Call for Papers

ArtisticTheologian-JournalCover-final-proofThe editorial team of Artistic Theologian is pleased to extend a general call for papers for the fifth volume of our peer-review journal, due to be published in the spring of 2018.

We are looking for articles and book reviews on the subjects of worship, music, music ministry, culture, aesthetic, and related subjects.

Articles for the journal should generally be about 4,000 to 8,000 words and should be submitted to the Editor-in-Chief. Articles should use clear, concise English, following Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) for proper stylistic format. They should be submitted electronically as an email attachment using Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx extensions) or Rich Text Format (.rtf extension). Special characters should use a Unicode font.

Click here to download the most recent journal style guidelines for more detailed information.

Book reviews for the journal should be between 700 and 900 words.

Please send your submission to the Editor-in-Chief.

Submissions for Volume 6 are due September 1, 2017.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation

The Temple and the Tabernacle: A Study of God’s Dwelling Places from Genesis to Revelation, J. Daniel Hays. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. $19.99.

“The temple and the tabernacle serve as the dwelling place of God himself, and this ‘tabernacling’ presence of God among his people, relating to them in his gracious covenant love, is, without doubt, one of the most central and important themes in the Bible” (185). J. Daniel Hays, Dean of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University, makes this powerful statement in his book The Temple and the Tabernacle. The purpose of this book is for the reader to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of God’s tabernacling presence. By tracing through the “Bible chronologically, examining theologically how God’s presence, power, and holiness engage with people through ‘temples,’ or ‘temple-like’ places,” Hays aims to elucidate how “God dwells among his people and encounters them in relational presence” (10–11).

Hays opens with a brief explanation of the temple and tabernacle, and he examines the Greek and Hebrew words used to express them. He then traces God’s dwelling in the Garden of Eden, the tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. God’s departure from the temple and an examination of the second temple follow. Hays closes by elucidating the New Testament dwelling of God, and he explains what it means for Christians today.

Hays attempts to defend his thesis in many ways. First, He clearly explains the presence of God in the Garden of Eden. By examining God’s dwelling in the garden, Hays fulfills his goal of showing how the power, holiness, and presence of God dwelt among Adam and Eve. He argues that Eden carries temple-like qualities. Hays states that “the garden . . . is a place where God’s presence dwells in a special kind of way so that his people can be with him and worship him,” thus the Garden of Eden fulfills the “function of a sanctuary or temple” (21). Hays explains how God dwells personally with his people stating that “just as the tabernacle and the temple will become the residence of God and the place where God meets his people, so the garden functions in the same manner” (22). Hays makes a strong argument for the Garden of Eden being a temple where God’s relational presence dwells among Adam and Eve.

Another way in which Hays attempts to fulfill his telos is by examining the dwelling of God in the tabernacle. Hays provides evidence by illuminating the divinely prescribed items of the tabernacle. For example, he clearly expresses how God’s holiness, presence, and power is seen in the ark of the covenant. The “focal point of God’s presence” is the item that is the “most central and the most holy, the ark of the covenant” (36). The table of shewbread is another strong example given by Hays because it likely represents how God chooses to fellowship with his people (43–44). Similarly, with the altar of incense, “the smoke and fire combination fills the holy place and signals clearly that one is entering into a very sacred place and drawing near to the very presence of God” (51). The tabernacle’s purpose was to house the special, holy presence of God, and in it God powerfully dwelt among his people and traveled with them.

In addition to God dwelling in Eden and the tabernacle, Hays also argues that God’s special presence can be seen in the New Testament. Hays explains that Christ is the temple, and he uses John 1:14 as evidence that Christ tabernacled among his people. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, the individual Christian is a temple of God’s holy presence. Hays argues that the church is also the temple of God stating that “believers as a group (i.e., the church) function together as a temple as well, with Jesus Christ as the special cornerstone for this new temple, and the presence of God dwelling within the temple to empower and bless his people” (179). Hays clearly defends his thesis by examining God’s powerful New Testament dwelling in Christ, the Christian, and the church.

The aforementioned arguments and evidences are particularly strong. His explanation of how Christ fulfilled the tabernacle is informative and biblical. Also, his examination of God’s presence leaving the temple is thorough, and his archeological, historical perspective on Herod’s temple is informative. Overall, Hays was successful in achieving his aim.

Though written quite well, Hays’s book has room for improvement. His argument that Eden parallels the tabernacle and temple would have been enhanced by exploring Adam’s role as a priest in the Garden. He possibly stretches a couple of symbols, for example, the cherubim’s swords symbolizing lightning (23). The author’s statement that God “[did] not initiate the construction” of Solomon’s temple is problematic because he places Solomon’s building of the temple in a negative light, making inferences that are not clearly stated in Scripture (73). In contrast to Hays’s claim, 1 Chronicles 28:6–8 expresses that God chose Solomon to build the temple instead of David. Hays states, when examining 1 Kings 6:12–13, that “God does not respond to Solomon with praise or explicit approval, but rather with cautionary warning” (74). God’s warning does not provide proof that God did not initiate the building of Solomon’s temple, thus it seems that Hays’s claim is more speculation than sheer fact.

This book is highly recommended for those interested in Hebrew and Christian worship, history, and archeology. It includes helpful pictures and charts, which aid in the understanding of the topic at hand. Hays’s book is well written and informative: a great addition for any bookshelf.

