The Latin Mass and its Sibling, Evangelical Worship

Latin MassMy friend Tony sent me this article from the the San Francisco Chronicle about a Roman church in Oakland, California which has gone back to the traditional counter-Reformation’s Latin Mass, a rite rich in visible symbolism, imagery, gestures and song. Since the 1960s Vatican II, this traditional Mass has been replaced by a more contemporary ritual, but last year, Pope Benedict XVI has given local parishes more leeway to resurrect the Latin Mass. It has become so well-known that some people drive from all over the Bay Area and beyond to worship at St. Mary’s Margaret Church.

“It has been said that the traditional Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven… The service “draws you in bodily by appealing to the physical senses, but it also provokes and draws in the soul.” says one worshiper. And he “feels closer to God when he smells the burning incense, hears the bells intone, and sees the symphony of symbolic gestures and movements among the congregants.”

Artistic creativity – whether it’s the Old Testament baalism, the medieval pomp, or the 21st century mindless mishmash – is the byword of idolatrous worship. God’s people, called to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7), always want something spectacular to the five senses.

While the Canaanites had their Baals and Ashteroths, and the medieval church their incense, bells, priestly vestments, relics, crucifixes, and statues of “saints,” today’s evangelicals have their holding hands, waving hands, swaying hips, love songs to Jesus, puppet shows, dramatic presentations, tearful testimonies, girls dancing and waving flowing banners, liturgical dance, and big screens glowing with images of flowers and sunsets. That is how another article, “Manliness is Next to Godliness,” this time from the Los Angeles Times, characterizes today’s “effeminate” evangelical worship. With all these artistry, creativity, and leading by the Spirit, who wouldn’t “feel closer to God” and be “blessed” by the “praise and worship”?


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17 thoughts on “The Latin Mass and its Sibling, Evangelical Worship”

  1. Pia, where in the Bible do you find a command to not baptize infants? Please also read “Donatist, Anabaptist and Presbyterian Confusion” so you can see why we’re paedobaptists.

    Also, when you say you “will stick with the Bible,” you’re not really adhering to the Reformers’ principle of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”); you’re affirming solo Scriptura (“Scripture that is alone”).

  2. Quote: “..First, in “Worship Must be Biblical,” I focused on the Regulative Principle of Worship, which affirms the authority and sufficiency of Scripture: everything done in the worship of God must be explicitly prescribed in Scripture..”

    Agreed. So where do you find a single example of or command for an infant to be baptised? And if you cannot point to a single example or command so to do, then you can boast all you like about the label “Reformed” and the teachings of the “Reformers” – I for one will stick with the Bible!

  3. The term “Protestant” originated in 1529 during the Diet (Council) of Spires in imperial Germany. This council decided to revoke the imperial resolution of the 1526 Diet of Spires granting the Reformers some freedom in teaching the doctrines of the Reformation. This resolution outraged the Reformed princes, and on April 20, they presented a letter of protest to the council which was later delivered to Emperor Charles V. This protest is considered the birth of “Protestantism.” A portion of the letter reads:

    “We protest by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Saviour, and who will one day be our Judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we, for us and our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to His Word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of our souls… There is no true doctrine but that which conforms to the Word of God. The Lord forbids the teaching of any other faith. The Holy Scriptures, with one text explained by other and plainer texts, are, in all things necessary for the Christian, easy to be understood, and adapted to enlighten. We are therefore resolved by divine grace to maintain the pure preaching of God’s only Word, as it is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, without anything added thereto. This Word is the only truth. It is the sure rule of all doctrine and life, and can never fail or deceive us. He who builds on this foundation shall stand against all the powers of hell, while all the vanities that are set up against it shall fall before the face of God.”

    As I said, evangelicals and evangelical churches today are not rightful heirs of the Protestant Reformation because of their ignorance and/or rejection of the doctrine, worship, and practice of the Reformers. Thus, if they don’t want to be called “Protestants,” but “evangelicals,” they are actually more truthful to themselves, since they are in actuality, not Protestants.

