Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 3:2 (Fall 1982) p. 221
Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine and Life, by Geoffrey Wainwright. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. 609 pp. $24.95.
The Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi is a technical shorthand for pointing to the complex relationship of liturgical practice and dogmatic formulations. Historically, liturgy has functioned as a critical norm in doctrinal development (e.g., the worship of Christ in the context of the Arian controversy); contrariwise doctrine has also been the ground for reforming the liturgy (e.g., Luther’s rejection of the medieval mass from the perspective of sola gratia). Indicative of the content of this book is the author’s acknowledgement that the entire work might have been entitled Lex orandi, lex credendi. Here then is a “liturgical way” of doing theology in which liturgy and doctrine are offered as correlative norms, although in practice the weight falls decidedly on the liturgy. The task of the theologian, says Wainwright, is to reflect upon and transmit the Christian vision of reality. Because that vision comes to sharp focus in worship, the systematician properly draws upon the liturgy as a source. To this end we are presented with an array of materials which range from the hymns of the Wesleys to those of the Byzantine church and from the prayers of the Roman mass to those of the Armenian burial rite. Wainwright has a thorough background in liturgics and he is at his best in the wide-ranging and often fascinating examples skillfully woven together to illuminate various theological questions.
The book comprises three main sections: substantial matters; traditional means; contextual questions. The first of these sections is a summary of the main teachings of the Christian faith under the headings Image of God, Christ, Spirit, Church. In the second section Wainwright considers the means by which the Christian vision has been transmitted: Scripture; Creeds and Hymns; Lex Orandi; Lex Credendi. The final section addresses the issues raised by the historical context in which Christian faith is expressed: Ecumenism; Revision; Culture; Ethics.
It is the middle section of this book which is most crucial to the content and tenor of the work and here that its weaknesses become most evident. The issue is epistemological: where is the locus of authority by which to judge the past and future development of liturgy and doctrine? The answer is that Jesus Christ, present in the worship of the church, is “the trans-historical orientation-point” for all doctrinal and liturgical evaluation (p. 241). The problem of course is the accessibility of this Jesus: precisely who is he and how is he known? Since worship itself is subject to evaluation, how can we know that the Christ of our worship is not A...
Click here to subscribe