God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To) | Douglas Bond
Bond, Douglas. God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To). Scriptorium Press, 2019. 270 pp. $14.99.
Amid the prevalence of an entertainment ethos of worship in the “postmodern, post-Christian, and post-biblical culture,” true worshipers cannot but welcome a biblically grounded perspective of worship (92). God Sings! provides them with its unique perspective that as our worship to God is a response to his revelation to us, so our singing in worship is to be a response to his singing over us. As Zephaniah 3:17 says, “[The Lord your God] will exult over you with loud singing.” Douglas Bond is the author of more than 30 books, adjunct instructor in church history, director for the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, leader of church history tours in Europe, and hymn writer. Well epitomizing his versatility in these roles developed for more than two decades, this book contends that congregational songs in contemporary worship saturated in an entertainment ethos should be recalibrated to those in a biblical ethos of worship.
Bond opens his discussion of our sung worship by presenting its biblical grounds: congregational singing should be done with reverence and awe as manifested in Hebrews 12:18 and in response to God’s singing over us as demonstrated in Zephaniah 3:17, and singing should correspond to the nature of his voice represented in Psalm 29. He criticizes the prevalent contemporary worship music for its man-centered view resulting from the emphases on church growth and cultural relevance and its theologically and poetically poor song lyrics. He explores the nature of the entertainment ethos of contemporary congregational songs and idolatry worship, contrasting them with the scripturally grounded regulative principle of worship. For substantiation, he compares the popular song “10,000 Reasons” and some of David’s psalms. For solutions to entertainment ethos-saturated songs of a repetitive and shallow nature, he urges lyricists to return to the authority of the Bible for more substantive content with theologically rich poetry, suggests hymns by Isaac Watts as a prototype for contemporary worship songs, and advocates the restoration of hymnals in worship.
God Sings! is another book on the war between theocentric worship and anthropocentric worship with the focus of congregational songs. However, it is unique in itself. Throughout the book, Bond’s erudition as author of scores of books and his expertise in creative writing, church history, and hymn writing are well interwoven, providing a variety of lenses through which to look into the focal issue—congregational singing in an entertainment ethos: biblical and theological grounds, entertainment, pragmatism, poetry, music, congregation, lyricist, composer, cultural and literary influence, historical and developmental account, textual analysis, liturgy, idolatry, psalm, hymn, hymn writing, and hymnal. These lenses give the reader a holistic view of the main issue of the book.
Another uniqueness of God Sings! is its attempt to combine theory and praxis. In general, books and articles concerning worship gravitate toward theoretical discussion. Bond’s personal experience as a hymn lyricist enables him to provide practical suggestions such as criteria for writing a good hymn in chapter twelve, though they are heavily focused on discussion with theological and poetic principles. Nevertheless, it is desirable to see writings on worship in any form be accompanied by praxis-related resources applicable to corporate worship.
God Sings! reads like a narrative of high fluidity, though inundated with detailed information as well as anecdotes or quotations from theologians, philosophers, poets, hymn writers, and musicians. In addition, not simply discussing issues biblically and theologically, he interweaves historical accounts and explications of song samples, from biblical poetry and traditional hymns to contemporary worship songs. It is essential reading for those who seek to sing in corporate worship in a biblically prescribed manner, including musicians, both from a biblical ethos of worship and an entertainment ethos, pastors, Christian song lyricists and composers, and laity.