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With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship Paperback – April 1, 2002
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"This is a good book, which ought to be read by every believer who wishes to engage in worship that is pleasing to God because it is worship that is in harmony with God's will as revealed in the inspired, infalliable Scriptures." --Robert D. Decker
About the Author
John R. Muether (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is librarian and associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. The coauthor of four volumes, Muether has served on the Harvard Divinity School library staff and has been librarian at Western Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary. He has served on the editorial board of Regeneration Quarterly and on the board of directors of Mars Hill Audio. He is historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves on that denomination's Christian Education Committee.
D. G. Hart studied American history at the Johns Hopkins University and has served as director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College and academic dean and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary in California. He is currently visiting assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College.
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So what is the big deal? The book is part of a Sunday School class on Reformed Worship, i've reviewed two other books in the reading list, have more to go. This is the first right side, or traditionalist book i've read on the topic, i don't think i've put quite as many "!?" markings in a book in a long time-my questionable point. It is however an excellent source in the reading, i appreciate the authors positions, as i hope the rest of the review demonstrates. The writing is very well done, particularly the tightness and logicalness of the reasoning. It has the marks of someone who has thought, taught and researched the issue for a number of years, one or two line summaries that act as strong shaping principles (which i'll try to quote below), a progression in argumentation starting with basic principles and arguing towards the disputed ones. You don't have to agree with ideas to appreciate the well done form that they take here, it is a carefully and prayfully done work that the authors ought to feel proudly about, having done a good and worthwhile job. You can pick up the book anywhere and read a few pages to get the flow of the work and see if you would profit from the time spent reading it, however i think chapter 5 "Acceptable Worship" is the most meaty and my personal favorite. If like me, you read and appreciated J.Frame's Worship in Spirit and Truth, this book is a direct assault on those ideas, the pair together are probably more correct than either alone is.
So What is it all about?
a few notes and pull quotes for reference---
originated as Sunday School Lessons at two different OPC's.
i personally do not see the usual effects of two writers, i can not tell two different lines of thought or two different ways of writing. how they wrote the book or divided up the task is invisible to me.
"Christians seem to have an easy time starting a fight over worship".pg 11
"how ought we to evaluate innovations in our churches?" "where does the Bible encourage us to design worship for outsiders?" pg 12
"Because of the close connection between good theology and appropriate worship, corporate acts of praise and devotion that conflict with Reformed theology must flow from unsound doctrine. In effect our worship provides a barometer of our theology?" pg 14 my first !? notes, of many
"this means that we are incapable by our own intelligence, strength, or sincerity of devising God-honoring worship". pg 14
Outlining our Study:
first, who is it that worships?
when to worship?
what is the regulative principle? what is the dialogical principle and how does it shape our liturgy?
what is the place of worship in the means of grace?
what are the elements and circumstances of worship?
our task is to show that such faithfulness to Reformed doctrine also requires loyalty to a certain kind of worship? pg 21
the theme of the book: "We were created to serve God, and our worship on the Lord's Day should be conducted to give him the glory and honor that belong to him along as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer." pg 22
1. The Church and the World
our churches seem to be more concerned about winning the approval of the world and less on guard against the dangers of conforming to the world pg 26
(in worship) we leave the world and its cares and duties to enter into God's presence. pg 26
the church's otherworldliness, the contra mundum, against the world or fallen humanity in rebellion against God pg 29
this internal threat is deadly precisely because it denies the separateness of the church by graducall merging the church with the world under the guise of peace. an all embracing paganism results, Machen warned, when the church forsakes its call to holiness and pursus worldliness pg 30
the very act of worship, of assembling in the presence of God, therefore, is simultaneously the church's renunciation of the world. Worship is subversive and countercultural act of an alien people who, forsaking the world, list to the voice of her master saying, "follow me". pg 33-34
2. The Purpose of the Church
the wrong idea of the church as a means of social or cultural transformation. exercise of social influence, the social gospel, liberal Protestant theology as allowing the world to set the church's agenda. pg 40
the task of the church is to exalt its head, to teach only the doctrines he has revealed, to worship him as he has commanded, and to order its life by what he has ordained. pg 41
competing models of the church, Christ's command to his disciplines in the Great Commission, the starting point to understand the purpose of the church pg 43
the misunderstanding of the church and worship as vechicles for evangelism rather than the wider task of making disciplines while rejecting the idols of this world. pg 48
3. A Worshiping Community
in the same way that the marks of the church tell us how to find the true church, so also corporate worship helps us identify the church. worshipis essential to the church's identity. pg 55
the church that properly worships will be peculiar to the world. its way will seem odd and irrelevant, and its language will sound strange. pg 60
4. The Holy Day of Worship
without financial support from the stae churches have been forced to adopt market strategies to grow and develop. pg 64
problems with revivialism: chief means for determining genuine spirituality, intense and earnest times of spirtiual awakening have been used to distinguish the saved from the lost.