John Gray
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song

The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song, by Constance M. Cherry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016. 272 pp. $22.99.

Constance M. Cherry is a professor of worship and pastoral ministry at Wesleyan University and holds a Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University and a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Worship from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. Cherry’s ministerial experience includes being a musician, worship leader, and pastor at churches that range from small to mega-church sizes. These churches have presented Cherry with various styles, people who have been musically literate and not, one race majority, culturally diverse, in rural areas and in metropolitan. The author clearly has both academic and vocational training and experiences that have prepared her to write on the topic of worship. By writing The Worship Architect, Cherry seeks to assist people who have been charged with musical leadership in a local church with carrying out their duties in a way that will glorify God and edify the worshipers. Throughout this book, Cherry seeks to help leaders understand their role in the music for worship, and she gives steps that will encourage the worshiper to engage in song.

Cherry takes the reader through the many different facets that are involved in using music for worship and what she feels is necessary to engage the worshipers in song. To begin she claims that it is not the music minister or worship leader alone who are to be considered when constructing a worship service. Each person who has a hand in the planning process and execution of the music in the worship service is what Cherry calls a “worship architect.” Cherry also gives a new title to the worship music leader, pastoral musician, which she feels more accurately implies the roles associated with this position.

The book then proceeds through the many aspects of music for worship beginning with the foundation, God-focused song. In the subsequent chapters, Cherry presents the reader with the roles of music in worship, creating a logical flow with the songs chosen, and creating a canon of songs for the local church. The perspective of the book changes a bit in the remaining chapters, focusing on the music for worship and engaging the congregation rather than the liturgical perspective from earlier. Cherry covers the topics of maximizing song forms (both long and short), the local church’s individual worship voice based on context, leading the congregation in song, helping the congregation realize their role in worship to encourage them to engage, the formative nature of music in worship, and the pursuit of spiritual leadership through excellence.

Cherry’s organization of the book follows a systematic process that allows the reader to easily understand her main point and purpose. The strength lies in the foundational beginnings that Cherry presents. She first allows the reader to understand the roles of the music leader, and she defines worship and builds upon it to show how the leadership can engage the worshiper in song when it is constructed in the manner she presents. Also, it is organizationally fitting that the first and last chapters address the music “architect” since that is the intended readership.

With the idea of the worship architect in place, Cherry claims that it is not just the educated music minster that should engage the ideas of this book. According to Cherry, those who are musicians, tech/media personnel, and pastors are meant to engage in these thoughts as well. However, Cherry does not give much scriptural basis for many of the things that she claims. For example, when Cherry gives her definition of worship, she gives no foundational Scripture on which to support her definition. This happens throughout the book with other claims. It is dangerous for the uneducated reader, who is one of the many this book is for, to not have this scriptural foundation because without it their views are based solely on Cherry’s word.

Particularly helpful were the chapters that address the engagement of the congregation and the formative role that music has on worshipers. These chapters clearly spell out the worshiper’s role in the worship service. To help encourage the congregation’s engagement, Cherry provides the reader with information about the congregation’s proper role in worship. Her summary gives the reader or music leader the proper tools to educate their congregation and encourage them to engage in the songs of worship with proper intent. They then participate fully for the sake of others in singing with understanding.

Overall, this book was well-written and proves to be very helpful to those who lead music for worship in the local church. Cherry’s organization flowed from foundation to application well, and she leads the reader to many thought-provoking conclusions. The thoughts presented by Cherry are clear and each gives one part of the blueprint to engage the congregation in song. If the two books that came before this, The Worship Architect and The Special Service Worship Architect, are as informative as this volume, they would be well worth reading.

Matthew Stringfellow
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, by Paul David Tripp. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 198 pp. $14.27.

“No matter how hard I try, I just cannot seem to get it right!” Many people hear this phrase in common, everyday life. If one were to quickly discern the issue and was also a believer, he or she would be able to deduce that this person is trying to earn his or her righteousness. However, there is another issue at play: placing their awe, hopes, and trust in themselves. In his book, Awe, best-selling author Paul Tripp contends that all humanity is wired to be in awe of God alone. Placing awe in anything or anyone but Him will ultimately lead to failure, dissatisfaction, confusion, and inevitable destruction.

Tripp informs his readers that humanity was specifically designed by God to be in awe of Him alone. The Creator God specifically designs all desires, thoughts, words, tastes, and actions. When man tries to replace God with other means that serve to remind him of the Creator, he will become frustrated, confused, angry, disappointed, and blinded because he has placed his hope in something that cannot withstand the weight of worship. Tripp brings a refreshing view that one who finds his identity in the world finds worry and short-lived satisfaction; however, when one finds his identity in Christ alone, he will find hope, peace, and joy.

Tripp supports his thesis by presenting examples of how humanity is amazed in the world today: the thrill of catching the biggest fish, the astonishment of a flawless performance, starting a business, and seeing a film in IMAX 3-D (13-16). He argues that it is not wrong for human beings to want to be amazed because they were designed to be amazed. The problem is human beings are far too easily entertained; when they place their ultimate hope of being amazed in the means, the things that are designed to remind man of the glorious God, they will find themselves disappointed because they have transgressed against the Creator. Tripp uses the Fall and the story of Cain and Abel as examples of awe gone wrong. Eve, seeking to have the knowledge of God and getting what she was forbidden to have, ate the fruit of the garden out of pride and lustful desire for the unknown. Tripp says, “We want godlike recognition, godlike control, godlike power, and godlike centrality” (28).  As Adam and Eve sought to be like God and govern their own choices, so does man in his treadmill search of amazement in the world when it can only be found in God. The principle that Tripp wishes his readers to grasp from the tragic historical account of Cain and Abel is, “awe of God is very quickly replaced by awe of self” (29). Cain sought his own good and killed his brother because his offering was favored over his own. Tripp calls this misplacement of awe “awe-wrongedness (AWN)” (26). This sickness can cause ministers to shift their purpose from proclaiming God’s name among the nations to agendas being completed (44).  The process of replacing the end to where the awe is directed will lead to self-centeredness, horizontal addiction, and disappointment.

