21 September 2007

scripture and worship

This is perhaps an interesting juxtaposition against my previous post on liturgy, but I wanted to draw attention to the recent publication of Scripture and Worship: Biblical Interpretation and the Directory for Public Worship (P&R 2007) by Richard A. Muller and Rowland S. Ward.

The book collects together several papers by Muller and Ward that were presented at 2004 Conference on the Westminster Standards that was held at Westminster Theological Seminary and about which I posted at the time. To repeat the content of that post:

Muller, a professor of church history at Calvin Seminary and leading scholar of the early Reformed tradition, spoke primarily on the Westminster Confession in relation to Scripture and exegesis. As some of you may know, around the same time as the Westminster Assembly (though prior to the completion of their work), the Long Parliament authorized a comprehensive annotation of the King James Bible, consisting in a series of marginal annotations prepared by a team of divines, a number of whom would also serve as members of the Assembly.

Muller used these "English Annotations," along with the Westminster Confession's doctrine of Scripture, as a context for understanding the exegetical foundation for the Standards' use of Scripture, their shape of their doctrine, and their choices in providing "prooftexts." Though his time was limited and he could only examine a few representative sections of the Confession, he provided a very helpful model and example for how such a project might be undertaken on a larger scale. In particular Muller suggested ways in which the annotations fit into the existing trajectories of Reformed exegesis and how that larger tradition remained the undergirding for the Standards' doctrinal formulations.

Rowland Ward, a pastor-scholar in the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, provided a balanced and relatively detailed overview the the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, setting it firmly within its historical context, in terms of its fundamental theology of worship, the pragmatics of its choices and recommendations, and the various compromises between disputing parties (Presbyterians, Puritans, Independents) that it represents.

Ward usefully showed the evident structural parallels between the order of the Directory, the 1564 Scottish Book of Common Order and the patterns of worship that were already prevalent in the Church of Scotland in the mid-17th century. The Scottish tradition, though not maintaining the set and fixed prayers of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, had provided a variety of sample prayers for ministers to be either used verbatim or as models. The Independents, on the other hand, tended to favor free, extemporaneous prayer. The Directory represents a compromise, Ward suggested, providing detailed instruction for how prayers might be formed, which, through changing a few words, could be easily transformed into actual prayers.

Now, with the publication of the book, one can read these helpful talks in detail.