  4. It is not a matter of getting old. But rather what is the right worship that can permit one to meditate on God. Modern worship is a FAD or USO that will one day be a thing of the past and what will remain is the solemn worship that has been here steadfast through the ages. Christ said he will be with us till the end of the ages, so our worship of Him that began ages ago will remain.
    I’ve written something about this fad in a book I am writing in taglish and have posted it in my blog. HT, like you I pine for the day when our solemn type of worship will come back in all evangelical churches. But as far as my local church is concerned we have will never take out our old Liturgy, thank you. GCF will find it harder to do so because it has no roots for it but nothing is impossible for our God.

  5. Uncle Nollie,

    That was a very healthy discussion I just read between two pastors. Now from a non pastor’s view and experience wherein as you know we attend presently at Greenhills Christian Fellowship East (Taytay, Rizal) where the modern form of worship is practiced. I was initially attracted to such type of worship but after 7 years of attending and becoming more mature in the faith, I wish It would go back to the more solemn type (or maybe I’m getting old). But presently I would not want to transfer from one church to another because of it.

  6. Kuya Nollie,

    Thanks for the clarification. I learned that there are some small conservative Presbyterian groups there in the USA (outside the NAPARC)which still believe that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. One such group is the Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States (WPCUS).

    As for the local use of the word “Protestant,” it seems that it has been hijacked by liberals a long time ago. I do not recall any instance in which professing evangelicals here in the country use this term in describing themselves. They either use the word to refer to liberals Protestants (e.g. UMC and the UCCP) or to paedobaptists (e.g. Lutherans and Presbyterians/Reformed). They prefer using the word “evangelical,” and their use of it is obviously out of historical context to the point that it has become totally useless for Reformed Christians to call themselves by that same name. Most local professing “Baptists” (excluding Reformed Baptists), I think, abhor the use of the word “Protestant” and do consider themselves as heirs of the Donatists and Anabaptists.

    In my observation, the Presbyterians and the Reformed are the only ones who have consistently used the word Protestant in describing themselves since the Protestant Reformation. And only until about two decades ago did the Reformed Baptists join them in defending the gospel of grace in written form. Also, it seems to me that some Lutherans are quite reluctant in using the term for themselves.

    Kuya Nollie, if possible, I hope to see you discussing the distinctives of conservative Lutheranism here in your blog. Lutheran theology is so mysterious to me, and I do not know how to reconcile their commitment to Sola Fide on the one hand, and infant baptismal regeneration on the other. I also do not understand why Presbyterians and the Reformed, who reject the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, are so “kind” to them. I also find it odd that some conservative Lutherans will break fellowship with other conservative Lutherans over the latter’s fellowship with Calvinists.

  7. Albert,

    I have to concede on your point that Reformed Baptists are not truly heirs of Donatists and Anabaptists. In the matter of re-baptism and infant baptism, they are; but in other matters, they aren’t, and they come close to the Reformers. So we can say that they are neither Reformed (though they come very close), nor Anabaptists. Of course, it’s impossible to be 100 percent Reformed or Calvinist, since they also had some teachings that were only for their time and culture, e.g., the admixture of the duties of Church and State, the pope is the Antichrist (although some Lutherans still adhere to this), etc.

    And I also agree that they are also very different from mainstream evangelicalism in many other matters: worship, amillennial eschatology, and no infant dedication.

    I’m not in any way disparaging Reformed Baptists, because I have many other friends from their camp, including you. What I want to point out is that many Christians give themselves and others labels that don’t fit. It’s much better when people ask, “What is this thing called Reformed?” instead of saying, “Calvinism? That’s a Satanic doctrine!”

  8. Kuya Nollie,

    I know that Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists will never agree on their views of baptism and church government. I am fully aware of the fact that in conservative Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed circles, it is firmly believed that Baptists who hold to the five Solas, TULIP, Covenant Theology, the Regulative Principle of Worship and identify themselves with the Calvinistic wing of the Protestant Reformation BUT reject paedobaptism and the Presbyterian/Reformed church government are not truly Reformed. I would have to disagree, however, with your statement that Reformed Baptists are not heirs of the Reformers. While it is true that Reformed Baptists on the one hand, and Donatists and Anabaptists on the other have similar beliefs, the two groups are not identical. Reformed Baptists, which hold the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, reject the errors of the Donatists and Anabaptists One error would include the latter’s Semi-Pelagian soteriology. Moreover, the distinctives of Reformed Baptists would put them at odds not only with modern evangelicals, but also with most Baptists today. The good thing is that despite these differences, Reformed paedobaptists and Reformed Baptists can work together in the defense of the gospel. For more information, please see the Anabaptists and the Reformation. Thanks. 🙂

