Review: Worshipping with Calvin

Johnson, Terry L. “Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Historic Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism,” Darlington, England: 2014. 460 pp. $23.99

The recent resurgence of Calvinistic soteriology and Reformation theology has sparked many a conversation and produced quite a few popular-level books by the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd. Although we’ve seen many responses to these works, typically addressing the theology and general ideology of the New Calvinism movement, Terry Johnson sets out to provide a scholarly work that focuses on the elements of Reformed worship.

In “Worshipping with Calvin,” Johnson presents extensive biblical and historical arguments for how a local church should conduct its worship services. He begins by looking at the contemporary evangelical landscape and the unfortunate historical and theological anemia that plagues it. After offering a comparison between the early Church and the current state of the western Church, and giving a brief historical survey of the 20th century “worship wars,” he provides strong exegetical, historical, and theological arguments in favor of a decidedly Reformed approach to worship and ministry.

Next, the author emphasizes the strengths of Reformed worship and ministry. He contends that this particular approach to liturgy is God-centered, Bible-filled, Gospel-structured, Church-aware, and Spirit-dependent.

This book was a great encouragement to me. I am in agreement with much of what is said within, but there are several arguments that the author gives that either changed my mind or solidified an existing position. For instance, Johnson has convinced me of the use of lectio continua (consecutive reading) Bible readings and singing Psalms in corporate worship. While previously, I have utilized lectio selecta (selective reading) Scripture readings to “reinforce” the passage preached, the author has convinced me of the wisdom in implementing a continuous reading of both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, while I have understood the importance of the Psalms for corporate worship, this book has convinced me of their necessity. Without dogmatically promoting a strict Psalms-only liturgical model, the author insists the inclusion of the Psalter and has convinced me that it is necessary to regularly and consistently involve Psalms in a worship service.

As a Reformed Baptist, I am in disagreement with the author’s views with regard to Covenant Theology and the sacrament of baptism (it is unfortunate that his treatment of credobaptism in chapter 6 only addresses the 16th century Anabaptists and not the 17th century Particular Baptists—though I acknowledge the book’s emphasis on John Calvin and the potential for anachronism), and while I have reservations with Johnson’s observations about ethnicity, his research is top-notch. Regardless of any covenantal differences I may have with Johnson, I strongly agree with the over-arching theme of this book—that our worship should be prescribed by Scripture and rooted in the historicity of the Church (and particularly that of the Reformation period). The cultural trends and encroachment of worldliness in contemporary American Christianity have spurned a new downgrade in the liturgical life of the Church, and my hope is that books like this will precipitate a doxological reformation in local evangelical churches.

Although this is a book primarily aimed at Presbyterians, I would recommend this book to any one who claims to be a Protestant Christian—particularly Pastors and Elders. Johnson offers a cogent exhortation for modern Christians to compare their liturgy with Scripture and Church history. He provides an abundance of Scriptural references, and quotes a multitude of well-known Pastors, theologians, and church historians (around 37% of the book is comprised of a bibliography and notes) to support his position. Terry Johnson’s “Worshipping with Calvin” is a helpful resource for Christians who want to glorify God in worship according to His Word.

For more on this subject, please visit the Historical Theology page.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

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Please take some time to browse the other pages on this site. There are several articles, book recommendations, and FREE e-books for your encouragement and edification. Check out the Historical Theology page or Biblical Theology page first… enjoy!

Review: John Knox

Simonetta Carr has done it again. “John Knox” is the seventh installment of her acclaimed “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series (published by Reformation Heritage). Here she sets out to tell the story of John Knox, the great Reformer of Scotland. If you would like to know more about this great series, please check out the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.

I am always looking forward to new volumes for this series as I am a student of Historical Theology and plan on raising my children with great respect for the Christian heritage and reverence for Church history. I have read Carr’s volume on Anselm of Canterbury (you can read my review HERE), and plan on purchasing the other volumes in the future. The literary content and artwork (by Matt Abraxas) in these books is wonderful, but what is also impressive is the quality of materials used produce them.

Carr begins the book with an introduction that informs the reader of the sociopolitical context in which Knox lived (pp. 5–6). The Protestant Reformation had moved from continental Europe to England and Scotland by way of travelers. The author makes note of one such pilgrim, Patrick Hamilton, who brought the biblical gospel back to his home country of Scotland only to be killed by Roman Catholic authorities. After a few changes in the political landscape, commoners were given access to the Bible and Knox was converted by the preaching of the gospel of salvation through faith alone. (p. 8) Shortly thereafter, the freedoms which the Protestants enjoyed were rescinded (p. 10) and so Knox went to work as a bodyguard for George Wishart, who was a gospel preacher on the run from Roman Catholic authorities. (pp. 11–12)

Wishart was killed, and Knox went to live at St. Andrews Castle (pp. 14–15), where he began his pulpit ministry. The author points out that both Protestants and Roman Catholics shared preaching responsibilities, which I thought was very interesting. According to the author, Knox rebuked a Catholic priest who claimed that Rome was the “true bride of Christ” and preached his first sermon as a response to the claim. “In his sermon,” writes Carr, “Knox explained that Christ is the only Head of the church, and only the Bible has the final say. He also showed how many of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church had been invented by men.” (p. 18)

