The attitude to ritual in Protestant churches?

This is something which has always puzzled me. The two oldest churches, the Orthodox and Catholic churches, both have traditions of rituals such as the rosary, the church service itself (don’t know what an Orthodox church service is called) and the Mass, confession, daily services, weddings, funerals etc. Similarly, Orthodox/Conservative Judaism and Islam all have their respective rituals for life events, as well as for the different festivals/times of the year.

So what I’m trying to understand is why in Protestant churches, the idea of ritual is such a strange and often openly hated concept. The likes of Chick tracts often openly mock the Catholic Mass and Islamic prayers, both of which are ritual in practice.

So, why this huge and often violently hateful attitude? Why did the Christian way of thinking move away from what is seemingly (to my reading of the Bible at least) a Biblical practice? Even Jesus performed the Jewish rituals.

Even in the wildest of charismatic churhes (with dancing, rolling on the floor, tougues, and howling) they have a ‘ritual’, they might not call it that, but they do nonetheless. :wink:

Ritual is not a word many Protestants use when describing their services. Most will agree, there is always a format in terms of prayers, worship music, sermon (teaching), and use of scripture. This is something that is standard for all Christian churches. For example the Catholic church’s mass has a particular format, as does a Pentecostal service as we.The length of time, the order varies for all Christian churches but I think its important to understand that the reason why many Protestants have a negative attitude with the term called “ritual” This is due to the fact they have been misinformed and been miseducated about it. Ritual has its place inside Christianity but all of the actions needs to be understood, and people educated regarding why they are singing songs, kneeling, talking in tongues.

Please don’t link all protestants to the likes of Chick.
from the Augsburg Confession

Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among 2] us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added 3] to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned 4] be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Cor. 14:2-9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law. 5] The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public 6] worship. For none are admitted 7] except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. 8] [In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion 9] toward God.

I invite you to check, as an example, the link.


Please don’t link all protestants to the likes of Chick/quote

2nd that, totally. And as mentioned above, we might not call them rituals, but we do have set formats we follow, though they are open to change with the occasion/Holy Spirit.

Not all Protestant denoms are hateful to Catholics. Most of the time, I’d say, the CC never comes up at all.


I cannot understand why many Protestants dislike rituals when Jesus Himself practiced them. But I’ll tell you of one ritual everyone does: LIFE!

It isn’t the “ritual” most Protestants…including Friends are against…it’s the beleif that the conducting of a ritual in a certain manner…with certain words and certain gestures and postures IS a requirement for God’s grace to be dispensed.

To many of us…requiring that certain hand gestures MUST be observed or the ritual is not “licit”…or the correct “magic” words MUST be spoken or the efficacy of the ritual is missing…or that by conducting a ritual…appart from faith and a dedicated heart “somehow” bestows God’s grace upon the recipient of the ritual is what is not accepted.

Protestants have rituals…but no “grace” is bestowed simply by performing the ritual…Friends employ a ritual of “silence”…but we in no way believe becasue we emply the silence that God is present BECAUSE of the “ritual of silence”…God is always Present and the use of rituals are merely tools to assist us in recongizing that fact and by participating together in a ritual we have a semblance of order…but no rituals are needed to receive the grace and mercy of God…no “priest” is required to conduct any ritual for or on our behalf that we could not do for ourselves if so moved.

It has nothing to do with being against rituals…but being against the belief that simply by participating or engaging in a ritual…God is somehow more accessible.

Hope that makes better sense.

You speak for your own individual Southern Baptist organization and not for Southern
Baptists as a whole. I grew up hearing anti-Catholic propaganda spewed with vitriol in Sunday School and from the pulpit nearly every Sunday all the years I spent as a SB. And I’ve encountered puhlenty currently on the internet.

The Catholic Church has to come up in Protestantism… The Mother Church is the object of your protest. That’s how you define yourselves – as “not Catholic.”

Call your “formulas” anything but rituals, because rituals are protested. :stuck_out_tongue:

Jim Dandy
Ex-Southern Baptist, ex-agnostic, ex-atheist, ecstatic to be Catholic!

