Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Book Review: Worship in Spirit and Truth
Worship in Spirit and Truth is written by Dr. John M. Frame. Dr. John M. Frame earned a B.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary, an A.B. in Philosophy from Princeton University, A.M and M.Phil. in philosophy from Yale University and a Doctor of Divinity from Belhaven College. He is professor of systematic theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando Campus. Dr. Frame has a number of books including but not limited to Apologetics to the Glory of God, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God and The Doctrine of God.
The purpose of Worship in Spirit and Truth (WST hereafter) is to provide Christians with a biblical understanding of worship. WST deals with both corporate worship and individual lifestyle worship, however WST focuses mainly on corporate worship.
The strength of the book is that it looks to scripture to provide biblical principals for worship, yet it does so in a way that also recognizes that the biblical principals must be applied to contemporary and particular circumstances. Frame does not sink into the shallow traditionalism that could be tempting for many within the reformed camp. WST contains a defense of contemporary worship music. Frame points out that contemporary music can be more intelligible to members of the congregation as well as those who might be visiting the congregation and are not yet believers. One of the major points in WST is that congregational worship should seek to be as intelligible as possible. Frame writes on page 135 “… it is evident that the words of hymns should be both scriptural and understandable to the congregation. Only such words can fulfill the vertical and horizontal purposes of worship: honoring God and edifying people.” Frame, a classically trained organist prefers classical music, yet he recognizes that as members of the church, we should learn to appreciate other forms of music for the sake of other believers.
There are very few problems with WST. One problem that I saw within WST is that Frame seems to support drama as a legitimate method of preaching. Frame thinks that it is possible for a dramatic presentation to be synonymous with preaching. This seems to misunderstand what exactly preaching is. He seems to reduce preaching to teaching and application. Preaching is not simple teaching and applying the word of God. This definition does not hold because “books” teach and apply the word of God. It seems to me that part of the definition of preaching is a monologue speech that teaches and applies that word of God. Another problem that I saw with the book is similar to the first problem. Frame at one point argues that it would be legitimate if the whole service was musical. I think that he tends to think that the sermon could be put to song. I would argue that a sermon is not music but a monologue speech that teaches and applies the word of God. I think that 2 Tim 4:2 and 1 Tim 4:13 teach that preaching should be a regular part of congregational worship. Thus, preaching should be done every service. If those passages do not teach it explicitly then they do implicitly.
One of the interesting things about the book is that, even though Frame is Presbyterian, he tends to depart from some of the traditional rules of worship found within the Presbyterian tradition. Frame takes issue with the idea that only the ordained minister should lead worship. According to Frame, although elders are given the responsibility to lead the congregation, this does not mean that they cannot relegate worship leading positions to non-ordained members.
I recommend this book for Christians to read. It is short with only 172 pages. Even if you disagree with contemporary worship styles there is still something in WST to be gained. WST continuously calls us back to the bible to find our worship practices but it also makes a point that the bible will be applied differently in different context. I leave you with one of the best quotes from WST on page 46 “We must be both more conservative and more liberal than most students of Christian worship: conservative in holding exclusively to God’s commands in Scripture as our rule of worship, and liberal in defending the liberty of those who apply those commandments in legitimate, though nontraditional, ways.”
Written by Stephen Stanford