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8.14.2006 

Liturgical piety (and knowledge)

Shookfoil recently posed this question to me: If you were going to write a book on Liturgical Piety, what chapters and
subjects would you include?

Though there are many directions one could go with such a book, there's no doubt in my mind what the topic of one of the first chapters should be: an epistemological framework which affirms the value and necessity of non-propositional knowledge--which is of course the primary kind of knowledge that one gains from participation in the church's liturgy.

In my mind, the reason why many evangelicals turn up their nose at a "high church" or structured liturgy is that it seems so meaningless from the perspective of their modernistic frameworks. Give me my forty-five minute sermon, thank you very much. But there's more to learning than information transfer. And so the problem is fundamentally epistemological--for a modernistic epistemology either dismisses completely or essentially minimizes those kinds of knowledge which are unarticulatable.

But the kind of knowledge formed from participation in a structured liturgy (that is, in a weekly service where the sacramental meal, not the preached word, is the center point of the service) is most fundamentally "skill" knowledge--a way-of-being in the world. In the liturgy, the posture and ritual actions and words we make and speak toward God and each other gradually come to inform and shape our posture and words and actions during the other parts of our lives. (This shaping process, in my mind, is what "liturgical piety" means). In this sense, liturgical knowledge is more similar in type to something like knowing how to ride a bike than to knowing that George Washington was the first president of the United States. And unless this type of knowledge is acknowledged and valued, there's not much point in talking about it.

An interesting book that seems to argue among many of these same lines: Worship As Meaning, by Graham Hughes.

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