13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
R. M. Williams
- Published on Amazon.com
A few preliminaries:
I know the author, he was my favorite prof at Westminister West, i think he is a significant and important theologian in the conservative reformed church and i appreciate both his wisdom and his writings. We were members of the church spoken about in the book. The book is a re-read for me, being the primary reading for a PCA Sunday School class on Worship, several more reviews of books for this class ought to follow, for i have about 10 on the table for this class. I am not unaware of the controversy over worship in the conservative reformed churches in the US, i know the book caused a big stir on the right, and J.Frame faced a lot of criticism over the way he handled the issues in the book.
It is written to be a Sunday School class on Worship in the Church. It is secondarily an entry into these worship wars fought primarily over music with the exclusive psalmody guys to the far right, traditional hymn singers just to the left of them against anyone who dares try to make worship more spontaneous, more contemporary or forbid introduce dancing in the aisles or drama into the morning worship service. I like to think of J.Frame as the overhead projector and Praise song defender, but his position is far more nuanced and justified then this, however i would not be surprised if that is what most people walk away from the book believing. He includes thinking questions to address as a group and short footnotes with each chapter.
The book is written to that general reader, interested party with just barely a high school education. There are not theological terms to look up, no sophisticated reasoning that requires a table or flowchart to follow, but rather a gentle introduction trying to lead people through the maze of the discussion without setting off either their internal explosives nor the mines in the worship wars. For that alone JFrame ought to be commended, it is a good introduction, he touches on all the major issues, and even adds a few important ideas to use to grasp what are the real issues.
What does God require of us in our worship of Him? How to answer the question? on pg xiv he says there are 3 types of literature on the subject of worship: historical, ideological, practical. His contribution will be to look at Scripture and interpret tradition through it, looking mostly at the issues in modern conservative Presbyterianism. He introduces the idea that meaningful worship is to do as God commands in language that expresses our worship to God and our edification of each other. His major point throughout the book will be that God leaves us a lot of flexibility on the issues and that theological traditionalists will try to minimize both freedom and flexibility.
Chapter 1 is "Some Basic Principles" and it starts with "What is Worship?"
Our first concern is to please God. He introduces his useful triad of: authority control and presence. Worship is to be: God centered, Christ centered and Gospel centered. It is vertical, people to God, God to people and horizontal, people to each other. It is broad and narrow and it is important.
Chapter 2 is "Worship in the Old Testament"
The distinction of tabernacle and Temple worship, and later synagogue worship.
Chapter 3 is "Worship in the New Testament"
This chapter mirrors the one before it and shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of the elements of O.T. worship. Jesus is God's dwelling among men. Worship in the broad sense is effected by the ideas of Christ fulfilling the rules and regulations of the O.T. ceremonial law.
Chapter 4 is "The Rules for Worship"
God regulates our dealings with the holy. The regulative principle is do only what God commands, versus the converse, it is allowed if not prohibited. The distinction of circumstances which he calls application, which i think is culturally determined things that are not transcultural and required to be transmitted to all new believers in all cultures until the end of time. His rejection of the regulative principle as applicable only to corporate and formal worship and the historical Puritan principles anchored in their battles with a state controlled church. "We must be both more conservaive and more liberal than most students of Christian worship: conservative in holding exclusively to God's commands in Scripture as our rule of worship, and liberal in defending the liberty of those who apply those commandments in legitimate, though nontraditional, ways." pg 46
Chapter 5 is "What to Do in Worship"
The elements of worship which he lists as: greetings and benedictions, reading of Scripture, Preaching and Teaching, Charismatic Prophecy and Speaking in Tongues, Prayer, Song, Vows, Confession of Faith, Sacraments, Church Discipline, Collections and offerings, expressions of Fellowship. note: he is cessionist.
Chapter 6 is "Arrangements for Worship"
Doing all in a fitting and orderly way. Worship must be intelligible, understanding is essential for those in the pews, this requires contemporaneity. Service stresses primarily the joy in the resurrection of Jesus. pg 69 Scripture nowhere orders plainness as a matter of principle, contra the Puritans. pg 73 We live in a sacramental universe and can not escape the complex usage of symbols.
Chapter 7 is "The Tone of Worship"
Reformed theology is uncomfortable with emotions, often advocating the primacy of the intellect, the view that truth comes first to the intellect and is subsequently applied to the emotions and the will. pg 77 How the worshipper should feel: reverance, joy, sorrow for sin, participation, faith, love, boldness, family intimacy. People's taste and worship styles. authenticity, meeting God in the experience of worship.
Chapter 8 is "God speaks to us: the Word and the Sacraments"
We encounter God Himself in the Word, both read and preached. Sacraments as visible words.
Chapter 9 is "We speak to God: Our Response to God's Word"
prayer, confessions of faith, congregational responses, individual participation. the extension of intelligibility to meaningful and alert participation by everyone.
Chapter 10 is "Music in Worship"
note. the author is a very good musican. music as vivid and memorable, driving the Word into our hearts. what does music do, why is it controversial? traditional Christian ambivalence to popular worship, Presbyterian history of suspicion of revival, aesthetic concerns about the quality of music, and the generation gap. Music criticised as being too popular, too subjective, and not doctrinally reliable. pg 116 The concern to accommodate the brethren, to hold each other in higher regard then concern for one's own preferences.
Chapter 11 is "Music in Worship: some controversies"
exclusive psalmody, instruments, choirs, solos, music of the body.
Chapter 12 is "Music in Worship: Choosing Hymns"
Scriptural and understandable to the congregation. the chief rule for music is that it reinforce rather than detract from the words. pg 139 cultural differences, not to cater to human taste but to honor God in his desire to edify the people in worship, sacrifice our own preferences as we look outward in the Great Commission to reach out to those ignorant of our traditions. the idea that the weaker brethen needs extra help and instruction but not to allow the church to be captive to their false or excessive scruples. they may have to seek their own fellowships. pg 142 the potential answer to the worship wars. such divisions are defeats not triumphs as lack of love, unity and peace lose out to judgement.
Chapter 12 is "Putting it all together"
is a step by step analysis of one Sunday in his church.
So is he successful? Did he introduce the topic and keep people going to his Sunday School class? What are his motivations and goals in the discussion?
The book is interesting and i think it holds people's attention, you can pick it up and start reading anywhere for an idea of what he is talking about, it is even in tone and writing throughout.
To know if he is successful we have to figure out what he is attempting to do. First, it looks like a justification of his worship service and style of worship. His motivations appear to be to defuse the EP and anti-praise song people and allow him the freedom to worship this way and still be able to justify everything with the regulative principle. His major goal appears to be the peace and unity of not just this individual congregation but the denominations this effects as well. Is the solution to have 3 or 4 similiar denominations, with the rightmost EP, then another traditional hymns with the left using praise songs and overheads, like he says, this is a defeat for the unity and peace of the body of Christ, although that is what appears to be happening in the country.
He has several distinctions that are under fire, mostly from the right. Broad and narrow worship, the church as modeled after the synagogue rather than the temple, the need for spontenaity in worship versus the Puritan pursuit of plainness. I need to do more study before i am able to make an educated guess at what i think is the right way to do things. I appreciate the author and hope his book gets the wider attention it desires as in this class at my church.
thanks for reading this short review. email me at rwilliam2 at yahoo dot com subject worship class if you can help with these issues. i will send the url to the worship class notes on request as well.