In 1547, the Scottish government overthrew St. Andrews with the help of France and the Protestants were arrested. John Knox was sentenced to row in the galleys of a ship, and endured severe persecution from his Roman Catholic captors along with the miserable living conditions and grueling slave labor. (pp. 19–24). Two years later, he was released and sent to Berwick, England where he was free to preach under the rule of King Edward VI, a Protestant. Unfortunately, his stay in England was cut short when King Edward died suddenly, leaving his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor (commonly referred to as “Bloody Mary” for her vicious reputation) to rule the throne. Knox fled to France, and later moved to Switzerland to learn from John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger. (pp. 25–30)

Knox married Marjory Bowes in Scotland in 1555 before returning to Geneva to pastor a church of English refugees who fled Mary Tudor’s persecution. (p. 31–32) John returned to Scotland at the dawn of the Scottish Revolution to pastor St. Andrews Church, and also served as an army chaplain. When the war was over, Scotland formed a parliament which established the country as a Protestant nation and Knox was one of the men who drafted the Scots Confession of Faith. (pp. 31–42)

Shortly after the death of Marjory, the Roman Catholic Queen Mary Stuart returned to a very Protestant Scotland. Knox was quite vocal about her participation in the mass and they spoke their concerns to each other on a number of occasions. According to Carr, Knox even spoke out about the Queen’s desire to marry a Roman Catholic Prince! (pp. 44–48) This, of course, caused severe hostility between them and marked the decline of the Queen’s rule. When Scottish Nobles forced the Queen to resign the crown, her son James VI of Scotland became the King and Knox preached at his coronation. He continued to preach in his home country until his death in 1572. (pp. 50–54)

Simonetta Carr has written a wonderful little biography of John Knox. I’m a history nerd with a special appreciation for the Reformation, so I am rather biased in my opinion… but she puts a lot of time into researching her subject and likes to include interesting details and side stories, which makes the book an entertaining read for anyone. One example of such is the downward spiral of Queen Mary Stuart. Though it was a sad state of affairs, I was fascinated by the alleged conspiracy to murder her second husband, her imprisonment, and the plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth that resulted in her execution. (pp. 49–50, 60) The author also includes a “Did You Know?” section with additional information relative to the story, as well as a portion of The Scots Confession of faith, which I thought was very helpful in rooting the reader in the historical reality of the book. I really enjoyed “John Knox” and look forward to the release of future volumes.

For more on this subject, please visit the Historical Theology page.

Recommended reading:

See also:
Review: “Anselm of Canterbury”
Carl Trueman and Todd Pruit interview Simonetta on Mortification of Spin

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

 

 

FREE: What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?

Reformation Trust has made Richard Phillips’ “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace” available for FREE in Kindle format. Click the image below to download:

For more Reformation Trust titles, visit Ligonier Ministries.

 

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What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?

WHAT DOES SOLA SCRIPTURA MEAN?

“The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture… [it is] the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That–no more, no less–is what sola Scriptura means.” (John MacArthur)

For more on this subject, please visit the Systematic Theology page.

 

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The Experience of God’s Free Grace

THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD’S FREE GRACE

“An appreciation of the sovereignty of God in salvation results in humility. From evangelical humiliation come two essential attributes, namely, the fear of God and a humble, contrite mind. The fear of the Lord receives little if any attention in evangelical circles today. We still have the phrase ‘a God-fearing man’, although it is not used as much as it used to be. The fear of God lies at the very heart of true Christianity. Both Old and New Testaments speak much of this fear. Indeed, there are hundreds of direct or indirect references to this matter in Scripture… Free grace causes us to leave every reliance upon ourselves or dependence on what we have done and to look to the Lord alone to save us… Appreciation of free grace is the source of intense joy, a joy which inspires profound worship… The fruit of the experience of free grace is love, worship, gratitude, humility, joy, dedication, zeal, meekness, gentleness and compassion towards others. Those who deeply appreciate that they have received so much so freely are the most thankful to God and the most ready to seek the good of others.” (Errol Hulse)

For more on the subject, visit Reformation Today.

 

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Scripture Alone

SCRIPTURE ALONE

“In order to lead the church back to sola Scriptura, we must realize that we cannot do so only by teaching about the doctrine itself (although we must do this). Instead, the primary way we lead the church back is by actually preaching the Scriptures. Only the Word of God has the power to transform and reform our churches. So, we should not only talk about sola Scriptura, but we should demonstrate it. And when we do, we must preach all of God’s Word—not picking and choosing the parts we prefer or think our congregations want to hear. We must preach only the Word (sola Scriptura), and we must preach all the Word (tota Scriptura). The two go hand in hand. When they are joined together in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can have hope for a new reformation.” (Michael Kruger)

For more on this subject, please visit the Exegetical Theology page.

 

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Faith Defined and Explained

FAITH DEFINED AND EXPLAINED

“We must remember that there is a permanent relationship between faith and the Word. We could not separate one from the other any more than we could separate the rays of the sun from which they come… the same Word is the basis whereby faith is supported and sustained; if it turns away from the Word, it falls. Therefore, take away the Word and no faith will then remain… we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (John Calvin)

For more on this subject, please visit the Systematic Theology page.

 

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Sola Gratia

GRACE ALONE

“The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation. Salvation, from beginning to end, is the sovereign gift of God to the unworthy and undeserving. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, who were inclined to boasting: ‘Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?’ (1 Cor. 4:7). No one can ever stand before God and say, ‘Look at me and at what I have done!’ God is no one’s debtor, not least in matters of salvation (Rom. 11:35).” (Guy Waters)

For more on the subject, visit the Systematic Theology page.

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FREE: The Heroic Boldness

“The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther” by Steven Lawson is available for FREE download at Ligonier Ministries for today only. Click the image below to be redirected.

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