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Ökumenik, Konfessionskunde


Bayer, Oswald, and Alan Suggate [Eds.]


Worship and Ehtics. Lutherans and Anglicans in Dialogue.


Berlin-New York: Gruyter 1996. XV, 293 S. gr.8 = Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann, 70. Lw. DM 198,­. ISBN 3-11-014377-1.


Geoffrey Wainwright

This book brings together contributions made to a series of unofficial conversations held from 1987 to 1991 between a mixed group of English Anglican theologians, chiefly associated with the University of Durham, and German Lutheran theologians, chiefly associated with the University of Tübingen. The essays are arranged in pairs. After A. M. Suggate’s opening survey of "the Anglican tradition of moral theology", H. G. Ulrich traces and evaluates the understanding of Christian ethics in modern German Protestantism according to its success or failure in re-cognizing the implications of Luther’s basic teaching on justification: Encountered in the worshipping community, which is the communion of the saints (à la Bonhoeffer), the Word of God sets believers free from "works", precisely in order that they may turn to the world and, participating in the goodness of God which has been communicated to them, do "good works" in the service of their neighbours in obedience to the divine command, and thus by their "form of life ... serve God in his glory".

T. Reinhuber and A. O. Dyson treat two figures from the early twentieth century; but neither of them manages to draw out very concretely ­ in respect of ethics, let alone worship ­ what they insist is the remaining potential of their respective liberal heroes: Ernst Troeltsch, and his principle of "compromise", and Hastings Rashdall, and his "fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man" (for Rashdall, the Holy Communion is "the great symbol of Christian brotherhood", whose "primary meaning" is "an effort to conform our wills to Christ’s teaching"). Given that "at present there is no economic ethics in German which could be identified as Lutheran" (U. Duchrow, for instance, is disallowed), Th. Dieter examines the work of the Swiss Reformed Arthur Rich; then R. A. Higginson illustrates how the Scriptures may be read so as to provide guidance for Christians professionally engaged in the commercial world. P. H. Sedgwick argues that the Church’s social credibility depends on the practical integrity with which it narrates the story of redemption, and suggests that the eucharistic celebration gives the Church the opportunity to learn the obedient "performance of the Scriptures" in which its entire life and witness is meant to consist; and in a pastorally oriented chapter, K. Sturm considers that the restoration of "ora" to "labora", in the "small neighbourly parish", offers the needed alternative to the grandiose demands issued by German clergy to "an almost completely post-Christian society" for "attitudes and actions which are only to be expected from Christians".

The several chapters vary in the degree to which they bring together the two themes announced in the title of the book: "worship and ethics". The most interesting are those in which the relationship between worship and ethics is shown to be closest. Certainly the systematic heart of the collection are the two quite different chapters ­ reserved for mention until now ­ by Daniel Hardy and by Oswald Bayer. ­ Hardy writes on worship as the foundation of cognition (ascertaining truth) and of the corresponding orientation of life (ethical awareness and action); Bayer simply entitles his essay "worship and theology", noting that this very sequence of topics marks "an unusual departure for a German theologian". Each excellent in itself, these two chapters are probably in the end more complementary than contradictory. Hardy’s is more explicitly trinitarian, with a strong pneumatological thrust; Bayer’s is more obviously christocentric.

Hardy moves in the tradition of wisdom and glory; Bayer focuses on the cross and on the hiddenness of God. Yet Hardy takes seriously the sinful misdirection of worship in idolatry, and Bayer locates the redemptive specificity of Christianity in the universal human vocation to worship. Hardy establishes the link between worship and life by making the former the "focus" of the latter; Bayer, in a second essay (in favour of an "ethics of responsibility" as a Protestant social ethic), argues that worship shows us as addressed and responsive creatures, who are therefore responsible ­ and yet also, by virtue of the "eschatological reserve" (the Last Judgment), limited in our responsibilities and capacities, so that we may act in the world both confidently and modestly, without either cynicism or moralistic fanaticism. Hardy’s essay would have been improved by some concrete attention to the rites, practices and texts of the Christian liturgy, for then it might have become clearer what he means by "the purification of praise"; Bayer is at least a little more precise in his references to the forms of worship.

The next best chapters are two by Alan Suggate. In the opening chapter he displays the sacramental dimension of Anglican moral theology from Richard Hooker in the late sixteenth century through the Caroline divines in the seventeenth, Bishop Butler in the eighteenth (with a later nod also to the Wesleys), F. D. Maurice and several Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical figures in the nineteenth, and on as far as a mixed bunch of more recent and contemporary thinkers. In a subsequent chapter, Suggate returns to highlight the contribution of Archbishop William Temple to the twentieth-century "search for a eucharistic social ethic". For Temple, the Incarnation was both "the culmination of a sacramental universe" and "the decisive act of God which begins the declaration of His loving purpose to redeem the world" (171).

In his later years, Temple gained more and more a sense of the "principalities and powers" that disrupted his optimistic inheritance from British Hegelianism (T. H. Green and others); and this point was sharpened further still in the next generation by the work of Donald MacKinnon. At its best, Suggate shows, the Liturgical Movement in the Church of England (A. G. Hebert, G. Dix, J. A. T. Robinson) pointed in favour of a "eucharistic approach to ethics": it preserved the priority of God’s action; it saw liturgy as action (and not merely words), and indeed corporate action (over against individualism, whether lay or clerical); it recognized matter as indispensable to such action, and not only wheat and grape (creation) but bread and wine (the economic life); it saw the eucharist as encapsulating the meaning of history, including the eschatological prospect of the Kingdom of God; and it emphasized the close connection between the eucharist and witness in society. Suggate himself stresses the need for theologically guided social analysis if the execution of a eucharistic ethic is to "bite".

In a brief conclusion to the book, Hans Ulrich notes both points of convergence and points of tension between Anglicans and Lutherans. Anglicans are more eirenic, Lutherans more argumentative; and the search should be for dialectical forms of ethics that combine conflict and mediation. Anglicans look for a gradual transformation of culture, while Lutherans stress that "God’s righteousness must be repeatedly imparted afresh"; but both can engage pragmatically with everyday life in the world. For the future, there is a common need to explore the practice of worship in community as where "the Christian ethic can be learned and transmitted".