Book: The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the 16th Century

Hughes Oliphant Old. Grand Rapids, Ml: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992. 324 pages. $44.95.

No one knows more about the sources and traditions of Reformed worship than Hughes Old. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he has published several major studies of liturgy, including Tlie Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship (1975) and Worship That Is Reformed According to Scripture (1984).

Here Old turns his attention to the origins and development of Reformed baptismal practice. The first six chapters trace the process of liturgical revision from its beginnings through the mid 1540s. The last four chapters analyze basic aspects of classic Reformed rites, including the role of catechetical instruction, vows and prayers of invocation, and the act of baptismal "washing."

Old shows in convincing detail how the Reformers, from Luther to Calvin, worked to craft sacramental forms that would be faithful to the testimony of Scripture and the early church—forms that avoided not just the liturgical distortions of the Latin rites, but also the perceived theological distortions of Anabaptist practice, with its stress on believer's baptism. What resulted, he argues, were models of liturgical coherence, rooted in historic traditions and at the same time responsive to contemporary pastoral needs. His conclusion (p. 286): "A careful study of these reforms does much to inform those who would faithfully celebrate the sacrament in our generation."

This is a work of great learning and insight. Though most of it was written some years ago (the preface is dated 1985), no effort seems to have been made to update the bibliography prior to publication. One also finds isolated instances of usage that is unnecessarily gender exclusive, including one or two translations where even the original text would not require it (e.g. pp. 69, 81). But these are very minor blemishes. While the book is intended primarily for scholars, much of it could also be read with profit by pastors or worship leaders—indeed by anyone interested in the shape of authentic Reformed faith and practice

David J. Diephouse teaches history at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 30 © December 1993 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.