Tripp asserts that what he calls horizontal addiction will lead to amnesia of vertical awe. In the realm of horizontal addiction, the creature replaces the Creator in regard to what is worshiped. Take food, for example: when the taste, smell, and texture serve to remind man of a good God who gave us the biology to sense all of these, it could become the focus of everything for man. He also addresses one concept that affects how man views everything from ministry to parenting to the workplace: worldview. Tripp references Isaiah 40 to show how that particular passage so adequately presents the sovereignty of God. Tripp brings this to a level of understanding with topics of parenting and work for the general layperson. He places awe into the big picture of parenting and work by directing his readers towards the great chief end of man: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The strength of Tripp’s argument lies in the chapter on worldview (131–44). He presents two types of worldviews: “Two-Drawer” and “Here’s Your God.” The “Two-Drawer” worldview has two drawers. The first drawer, “real life,” has everything that man encounters on a daily basis, and this is the drawer that dominates his life (135). The other drawer, the “spiritual” drawer, has everything to do with God and the spiritual life (135). Tripp argues however, that this worldview is contrary to Isaiah 40, which illustrates God as one who cannot be isolated in a small drawer. In fact, Isaiah 40 is what he calls “worldview literature” or the “Here’s Your God” worldview (136). Tripp’s treatment of this passage reveals why God is the ultimate glorious end where every relationship and circumstance must be brought under the lens of His inspired Word. Looking at the world through an Isaiah 40 lens, he or she will see that everything was created by God and for God. Those without this worldview will experience disappointment, confusion, selfishness, and anger. Having an understanding of this worldview provides strength because this worldview draws from the inerrant Word of God. Tripp supports his argument by using the universal concept of parenting. He recounts experiences of parents who come to him confused and broken because they hate their relationships with their children. He goes on to explain that he believes it is because their worldview is to produce “good” children. However, Tripp addresses that the problem is that children are born with an idea of autonomy and self-sufficiency (161). While Tripp does say that the law is important to establish in the home, he also addresses the heart, which is blinded by sin and self (162–64). Tripp says that the role of the parent is to do everything they can “to put the glory of God and His grace before our children so that the awe of God would rule over their hearts” (163). The comfort gained from this quotation is that God has already done this through creation. Parents must direct the children’s discovery and awe to God and pray for the salvation of their souls (163).

The weakness in Awe is Tripp’s address towards “awe-fickle” hearts (70). He states, “Only when we admit that we have awe-fickle hearts will we begin to reach out for and cling to the forgiving, transforming, rescuing, and delivering grace of Jesus” (70). This seems to be a hazy version of confession and repentance. Tripp’s argument would be clearer and more concise if he clearly stated that sinners must confess and repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Awe is a refreshing call to refocus awe towards the Creator and is applicable for the worship team, layperson, parent, coworker, or unbeliever who has “awe-wrongedness.” This a great book to read in the context of a small group, worship team, or leadership team.

Benjamin T. Bickley
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Creating Missional Worship: Fusing Context and Tradition

Creating Missional Worship: Fusing Context and Tradition, Tim Lomax. London: Publisher’s Church House Publishing, 2015. 192 pp. $22.70.

“God is not found exclusively in the church—he is out there” (102). With his strong conviction on the importance of creating missional worship, Tim Lomax, a member of the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England and Chair of its Evangelical Worship Consultation, asserts that worship should be a blend of the liturgical tradition and the context of the worshipers.

The book outlines two sections in its eight chapters. The first four chapters explore the roles of context and tradition in worship. Each subject is examined separately after having addressed briefly the debate that is going on regarding the two matters. The second four chapters of the book present ways that the marriage between context and tradition might be kept alive. This section offers building blocks for creating missional worship, and it explains how these building blocks could be applied in practice.

The author makes his point through several means. First, Lomax anticipates the possibility to fuse context and tradition in worship. He states that “liturgical tradition is the liturgies, ritual, practices, and frameworks that we have inherited and developed over the years. The context is contemporary culture and local community” (3). By putting the natures of context and tradition in such a way that there are elements that the two could share, though they may be often held in opposition to one another, the reader can see the potential to tackle these two aspects of worship as one. Also, by mentioning the strong and weak points of both aspects (58), the author clearly states that neither of them is perfect, but a better solution could be brought about by fusing them together.

Second, the author provides reasons why worship should be contextualized. Perhaps, one of the most prominent reasons to support this would be his theological conviction on contextualization as it is found in the communal life of the Trinity (18-20). By illustrating the interpersonal relationships between the persons of the Godhead, the idea of giving space for particularity, while moving collectively toward salvation, is clearly highlighted. It also emphasizes the Church’s role in missions as reflecting the communal life of the Trinity.

