The Bible is the voice of the Father, of the Husband; tradition is the voice of the Mother, of the Bride. JBJ
The Liturgy Trap by James B. Jordan is a concise critique of Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic traditions. The author in no way treats these traditions as condemned traditions, but nevertheless traditions that need to be criticized for its abandonment of Biblical worship. While finding fault in the three major traditions, Jim Jordan wastes no time in dismantling the “ugliness of evangelical worship.”
Jordan argues that true worship “must be governed by truth…and a response to that truth.” In other words, Christian worship is not a technique for obtaining grace, but a response to truth. The liturgy trap is entering into these theological traditions enamored by the beauty it offers, but oblivious to the truth it forsakes.
A significant distinction of this small work to others is that the writer does not lump all three traditions into one enormous liturgical pile, but rather he distinguishes them appropriately (noting, for instance, that unlike Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics, the Orthodox confirms infants at their baptism).
Rev. Jordan explores in great depth the significance of the Second Word for the liturgical debate. After establishing the incompatibility of iconic worship to the Second Word, Jordan offers insightful sociological observations. Iconic cultures tends against the development of community since it is mainly priestly led. There is no congregational response, thus leading ultimately to an isolationist/individualistic culture (also a failure in American evangelicalism). In other words,” iconolatry has a stultifying effect on life and culture.”
The author spends a considerable time on the role of Mary in these liturgical cultures. The understanding of Mary in these traditions have all sorts of consequences. It exalts virginity. This tends to be associated with an anti-body perspective. In the Scriptures, “virginity is something to get rid of, not to hold onto.” Indeed in the Bible, Jordan argues, “perpetual virginity is a great tragedy.” Thus, naturally, this thinking leads to the concept of priestly celibacy, though the three traditions differ on some of the details. On this point, the author elevates the emphasis of the Reformation, which rightly returned to a “world-affirming, earthy, joyous…pro-marital worldview of the Hebrew Scriptures.”
The book also deals with the nature of the Eucharist in each tradition, as well as the nature of tradition itself. This section proved particularly helpful. Dr. Jordan concludes by asserting that clinging to the early church as if it were the final expression of the Church of Christ universal is to “cultivate infancy and reject maturity.”
James B. Jordan is sui generis; uniquely gifted in the area of liturgical theology. Thus this small contribution is a remarkable addition to this needed call to return to a faithful understanding of Biblical Worship.