Sacred Games

A History of Christian Worship

Bernhard Lang

View Inside Price: $60.00


August 25, 1997
542 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
50 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300069327
Cloth

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When contemporary Christians worship—be they Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Pentecostal—they engage in a variety of ritual acts whose diversity and complexity may at first puzzle the observer. A closer look reveals that worship incorporates a limited number of major components that when repeated form the backbone of the ceremonies Christians enact when they meet on Sundays. This book focuses on six essential ritual forms: praise, prayer, sermon, sacrifice, sacrament, and spiritual ecstasy.

Bernhard Lang argues that the meaning of Christian ritual is embodied in these six elementary forms, all of which have their roots in ancient, pre-Christian ritual life. Each has its own constituents, dynamics, meaning, and distinct story. Accordingly, the book is divided into six interpretative sections that, using sources in French, German, and English and contrasting past experience with the present, European with American, and Catholic with Protestant, explain the meaning of each. Lang uncovers their ancient biblical roots and follows their course through history with special emphasis on biblical, historic, and contemporary forms.

This is a pioneering book and a major achievement: the first full-scale history and interpretation of a collective spiritual act fraught with meaning. Well illustrated, written in a readable style, and geared to the general reader as well as to students and scholars, it should become an indispensable addition to the broader study of Christianity.

Bernhard Lang is professor of religion at the University of Paderborn, Germany.

"A thoughtfully conceived, thoroughly researched history that posits pagan origins for the rituals of Christian worship. . . . A lasting contribution to the fields of Christian history and ritual studies."—Kirkus Reviews

"A novel and interesting way of presenting the history of worship, and the book is laden with curious and fascinating detail."—John Habgood, Times of London

"Refreshing and ambitious."—Kenneth Stevenson, Church Times

"There is much that is challenging, fascinating and perceptive in this book."—Mark Earey, ANVIL

"This is a most attractive book, well-written, with many helpful and fascinating illustrations and an extensive bibliography which, like the book itself, draws on many Christian traditions and centuries."—Jill Pinnock, Theological Book Review

"[This book's] theological and biblical perspectives are often profound; its treatment of the subject is much broader than that given by most professionals in the field; and, in spite of its daunting size, the clarity of the style of the writing makes it far more accessible to the general reader than the vast majority of scholarly books and articles put forth by my colleagues and myself. We would do well to read, mark, and learn from it."—Paul F. Bradshaw, Journal of Theological Studies

"Lang winningly juggles six colorful balls in this pioneering contribution to the study of Christian worship by focusing on the six 'elementary forms' of Christian worship: praise, prayer, sermon, sacrifice, sacrament, and spiritual ecstasy. Lang's approach is engagingly playful yet well grounded and scholarly, based largely on Western sources. . . . A much-needed, accessible, and well-illustrated resource for the history and typology of Christian ritual acts.."—Joanne Maguire, Religious Studies Review

"Its theological and biblical perspectives are often profound. . . . The clarity of style of the writing makes it far more accessible to the general reader than the vast majority of scholarly books and articles put forth by my colleagues and myself. We would do well to read, mark, and learn from it."—Paul F. Bradshaw, Journal of Theological Studies

"[Lang] has supplied us with an indispensably practical look at the major elements of Christian worship. . . . [An] immense contribution . . . to the study of Christian worship."—E. Glenn Hinson, Review and Expositor

"A splendidly written history of Christian worship. . . . Lang’s lively writing, historical insights and extensive reliance on primary sources combine for a fascinating portrait of the history of Christian worship."—Publishers Weekly

"An exciting and controversial interpretation of Christian worship. . .Highly recommended as a challenging study of past and present Christian worship."—Carolyn M. Craft, Library Journal

"An indispensably practical look at the major elements of Christian worship. . . . [An] immense contribution . . . to the study of Christian worship. . . . This book will make a fine text especially for seminary classes in the history of worship."—E. Glenn Hinson, Review and Expositor

"[A] substantial and fascinating book. . . . This is a book to be read and enjoyed by amateur and professional theologians and historians alike."—Michael Bowie, Journal of Religious History

"[This book] is worth reading. It is comprehensive and covers the history of worship not only with the description of its rituals but also with a fine analysis of their respective meanings. The author has successfully portrayed a very complex picture in a clear and interesting presentation. . . . This is a useful tool for students of church history, but also for any person intrigued by the mysterious games played behind the experiences of Christian worship."—Lillianne Doukhan, Seminary Studies

"This new volume is a welcome contribution: a thematic history of Christian worship by a historian of religion. . . . Lang provides us much interesting material for surveying Christian ritual, and for this reason alone his book will be a standard reference for years to come."—Tamar Frankiel, Journal of Religion