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Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice Hardcover – December 12, 2003
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"The church needs this book! A Reformed view of the various nuances of worship -- its place in the Bible, the elements that give it legitimacy, the personal and affective aspects of worshiping God, as well as its place in the history of the church -- has been lacking in the literature. This has finally been rectified with a volume that will stimulate discussion and inform the church."
--Iain D. Campbell
"A worthy tribute of love and honor to the memory of James Montgomery Boice. In it, a galaxy of his colleagues and friends address the theme that was the heartbeat of his life and ministry. The contributors offer important instruction, insight, and challenge on the grand theme of worship." --Sinclair B. Ferguson
"Any book dedicated to the memory of James Boice would have to be marked by sanctified scholarship, solid biblical content, and warm pastoral application. These essays from the pens of his friends and fellow soldiers in the cause of the gospel meet that standard. Reading this material, I found my mind being stretched and my heart stirred."
"Worship is a matter of controversy in the present generation, as it has frequently been in past generations. Give Praise to God will give readers a biblical, well-reasoned, and historically informed understanding of a Reformed perspective on worship presented by some of the best Reformed thinkers of our day." --L. Roy Taylor
"A significant contribution. As a theologian, I believe that worship must be at the heart and center of all that we are, all that we do, and all that we write. This volume helps us to focus on this fundamental priority while also reminding us that God is concerned with the form and content of our worship." --A. T. B. McGowan
About the Author
Philip Graham Ryken (M.Div., D.Phil.) is senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Derek W. H. Thomas (M.Div., Ph.D.) is the John E. Richards professor of practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. J. Ligon Duncan III (M.Div., M.A., Ph.D.) is the senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi.
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Give Praise To God is a collection of articles by various authors that have been divided into four parts.
1. Does God Care How We Worship?
2. Elements of Biblical Worship
3. Preparing for Biblical Worship
4. Worship, History, and Culture.
In chapter 1, J. Ligon Duncan III begins with a survey of the major themes of worship through the entirety of Scripture. In a very systematic way, Duncan proceeds through the major events of Biblical history to support the assertion, "God makes it amply clear, however, throughout the Bible that he does indeed care very much about how we worship. The Bibles answer to this query- Does God care about the how of worship- is an emphatic yes, not only in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament." (26-27) Duncan begins his survey by examining the worship of Cain and Able and proceeds through passage after passage to set the foundation for the rest of the book that God is very concerned not just that he is worshiped but also how he is worshiped. Duncan also examines a number of New Testament passages to debunk the myth that God is not concerned with how He is worshiped in the New Testament. As a former skeptic towards the regulative principle of worship, I found Duncan's explanation of the relevant texts a force to be reckoned with and a very convincing sampling of the texts.
After addressing the major relevant texts that support the regulative principle of worship, Duncan moves on to consider the foundational presuppositions upon which regulative principle stands. Some of his arguments are stronger than others but as a whole, they are a clear testimony that not only is the regulative principle Biblical but it is also logically necessary. Under this section of the book, Duncan argues that the foundations of the regulative principle are, the nature of God, the creator-creature distinction, the nature of revelation and knowledge, the second commandment, the nature of true piety, our tendency toward idolatry, and the testimony of church history.
Duncan also dealt with a common objection to the regulative principle that, "much of what is called historical reformed worship is derived from northern European culture and binds the church too closely to a past culture." (70) Is that really the purpose of the regulative principle? Duncan argues emphatically that it is not but instead, it is "to aid the church in ensuring that the elements of worship are unequivocally and positively grounded in Scripture and that the forms and circumstances of worship are in accord with Scripture." (64) Opponents of the regulative principle would do well to ask themselves why would they not want to worship Biblically? Should we not want our worship to be as Biblical as possible? If we seek to establish our worship on pragmatics and cultural norms rather than Biblical principles, there is a very real possibility that we will gain an audience with the world without ever gaining an audience in heaven.
