Worshipping With Calvin: Recovering The Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism by Terry L. Johnson
Worshipping with Calvin is a book that deserves a wide readership. This book is most likely to appeal to Pastors, Music Ministers, and those in leadership of the church, but would be helpful to all of those in the pews as well. This is an excellent book that describes the history and benefits of Reformed worship that exemplified in the liturgies of John Calvin and other reformational pastors and those reformed men who followed them. It shows how the ministry and worship of the reformation was really a recovery of the best of the early church Patristics and ultimately and expression of Biblical worship. One may not be convinced at every point along the way but it is definitely a primer to get one thinking about the hows and whys of our corporate worship of God, but Johnson does write in a very convincing manner. If interested in how we ought to worship God then pick up this book.
The entire work may be summed up in that our corporate worship should be God centered and done in the ways God prescribes. It is kept God centered by being Bible filled, we see worked out through the pages of this book that we are to read the bible, preach the bible, sing the bible, pray the bible and more be structured by the Bible all of this done dependent upon the Holy Spirit. This is something not many would argue against but practically are our churches worshiping in a manner consistent with these principles. We have a limited amount of time each Lord’s Day so we must be aware that everything done outside of what God has prescribed for us to worship Him takes away from those. The book places an emphasis on the ordinary, or the simple in worship and therefore Johnson argues the Spiritual. The ordinary means of grace; word, sacraments, and prayer along with singing of Psalms and Hymns are the authors argues the God ordained and most proper ways to worship God and spend our time gathered together. Convinced of much of this already this book really deepened my understanding of the ordinary means of grace and thankfulness for them.
Areas that I found very interesting where the discussions on singing of Psalms and the structure of the worship service. Having never sang and metrical Psalm in a church service his description of the history and benefits of Psalm singing were great. Also being taught by the author that the structure or form of our worship services says something was an enlightening aspect of the book. He talks about how the structure of reformed worship is intentional and gospel centered showing how the structure speaks as well as what is being said does. He quotes Michael Horton saying the liturgy provides “ways of preaching the Word even before the sermon begins”. There was much more new that I learned reading this book but those are just a couple that stuck out.
The few critiques I have of the book are miniscule. First is the often referenced and quoted Richard Baxter. Several of Baxter’s works have been republished recently and even one called the “reformed pastor” and he is often talked about side by side with the reformers and puritans as one of the guys. Yet from what I have read and heard he has some very dangerous views on justification that would be outside of the reformed doctrine of Justification by faith alone in Christ alone by the imputation of Christ righteousness. I wish he would have made a reference in saying while Baxter’s views on worship may be helpful you want to be warned of his unorthodox views on justification. Feel free to correct me in comments on this if I am wrong.
Another would be what I thought was a strange section where he talks about Roman Catholic missionary Matthew Ricci and says he was “… among the most successful missionaries in the history of the church.” I hope he is saying successful in the view of Roman Catholics but bringing men into the Roman Catholic church doesn’t qualify as a successful missionary in my thinking. See page 278 for referenece.
Lastly of concern is his doctrine of infant baptism, while I agree that baptism is a means of grace, I am a Baptist so believe infant baptism is not taught in the scriptures and is for disciples alone. But I won’t write much on that because the book is written by a Presbyterian so it is to be expected and would be wrong if he did not defend the importance of his position.
I would recommend this book especially to those who may be considered the “young, restless, and reformed” as I know many men who have embrace the doctrines of grace but have not yet come to grasp the importance of the ordinary means of grace and the church gathered to worship. Also excitingly the author notes that there is a follow up volume in the works dealing with the implementation of this books subject. The title for the next volume is to be “Serving with Calvin”.
Publishier: Evangelical Press (EP)
Pages: 433 (320 text then bibliography and notes)
Boards: Paperback (has a nice feel to it in your hands, maybe in analogy it is like eggshell paint compared to gloss, I like it a lot better than many paperbacks I have.)
Paper and typeset: The paper is thick and decent quality allowing notes with minimal bleeding and also margins are fairly wide allowing for notes and didn’t creep too far down page towards the spine for ease of reading. The typeset was nice allowing for easy reading.
Bibliography: yes and with table of contents, is 47 pages long
Scripture index: no
index of persons: no
subject index: no
endnotes or footnotes: endnotes 75 pages of notes so made for a lot of flipping back and forth but some good material there.
This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for a review not required to be positive.