the Sabbath is designed to work slowly, quietly, seemingly imperceptively, in reorienting believers' appetites heavenward. it is not a quick fix nor is it necessarily a spiritual high. we all have to return to our day jobs. pg 65
the problem of the spirituality of the mountaintop experiences is that no one can live on the mountain. pg 65
the distinction between the holy and the profance lies at the heart of biblical teaching about the Sabbath and worship. pg 71
Scripture instructs us to distinguish among activities that are holy, those that are inherently sinful, and those that are common or lawful on other days. pg 72
"God calls Christians to live holy lives. He calls us to live in the world and to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. He also commands us, at set times and places, to participate in holy things that are distinct from the ways of the world. God has given us a holy meal(the Lord's Supper), holy water(baptism), holy words(preaching), and a holy vocation(the minister of the Word). He has also given us holy time: one day for worship and rest. Contrary to popular claims, Reformed Christains do believe in a liturgical calendar. But it is weekly, not seasonal." pg 73
5. Acceptable Worship
regulative principle: do in worship only what God requires is a consequence of the 10 Commandments.
normative principle: what is not forbidden is permissible. pg 78
Calvin argued that we worship for God's glory, only secondarily for our edification and not in the least for our pleasure. pg 79
it is premised on such unchanging truths as the character of God, the extent of human depravity, and the command to love our neighbor. pg 82
elements are the what, circumstances are the how of worship pg 86
6. Reformed Liturgy
the gathering of God's people out of this world and into His presence. it is impossible to understand public worship apart from the church in its corporate or visible character. pg 91
the premises of Reformed theology-God's sovereignty, cration, and providence: man's depravity; Christ's mediation; the Holy Spirit's saving application of Christ's work; and the centrality of Scripture-should be implicitly present in Reformed liturgy. pg 93
but the principle of covenantal or dialogical worship, following biblical patterns of worship, challenges this distinction by insisting that all of worship is vertical. it is a holy transaction or conversation between God and his people. pg 96
the blessing of vertical worship is sufficient for our edification. we do not need to hear things from each other in worship to be blessed or encoraged or convicted.
we need not tinker with the dialogical structure to add therapeutic features that appear to give encouragement and support. pg 97
7. Leading and Participating in Worship
current retreat from clericalism of the Westminster divines is the popular doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. pg 105
listening and appropriating are activities that require concentration and spiritual discipline. pg 113
8. Worship with Godly Fear
what is permissible in worship, but also what is wise pg 119
so acceptable worship is a dialogue with God that displays awe and godly fear in an appropriate pattern of elements. pg 119
so reverence must always be accompanied by simplicity pg 121
joy-along with a full range of emotions such as grief, anger, desire, hope, fear and love- should find natural outlets in worship. But the need for reverence and gravity dictates that any expression of emotion in worship should be tempered by moderation, self-control, and above all, respect for who Gdo is and an awareness of our place before him. pg 122
the israelites knew that if God did not consume the sacrifice he would consume the worshipers. pg 123
9. The Means of Grace
no metaphor is more central to the Bible's description of the Christian life than the idea of pilgrimage. pg 136
immanence-natural means-providence-liberals pg 137
outside of the church, no ordinary means of salvation WCF 2:2 pg 138
he who refuse to be a son of the Church desires in vain to have God as his Father. pg 139 Calvin on Gal 4:26
10. Elements, Circumstances, and Forms
the essentials for Reformed worship, then, are the reading and preaching of the Word, prayer, song, the collection, and the sacraments. to leave these out of worship or to add to them is to go beyond God's Word. pg 150
sermons must be prepared, a warning to extemporaneous preachers, no topical preaching, life can not be divorced from doctrine pg 153
yet a dangerous assumption lurks behind the reasoning (worship without form), that genuine devotion and sincere feelings for God can only be expressed adequatedly when we use our own words, not the words of someone else. pg 154
so ecstasy or spontaneity in worship cannot be a measurement of its legitimacy. the only genuine esperience in worship is a proper response to God as he has revealed himself in his Word.
