Saturday, June 21, 2014

A review of Worshipping with Calvin by Terry L. Johnson

A review of Worshipping with Calvin by Terry L. Johnson:

Publisher's description:

"In the 'worship wars' which have marked recent times, many aspects have been considered but rarely is the issue of truly Reformed worship addressed. In this pertinent work, Terry Johnson effectually fills a void - countless books have been written about Calvin, but to date there has been scant material on Calvin and biblical worship. The vital historical context is presented, and the practical ramifications for Reformed biblical worship today are explored.'
There is a revival in Calvinist thinking across a broad spectrum of the church today. As he takes notice of that, the author suggests that, in order for Calvinism to thrive, attention must be given to the ministry and worship that will sustain it. The belief is advanced that Calvin would not separate theology from worship and that the new Calvinism of today needs to take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not merely the theological.
Terry L Johnson takes note of the revival in Calvinist thinking that is evident across a broad spectrum of the church. But, he notes, for Calvinism to continue to thrive, attention must begin to be paid to the ministry and worship that alone will sustain and perpetuate it. The new Calvinism must take seriously the liturgical reforms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not just the theological, if today's dynamism is to endure. Calvin would not have approved of the separation of theology from worship. . . . Reformed theology determined Reformed worship; and conversely, Reformed worship was the nurturing womb from which Reformed piety and practice sprang. Theology, worship, and piety are inseparably linked, neither thriving without the supporting presence of the other. This is by no means a polemic against one or two forms of worship. Terry Johnson makes a strong historical and biblical case, so that whatever the readers preferred style of worship, this book will inform and challenge."
I think a more accurate title for this book would have been "Worshipping with the Reformers" because though this book does address Calvin and his views on worship, it really is a broader attempt to lay out the overall Reformed view and practice regarding this vital issue.  This is not another book on the "worship wars", this book goes much deeper than worship styles and deals with what worship is.  This book addresses how we worship, biblically and how the reformed worshipped historically. We serve a Holy God, and like the Israelites of old, we must come in awe and reverence, careful not to burn strange fire to the Lord.  The church needs this book.
At over 300 pages this book is an in depth appeal for the church to affirm and practice the regulative principle of worship (reformed worship and ministry).  If you are unaware what that principle is, it simply means that the worship of God is directed by Scripture and Scripture alone.  This is the polar opposite of much of evangelicalism where anything goes that isn't specifically prohibited (the normative principle).
That being said, there may be many who read this book and disagree with much written in it's pages, but it will be an eye opening read non the less and will require the reader to challenge much of what he or she has believed regarding worship and the practices of our church services.
As a confessional Presbyterian I already was committed to the regulative principle, but I learned as I read that I didn't know as much about it as I thought.  I loved the thoroughness and depth Terry went through to lay out his treatment of this topic and found myself working slowly through it, often with an open bible to look up the many Scripture passages given in support for various points and practices.
As I said, this book is thorough and fairly long, but it is very readable and very helpful.  It is basically laid out in two parts,  the first being an argument for the importance of the regulative principle and an overview of it's historical roots.  The second and largest part of the book details the strengths of reformed worship and ministry.  The section on worship and the Church is particularly needed in our day, with our individualized brand of Christianity.
Terry leaves nothing out here and as I have already mentioned, gives plenty of Scripture references to reinforce his argument.  I can't say strongly enough how helpful this book was to me and how it has re energized my own desire to worship God in spirit and in truth just as the Reformed have done before me.  Whether you agree or disagree with Terry here, you will be challenged to examine the worship practices of your church as well as the worship practices individually. 
This book is now my standard reference work for worship, and I am thankful for it.  I give this book five stars! 
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

No comments:

Post a Comment