Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Worshipping with Calvin

In Worshipping with Calvin:  Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism, Terry L. Johnson intends to "identify biblical norms and advocate their implementation in our day, without regard for polling data," (Kindle location 186).  This book is an apology to restore the reformed practice of the Word read, preached, prayed, and sung with the sacraments administered publicly and frequently.  The author lays the foundation for returning to the basics of worship based on biblical guidelines; however, practical applications for implementation will be available in his next book, Serving with Calvin.

Mr. Johnson is primarily concerned with historic Reformed worship and ministry, and therefore, chose to focus on its decline in the conservative Presbyterian denominations.  As a Reformed Baptist, I agreed with many points made by Mr. Johnson since they also align with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 22, paragraph 5:  "The reading of Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord's Supper, are all parts of religious worship of God..."  As to be expected, I did not agree with his view of Paedobaptism or Covenant Theology.

Thankfully, the Reformed Baptist church that I attend practices many of the reforms recommended by Mr. Johnson.  For the lay-person, this book has good information (especially if you are Presbyterian), but if you do not attend a church that agrees with the principles and practices of Reformed worship, then your only recourse would be to suggest that the elders read Worshipping with Calvin.  Based on the unique subject of this book, the target audience is very limited, especially in a Presbyterian setting where change happens from the top down, not from the congregation.

Mr. Johnson makes a case for singing God's word from the psalter by showing that Psalm-singing is biblical, historical, emotionally satisfying, and sanctifying.  Even though I cannot change the worship structure of my church, this book did inspire me to focus on Psalm-singing in my personal devotion time and as an alternate to Contemporary Christian Music in my car and on my phone.

Overall, I recommend this book for elders or leaders of Christian churches who do not currently adhere to the religious worship guidelines outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith or the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.  Readers outside of the Presbyterian denomination should be aware that they will encounter some theological differences and possible disagreement with some of the analysis of biblical history during the Reformation.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.