Draw Near: The Heart of Communion with God | Scott Aniol

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Draw Near: The Heart of Communion with God. By Scott Aniol. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020, lx + 90 pp., $15.00 paper.

In this little book, Scott Aniol, associate professor of church music and worship at Southwestern Seminary, beautifully pictures the Christian life as one characterized by authentic worship, genuine abiding, and faithful communion with the Triune God. In doing so, Aniol enables us to see afresh the importance of drawing near to God, the priority of sharing with other believers in corporate worship and community, as well as the significance of regularly partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

Building on Heb 10:22, Aniol expands on the exhortation to “Let us draw near.” He notes that the idea of drawing near is a translation of a term that means more than just a casual coming toward something.
This exhortation to draw near means coming to the one, true, and living God. Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author compares the idea of drawing near to Old Testament worship practices as indicated in terms like “holy place,” “the veil,” “high priest,” “sprinkling,” and “cleansing.” Drawing near, Aniol maintains, is the essence of worship, the heart of communion with God.

Aniol provides wise theological framing of his subject, focused on the worship of God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, and enabled and energized by the Holy Spirit. The book is built around eight perspectives on the meaning of communion with God, including “the call to,” “the basis of,” “the meaning of,” “the heart of,” “the strengthening of,” “the fruit of,” “the threat to,” and “the recovery of communion with God.”

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Recognizing that worship is central in the existence and continuation of the church as presented in the New Testament, Aniol extends the trajectory of thought found in the writings of W. T. Conner, the Southwestern Seminary theologian who so greatly influenced the Southwestern community and Southern Baptist life during the first half of the twentieth century. Finding themes of continuity between the Old and New Testaments, Aniol uses the book of Hebrews as a bridge to find elements of Christian worship that are similar to those found in the Old Testament.

He highlights the centrality of the Christological orientation that forms and informs New Testament believers. Readers are led to see that the risen and exalted Christ gives a new depth and content to the worshiping community. Moreover, the church’s worship is influenced by the Holy Spirit. Fitting and acceptable worship can only be offered by and through the Holy Spirit. Building on these priorities and the continuity of the Scriptures, Aniol emphasizes the importance of community, including
the proclamation of the Word of God, the importance of koinonia, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Each reader will find portions of this book that are more applicable for his or her own Christian journey. I personally found Aniol’s emphasis on the Lord’s Supper to be quite valuable. The Supper provides a vivid reminder for believers of the One who provided our redemption and who is coming again. The celebration of the Supper is central to the church’s worship and thus should be a regular and frequent occurrence for the believing community, providing enablement and guidance for our shared
worship of the triune God, leading to fellowship, service, ministry, and outreach. In doing so, the church is reminded that it does not exist merely for itself but for the world. Aniol encourages believers to reflect on their call to discipleship, recognizing that the church has a missionary task that is not optional.

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While thoroughly practical and pastoral, readers will find guidance that is shaped by Scripture and deeply informed by theological conviction, leading to paths of faithful Christian living designed to honor and exalt our majestic God. In all of these things, we find implications for Christian fellowship and unity, enhanced discipleship, and a winsome witness before a watching world. Believers will be refreshed, renewed, strengthened, and encouraged by reflecting on the thoughtful insights offered in this fine work, which I am happy to recommend.

David S. Dockery
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, TX

This review first appeared in the Southwestern Journal of Theology, Volume 62, No. 2 – Spring 2020

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