The Liturgical Nature of Culture


This entry is aspect four of five in the series

“Worldview-Forming Worship”

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I am arguing that liturgy types our religion, and religion types our liturgy. When I left off final time, I defined religion as worldview + theology. Now it is time to define liturgy.

Liturgy is a word that I am employing to describe the way we “live and move and have our getting.” Our English word comes from the Greek term leitourgia, which is basic a compound word comprised of laos—“people” and ergon—“work.” Historically, the term was utilised to describe numerous functions completed in public as a member of neighborhood, such as military or political service, or even vocational labor, connection amongst buddies or family members members, and care for the ill. In other words, in its oldest and broad usage, liturgy referred to the popular customs and routines of life inside a neighborhood, what in extra current instances we may well frequently get in touch with “culture.”

The English word “culture” finds its Latin roots in discussions of the cultivation and care of livestock and crops. It was 1st utilised metaphorically to describe variations amongst groups of folks, similarly to how we use it now, no earlier than 1776. The concept progressed by way of a number of distinct utilizes more than time. It 1st narrowly denoted what Matthew Arnold would get in touch with “the most effective which has been believed and mentioned in the planet,” what we now may well get in touch with “high culture.” But as early as the mid-nineteenth century, anthropologists started to use the concept to designate all types of human behavior inside society, not restricted to higher culture, like what we may well now get in touch with “folk culture” or “pop culture.” British anthropologist Edward Tylor is credited for the 1st influential use of the term in this way when in 1871 he defined culture as “that complicated complete which incorporates know-how, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired as a member of society.”

In other words, as it is utilised most frequently now, “culture” refers to the popular behavioral patterns of a group of people—their “liturgy”—including their arts, language, customs, and rituals. It is this anthropological understanding of culture as the totality of human practices in a society that has turn out to be the predominant use of the concept amongst Christians and non-Christians alike. Adopting the anthropologist’s definition of culture is not a issue for Christians—indeed, it may well be a useful category in studying the way humans behave as members of their society, but we have to make positive that Scripture informs that understanding. The parallel concept in Scripture to anthropological notions of culture is that of social behavior, one thing about which the Bible has considerably to say. For instance, when addressing the matter of behavior, New Testament authors admonish Christians to “be holy in all your conduct” in contrast to the “futile approaches inherited from your forefathers” (1 Pet 1:15, 18). They also recognize human labor—both the act and what it produces—as the object of God’s judgment (Rom two:six) and as an honorable endeavor that can lead unbelievers to “glorify God” (1 Pet two:12).

It is just this understanding of culture as the behavior of folks in society that ties in to our foregoing discussion of religion. As we have noticed, our religion—worldview combined with theology—determines the patterns of our behavior—culture. As Roger Scruton notes, culture is “a shared spiritual force which is manifest in all the customs, beliefs and practices of a people” it is “a demonstration of a belief technique.” This follows closely T. S. Elliot’s classic argument that “no culture can seem or create except in relation to a religion.” Culture flows out of and reflects the religious commitments, beliefs, and values of a folks group, and it does so as it is cultivated more than extended spans of time. The quite term “culture” illustrates the extended-term, progressive cultivation of one thing more than time, influenced and nurtured by the atmosphere in which it grows. Cultural types are all-natural merchandise of the atmosphere in which they have been nurtured. All cultural types, then, are expressions of worth systems, and as a result culture is not neutral—it is fundamentally religious. And like worldview, the improvement of cultures happens generally not deliberately or consciously. We merely go about our lives, interacting with other members of society, creating sensible tools and building art, unaware of how our worldview is affecting every thing that we do.

Conversely, just as religion is what types culture, so cultures influence the formation of religion, particularly for folks or societies that do not intentionally shape their religion and its underlying worldview primarily based on conscious theological beliefs. In truth, as I noted earlier, most people’s worldviews are formed without having intentional reflection, and the dominant influence for the formation of a people’s worldview is their cultural atmosphere. The implicit assumptions embedded in the core of cultural behaviors type and shape the worldview of the folks in that culture, usually without having intentionality or even awareness. As a result, as James K. A. Smith has emphasized in current years, culture is liturgical, getting comprised of rhythms and routines that embody religious values and have energy to type these values into these who participate in them.

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Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Division at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, exactly where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Strategy to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Creating Musical Alternatives in a Noisy Planet, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks about the nation in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX exactly where he resides with his wife and 4 youngsters. Views posted right here are his personal and not necessarily these of his employer.


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