At the end of Revelation, John sees the heavenly city descending to earth. The city shines with the brilliance of God’s glory, which lightens the nations, so that kings bring their glory to the city.
This is not a vision of the final new heaven and new earth. It’s a vision of the church in the midst of the nations, and it is a sanctuary, a place of worship. Light shines and living water flows to the world through the church’s liturgy. To shine God’s light to the nations, the church must speak God’s word and offer God’s gifts of water, bread and wine.
Protestants haven’t done a good job of holding these two things together. Some churches are preaching centers, others are liturgical spaces. In some churches God speaks but doesn’t feed; in others, He is the silent host at the Eucharist.
Seminaries manifest the same imbalance. Lutheran and Anglican seminaries focus on the liturgical tradition of those churches, but I’ve heard complaints from Anglicans about the low level of Bible teaching in Anglican seminaries. On the other side, Reformed and Evangelical seminaries teach the Bible and biblical languages in great depth, but offer little in liturgics.
Seminaries that combine deep biblical instruction with rich liturgical theology and practice – and there are some – are more the exception than the rule.
Liturgical churches that neglect the Bible are not fully liturgical, since the liturgy includes God’s service to His people in Word. Bible churches that ignore the liturgy aren’t teaching the Bible in its fullness because Jesus is known not only in word but in the breaking of bread.
Few churches or seminaries combine word and sacrament, Bible and liturgy, and so the light of God’s city grows dim.
At Theopolis, we refuse to choose. For the past three years, students in our intensive courses have learned the Scriptures in a context of vigorous worship. This fall, we’re starting our main program, our year-long Junior Fellows Program. Junior Fellows will study the whole Bible and learn liturgical theology as they engage in ministry as part of a worshiping community.
If you are an aspiring pastor; or a pastor on sabbatical; or a future lawyer, doctor, or businessman looking for theological training: I invite you to join us as a Junior Fellow, as we seek to brighten the light that shines from God’s city, the true theopolis.
Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis. Find more information about the Junior Fellows Program and an online application here.