Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Theology Of The Doxology

I grew up in the Presbyterian church. The services followed a familiar pattern of liturgy, so much so that I knew where we were in the service by what was being said or repeated (responses were most often mumbled by the congregation). And I definitely knew the service was over when we got to the Doxology.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him, above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

For me this was something to feel relief over because it meant church was done and I could rush out to the car and pull off my coat and tie (Yes, I was expected to dress up for church. None of that t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Certainly not flip-flops and shorts). Though most repeated the Doxology, few seemed to feel anything for what they were singing. It was just a part of the routine. 

As I moved out of elementary school, our family ended up leaving the Presbyterian church. First to a Word of Faith one that met in a hotel. There I would be shaken by the fact that there weren't hymns nor an organ. They did something called speaking in tongues and they laid hands on people and those people were slain in the spirit and fell to the floor. These people danced in the aisles. They shouted and raised their hands. They did not sing the Doxology. They did not do liturgy. Liturgy would quench the Spirit. It was all about the Spirit and one's faith. Everything hinged on one's faith. If you were sick, it was a problem with your faith. If you were poor, it was a problem with your faith. Name it, claim it. Rebuke the devil from coming against you. God wanted to bless you. Blessings were health, wealth, and prosperity. Was that what the writer of the Doxology meant when he wrote, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow?"

I struggled with that. What they said didn't connect with what I read in the Bible. Jesus was poor and didn't have a home, not to mention he died on a cross. Was his faith not strong enough?  What about his disciples? And this church only talked about wealth, yet God seemed more concerned with the poor and warned against the love of wealth.

Their praise was all loud and full of emotion. This carried over into the Pentecostal church we attended.

Yet I find myself at a point in my life where I am missing that liturgy, that ritual and the Doxology (we do bring it out sometimes in our Baptist church). I miss celebrating the liturgical year as we used to (Baptists would say that it becomes too rote and that it's not in scripture so it has no place). I have been reflecting a lot on the Doxology.

First off, what is a Doxology?

It's from the Greek "doxa" which means "glory, splendor, grandeur" and from "logos" meaning "word" or "speaking." Doxology is a short hymn of praise to God in various forms of Christian worship, ofted added to the end of canticles, psalms and hymns.

Where did it come from?

The words were written by Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken in 1674 but the music came from the Genevan Psalter in 1551 and are attributed to Louis Bourgeois. Thomas Ken was an orphan and raised by a sister.

He would go on to become a scholar at Winchester College and received his B.A. from New College, Oxford. He would go on to spend most of his life at Winchester College and Cathedral. Along with preaching, Thomas liked to write songs for students to sing.

The Doxology was first published in the 1695 edition in A Manual of Prayers for the Use of Scholars at Winchester College.

Later Thomas Ken would go on to become chaplain to King Charles II, but would later be imprisoned by King James II because of Ken's Protestant thinking.

At his burial, the Doxology was sung as the sun began to rise and they lowered the casket of Thomas Ken into the grave.

Praising God for his blessings comes from verses like Ephesians 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Notice those blessings are not of the Word of Faith variety).

Ascribing to God all glory comes from verses like Romans 11:36, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever."

And, lastly, the affirming of the Trinity, comes from Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Sometimes, I find myself singing this as a form of prayer in the mornings when I rise or at night before I go to bed to remind myself of the deep truths contained within those four lines. Little did I know that it's author Thomas Ken would be proud, as that was why he had written the Doxology for his students in the first place.

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