Nicholas Wolterstorff’s 2013 Kantzer Lectures


Nick Wolterstorff’s Kantzer Lectures are now available for viewing:

I. The God We Worship: A Liturgical Theology

In this first Kantzer lecture, Nicholas Wolterstorff provides the overarching structure to his liturgical project. Using as his main interlocutors liturgical theologians Schmemann and von Allmen, and working at the convergence of Orthodox, Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions, Wolterstorff expounds his ontology of liturgy as dependent on the enactment of a “script,” the complete set of rules that determine what is a correct liturgy. He argues that the nature and purpose of the church become manifest in the correct enactment of the liturgy. Anticipating future lectures, Wolterstorff suggests that the God implicit in the liturgy is discernible at three levels: the understanding of God implicit in (1) the entire liturgy, (2) the various types of liturgical actions, and (3) the particular content of individual liturgical acts. Thus, Wolterstorff will lend his analytic tools to decode and thereby reveal the theological logos of Christian liturgy.

II. God as Worthy of Worship

In the second lecture, Wolterstorff explicates what he calls the implicit understanding of God within the Christian liturgy as a whole (or as it accords with the convergence of the five traditions he is considering), the third and highest level of implicitness (see lecture 1).  The highest level of implicitness is the assumption that God is worthy of worship. This understanding of God, says Wolterstorff, leads us in Christian worship to acknowledge the unsurpassable excellence of God. There is a definitive orientation taken on in worship, which he calls an attitudinal stance. This way of orienting ourselves toward God in Christian worship evokes (at least) awe, reverence and adoration of God. Awe is the proper response to God’s creative and redemptive glory; reverence to God’s holiness as untainted perfection; and adoration to God’s love for humanity. Thus, the implicit understanding of God as unsurpassably excellent and thereby worthy of worship is manifest in our attitudinal stance, or orientation towards God in worship.

III. God as One Who Listens and Speaks

Wolterstorff now considers the understanding of God implicit in some of the fundamental types of Christian liturgy. He submits that the address of God is the most common type of action that occurs in the enactment of Christian liturgy. In addressing someone. In the act of (strongly) addressing God the participants of Christian worship hope, Wolterstorff contends, that God can and will attend to, grasp, and respond appropriately to their address. By addressing God directly, the participants and God enter into a “we-Thou” relationship. God as listener is implicitly understood, therefore, as one who is reciprocally oriented to those who have addressed him. He is free to respond favorably, but not bound. The community hopes and prays that he will respond favorably. The other most common type of action in Christian liturgy is being addressed by God through (1) the reading Scripture, (2) prophetic proclamation, (3) and the clerical mode (e.g., pronouncing absolution). That the enactment of liturgy is the place and sight of people speaking and listening to God provides an understanding of God as One who listens and speaks.

[Image courtesy of Daniel Rodrigues-Martin Photography]

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