Tuesday, July 04, 2006

John Frame 'Worship in Spirit and Truth' (P&R)

Outstanding! JF's sub-title is absolutely right: A refreshing study of the principles and practice of biblical worship. This book does exactly what it says on the tin - examining the said principles and practices in a refreshing way...

Admission
The first time I read this (or, more accurately, skim-read this) book I thought it unclear (there may be a moral here for my skim-reading great and wise authors like JF!). Anyway, on this latest reading I think it an excellent book - clear, biblical, refreshing, and broadly right. Let me tell you why.


Negatives
On the negative side, it is certainly written for the American audience (which has an up-side in that it has the short & simple words & phrases they require!). It is thus written against a different back-drop and into a situation distinct to mine. This is noticeable in small ways - I know very few of the hymns/songs he refers to, and in much larger ways, such as the importance of the Westminster Confession in his argumentation... But I like the WCF and want to take it seriously while not always agreeing with every bit of it (see 'Why does it Matter' in my previous post on the Regulative Principle).

Possibly my major regret is that JF doesn't clarify the distinction between 'worship' and 'gathered worship' right at the start, and use those terms more clearly. This may well be deliberate, but I haven't worked out what positive he derives, and I think it slightly mars his clarity, particularly early on...

But it is great!
Not only from his other outstanding writings, but also because he plans and leads the worship (pp. 33-4 justify this use of that word!) at his home church, we know that this will be a serious and thought-through book.
JF takes seriously the issues of Presbyterianism's Regulative Principle, which has always been taken to state that nothing should be done during formal gathered worship other than those things commanded in Scripture, and argues for a revised understanding of it. Thus after 3 introductory chapters (basic principles, OT & NT) and the aforementioned argument (ch 4) he then describes the what, why and how of gathered worship over 8 chapters, with a final one talking through a real-life exemplar service he put together. Each chapter has questions after it to help us think things through.

I particularly appreciate this book because it avoids the unjustified & stifling minimalism so prevalent in other Conservative Evangelical treatments of worship, presenting exciting concepts with clear and cogent arguments.

JF is particularly excellent and/or challenging (for me) on:
  • The regulative principle, obviously (37-46)
  • What to include (57-60)
  • Worship leaders (63-65)
  • Christmas (66)
  • Covenant Renewal stuff (68-69)
  • Emotion (77-82)
  • Dramas (92-94)
  • Individual participation (106-107)
  • Music (111-120)
  • Psalms (125, 135-138)
  • Clapping & dance (130-132, 148)
As I have typed out that list, I see it is a pretty fair chunk of the book. Don't let that put you off! Anyway, I'll very likely be posting on some of these in the near future...

Conclusion
A great book - truly a r
efreshing study of the principles and practice of biblical worship, that we might all think more about how to worship in spirit and truth.

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