Third, Lomax presents the advantages of keeping traditional worship elements in contextualized worship. He elevates the meaning of liturgical acts in the Church of England by pointing out the fact that God’s narrative lies in them (48). Also, by reminding readers that the liturgical tradition is heavy with the expression of mission (55), the place of tradition in worship is clearly established.

Lomax continues to assert that worship can be contextualized within the frame of the Anglican liturgical tradition. Creativity, he suggests, is an essential device for blending old and new. This notion is accentuated by the biblical truth that God is the Creator. Since everyone is made in God’s image, they ought to be creative in forming missional worship (97). The author also suggests keeping a balance to avoid worship wars. Terms such as “bend it like Beckham” (60) and “freedom within a framework” (62) are used to support the idea of keeping the context and tradition in balance.

Continuing the concept of fusing the two, the author writes on the concept of “worship that goes out” (77). By addressing the need to provide various worship acts for people with different learning styles (96), the idea of engaging with people from all kinds of backgrounds is emphasized. In opposition to worship that only serves church members, throughout the book the author frequently uses the terms “concert worship” and “one-size fits all worship” in order to avoid creating the kind of worship the terms represent. The idea of engaging with a diversity of people is also supported by several building blocks that will promote blending of context and tradition (78-103). Such building blocks include thoroughly Trinitarian, disciple-making, expressing generosity, inspiring creativity, attractively authentic, etc. All these aspects strongly reinforce the author’s standpoint that worship should draw individuals with different backgrounds to the church.

Finally, the author presents the picture of how missional worship should be in practice. A number of examples for alternative worship is provided within this content, the author claiming that “worship, prayer, and fellowship are by no means confined to our church building and services” (127). With such a strong conviction on reaching out to unchurched people, Lomax offers mission-oriented styles of worship, such as Liquid Worship (20), Eucharist in café-style worship (116), interview in worship (122), using movie clips (124), etc. These examples clearly reflect the author’s argument for creating worship that engages with people where they are.

The author puts a heavy emphasis on creativity in missional worship, and he does this very effectively. Throughout the book, several suggestions and examples of creative styles of worship are provided, some of which, if not all, appear to be usable and practical. An example of this would be an outdoor men’s retreat, which he calls “Band of Brothers” (69), that is designed for men to spend time learning about how they can meet with God in the wild.

Although a multitutde of creative ideas for worship are presented well, these ideas appear to be rooted in the author’s own suppositions. Focusing on the subject of Christian public worship, a book like this could have explored more on the biblical foundations of worship. Apart from stating that missional worship should reflect the characteristics of the triune God, the reader is not informed about worship according to biblical norms. Every time the issues rising from contextual or traditional aspects of worship are discussed, blending the two with creativity is taken as the sole solution for solving those problems. Again, the reader’s expectation to see what the Bible says about these issues is not provided.

One other concern is that the author seems to take inculturation to an extreme level in some of the contexts presented in the book. While creativity is given great weight in missional worship, some of the provided suggestions seem to be focusing too much on attracting people instead of leading people to experience Christian values through worship. One example would be worshipers texting their confessions to a central number and receiving back an absolution in the form of a text message (68). Even in outlining the contents of the book, only the question of how much weight should tradition be given in fusing the two is taken into consideration, but the same question is not raised for contextualization. This appears to contradict the important concept of balance between context and tradition in fusing them.

Despite the weaknesses mentioned above, the book is a useful resource for evangelism, and it is readable and very practical. An appendix includes programs of the worship styles presented throughout the book allowing for the service orders to be seen clearly. Because some of the subject matters discussed in the book appear to be revolutionary, it should be read with some caution. Other than this, many ideas displayed in the book can be a fresh insight for church ministers and worship leaders in creating worship that engages people from both inside and outside the church.

Ruth Aung
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Worship Wars: What the Bible Says about Worship Music

Worship Wars: What the Bible Says about Worship Music, by Robert Bakss. Port Orchard, WA: Ark House Press, 2015. 271 pp. $19.99.

Do “worship wars” still exist in evangelical churches? The answer is yes. While many would argue that the “worship wars” of the late 1900s solved this issue, Robert Bakss argues that “worship wars” have occurred over many centuries and will always continue as long as personal opinions occur in the local church. Robert Bakss, Senior Pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Australia, explores this topic in his book Worship Wars: What the Bible Says about Worship Music. Bakss creatively develops this journey of biblical worship through the lens of George Lucas’s Star Wars series by using chapter titles such as “May the Music Be With You.” After having a personal “worship war” within himself, Bakss writes this book to investigate music and singing as it pertains to use in the local church after a careful observation of biblical texts (6–7). He intends this book to be “a biblical guide to worship music spanning early church history to the present day; providing clear, concise guidelines, Biblical principles and practical suggestions to support the implementation of a balanced blend of traditional and contemporary worship music in churches” (Back cover).

