Thursday, May 14, 2009

Simon Chan Calls the Church to a Liturgical Spirituality

In his book, Liturgical Theology Simon Chan challenges the universal Christian church to adopt a liturgical tradition in the pattern of the early church. He critiques the theology and practice of the church in light of Scripture and the witness of the early church. His writing is motivated by what he perceives as a severe disconnect between the evangelical church today with the traditions and practices of the early church that made such an impact on the world. This is Chan’s answer to the question of how can the church become a distinct community that shapes individual’s lives in the image of Christ and bears witness as Christ’s body to the world at large.

For Chan, the greatest challenge facing the church today is to regain its shape and force in order to transform lives and cultures. In the face of growing secularism, relativism and individualism among Christians, Chan argues for the need of a clear theological understanding of the definition of the church coupled with a strong liturgical practice as the foundation of all other ecclesial practices. This theology and liturgy must flow from the memory of the church consisting of the teachings of Scripture, the traditions of the early church that shaped the Christian mind and practices, the unity prescribed for the church and the church’s call to be a worshipping community distinct from the world.

Chan first suggests that evangelicals need to regain an adequate ecclesiology, a theology and practice of being the church. He notes that evangelicals have generally resisted and rejected ordered and conscious ecclesiology due to an aversion to hierarchy and its potential for abuse. Evangelicals’ penchant for individualism and freedom has also led to little appreciation for ecclesiology. Chan, however, sees ecclesiology as being synergetic with and inseparable from pneumatology. By examining Scripture and early church tradition, Chan asserts that ecclesiology is inherent in the nature of the church as a worshipping community and as the body of Christ.

The ecclesiology of the church is the tradition passed down from the apostles and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. It forms the shape of the “one, holy and catholic church” that evangelicals confess. Chan suggests that only within a church that is catholic and alive are truths received as a living faith and not as abstract ideas and propositions. The tested and tried ecclesial traditions are what have been proven to effectively shape the Christian mind to stand against the culture of the world.

Simon Chan is a featured speaker at this June's AWAF Conference at Trinity School for Ministry.


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