Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Three Reasons to Discard Your Copy of Dix's Shape of the Liturgy

This entry comes from the comment section of my last entry. I thought I'd open this up for more discussion, if anyone is game.

Three reasons why you should discard your copy of Dom Gregory Dix's The Shape of the Liturgy, if you haven't already:

1. Dix's whole 4-fold shape of the liturgy thesis is contrived on his own speculation, with absolutely no historical verification or support (read none). As a result, those contemporary rites that are based on Dix's thesis are built around an artificial construct.

2. Anything of actual historical significance in the book can be obtained from better and more up to date works. So STL is utterly obsolete as an authority in liturgical studies, despite the opinions of a number of antiquarians and liturgical wannabes who still treat the book as if it were the most important liturgical resource ever written.

3. Dix never understood Cranmer's theology, but presented himself authoritatively as if he did. The resulting damage done to Cranmer studies and studies on the Anglican liturgy will take generations to undo (if ever).

Those are three reasons off the top of my head.


Anonymous said...

I'm just sending a comment to draw your attention comment on April 03, 2006, Karl Barth and the Pope. You may have missed it since it's four months since you posted that article. I noted that you had referred to Berkouwer - author of 'The Second Vatican Council & the New Catholicism'. I have recently set up a Berkouwer blog - I also have another blog -

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dmartin said...

I agree. We had to read Dix's book at Cranmer and even then it seemed contrived.

Johnny! said...

When I first got back into the Church, and began reading theology, and began studying liturgy, I read that entire damned book before someone in the know hipped me to the fact that it was full of it. I want that week back!

Patrick McManus said...

Katherine Sonderegger in her essay, "The Doctrine of Justification and the Cure of Souls", in a new volume on justification from Eerdmans, The Gospel of Justification in Christ: Where Does the Church Stand Today?, calls attention to Dix's shortcomings and vindicates Cranmer. It's a great essay and Sonderegger...well, I'd give my left ear to write like her!


William Tighe said...

This Response is from Dr. W. J. Tighe:

There are a number of items on which it is generally accepted that Dix was mistaken in *The Shape of the Liturgy.* These include (leaving aside textual and technical matters):

1. Dix's assumption that the celebrant of the Eucharist in the Early Church faced the congregation over the altar. (In fact, the celebrant faced Eastwards, which in most circumstances, as archaeological research has confirmed, was to face away from the congregation.)

2. Dix's belief that the ultimate origins of the Eucharistic Prayer ("Prayer of Consecration" in Anglican usage) lay in the second paragraph only of the Birkat ha-Mazon, the Jewish formal prayer, or grace, after the conclusion of a meal, a paragraph which begins "We give thanks ..". (Contemporary scholars either, like Thomas Talley, see the Eucharistic prayer as arising out of all three paragraphs of that prayer, whose themes are, respectively, Praise, Thanksgiving and Supplication; or else, like Enrico Mazza, see its Jewish roots as diverse and less specific, stemming from a variety of sources.) Related to this is Dix's belief that the verbs eulogein (to praise) and eucharistein (to give thanks) are essentially synonymous in a New Testament and liturgical context -- a belief that Talley would emphatically contradict.

3. Dix's assumption that the one surviving version of The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, a Latin translation in a manuscript (the Verona palimpset) dating from the early Fifth Century, accurately reproduces the various prayers as Hippolytus would have composed or compiled them ca. 215, two centuries earlier, is widely contested today. (Some scholars still defend it, but others insist that such manuscripts would not have been copied, much less translated, for antiquarian purposes, but for actual use; and that in such case they prayers would most likely have been adapted and updated.) In any event, many scholars would argue that Dix put too much emphasis on Hippolytus as a secure source for the practice of the Roman Church around the year 200.

4. Dix's understanding of the 15th-Century Reformational teaching of "justification by faith alone" is generally held to be an unsympathetic caricature, or, at best, a view informed more by 19th-Century Evangelical and Revivalistic notions (he had Wesleyan grandparents), than by those of the Reformers.

All that said, however,

1. Dix's analysis of the Eucharistic Rite into a "four-action shape" is an analytical tool, not an assertion that the rite was designed with four actions in mind. (Dix presents a "seven-action analysis" of the Last Supper, which was reduced to four when the taking, blessing, breaking and distributing of the bread before the meal was combined with the taking, blessing and distributing of the cup after it when the meal itself was removed.) As such, it still seems to me as good an analysis as any other (e.g., that advanced by Bryan Spinks), and indeed better than any I have seen.