Edmund P. Clowney closes out section one of Give Praise To God by arguing for the importance of corporate worship as a means of grace. Clowney begins by establishing that our union with Christ is the basis for and means of our union with other believers. Because we are a part of Christ, we belong to and in His body. "The grace that unites us to the Lord unites us to all who have been made members of His body." (95) The apostle Paul makes the same argument in Romans 12:5 "so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." When the church visible gathers together to worship and fellowship, it is there and then in a special way, "the Spirit confirms the presence of Christ our mediator and our heavenly priest." (100)
Section two of Give Praise To God, Elements of Biblical Worship, addressed what are the essential elements of Biblical corporate worship. In this section, R. Albert Mohler JR, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Terry L. Johnson, D. Marion Clark,Richard D. Phillpis, and Paul S. Jones, team up to paint a picture of what Biblically reformed worship should look like. First and foremost, Biblical corporate worship should include expository preaching. Mohler argues against both the modern notion that music is central in worship and the sacramental notion that places the Lord's Table and baptism at the center of worship, for the Biblical position that the preaching of God's Word is really at the center of corporate worship. I do not believe Mohler sufficiently supported his thesis, that expository preaching is the heart of Biblical worship, using Scripture, although I believe the Scriptures could support it from passages like, 1 Corinthians 1:17 and 2 Tim 4:1-2. Those who are not familiar with exegeting a text and developing an exegetical sermon will find Mohler to be very helpful. Mohler describes what an exegetical sermon is, how it is developed, and how its hearers should receive it.
In chapter 7, Terry L. Johnson and J. Ligon Duncan III come together to address what I would consider t be a major deficiency even in many reformed churches. Chapter 7 is, "a call to the reclamation of the public reading and praying of Scripture in the corporate worship of God." (140) One element of worship that was clearly present both in the New Testament church and the Old Testament corporate setting was the public reading of Scripture and that has been relegated in many churches today to the reading of the passage to be preached in the sermon but in the context of Scripture, it is much more than that. After demonstrating the importance of the public reading and praying of Scripture, Johnson and Duncan proceed to give some very helpful and pastoral advise on how to begin implementing the reading and praying of the word of God. For any pastor who is considering how to lead his church in the direction of Biblical worship, this chapter is a must read because it strikes at what I would consider to be one of the largest elemental deficiency in what is called worship today.
Chapter 7 entitled Baptism: Joyful Sign of the Gospel, comes with mixed reviews. In it, Marion Clark seeks to, "explore the significance of baptism in Reformed worship." (170) Clark begins by stating that we lose much when our discussions about baptism always result in discussions about paedobaptism or credobaptism. Try as he may, much of Clark's contribution to Give praise to God is saturated with his paedobaptistic hermeneutic and presuppositions. In reading through it, I found myself rejecting much of what Clark says not because of what he said, but because of the underlying theology behind what he was saying. To anyone who is interested in a good book about baptism by a man who is both reformed and Baptistic, I would commend, The Baptism Of Disciples Alone By Fred Malone. Malone presents what I consider to be a more Biblical approach to baptism. Having said that, toward the end of the chapter, Clark offers some very wise and pastoral insights into the practice of baptism and also some practical things to think through in determines whether a persons baptism should be considered a valid one.
Part 2 of Give Praise to God closes by Paul S. Jones and Terry L. Johnson discuss the importance of restoring the singing of psalms and hymns to our worship. Both Johnson and Jones do a wonderful job at showing the importance of restoring hymns and psalms to or worship. Jones in particularly good job at showing how a pastor or worship leader can begin incorporating hymns into the worship service. But for the good that these men did in these two chapters, there is something glaringly lacking. What was glaringly lacking in part two was a chapter on the singing of spiritual songs mentioned in Eph 5:19. Jones notes, "Fifteen years ago the idea that one would need to argue in support of the existence and use of hymns in the worship of the church would have been laughable... We should not be surprised that worship and worship music in evangelical churches have followed the path of our culture."(222) While there are certainly churches in which that is true, my experience has been, and I would guess is true for many reformed people, reformed churches are singing psalms and hymns but there is a lack of doctrinally sound spiritual songs. Many churches within the reformed camp have seen the problems with some of the modern praise music that lacks doctrinal content or a theologically true message and have over-reacted, throwing out the baby with the bath water. If we truly hold to the regulative principle of worship, the very thing Give Praise to God argues for, reformed churches need to consider how they can be singing in the corporate worship service, Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Section 3 of the book deals with the very important topic of preparing for Biblical worship.
