John Jefferson Davis has given the evangelical church a breath of biblical/theological fresh air in his recent book, Worship and the Reality of God! When I heard the author speak at a conference last year and he informed the audience of the impending release of this book, I was anxious with anticipation, and have not been disappointed since receiving and reading the book. Davis is no newcomer to the field of theological literature -- he is a seasoned academic, long-time educator, and has contributed books and articles to a broad field of disciplines, including systematic theology, eschatology, ethics, abortion, economics, and the interplay between science and faith. This book, is far-and-away his greatest contribution so far; and is a must-read for any person who wants to worship God in spirit and truth.
The book is comprehensive in its scope -- it is not an ivory-tower treatment of an abstract concept. Rather, it is motivated by the author's love of God, and the desire to worship Him biblically, completely, and properly. This work was prompted by a sabbatical leave in which Davis visited many churches of every stripe and variety with the intent of observing their worship style and content. His conclusion is that the present evangelical church has missed the mark often in what it calls worship, frequently replacing its own ego for the true object of worhsip, namely, the Lord God Himself. He addresses every ingredient of worship from music to order to prayers to ambiance to technology. He is no prude, not easily dismissing things with which he may disagree. Instead, he seeks to allow for the creative movement of the Holy Spirit in every phase of the worship experience, but with a keen eye to what God really deserves in that experience.
Davis surveys the history of the church, vis-a-vis its worship practices and brings that to bear on his assesment of the changes that have taken place over the centuries. His critique is biblically and historically informed, always fair, and with the goal of finding the proper balance between the extremes. His call to the church is to practice worship as the most important thing we can do, where we meet the trinitarian God, where we offer to Him our very best, and experience His presence in an active, significant, real way. After reading this book, one should be energized, enthused, and passionate about what worship should be -- its message is motivating, encouraging, challenging, and needed given what is being presented as "worship" in the American church landscape.
The resources of the book are worth the price of its purchase -- there is an extensive annotated bibliograpy and helful notes throughout. Dr. Davis is acquainted with the progress of technology and the cultural expressions of our time and he creatively uses them to help us think about our understanding of God and our worship of Him. His corrective to what he assesses to be sub-biblical worship is stated in the following: "At the heart of the application I suggest that some form of an ancient-modern blended worship style be implemented to embody the new paradigm of the real, dynamic, peronal presence of God in Christian worship." He calls for energy, creativity, and passion in our worship, being cognizant of our need to make it trinitarian by not neglecting any Person of the Trinity. Further, he presses the need for more frequent observance of the Lord's Supper and a newer appreciation for liturgical forms.
As one who has grieved over the "worship wars" and the shifts of emphasis that have taken place in the church's worship life, I find this book to be a wonderful resource. Even if you disagree with the conclusions of Professor Davis, your understanding will be enhanced by his careful and reasoned approach to this most important topic.
John Jefferson in his Worship and the Reality of God addresses a common problem within modern churches, the lack of the presence of Christ within the worship service. Jefferson points out the modern church services are seeker-sensitive, narcissistic, man-centered services that lack Christ's presence. Jefferson's solution to the problem is revisit the tradition, weekly communion, reading of the word, prayer, a strong sense of the sovereignty of God, and above all making once again Christ to be the center of our worship service. Jefferson gives a lengthy history of how the church has left these core values and ways in which to revive these within the church. The book is filled with great modern illustrations which serve as useful tools for pastors who are looking for ways to explain these historic concepts in an applicable way. I personally think the book is worth buying just for its history and evolution of the Lord's Supper throughout church history. My only critique of the book is that he ad hominem when describing the cesssationist (particular spiritual gifts have ceased with the death of the apostles and the closing of the canon) argument as one whom denies the work of the Holy Spirit. Cessationist do not deny the work or power of the Holy Spirit, but argue particular spiritual gifts were only meant to exist within the church for a particular period of time (e.g. healing, tongues, and prophesy)Eph 2:20. The Cessational argument does not argue that this cessation occurs because the Holy Spirit now lacks power or the ability, but that scripture itself testifies to this cessation and gives example to this position (e.g. Phil 2:25-30- Paul unable to heal Epaphroditus who almost died from his illness, 1 Tim 5:23- Paul advised Timothy to drink wine for his stomach problems, 2 Tim 4:20- Paul left Trophimus sick rather than heal him). For clarification the cessational argument does not argue that God does not heal, but that the gift of healing for individuals has ceased. God continues as all powerful/healer, but the gift ceased with the closing of the canon and the death of the apostles. Apart from that I would highly recommend the book. The book Ã¢â¬Ës bibliography is also a great tool for anyone look for historic and quotable sources for a historical understanding of the Church's historic teachings on sovereignty of God, Lord's Supper, liturgy, and ontology. This is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone from the lay person to the scholar.