Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snippits determined by idiosyncratic predilection

David T. Koyzis explains how it came to be that so many Protestants, doctrinally committed to sola scriptura, hear so little of the Bible from the pulpit or in their worship:
.... A lectionary is a schedule of scripture lessons to be read in the course of the liturgy over a period of one or more years. Its origins can be found already in rabbinic Judaism, which prescribes the public reading of the entire Torah in the course of the liturgical year. ....

The problem is that, contrary to Judaism, which is easily able to cover the entire Torah in a single year, the complete Christian Bible, including Old and New Testaments (and sometimes what Protestants term the Apocrypha), is far too long to cover in so short a time. Thus virtually any lectionary can consist of only snippets of scripture (or pericopes), the vast majority of which is bypassed in the liturgy. Conspicuous by its absence in many one-year lectionaries of both east and west is the Old Testament, except for the Psalms.

One of the things that the non-Lutheran reformers sought to do was to recover a positive place for the Old Testament in the life of the church. But rather than reforming the lectionary, they replaced it altogether with a lectio continua, which would see entire books of the Bible read and preached on over the course of many months. Thus it would be theoretically possible for a church congregation to hear the entire Bible over the duration of the pastor’s career. But it was up to the individual pastor to determine the content and order of the lectio continua, which would inevitably differ from one congregation to another.

Unfortunately, most Reformed churches, and, following them, the various baptistic and free churches, have all but abandoned the lectio continua for topical or thematic preaching. This means that the congregation still hears only snippets of scripture, but as determined by the idiosyncratic predilections of the individual pastor rather than by the church as a whole. ....
Lectionaries in the Reformed churches » Evangel | A First Things Blog