  9. Pastor Galying,

    If you’ve read what the Bible says about human creativity and entertainment regarding worship, and accept the texts, you would come to an exactly opposite conclusion. In worship, the question of “irrelevancy” to our lives is irrelevant, because the worship of God is not about us and how to escape the “drabness” of life, but about the glory of God in our doctrine, worship, and practice.

    I say these things about evangelicals and evangelical worship simply because they are clueless as to the doctrine, worship and practice of the historic church. And if their doctrine, worship and practice do not follow the early church and the Protestant Reformers, then they are neither historic nor Reformed.

    For example, many Christians believe in “once saved, always saved,” and then call themselves “Calvinists” because of this belief. No, they’re definitely not! Because Calvin taught much more than the perseverance of the saints. Even believing in TULIP doesn’t make them Calvinists.

    And if one believes in TULIP, that doesn’t make him Reformed either, because the Reformers taught many other things in addition. As an example, some Baptists who believe in TULIP call themselves “Reformed” or Calvinists, but they’re not, because Calvin and the Reformers taught infant baptism, Presbyterianism, worship, etc., which they don’t adhere to. “Reformed” Baptists are not heirs of the Reformers, but of the Donatists and Anabaptists.

    Finally, today’s evangelicals are NOT Protestants. Why do I say this? Because they do not have an inkling as to what the Protestant Reformers taught! – neither TULIP, Presbyterianism, covenantalism, the means of grace in preaching and the sacraments, worship liturgy, etc. For example, most evangelicals believe that man’s own free will enables them to have faith in Christ, which results in regeneration, i.e., faith precedes regeneration. This is exactly what Canon IV of the Roman church’s Council of Trent says, “If anyone says that man’s free will, moved and aroused by God by assenting to God’s call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification… let him be accursed.” “God helps those who help themselves”: isn’t this what 99 percent of all evangelicals believe in? Since this is so, evangelicals are in reality Romanists, not Protestants, when it comes to the very basic doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    Even if you’ve read my series on Worship, I think our discussion will get nowhere because we stand on opposite platforms: yours is from a humanist standard, and mine is from a Biblical standard. I’m not saying this to boast, but to point out that our worldview as Christians should be based not on human logic or philosophy (“I think…”), but on the Scriptures (“Hear the word of the LORD God…”). In my limited Bible knowledge, I try my best to ground everything from Scriptures.

  10. Nollie that was such a sweeping statement when you said that “any worship liturgy that is entertainment-focused, creativity-centered… neither Biblical nor historical nor Reformed nor Protestant.”

    Because I say that any Protestant Worship that is bereft of or lacks CREATIVITY and cannot even at least entertain people from the drabness of every day living is IRRELEVANT to the lives of people and therefore un-BIBLICAL,un-PROTESTANT, un-REFORMED, and paraphrasing Santayana “DO NOT LEARN FROM HISTORY.”

    But I subscribe to the point against what Rick Warren is pontificating that Worship should never be subservient to the never-ending changing style of people. Worship should be constant but should be done with creativity and relevance.

  11. As I wrote in two previous posts, the public worship of God is not a matter of style – traditional or contemporary – but whether it is Scripturally- and historically-based.

    First, in “Worship Must be Biblical,” I focused on the Regulative Principle of Worship, which affirms the authority and sufficiency of Scripture: everything done in the worship of God must be explicitly prescribed in Scripture. We are not to depend on what we think pleases God, because of minds – “idol factories” according to Calvin – prevent us from so doing. Today’s evangelical innovations, especially in music and drama, are not found in Scripture, and therefore are not acceptable to God.

    Second, in “Worship Must be Historical,” we are also to tie together what the Scriptures and the early church fathers wrote about public worship by connecting to the “great cloud of witnesses” who were only a few generations removed from the apostles. And the early church worship was what the Reformers recovered. Many evangelicals today are clueless as to the beginnings of Christianity 2,000 years ago, thinking that worship was invented only in the last 30-40 years, and that the “new and improved” is always pleasing to God.