In chapter 12, Donald S. Whitney addresses the importance of private worship. While, "the weight of Scripture tilts the scale decidedly in favor of the priority of public worship," (290) it is also important to understand the importance of private worship. Arguing from the Scriptures, confessions, church history, and pragmatically, Whitney stresses, quite compellingly, the importance of Biblically ordered, daily, private worship. In response to the anticipated objection that Sunday worship is all that is necessary, Whitney asks the rhetorical question, "Can once-a-week worship, regardless of quality, satisfy the heart the heart of a man who woman who longs to fulfill the greatest commandment and, `love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength' (Mark 12:30)?" (291)
Also in part three of Give Praise To God Terry L. Johnson (author of The Family Worship Book) and J. Ligon Duncan III team up to give a call for families to engage in worship together as a family. Whether you are committed to worship as a family or considering how your family can begin worshiping together, Duncan and Johnson will not only elevate your understanding of the importance of family worship but also give some very helpful and practical advise for fathers leading their family in worship. I was particularly impressed with their section dealing with worship as being the covenant responsibility of the parents. While on one hand, as a Baptist, I do not agree with the level of continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that Duncan and Johnson propose, nor do I agree with the underlying presuppositions behind their line of reasoning, I can stand with them as they stress the importance of a father leading his family spiritually and seeking to be faithful in bringing up his children in the Lord. Duncan and Johnson give some practical ways in which fathers can begin leading their families in worship. I often think of leading my family in worship as reading and teaching the scriptures to my children, praying with my family, and singing songs of praise together after dinner but I was challenged to have a much larger view of family worship. "We ought to instruct our children in the great issues of salvation. We should ask them about the content of sermons, we should ask them about the Scriptures that they have memorized in Sunday school. We should aim to see how far they understand and to know and learn their souls." (322)
The final section of Give Praise to God is entitled Worship, History, and Culture in which Nick Needham, Hugh Oliphant Old, and Michael Horton not only examine the historical roots of Reformed worship. Needham begins by asserting, "Unless we intend to make a virtue of solipsism, any serious consideration of worship must take into account the history of worship, as a sort of running commentary on Scripture, a commentary embodied by practice and preserved in literary monuments, especially liturgies." (375) In accord with his premise, Needham gives a brief history, beginning in the Patristic era, through the more recent trends in worship.
Give praise to God closes with what is more of a challenge and cultural commentary directed to the church today than a history lesson. Michael Horton begins by establishing where the church is in the big picture of the history of worship and moves on to ask whether we are really the product of our culture and finally proposes a way to move ahead into the realm of Biblical worship. Horton's discussion on worship and culture is a worthy read for every Christian but especially those who propose creating worship that reflects the culture we live in. Horton encourages his readers to shift the way that they think about worship; "Instead of modern and postmodern, our categories are, `this passing evil age' and `the age to come.'" (445) Our worship should be a reflection of a people who are living for the age to come and moving away in the way that they think, act, and worship in the culture they live in.
Give Praise To God is great book that would come highly recommended by this reader for any pastor, missionary, or worship leader or person who is serious about worship. It sets forth a vision for developing and maintaining Biblical worship in the church today while at the same time keeping both feet in the Scriptures. Give praise to God is not without its flaws, but for those who understand the theological debate between a Presbyterian Covenant theology and the Baptist understanding of Covenant theology, it is a worthy read.
We must be awed by the living God!