2. Dix's characterization of Cranmer's eucharistic views as "Zwinglian" still seems to me cogent and accurate. The problem with this whole subject is that there was far more diversity among Reformed views of the Eucharist than among Lutherans. Calvin's "virtualism" (or whatever you want to call it) was, and is, a minority view among the Reformed, and even, perhaps, among self-styled "Calvinists" -- among whom perhaps only his colleague Peter Martyr Vermigli held it in as robust a fashion as he did (and I think that Calvin's view is more Catholic, or at least "higher" as regards the Real Presence, than that of Richard Hooker and his "receptionism"). Zwinglianism seems, in fact, to be the "default position" of Reformed Christianity (including Anglican Protestant "Reformed Catholicism") -- unless those scholars (such as Bruce Gerrish and Paul Rorem and Cranmer's biographer Diarmaid MacCulloch) who postulate a difference of substance, or at least of emphasis, between Zwingli and his successor in Zurich Heinrich Bullinger are correct; in which case, as MacCulloch insists, Cranmer's views seem more or less identical to those of Bullinger. But it is an open question whether Zwingli and Bullinger differ in substance, or only in emphasis; see Paul Rorem's *Calvin and Bullinger on the Lord's Supper* (1988) on this point. In any event, Cyril Richardson's conclusion, in his *Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist* (1949), that Cranmer was an "inconsistent Zwinglian", seems never to my knowledge to have been rebutted.

3. Dix, even in his life-time, and certainly afterwards, was a man that Anglican Evangelicals loved to hate, as someone that effectively smuggled "popish notions" about liturgy and sacraments into the consciousness of the Church of England, and Anglicanism generally. My *Touchstone* article contains the story of what happened when I chanced (well, perhaps "chanced" isn't the best word in this context) to mention Dix's name to a now-deceased but well-known Irish Evangelical Anglican Bishop: suffice it here to say that his response was vehement (and, as it turned out erroneous in all particulars). Allen Guelzo (once a REC priest and now in ECUSA) once told me of a similar vehement response to Dix and of his "baneful influence" that he had from Roger Beckwith. Eric Mascall's memoirs, *Saraband,* has a chapter (Chapter 7 "Four Outstanding Priests") largely devoted to Dix, and it shows, among other things, the exasperation that he could arouse among those who disagreed with him (and often came away the worse for the encounter). About a year ago Dix happened to be mentioned in a thread at Titusonenine, and it was amazing to see how self-styled "Protestant Anglicans" emerged from the woodwork and began to bloviate about the worthlessness of reading Dix because "they had been told" that Dix had forged his references, invented non-existent sources and was generally dishonest and prejudiced. I fear that unless he can substantiate his criticisms better than he has done to date Dr. Dunlap runs the risk of being numbered, if only inadvertently, among this group of Dixian phobiacs who condemn the man's scholarship but seem to be motivated primarily by odium theologicum.

lexorandi2 said...

Thank you, Dr. Tighe, for your very thoughtful and helpful outline. It gives me inspiration for my next entry, which I hope to post in a day or two.

Meanwhile, I see my good friend, Jeff Steel is trying to co-opt this thread for his blog! ;-) Hopefully he'll be able to generate some great conversation.

Ya'll be sure to check it out.


Death Bredon said...

Would that Dix never have set pen to paper.

He nearly destroyed prayer-book cathlicism--the best hope for reforemed, English Catholicim in the Third Millenium.

William Tighe said...

I suspect that Dix would have agreed with the previous post, that is, that one of his principal goals was to destroy the sad and baseless delusion of "Prayer Book Catholicism"

Death Bredon said...

If Prayer-Book Catholicism is a sad delusion, then so is Anglicanism . . . .

I say, "Off to Rome with Dix, Newman and like minded(less) folk!"

Daniel Stoddart said...

What is a non-blogging Bill Tighe drive-by comment without the ubiquitous Eric Mascall name-drop?

Dix is juiced, and everybody knows it in academia (including those pesky "Protestant" Anglicans), but Mr. Tighe can't admit it because it touches too many of his cherished doctrines.