    Thus, any worship liturgy that is entertainment-focused, creativity-centered, and lacking the elements of the worship of the Protestant Reformation is neither Biblical nor historical nor Reformed nor Protestant.

    Some young evangelicals, tired of wacky, disorderly, and irreverent evangelical worship, drift to the Roman and Orthodox churches because of the so-called beauty, mystery, and reverence of it all. We may think that the resurrection of the Latin Mass is also a portent of things to come for evangelicalism, but like brother Albert, what I’m afraid of is that many will instead turn back to Roman and Orthodox churches when they see that Reforming the evangelical churches is hopeless. This is what I call the 21st Century Reverse Reformation, or simply The Deformation.

  12. Man must worship God with his whole being. Not by parts, not by eye nor ear alone, but by all his body parts.

    I believe in the Evangelical Liturgy of Worship which we still have intact in our Church. But the technology that we have now are so much more advanced and far-reaching than what our forefathers had. It is wise that we use these technologies while at the same time retaining the liturgy of old.

    But these should not also restrain us from using different ways of praising and lifting up the Name of God using the intrumentalities that now have. For example, It is unwise to still use the manual organ when we now have the electronic synthesizers that can transform into any musical instrument. It is also impractical to worship inside a humid and hot temple, when we can have it air-conditioned.

    The Latin Mass is all pomp and grandeur girded to simulate the presence of God as in the Holy of Holies. It is also to blind the ear and eye of the worshipers because they are not supposed to read and understand the Bible as the Bible in the altar is closed to he common man but not to the priest. They are trying to go back to the time when the priests and their acolytes show their backs to the worshipers and does not direct the worship to them nor with them.

    But I am rather glad that people are flocking to St Mary for this RETRO Latin Mass. Because this is an inkling of my vision that one day soon the Praise&Worship style of worship will soon be gone and Evangelicals will go back to their “old time way of SOLEMN WORSHIP.” You better believe it.

  13. Kuya Nollie,

    The comments by the Roman Catholic worshiper you quoted is similar to the comments given by former evangelicals who converted to Roman Catholicism after their first visits to the Roman Catholic Mass. In their writings, they seem to contrast the emptiness of the worship they had as “evangelicals” and the “fullness” of their worship now as “fulfilled Christians,” i.e., as Roman Catholics.

  14. The only things in worship for our eyes which were ordained by Christ in our worship are the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Augustine even calls the sacraments “the visible Word.”

  15. The Heidelberg Catechism condemned the mass as an “…accursed idolatry.” The Geneva Church’s Confession of the Christian Faith professed “And as Moses,Ezekias, Josias and other good rulers,purged the Church of God from superstition and idolatry,so the defense of Christ’s Church appertaineth to Christian Magistrates against all idolaters & heretickes as Papists,Anabaptists,with such like limbs of Antichrist to root out all doctrine of Devils and men as the Mass,Purgatorie,Limbus patrum,prayers to saints and for the dead,free will,distinction of meats,apparel, and days,vows of single life,presence at idol service, man’s merits with such like which draw from the society of Christ’s Church wherein standeth only remission of sins purchased by Christ’s blood to all them that believe, be they Jews or Gentiles, and lead us to vain confidence in creatures and trust in our own imaginations…..”

  16. Dear Brother Nollie,

    Thanks for this word on evangelical worship. A brother now with the Lord was a Roman priest in Italy. This man, Franco Maggiotto, came to Christ as he was conducting the mass when it dawned on him what the death of Christ really was and meant. He said to me, in agreement with your too brief article, “The God of the Bible is the God of the ear, the god of the Roman church is the god of the eye.” I do not write that our surroundings should be drab; dullness as a virtue? No. I do not write against holy things such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper which are visible.

    It is a matter of Biblical priority that the gosple to the ear (with God’s revelation)is supported by the sacraments as the gospel to the eye (by things seen and touched). Without the verbally stated gospel, we have no gospel at all.

    Much of the visual is like the photograph, which may be a nice picture “Yeah, but who is it?” The person gives significance to the photo, not vice versa.

    Keep writing! In our Lord,
    David H. Linden

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