Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book Review-Give Praise to God

Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds., Give Praise to God: a Vision for Reforming Worship (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 2003), 516pp. Indices: Scripture, and Subject and Names.
reviewed by Doug Smith
Give Praise to God celebrates the legacy of James Montgomery Boice, late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. While not a book about Boice, this book honors his commitment to the glory of God by considering various dimensions of worship. The editors present a foreword, introduction, eighteen chapters, and an afterword from eighteen respected church leaders primarily from Presbyterian and Baptist backgrounds. In addition to the editors themselves, R. C. Sproul, Edmund P. Clowney, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Mark Dever, Terry L. Johnson, D. Marion Clark, Richard D. Phillips, Paul S. Jones, Donald S. Whitney, William Edgar, W. Robert Godfrey, Nick R. Needham, Hughes Oliphant Old, and Michael S. Horton contribute to this tome. Most chapters are so helpful as to deserve their own review, but space will only permit a brief survey in comparison to what this work deserves.
This book is the fruit of much research, experience, and zeal to help Christians think more biblically about how we are to worship God. It is divided into four sections.
Part one, "The Bible and Worship," begins with a helpful consideration by Ligon Duncan of what God says about how we ought to worship. Derek Thomas defends the regulative principle of worship, concluding that it frees us from the whims of men to worship God according to the Bible. Edmund Clowney writes on "Corporate Worship As a Means of Grace," but seems to skate over the surface and not really explore exactly what he means by "means of grace."
Part two covers the "Elements of Biblical Worship" in detail. Al Mohler makes a compelling case for expository preaching and Mark Dever shows how it ought to proclaim the Gospel, no matter what text the preacher is covering. Duncan and Terry Johnson urge the public reading and praying of the Bible, something that many "Bible-believing" Christians have sadly neglected. Marion Clark's chapter on the meaning and practice of baptism is helpful and thought-provoking even to those of us who reject infant baptism. Richard Phillips thinks deeply about the Lord's Supper and the practical considerations that attend it. Paul Jones persuasively defends the use of "hymnody in a post-hymnody world," while Terry Johnson invites us to the riches of Psalm-singing, arguing for inclusive psalmody (as opposed to exclusive psalmody, which permits no hymns of human composition).
Part three focuses on "Preparing for Biblical Worship." Don Whitney calls us to worship God daily in private, while Duncan and Johnson cry for a return to family worship, both chapters providing practical suggestions for including Scripture, prayer, and song in those times. William Edgar reminds us that we are to renew our minds in order to worship God in all of life. Robert Godfrey looks at the role of the emotions in worship, briefly critiquing Jonathan Edwards while upholding the legitimacy and necessity of emotions that issue from faith in Christ.
"Worship, History, and Culture" is the fourth and final part of the book. Nick Needham gives a very helpful and fascinating overview of "Worship Through the Ages" that covers a wide spectrum of time periods and church traditions. Hughes Oliphant Old explores "Calvin's Theology of Worship." Michael Horton proposes that the answer to the "Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today" is a countercultural faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is so contrary and offensive to this present evil age.
This book is a refreshing and relevant contribution to the literature of the church and worship. It is refreshing and relevant for the same reason: it prescribes faithfulness to the Bible, not a desire to cater to the whims of culture and marketing gurus, as the driving force in defining our philosophy and practices. It reminds us that worship is centered on God, not man, and that this God has spoken and made matters very clear about how He is and is not to be worshiped. Expositional preaching, substantive Scripture readings and prayers, biblically based songs, and obedient observance of baptism and the Lord's Supper should characterize our local churches. We should be regularly engaged in worshiping God as individuals and families. We need to apply His Word to all of life, loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Attention to the issues discussed in this book should deepen our sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of God. It serves to instruct our minds with truth so glorious that reverence, joy, and praise should be the inevitable results.
This book certainly belongs in the hands of church leaders, particularly pastors and music ministers. Church members would also profit from considering the material in many of these chapters, because this book calls us all to think rightly about how we approach and interact with God. It reminds to look to God's Word for instruction on worshiping Him, helping us to avoid the idolatry we are so prone to. A welcome antidote to the man-centered, market-driven ideas that masquerade as wisdom on worship, this book shows us why and how we should Give Praise to God.
This review has been submitted to www.discerningreader.com. RELATED RESOURCES: Robert G. Spinney wrote a booklet (free .pdf) to "highlight the key points" of Give Praise to God: “Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: an Appeal for Word-Based Corporate Worship.” Hartsville, TN: Tulip Books, 2006. An adaptation of the chapter by Ligon Duncan and Terry Johnson, "A Call to Family Worship" (free .pdf download accessible from the link) A lesson from Don Whitney: "How to Pray Through Scripture"

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