5 Stars Out Of 5
An Amazing Ecclesiology
August 5, 2011
The Reformed Reader
There are not many books out there, which discuss the nitty gritty details of order and structure of the worship service. John Frame in Worship in Spirit and Truth does just this. Frame offers an interpretation of the regulative principle, which gives liberty to congregation to have certain aspects within their service, while omitting others. What are the essential elements of a worship service? Frame explains the purpose of the church service is worship and declaration of God's word. Music is a tool to accomplish this goal. Music is not a separate element of worship, but is a means to teach/accompany the believer in glorifying God. One benefit of viewing music in this fashion is that it allows you to be relaxed in regards to music style. The style of the music may be culturally sensitive, yet still hold the end goal equipping the church in knowledge of God's word. Contemporary and traditional music language is then thrown out the window. Both genres of music are then measured according to how they benefit in the education of the congregation. This view of music does not omit emotional aspects of music. Music still elevates the emotions of the people, and still acts as an instrument (no pun intended) of celebration. Speaking of instruments, Frame also has a great section in the book about the use of instruments. Frame knocks down a lot of the clichÃ© arguments, used by the Church of Christ denomination as to why we should not use instruments in the worship service of the church. Not only does Frame discuss the elements of worship, he also discusses the order/structure of the worship service.
Frame discusses the Historical, Reenactment, and the Dialogue approaches to worship. During this chapter Frame points out benefits and critiques of each approach. All three approaches display characteristics which may be beneficial to a local body, based upon its context. Often times those familiar with these approaches will hold a dogmatic position, in regards to why their approach is the exclusive position. Frame sees dangers with each position, demonstrating how each position "potentially" could have flaws with its approach. Frame offers all three positions as possibilities for churches to consider. One small critique I have with Frame in this section is with his critique of the Reenactment Approach to worship. The Reenactment Approach generally looks something like this: (this is the Chronological Order of the Service) the reading of the law, confession of sin, and assurance of pardon. Frame argues, "An important theological point is obscured by the reenactment liturgy. That is that redemption is in the past, accomplished once and for all." I think Frame's critique is a straw-man. Those who hold to a Reenactment Approach also see the redemption is secured in the pasted and accomplished once for all. John, in writing the book of 1 John, calls believers to confess their sins to one another. John says," "If we confess our sins one to another, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse of from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)." The context of this passage is to "Believers". Obviously these believers did not see confession of sin as something that obscured the fact that Christ's work was accomplished in history and was effective for all future sins. A church that practices confession and absolution would see this practice as a fulfillment of John's command. So, I think Frame's critique of this is a silly. Frame concludes the book by pulling all his thoughts together and giving testimony to how that looks within his own church.
Worship in Spirit and Truth is a well written systematic look at ecclesiology. Frame does an excellent job at explaining multiple positions and benefits of each. One reason I enjoy reading Frame is because he explains his position so well. Frame anticipates critiques and then dissects those critiques in his arguments. Frame also does a wonderful job at explaining deep theological truths in such a way that any lay person can understand the basics tenets of each position. Worship in Spirit and Truth from my perspective is very similar to Wayne Grudem's approach to systematic theology. Both authors explain a diverse range of positions and fairly present honest critiques of all positions. Frame in this work addresses issues that most ecclesiologies neglect (e.g. Should a church allow music with no words, drama, soloist, or dance into the worship service?). Although I recognize that most people will not agree with his interpretation of the regulative principle, I think it would be impossible to hold to a strict interpretation of it, without ever addressing his arguments. One thing that I admire about Frame, Bahnsen, and Van Til is that all three men have/or are devoting their great minds to making deep theological truths understandable on the lay level. Frame in this work has equipped another generation of believers with ammunition to think through why their church service looks the way it does. This book would be wonderful for Sunday School classes and small groups alike. TAKE UP AND READ!