Ch 1: Does God Care How We Worship? J Ligon Duncan III:
'The Bible (God's own self-disclosure and revelation) - not our innovations, imaginations, experiences, opinions, and representations - is to be the source of our idea of God...The Bible is to be central in forming our image of God and informing our worship of Him.' p 31
Ch 3: Responding To Recent Criticism, Derek W H Thomas:
'Evangelicals respond to biblical authority (which they accept) by saying, 'It all depends how you interpret Scripture.' There is no way, according to that principle, of avoiding total bondage to our present culture.' pp. 84-85
Ch 4: Corporate Worship, Edmund P Clowney:
'We may never suppose that small groups can replace the assembly of believers in a particular place (1 Cor 1:2). Paul's letters are read to the church in assembly, and this is true of the other epistles of the NT. As the assembled people of God, and the fellowship created by the Holy Spirit, the church must gather in corporate worship.' p 99
Ch 5: Expository Preaching, Albert Mohler Jr.:
'The anemia of evangelical worship - all the music and energy aside - is directly attributed to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living voice and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.' p 111
Ch 6: Evangelistic/Expository Preaching, Mark Dever:
'It is best to avoid any kind of invitation that would lead them to think that in responding to our invitation they have responded savingly to Christ. The confusion and carnality that reigns in so many evangelical churches today shows the disaster that such well-intentioned mistakes work in people's lives.' p 138
Ch 7: Baptism, D Marion Clark:
'But God has not made many covenants with many persons. He has made one covenant with His people in Christ.' p 174
Ch 14: Worship In All Of Life, William Edgar:
'In Romans 12:2 Paul prohibits conformity to worldly patterns. The phrase literally says, 'Do not scheme together according to this age'. Christians often are not aware of the subtlety with which conformity beckons.' p 346
Ch 15: Worship & The Emotions, W Robert Godfrey:
'We need to be clear about the role of faith not only in justification, but in every aspect of the Christian life. The foundation of all Christian living is faith's looking away from the self to Christ and His promises...For a proper understanding of the affections therefore in the Christian life generally and especially in worship, faith must be kept central.' p 363
'We must be reminded that there is a permanent relationship between faith and the Word.' Institutes 3:2:6
Ch 16: Worship Through The Ages, Nick R Needham:
'David Wells comments that the revivals had an unintended net effect of replacing the passion for truth with the passion for souls. We can see something like this even in the genius of Jonathan Edwards, who very much gives the impression in his revival writings that the function of a worship service is the conversion of sinners. We can understand the forces at work that inspired our ancestors to think in this way, but it already marks a fateful step on the subjectivist journey.' p 408
Ch 17: Calvin's Theology Of Worship, Hughes Oliphant Old:
'Surely one of the things that characterizes Calvin's approach to worship is his deep appreciation of God's revelation of Himself to Israel. This appreciation of the OT and its relevance to the Christian is in no way unique to Calvin. He inherited it from Oecolampadius, Capito, Zwingli, and Bucer. They had been pioneers in the recovery of biblical Hebrew. Calvin shared this deep appreciation of Hebrew with Bullinger, who, in his working out of covenant theology, put such an emphasis on the unity of the old and new covenants.' p 417
'We are to drive away all invented gods and are not to render asunder the worship that the one God claims for Himself.' Institutes 1:382-383
'Calvin would have a hard time with those who today like to make worship an occasion to display their ethnic or national culture or to promote political solidarity, social awareness, peace of mind, financial success, self-realization or family togetherness. The gods of fortune and fertility, culture and nationalism, are not to be named among us. 'You shall have no gods before Me' (Exodus 20:3) teaches us to make worship theocentric rather than anthropocentric.' p 418
Ch 18: Ministry Today, Michael S Horton:
'C. Peter Wagner argues, 'Traditional church models no longer work in our fast-changing world. A commitment to reaching the lost is driving new apostolic churches to find new ways to fulfill the Great Commission.' - as if God had left the 21st century church to find new ways to fulfill the Great Commission other than Word and sacrament.' p 442 Incredulously, Wagner claims knowledge of many reports of 'divine visitations of Jesus, angels and lights, without the Word or a preacher' - in a mission context. For the Reformed the form of the worship service is seen as the official engagement between the worshippers and God, which provides the means necessary to effect a genuine meeting between God and His gathered people.