Book Review: Worship in Spirit and Truth
I finished reading Worship in Spirit and Truth by John Frame the other day. It was on my summer reading list, and I also had Jonny (the other worship leader at Cornerstone) and our bass player pick up a copy. I heard great things about it and I was really looking forward to it. I still haven’t really found a good book that really lays out a solid understanding of worship from a charismatic perspective. Most of the books I have (and I have a fair amount) just give ideas on how to do worship better.
I can’t even begin to tell you how absolutely disappointed I was. Frame comes from an entirely different world than I do. I am in a tradition where, if I choose to do a hymn in worship, I had better make sure it doesn’t suck. Frame is from a tradition where a whole lot of people reject hymns because they’re too contemporary, not traditional enough! These guys insist on singing only the psalms in worship. Now that’s just silly, and Frame takes that argument apart piece by piece. But I honestly don’t really care. No one I have ever known (or quite likely ever will know) believes anything like this.
The heart of the problem with reformed church worship is that they hold to “the Regulative Principle” of worship: if it’s not in the Bible, you can’t do it. Frame point out that every other branch of Christian churches, from Lutheran to Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox to Wesleyans to charismatics, all hold the opposite viewpoint: it is okay unless the Bible explicitly condemns it. He offers no real argument for choosing the reformed view over everyone else’s. He does mention Biblical examples where the people’s worship became idolatry when they decided to do it their own way. And I would answer that idolatry is explicitly forbidden in scripture, and therefore provides just as much evidence for the majority view against this silly reformed doctrine.
Frame himself acknowledges that it is a little silly. After all his talk about the regulative principle, he recognizes in his next chapter that the Bible actually provides very little guidance in how to conduct a worship service. So we have to be creative in how we apply the regulative principle. He finds a list of twelve things we can do in worship; nay, as he presents them they are twelve things we are commanded to do:
- Greetings and Benedictions
- Reading of scripture
- Preaching and Teaching
- Charismatic Prophecy and Speaking in Tongues
- Confession of Faith
- Church Discipline
- Collections, Offerings
- Expressions of Fellowship
But consider his defense of even the first one on the list, greetings and benedictions: “There is no specific biblical command to include these in public worship, nor is there any historical example during the New Testament period of them being uttered at the introduction or conclusion to public worship. Nevertheless, they were clearly part of church life, since they were a regular part of Paul’s letters…” (p.56) This is just downright silly. The entire section is filled with phrases like, “In my opinion…” and “I believe that…” and “It seems that…” These would only convince someone who already agrees with you.
I’m sure this is a fine book to give a crazy mixed-up reformed guy who is hastling you for singing Hillsongs in worship. But beyond that, I would have to say that this was the absolutely worst book I have ever read on worship. A complete disappointment. I expected so much more from John Frame.