Bakss accomplishes the part of his thesis, which encompasses the majority of the book, to be a “biblical guide to worship music spanning early church history to the present day” in the first section of the book “The Rise of Music.” He does this by providing the reader a biblical foundation of why people worship because, “If we get so focused on how we worship, its easy to forget why we worship” (12). This statement is vital to today’s discussions on worship because often the “why” takes a backseat to the best way on “how” to worship. Bakss begins this discussion on why people are to worship by examining specific commands of Scripture relating to biblical worship, paying special attention to the Psalms. Secondly, Bakss provides the reader with a philosophy of worship in the second section of the book. In this section, Bakss discusses topics including drums in church, the morality of music, and if rock music is appropriate for worship within the context of biblical worship. He pays specific attention to the role of drums in biblical worship by tracing their function from early Hebrew worship in chapter seven to the present, further supporting the first point of his thesis. As additional support, the third section of the book focuses on new music in worship by taking a historical approach to new music in worship, examining the movement from psalmody to hymns, to a more modern shift from hymns to Contemporary Christian Music.

In support of the second statement of his thesis, “providing clear, concise guidelines,” Bakss provides these guidelines in chapters fifteen through twenty. He covers topics including “When does the worship music become entertainment?” and “What should I do if my choice of music offends my brother?” Specifically in chapter twenty, Bakss provides biblical guidelines for selecting worship music.

Bakss covers the final section of his thesis, “biblical principles and practical suggestions,” in the final major section of the book. He does this by providing examples from the Psalms and other biblical passages discussing music in the service of the church.

Overall, there are many positive aspects to this book. Bakss does an excellent job in his research for this book because he approaches the topic of worship from a legal perspective (6) much like Lee Strobel does in his book The Case for Christ. Bakss also understands that “the need to focus on the biblical texts is especially needful in the area of music, since subjective feeling and cultural bias have historically clouded the truth” (7). Because of the legal approach to his writing, he writes with a level of objectivity, which is missing in many contemporary books on the topic of worship, especially the preferential treatment on worship. He fully supports his thesis by providing the reader with a historical, biblical history of worship, biblical principles to abide by, and practical suggestions for implementation in worship services.

Worship Wars provides the church a dialogue of topics that are still debated in the local churches. Bakss gives a good, solid foundation for churches to look at a biblical model of worship. This book is an excellent entry-level book for pastors and lay people to begin a conversation about worship, its foundations, and many of the problems that churches encounter today.

Matthew Phenix
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy

Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy, by Michael Waschevski and John G. Stevens. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014. 92 pp. $15.00.

Michael Waschevski is currently an associate pastor of programming and pastoral care at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and has served Presbyterian churches in Michigan and Texas since 1999. Co-author John Stevens is Waschevski’s stepfather, also pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, California. Because Christian churches have many different worship styles, ranging from traditional to contemporary, Christians may ask themselves what constitutes proper worship and which elements are essential for a worship service. Waschevski and Stevens depict the shared perspective of Christian worship of Presbyterian churches (largely all major Protestant denominations) with liturgical orders, elements, and seasons in the book Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy. Recognizing the correlation of every liturgical order, significance of the worship element, and proper interpretation of the liturgical church calendar, the authors emphasize the importance of “excellence” on the matters that humans can control and plan in worship.

This book has fourteen chapters, which address the order of worship, music and the arts in worship, and the liturgical calendar. In chapter one, the authors introduce a four-fold pattern that most major denominations follow: 1) gathering in response to the love and invitation of God; 2) hearing and responding to God’s Word; 3) sharing the meal and giving thanks; and 4) departing to serve God in the world (2). The next four chapters discuss each section of the four-fold pattern including the orders of transition. Chapter six focuses on how music and the arts are used in worship and what they signify. The authors define worship as a multisensory event and argue that the elements of music and arts in worship deeply engage the heart, mind, and soul. Throughout chapters seven through thirteen, the authors investigate the origins, the implications, and the ways of appropriate celebration of the liturgical seasons, such as Christmas, Epiphany, Advent, Easter, Lent, Holy Week, Pentecost, and other minor seasons during ordinary time. Finally, the last chapter concludes with the question, “Is worship important?”

Waschevski and Stevens argue that successful worship should be a work of the Holy Spirit, and man cannot control it (xi). However, the authors underscore that there are certain elements that man can control and plan so that the Holy Spirit freely works during the worship service. The goal of this book is “to describe in clear everyday language why we worship as we do and to help equip worship planners and leaders for excellence in their ministry” (xii–xiii). Regarding the goal, the authors focus on two significant elements.

First, the authors emphasize excellence in preparation and planning. In chapter one, they describe the aforementioned historic four-fold order, its sequence, and the significant characteristics of worship, which are interactive, responsive, and participatory (3). In order to vitalize those characteristics of worship, the leaders need to understand “a sense of the feel and function of each segment of the worship service, and how it prepares for and flows into the next segment” (4). For example, the liturgy of gathering is important because it is a transition into worship from everyday life. The worship leader may welcome people and briefly share information, but the leaders should plan on the liturgy of gathering being “short and joyous,” since it is an invitation of God and is followed by other liturgical orders (7). The authors also ensure that the preachers or worship leaders should let church staff know the Scripture passages as early as possible so that other elements of worship (such as hymns and anthems) can be integrated with each other (11). The Lord’s Table should be coordinated as simple, communal, and joyful. It is joyful because the Table signifies not only Jesus’ crucifixion but also His resurrection, and it should be prepared in detail so that the time of worship may not be delayed for any unexpected reasons (19–20). Through the chapters about the church calendar, the authors still emphasize the importance of intentional preparation; they argue that the true meaning and messages of each season can be conveyed purely and fully only through the well-prepared and organized worship services.

