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In The Splendor Of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century Paperback – October 1, 2008
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Jon Payne has given us a gem in his new book, In the Splendor of Holiness . Cutting through the forest of opinion on worship, Dr. Payne gets to the heart of the matter in a brief but succinct account of what constitutes the heart of corporate worship. Nothing is more important than the public worship of God, but our age has yielded to the gods of flippancy and utilitarian- ism. It seems all too obvious to ask, what has God commanded that we do when we gather together for public worship? The answer? Here it is in his book! I cannot recommend it too highly. It deserves to be in every Christian home. --Dr. Derek Thomas, Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson
In the Splendor of Holiness is clear, well-reasoned, practical, and, above all things, thoroughly biblical. And it is as needed as it is helpful. I will consider this as essential reading for officer training classes, and it is suitable for distribution to prospective new member classes. Through Jon Payne's work we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd on a subject that has become part of the ruins of evangelicalism. Thankfully, with pastors like Dr. Payne, our Savior's church will be fed and led. This is a tool that every Reformed pastor should want his people to know and love. ----Dr. David W. Hall, Senior Minister, Midway Presbyterian Church, Powder Springs, GA
... In the Splendor of Holiness by Jon Payne is an excellent instrument to communicate the elements of true, biblical worship as well as a training manual for both the leadership and membership of a local church in fulfilling God's call to exalt in the praise of His glorious grace. --Dr. Harry L. Reeder III, Senior Minister, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL
About the Author
Jon David Payne was born and raised in Santa Clara, California. Dr. Payne is a graduate of Clemson University, Reformed Theological Seminary and the University of Edinburgh, New College. He has been serving as minister of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Douglasville, GA since June 2003.
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HOWEVER, the book makes the same two mistakes those seeking to defend their liturgical traditions seem to always make - first, seeing a lack of respect and/or a lack of piety in the service orders of those of other denominations (in this case, those that are not of the Reformed/"high church" tradition) and second, committing the error of a kind of circular reasoning by quoting authors from their own denomination in support of their thesis. I get a kick out of authors who complain that we should go back to Scripture to defend our positions and then go on to quote minimally from the Bible and abundantly from their own denominational ammo box. Admittedly, Rev. Payne is less guilty of this than others I have read, but the problem does underpin the book. You can't say, "The sky is blue" and then go on to use your statement that the sky is blue as your proof.
Take out "Reformed" and substitute in "Lutheran," "Anglican," etc. and essentially the book could stand for what the traditionalists of any particular denomination would want. Thus, in the end, while these books may have some sort of reviving effect intra-denominationally, I think books of this sort may do a disservice to the Church Universal inter-denominationally by (inadvertently?) harping on what makes the denominations different (the point is always "mine is right and yours is not," by the way) and by questioning the piety of those not like them. Augustine had it right - "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." We should truly look to apply this maxim here for in matters of liturgy, we should be very careful in staking out what amounts to doctrinal absolutes. God is the great "I AM" and what He says about right and wrong remain forever, but cultures and cultural norms do change.
I am an unabashed evangelical who is more comfortable in a liturgical setting and my travels in the military have given me the chance to experience a wide variety of settings in a wide variety of churches in a wide variety of denominations. I echo some of the author's criticisms of evangelical service orders (entertainment often seems to trump worship), but I cannot agree with his intimation that a more "relaxed" (as he calls it) service order is innately disrespectful. And the converse is not always true either - more formalized and traditional service orders do not necessarily lead to greater and better worship. Unfortunately, while the exterior trappings may be more dignified or respectful of tradition, the spirit of the congregation often is just as unfocused on the Lord as the evangelical rock concerts Rev. Payne criticizes. In fact, my experience has been that congregations often make idols of any form of liturgy used (something I would in all humility ask the author to ponder). In the end, if our hearts are not in true, God-centered worship, it does not matter what type of service goes on around them - it is either meaningless or falsely meaningful.
And there is where I find agreement with Rev Payne. Christian churches, in their desire for bodies in the pews, continue to - far too often - forsake good doctrine and preaching at the expense of the souls within those bodies. We are in desperate need of Revival.
One final comment. As one who came to Dispensationalism in his teens (from the Roman Catholic Church), I am very well acquainted with the movement and its tenets/statements/doctrines/beliefs. I will offer Rev. Payne the same comment I offered a very good friend of mine (and Lutheran pastor) - your effort is sullied by the discourtesy of painting an entire movement with the statements of a minority extreme. I'm sure you would not say the Reformed Church is typified by those you may deem extreme in your tradition; just so within Dispensationalism where Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, etc. are the norm, not the exception. I would also ask those who are of the amillenial tradition - what is it about dispensationalism that makes you so afraid? In the end, we do agree on the same thing - Christ wins ("Praise be!"). But in the getting "there" (Christ's ultimate victory), what are you planning to do with the very large number of Bible prophecies that in the amillenial tradition have no satisfactory answer or fulfillment? That's what dispensationalists are trying to answer. And in doing so, they are not seeking to divide, but bring greater glory to God by bringing "new" truths to the fore.
I admit that I came to this book with my own cultural and (non)denominational basis, so if I missed the author's point and have unfairly criticized him, I ask his forgiveness. In the end, I support his desire for Christians to take worship seriously - Jesus is, after all, no plush toy and God is, after all, not some sort of cosmic vending machine. He is our Creator and for that reason alone could rightly demand our worship. But He doesn't and for that reason, we should lovingly provide it. Maranatha - Come, Lord Jesus!
First, In The Splendor Of Holiness: Rediscovering the Beauty of Reformed Worship for the 21st Century is an extremely practical book. In logical order, this is not "first," but this is certainly the thing that most commends the reading of this book in my opinion. I said that it is a one hour read, but I would actually recommend blocking out about four hours with your wife and reading it with a pen and notebook in hand. Dr. Payne doesn't just make a biblical case for how congregations should worship; he gives specific suggestions for how congregants can best participate in biblical congregational worship. This book should be read with the intent of implementing it (If the worship at your church isn't biblical, plead with the elders to make it so. If they will not, find elders who will and ask that you might be entrusted to their spiritual oversight and care instead.)
Second, it is an extremely Biblical book. The great majority of the book is reasoned from the Bible--both simply and convincingly. It explains from the Bible why worship must be only according to God's instructions. It makes statements that are corroborated by Scripture references that clearly teach exactly that point. The correctives that he ends up making are devastating to what passes for worship in most evangelical churches today but is not congregational worship by biblical standards. This is a great starting point. I say "starting point," however, because there are several instances in which I think his own biblical argumentation could lead to a further reformation of worship even than he is arguing for. But, for those who are directionless about what the Bible commands for worship, this is a necessary and eye-opening read.
Third, this book has several sections that are especially superb. These include a section on why man-made liturgy is idolatrous (pp16-20) and especially on how every church has liturgy whether they acknowledge it or not (p18). The point about "style" and "preference" on p22 is excellent, as is the interaction with so-called "Christian liberty" arguments on p24. And I could continue like this throughout the entire book. I do want to mention, however, that the discussion of Baptism on pp91-93 is one of the clearest and most convincing Biblical explanations that I have ever read or heard on how circumcision looks forward to and is superseded by covenant baptism in the Bible. Likewise, the biblical view of the Lord's Supper (the "real, spiritual presence" view) receives an absolutely superb treatment on pp95-99.
In sum, this is a brief, easy, practical, biblical read, with some concise sections that are the best I have ever read on that particular subtopic. I heartily commend this book to you.
Leaves you wanting to dive into his suggested resources.