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Prof. Carl Trueman: “What the Hijabi Witnessed (and What She Didn’t)”

August 28, 2013

Thanks to a tweet from @wyclif,  I found out about this most interesting essay by Prof. Carl Trueman in Reformation21, titled What the Hijabi Witnessed (and What She Didn’t).  Prof. Trueman is actually complimentary of the Anglican liturgy, shaped by Cranmer, in what he writes about a service at King’s Chapel, Cambridge, that was attended by both Prof. Trueman himself and a Spanish Moslem in a hijab.  He points out that this service actually contained more Scripture – and exposed the hijabi to more Scripture – than nearly any evangelical Protestant service would have:

So what exactly had she witnessed, I asked myself? Well, at a general level she had heard the English language at its most beautiful and set to an exalted purpose: the praise of Almighty God. She would also have seen a service with a clear biblical logic to it, moving from confession of sin to forgiveness to praise to prayer. She would also have heard this logic explained to her by the minister presiding, as he read the prescribed explanations that are built in to the very liturgy itself. The human tragedy and the way of salvation were both clearly explained and dramatized by the dynamic movement of the liturgy. And she would have witnessed all of this in an atmosphere of hushed and reverent quiet.
In terms of specific detail, she would also have heard two whole chapters of the Bible read out loud: one from the Old Testament and one from the New. Not exactly the whole counsel of God but a pretty fair snapshot. She would have been led in a corporate confession of sin. She would have heard the minister pronounce forgiveness in words shaped by scripture. She would have been led in corporate prayer in accordance with the Lord’s own prayer. She would have heard two whole psalms sung by the choir. She would have had the opportunity to sing a couple of hymns drawn from the rich vein of traditional hymnody and shot through with scripture. She would have been invited to recite the Apostles’ Creed (and thus come pretty close to being exposed to the whole counsel of God). She would have heard collects rooted in the intercessory concerns of scripture brought to bear on the real world. And, as I noted earlier, all of this in the exalted, beautiful English prose of Thomas Cranmer.
Writing as one who believes in the power of expository preaching, though, I must add that it would surely be better if we Anglicans kept the liturgy of the Prayer Book, with its reverence and yes, Scriptural truth, and added more powerful, more Biblical preaching to that, if we find that our preaching is lacking.  But this is a most interesting essay by Prof. Trueman, and I think you will want to read the whole thing.
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