Second, the authors highlight the excellence of the quality of music and the arts in worship in chapter six. They do not focus on choosing the genre or style of music in worship, but music that is “excellent and eclectic in style and genre (for vital and faithful congregations)” (26). Liturgical dance and visual arts also should be excellent as they represent worship itself (30). For example, there are certain colors and symbols that should be used in worship following the church calendar, and this form of art makes worship richer and more vital (30–31). Music and other artistic elements encourage the congregation’s participation whether they are professional or non-professional. These elements of worship “have the ability to engage the hearts, minds, and spirits of those who worship” (32).

The most important contribution of this book is the well-addressed and well-organized discussion of liturgical orders and seasons throughout the entire volume. First, the authors investigate each liturgical element in a worship service from the beginning of the order (gathering) to the end of the order (sending out). Then, they examine special church calendar seasons, including Christmas (and Epiphany), Advent (preparation of Christmas), Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, and other minor seasons. These well-organized sequences help the readers understand the meaning of church liturgy and to think upon appropriate practices that Christians should do. Furthermore, the readers can discern how each worship service fits in a broader liturgical context. However, the relatively weak part is that the authors give little attention to churches that do not have a large membership or vast financial resources. It seems that many elements that the authors emphasize require certain amounts of human and financial support. Although one can apply the topics like “well-prepared” or “excellence” to any circumstance, no matter the size of the congregation, some small churches cannot help but spend their resources and energy to maintain the church or worship itself. It would be worthwhile to discuss the appropriate way to apply the authors’ ideas and insights to small or developing churches.

Rhythms of Worship: The Planning and Purpose of Liturgy is readable and not too intense as compared with other books about liturgy; not only the pastors or worship leaders but also congregations can read it and understand liturgical worship forms with historical and theological perspectives. Also, the questions for reflection after each chapter can be used in a small group setting for discussion, and they help readers to practically apply what they have learned.

Eun Byeol Lee
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Posted in Book Reviews

Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective

Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective, by Andrew B. McGowan. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. 262 pp. $29.99.

The phrase “Rome was not built in a day” is also fitting to describe early Christian worship, as it too was not established in one day. In Andrew B. McGowan’s Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective, he explores the beginnings of Christian worship in the first four centuries of the early church. McGowan, an Australian native, is an ordained Anglican priest, and he has held the position of President and Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University since 2014. The purpose of McGowan’s book is to trace the roots of Christian worship; he argues that the origin of Christian worship was shaped by a belief that worship is formative and should therefore reflect a distinct Christian identity.

McGowan begins by defining worship as “practices that constitute Christian communal and ritual life” (7). He then divides elements of Christian worship into six parts and engages in a discourse with each element to explore its origin as well as its development in the Christian liturgy; these elements are meal, word, music, initiation, prayer, and time. In his second chapter on the meal, he examines how the Eucharist evolved from being a component of the evening banquet meal to being part of the morning service. Then in his third chapter, he explains the importance of reading the Word aloud and how the interpretation that followed eventually became its own entity, known today as preaching. Next, his fourth chapter addresses music in the early church. Even though it was not common to sing in worship, the origin of singing also emerged from the evening banquet meal. Following, his fifth chapter looks into the initiation rites of Christians that includes baptism, anointing, and foot washing. Then in his sixth chapter, he discusses prayer in the early church by summarizing writings from Tertullian, Origen, and the Apostolic Tradition for insight. Lastly, McGowan closes his study with time by investigating the development of feasts and fasts in the church year.

The majority of McGowan’s discussion on tracing the origin of Christian worship, which includes the Eucharist, reading, preaching, and singing, stems from the early church’s gathering for the evening banquet on the Lord’s Day. McGowan explains:

We begin consideration of these meals not because of the prominence the descendants have for some Christians now, however, but because of their place then. They were not merely one sacramental part of a community or worship life but the central act around or within which others—reading and preaching, prayer and prophecy—were arranged. (20)

Since gathering for a meal was communal, early believers would inevitably observe the Eucharist, read the Word, and sing. McGowan explains:

All these Jewish meals are useful for comparison with the evidence for Christian communal eating; none of them provides a simple model adopted or adapted for Christian use, however. The Eucharist emerges in the same world as these forms, aware of some of the earlier ones, but developing alongside rather than merely out of them. (25)

In other words, McGowan’s conclusion that the Eucharist was developed alongside rather than from Jewish meals is paramount to support his argument that the origin of Christian worship was anchored by a need to shape a distinct Christian identity.

Next, public reading of the Word was common in synagogue worship; however, McGowan defends a distinct difference in a Christian reading of the Word:

Thus the commonly held view that Christian liturgical reading of Scripture has its origins in the synagogue may be broadly right, but wrong in the ways usually envisaged; it was not an organic, immediate, or universal bequest to the fledging Christian movement but a later borrowing necessitated by a real (if sometimes exaggerated) ‘parting of the ways’ wherein relations changed sufficiently for the synagogue no longer to be an obvious locus for Scripture to be heard and interpreted for Christians. (83)

McGowan acknowledges that the public reading of Scripture was an aspect of Christian worship that derived from synagogue worship, but the major shift is that the interpretation comes from a Christian perspective. Hence, the reading of Scripture aloud followed by an interpretation later evolved into a preaching of the passage. McGowan’s examination of the origin, reading the Word supports his thesis for Christians to have a clear break from synagogue worship to form their own identity.