But again…it’s not the rituals or forms…it’s the trust in the “empty forms and rituals” as being the dispensers of grace and SOMEHOW by participating in these rituals…we find favor in God’s sight not by virtue of our faith and holy lives…but simply by our participation in these rituals.

This is my experience also. Sometimes pastors will intensionally rearrange the service in order to demonstrate they are against ritual. Anything from moving the preaching to before the singing, or doing the entire service singing, or having the entire service as preaching.

Not all Protestant churches are so vocal in their opposition to ‘ritual’. And as others point out there is ritual in every church, whether they admit it or not. One thing I’ve found is some people feel that anything prepared is not authentic. Some think a written prayer is inauthentic. For those people every prayer must be extemporaneous. Some think that doing things repetitively makes the act lose meaning and purpose, thus infrequent communion. I wonder what they’d think in Heaven with ceaseless praise for God? Either concern makes no sense to me and conflicts with how we live our lives outside of church (try telling your wife you will not tell her you love her tonight because it is a ritual and has lost meaning). So neither idea has any merit to me. But that is how I understand some folks to think.

Well it is important to differentiate which Protestants we are talking about. High Lutherans or High Anglicans probably wouldn’t reject tradition or rituals at all, even if they might have particular criticism of the Catholic Church.

Evangelicals oppose rituals because they reject that it bestows grace, and believe that too many rituals leads to the Christian simply going through the motions instead of actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In whose opinion is a ritual “empty form” and not a source of grace? Whose ritual? Which ritual? Is the opinion infallible? There are thousands upon thousands of “opinions” in Protestantism that claim to be the truth and nothing but ther truth but are merely man-made opinion.

In regard to Protestantism, most main line Protestestant churches use ritual to one extent or other. And even fundamental Protestant churches still have baptism, Holy Communion and marriage, which all involve some degree of ritual.

The only church that has no ritual is the Freinds (Quakers) and even they have their ritual of silence.

I agree with this. Every evangelical church I’ve ever been in uses rituals.

I remember reading years ago about a lay preacher asking if the congergtion that he was visiting prayed before or after the callition. The people he was talking to had to stop and think because they were so used to do it their way it become a ratual.

Protestantism varies widely, and many denominations do practice rituals. In my experience, the denominations which are negative toward rituals believe that ritual is “dead” and that it confines the Holy Spirit from working in peoples hearts. If people are not allowed to spontaneously and extemporaneously express themselves, the Spirit is “quenched.” They usually have a pretty a-historical view of Christianity, which I think is a lot of the problem.

I think this captures a good portion of the anti-Catholic source of the avoidance of ritual. Publisher’s post demonstrates a common misunderstanding about the Apostolic faith, that we believe God’s grace is dependent upon rituals. In fact, the opposite is true, and the Church teaches that God has given us rituals because human nature needs them, but that He is not bound by them.

The resistance to ritual began during the Reformation, especially with Calvin and Zwingli, who wanted to “cleanse” the church of anything that appealed to the human senses. And since they denied that God could act in grace through the ritual, these were separated from the traditional practices. The roots of this are deep in the factors precipitating the Reformation, but it boils down to the rampant practice of practicing rituals without faith. Anyone can go through the motions, but if it is don’e without faith, they are not transforming. At the time of the Reformation, even the clergy appeared to be lacking in transformation through sacramental grace. Many of the monasteries were fraught with various sins and excesses, and although they practiced rituals practically all day long, they left their rituals and engaged in sins until the next hourly prayer. This faithless practice of rituals caused people to lose hope and trust in them as containing transformational grace.

Publisher’s #8 post caught the heart of what I was trying to say. We don’t believe any special grace is conferred by such rituals. My pastor speaks of this whenever we have baptism/communion/ect.

And yes, Jim Dandy, I was speaking of my current church only, though I’ve never heard much about the CC in the other 3 baptist (all southern) churches I’ve attended/joined. I will admit, though, that you unfortunately will find it, and not only in SB churches.

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