug for a local plant):


    “We also are planning to celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly.”

    But that hardly means it’s a way of saying the RCC takes the sacraments seriously, although I think you have a point about the amount of scripture in Catholic worship. Unlike joe, my anecdotal experience is that plenty of scripture is included.


  8. Almost ten years ago T. David Gordon said:
    “I would guess that of the sermons I’ve heard in the last twenty-five years, 15 percent had a discernible point; I could say, ‘The sermon was about X.’ Of those 15 percent, however, less than 10 percent demonstrably based the point on the text read. That is, no competent effort was made to persuade the hearer that God’s Word required a particular thing; it was simply asserted.”

    The problems that he goes on to discuss (poor reading and writing, etc.) are cultural and not Reformed; any preaching or secular presentation is as likely to be affected. The particular problem for avowedly Logocentric, Reformed worship is what little you have left when of the 1,300 Sunday mornings of 25 years it produced fewer than 19 biblically justified sermons.

    Surely RCC and Orthodox churches also struggle homiletically, but their comparable problem would be if over a quarter century someone communed, at best, a couple dozen times because the priest kept dropping the chalice.


  9. Zrim,

    Unlike joe, my anecdotal experience is that plenty of scripture is included.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think Joe is denying that. There’s plenty of Scripture in the liturgy, but it’s liturgical prop because the Scripture isn’t expounded or taught. My experience growing up in the Lutheran church (mainline) was that yes there are Scripture readings and even many of the responses, confessions of sin, etc. are just verbatim Scripture. But most people don’t know that.

    In the handful of masses I have attended, there was no real engagement with the Scriptures in the liturgy. The closest was the homily, and they were uniformly horrible.


  10. Robert, if Mike’s quote of TDG is right it’s not as if logocentrism is in better hands in Protestantism. More anecdotal evidence: the Catholic broadcasting around here engages scripture just as much as the next Protestant, though one would think he came across yet another evangelical broadcast at first. Point being, the cannard that RCC has no use for scripture beyond liturgical prop rings hollow.


  11. vv, from John T. Noonan, The Lustre of our Country on growing up in a Boston parish:

    There were sermons — very short by Protestant standards, too long by ours — given usually, but not always, at Sunday Mass. The Mass was the thing, not the preaching.



  12. vv, for the record, Protestants who administer the Supper four times a year are doing it more than the laity had it before the Reformation. Not until 1905 were laity able to receive it daily. The Roman Catholic high regard for sacraments is more recent than Protestant regard for preaching.


  13. @ Mike:

    That’s wild. The fellow who taught my homiletics class told us to distill the point of the passage into one sentence; that sentence was then the thesis of the sermon.


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