Although McGowan’s meticulous study on the origin of Christian worship is well researched, the only weakness in his book, from a Baptist perspective, is his discussion on infant baptism. Indirectly, McGowan makes a case for infant baptism by explaining:

Baptism is often referred to in ancient texts as a ‘seal.’ . . . Circumcision, with which baptism was at times compared and contrasted, was also termed a seal (cf. Rom 4:13); as a literal marking of the body, circumcision was also the sign of a covenant relationship, contract, or treaty. (153)

In other words, there is justification for infant baptism by reinterpreting it as the new form of circumcision. Furthermore, McGowan states: “Many infant baptisms were taking place by this time and had certainly been common in many communities for a century or more. Augustine himself provided impetus to that trend, or at least a clearer theological underpinning” (169). It was Augustine’s doctrine of original sin that gave prominence for the baptism of infants (169). Although McGowan’s Anglican background gives him reason to advocate infant baptism, he nonetheless does acknowledge there is limited evidence on the practice of baptizing infants in the first and second century, adult baptism was the norm (145).

McGowan’s book is essential for anyone interested in understanding the origins of Christian worship. His straightforward writing and organization makes it easy for the reader to grasp his thoughts. However, from the way McGowan engages with the facts in his book, it is recommended for the reader to have some knowledge as well as understanding of early church writings and history to serve as a foundation to comprehend the conclusions that he makes. Moreover, McGowan’s book would be wonderful as a course textbook for upper undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral classes to slowly study each chapter and discuss McGowan’s arguments on the origins of each element of Christian worship.

Jessica Wan
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Seeking the Face of God: Evangelical Worship Reconceived

Seeking the Face of God: Evangelical Worship Reconceived, by J. Daniel Day. Macon, GA: Nurturing Faith, 2013. 287 pp. $18.00.

Daniel Day, longtime Baptist pastor and former Professor of Christian Preaching and Worship at Campbell University Divinity School, draws upon church history, experience teaching college-level worship classes, and decades of personal biblical study and pastoring to remind evangelicals that worship is about God, or, to use the King James metaphor, worship is seeking the face of God. As the book’s subtitle implies, Day believes evangelical worship needs to be reconceived to be less about us and more about God.

Day’s opening chapter confronts evangelicals with an accusation of worship confusion, likening today’s practices to a game without rules, and posits that recovering purposeful worship is essential to the Church’s vitality. Next, he evaluates four worship models, three that drew evangelicals off course and one offered as faithful to biblical intent and consistent with the Church’s historical practices. A third chapter reviews two millennia of Christian worship to ascertain enduring principles of worship.  His fourth chapter proposes a worship model for the twenty-first century. Day concludes with a new definition of worship and describes its implications.

Day’s critique of today’s evangelical worship is on point with an analogy of a rule-less game and a striking comparison to the biblical observation that “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judg 21:25, NRSV). He counters that authentic “worship is not simply a matter of personal taste” (6) but a “definable ‘thing’” (7) with characteristics that “incorporate enduring essentials” (7). In other words, Christian worship does have rules, and these rules “actually enable and enliven” worship (13). However, he warns when we re-discover these rules we may find that “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isa 53:8).

Day ascribes our confusion to neglecting the vertical-dialogical aspect of Christian worship, asserting this stems from three movements within evangelical worship’s recent history: Charles Finney’s “New Measures,” Robert Schuler’s “Hour of Power” television program, and the Pentecostal movement. Day characterizes these as Worship as Evangelism, Worship as Inspiration/Entertainment, and Worship as “Experiencing.” A full chapter—a worthwhile read of its own—describes these three movements’ origins, philosophies, and practices, and their contribution to our current worship chaos.

Day argues that through adoption of Finney’s “New Measures,” evangelicals lost worship’s New Testament moorings; that under Schuler’s entertainment model worship “became no longer about God, but about the performers” (56); and that Pentecostalism’s model replaced seeking the face of God with seeking our feelings (80). Day thus finds evangelicals believing every service must be compelling enough to win the lost, inspirational enough to attract outsiders, and emotional enough to demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s presence. He finds this both an impossible task and one without biblical warrant (86–87).

Here Day concludes that our understanding of worship must be reconceived: “It is not about selling God, nor is it about inspiring people with God-ideas, or generating electric moments when God may be experienced” (87). In fact, he concludes worship has no utilitarian purpose at all and, to quote Marva Dawn, “is a sublimely ‘royal’ waste of time” (88). The remainder of his book argues his vision of authentic worship.

Day proposes an alternative “truer to the biblical intent of worship” that he calls “seeking God’s face” (90). He further aims to regain contact with our theological heritage, arguing such contact reduces our “conceit that the Spirit was doing nothing of true importance until our immediate forbears came on the scene” (111).

To support his point of view, he escorts the reader on a high-level survey of church worship history, drawing applicable principles from pre- and post-Edict of Milan eras, and discovering seven landmarks, or “rules,” that “qualitatively differentiate corporate Christian worship” (180). This survey leads him to wonder “if our present worship conversations are nearly radical enough,” (138) suggesting we ought to spend more time thinking about worship’s substance rather than its style.

