Liturgical Civility, Upward Mobility, and American Modernity

Todd W. Nichol

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 4/1/1983

Issue: Piety (Vol. 3, No 2, Spring, 1983)

Zwingli may have gotten a leg up on Luther at Marburg in 1529. Arguing that bread and wine cannot be anything other than bread and wine, that they can only symbolize something more, Zwingli had sided with western modernity. His point of view would come to prevail imaginatively and experientially if not doctrinally in the modern West. In the years after Marburg, a world emerged in which Luther’s insistence that bread could also be body would become an anachronistic medievalism. The finite—in a daily, practical sense—would no longer be capable of comprehending more than itself. Lost forever after Marburg, as Erich Heller has put it, is the “unity of word and deed, of picture and thing, of the bread and the glorified body. Body will become merely body, and symbol merely symbol.” The consequences of this for Christian worship would, of course, be enormous.

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