it is possible for worshipers to deceive others and themselves through counterfeit experiences. pg 155
might not the decline of psalm singing and catechism memorizing among Presbyterians indicate the triumph of experience in our worship? pg 155
11. Song in Worship
hymns drove out the metrical psalms over the course of the 19thC. pg 161
prevailing illiteracy over the Psalter in today's churches is a testimony to how much of our Reformed heritage we have abandoned. pg 162
a wise approach is to suspect anything that has not withstood the test of time. pg 163
worship is the church's renunciation of the world. ... the purpose of the church is discipleship and not merely soul winning. pg 164
we should not expect to listen to, much less to sing, the music that we enjoy during the week, a pint that applies wherever our tastes may lie, form country to classical to "contemporary Christian music". pg 165
song was chiefly a form of prayer. it was not, as many argue today, a way of teaching the Wrod in order to communciate theology. pg 166
acceptable worship does not come naturally to sinful people. worship involves habits and appetites that are only acquired over tiem by believers as they mature in the faith by exposure to the means of grace. pg 166
form that the elements of worship take ... are shaped by our cultural setting ... an effort to discern the ways in which she is tempted by worldliness, what it means to be set apart from the world and how avoiding worldiliness promotes holiness. ... resistance fighters against worldliness, that is, to be a people set apart. pg 169
by stressing the subjective experience, the new music eclipses the objective basis for our coming to worship. This is reinforced by the characteristic repetition in the lyrics that atrophies sustained theological reflection on God, on his attributes, and on his works. pg 171
reformed worship is founded on the Word of God
reformed worship is theocentric
reformed worship nurtures God's people through the means of grace
reformed worship is dialogical
reformed worship is simple
reformed worship is eschatological
I think even from these few quotations and notes that the book is a product of careful analysis and prayerful concern with what "doth God require".
i'd direct the readers attention to:
The Regulative Principle: Scripture, Tradition, and Culture
An Email Debate Between Darryl Hart and John Frame
at [...] slash frame_articles slash 1998HartDebate dot htm
read it next. even before either of their books if you haven't already done so.
I'm not anywhere near the end of this study. I'm trying not to make conclusions but to listen to the positions and arguments. I like the book, mostly for its organization and skillful presentation of their principles, which i think are clear from the short quotes above. Their Big Point, that the church is against culture is worth keeping in mind, even if it is not quite right.
Some of the book could be challenging, such as in discussion of elements of worship which are incorporated into the church that have no foundation in the Bible (for instance, "advent wreathes") and how additions like these can be interpreted as being without warrant, and the believer is left in the situation in which they either don't worship during parts of the service involving those elements (which breaks the divine command to worship with the saints) or, if the believer is made to participate unwillingly, it then violates their conscience. Likewise if someone in church interrupts worship to raise hands or "talk in tongues", when no one else does it, they effectively practice "cutting off other worshipers in order to pursue a personal and privatized experience with God." Not sure I agree completely, but I do respect their devotion to an orderly and reverent approach to worship, with the foundation being Scripture and not caving to modern practices and entertainment.
Hart/Muether speak of the “dialogical” principle of worship, that is, worship in the form of a dialog between God and his people (namely, in the worship service we speak to God through prayer, through reciting of Scripture, creeds/confessions, etc) and God speaks to his people through the teaching of Scripture and the ordinances. Worship is seen in this regard as vertically-oriented, between the church and God, and not horizontal in relation (in other words, worship not to please one another). By definition this would forbid distinctions in gender and age (for example, no "kids sermon") or even in terms of music (e.g. "choir/guitar solos") but instead worship is defined as a specifically corporate activity in nature, with order and propriety.
The authors do note the clear distinction drawn in the Westminster standards between clergy and laity, one often blurred in the church today. According to the WCF the Reformed and Puritans taught that only elders should lead worship, even going as far as to teach that laity may not read Scripture as part of worship. Today, its not uncommon to find "worship leaders" who are generally laity that direct parts of worship, which is significant in that, while many expect expertise in society in terms of medical doctors and commercial airline pilots, there seems to be less of a general concern with the experience and training of the church leaders, especially with those who fill the pulpits in churches today.
This is a good work, and although I didn't agree completely, there was much I took away, especially in terms of appreciating the focus on holiness that is central to reformed worship. Only holy activities are appropriate because God has appointed these means for his people to glorify his name and to grow in grace. As believers we participate in holy things: a holy meal (the Supper), holy water (baptism), holy words (preaching), holy time (the Sabbath), and even the vocation of the pastor should be understood as a holy vocation for the glory of God. May God awaken our hearts to seek to worship Him in a way consistent with His glory and majesty!