Under the rubric of “seeking the face of God,” and armed with the seven historical landmarks, Day proposes a worship order “both new and ancient” (191): worship with a Christological focus, “worship in the shape of Jesus’ life” (193). Applying the overarching Gospel narrative, Day envisions a four-part worship order: a Bethlehem moment, a Galilee moment, a Jerusalem moment, and an Olivet moment. In other words: a call to worship, revelation, reconciliation, and mission. He argues that this structure focuses the church on Christ’s life, forms it in His image, honors Scripture, reinforces a theological framework of worship, contains a rational narrative, incorporates worshipers into the gospel story, and lastly, is also the church’s historical norm of gathering, Word, table, and sending. Elaborating at length on this structure, he provides a biblical rationale for each phase, and offers detailed, practical suggestions for their implementation in an evangelical setting.

Day concludes that “Ours is to offer worship that is about God” (279), and this work does much to help us achieve that end. Easily digestible, well-researched, and annotated, it deserves a place on every worship planner’s bookshelf as a worthy companion to Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship for both inspiration and reference. The format, colorful inter-chapter “excursions,” and discussion questions also make it suitable for a college or discipleship class text. Indeed, as Day argues that congregations need to be “taught how to worship” (275), this book would be a good place to start.

Robert Myers
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament

Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament, by John D. Currid. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. 2013. 141 pp. $17.99.

Over the last two centuries, archaeological discoveries in the Near East have uncovered a multitude of similarities between Hebrew culture and the surrounding pagan cultures. Surprisingly, many religious parallels have also been uncovered, leading many scholars and theologians to question the relationship between the Old Testament and the ancient Near East. Did the Hebrew authors borrow from pagan religion and change it to fit their beliefs, contextualizing the Bible to their time? Did the Hebrew God evolve from the gods of the surrounding cultures? Is Judaism merely the result of syncretism or worse, pure invention? John D. Currid, Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and Project Director of the Bethsaida Excavation Project in Israel, offers a compelling alternative view that can help the reader better understand and interpret the Old Testament. He argues that the similarities between the biblical accounts and pagan writings were deliberate, carefully chosen parallels designed as a polemic against the Canaanite religions in order to reveal the true power and authority of the only God, Yahweh.

Polemical theology, a much neglected area of research, is “the use by biblical writers of the thought forms and stories that were common in ancient Near Eastern culture, while filling them with radically new meaning” (25). The trend of modern scholarship, Currid says, is to emphasize the similarities to the neglect of their foundational differences (23). Polemical theology attempts to highlight the profound distinctions, which reveal a deeper level of worldview, theology, and belief, drastically different from the surrounding pagan nations (57). Currid demonstrates that the biblical writers were thoroughly knowledgeable of the surrounding pagan cultures and religions, and they purposefully used parallels to critique pagan practice and contrast Yahweh, the one true God.

Unlike all the surrounding nations, which were rampantly polytheistic, the Hebrews were staunchly monotheistic. The gods of the pagan mythologies were created in the image of mankind, saw man as their slaves, and often behaved no better than humans themselves. By contrast, the God of the Hebrews created man in his image, values mankind as essential to the universe, and is the one who wills, initiates, and acts rightly (61). Furthermore, the religious literature of the Canaanites and Egyptians is written as mythology and accepted as mythology; the biblical writers wrote as recording actual historical events,  “accentuat[ing] the work of Yahweh that was done in history over against what was merely accomplished in the imagination of the [pagan] writer” (126).

Currid compares the biblical accounts of Creation, the Flood, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Moses and the Exodus, as well as examples from 1 Samuel, Isaiah, and the Psalms, to newly discovered literature of the surrounding Canaanite and Egyptian nations. The similarities are so striking and numerous that Currid says it cannot be mere chance; rather, he argues that the biblical authors deliberately paralleled key elements of pagan religions not only to expose the false nature of the pagan gods and reveal the true God, Yahweh, but to mock and humiliate them as inferior impostors, revealing the Hebrew religion to be ultimately superior. Two examples of this are Moses’s staff and the serpent – two objects venerated in Egyptian culture as representing authority and power. Moses, however, carried a mere shepherd’s staff (the Egyptians hated shepherds), which he threw down to become a snake (like the one adorning Pharaoh), which then proceeded to swallow the snakes of the Egyptian magicians, symbolizing to them not only a greater power, but assumption of their own power and authority, all of which both the Egyptians and Israelites would have understood. Thus, the biblical author shows through polemic that the one true God, Yahweh, triumphs and rules over the Egyptian false gods and the entire universe (119).

Currid presents a wealth of ancient Near East texts and accounts of biblical parallels in this work, explaining the polemical significance of each example. He gives a thorough introduction to polemical theology and makes a convincing case for viewing the Old Testament through a polemical lens as a means of gaining deeper insight and understanding. However, although he alludes to it, he does not contend that the source of cultural and religious commonalities is a common origin, that because Yahweh created all mankind, it is natural to understand how similar accounts would be passed down through generations, and then God set the record straight in his revelation of himself to the Hebrews. Instead, he puts the weight of responsibility on the choices of the biblical authors drawing parallels, rather than God himself choosing to reveal himself in parallels to show his ultimate superiority.  But perhaps Currid avoids this argument intentionally to limit his book to contrasting biblical writers with other pagan writers of the ancient Near East, emphasizing the reasons for the similarities.

Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament is an important work for conservative Christians because it uses scientific study of archaeological findings to support the authenticity of the Bible. It is also instructive for those who take a more liberal approach to the Bible. This is invaluable at a time “when a considerable number of scholars seek to diminish the originality and uniqueness of the Old Testament” (141). Students and scholars, ministers and lay persons will find this volume informative, engaging, and compelling.

Sarah Teichler
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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