Roman and Reformed Right-Worship

“I’ve been very vocal in my love and devotion to the [Traditional Latin Mass] and its necessity for our lives. But what I think gets misunderstood is that people who attend the TLM do so out of pride or preference. I can speak to my own experience, but for most people I have come across within these communities this simply is not true. I do not attend the TLM because I think I am better than others, or for the smells and bells, or even for the love of Latin. I attend the TLM because I believe, just as the God of the Old Testament was pretty particular in how he wanted to be worshipped, the same holds true for us today. It is through the TLM that I encountered order, and began to pursue it in my own life.”

This was NFL kicker Harrison Butker’s explanation in a recent commencement address at a Catholic college for why he attends the Latin Mass. Michael Brendan Dougherty agrees, saying, “One reason to attend the Traditional Latin Mass is that the God of the Bible is revealed to be especially interested in right-worship.”

Absolutely God is interested in right worship, and both Butker and Dougherty go on to have good insights about the good ordering of worship that comes with a structured, rooted, reverent liturgy. However, they both make a logical leap that is characteristic of Roman Catholics on this point. Yes, God is interested in right worship and is very particular about how he is worshiped. But God nowhere reveals or commands that particularity be expressed in the Traditional Latin Mass.

This is where the Roman and the Reformed catholics differ: we both believe God is particular about worship, but we Reformed think he’s actually revealed what right worship looks like in the Bible, whereas the Romanists think the church’s traditions capture God’s design. In Matthew 15:9, Jesus makes the point that well intentioned, well designed worship of God is vain if the commandments and traditions of people are held to be divine in nature.