About four or five years ago I was having a conversation about worship with a very sharp and well-informed pastor friend of mine. He wished I and many more would read the book With Reverence and Awe by John R. Muether and D. G. Hart, which I recently did. I was hoping for a thoughtful and reflective consideration of worship. My hopes were not met, I fear.
I was not expecting to find anything that would radically alter my thinking about worship, but I was hoping along the way to find some helpful reflections on the value and place of worship for the contemporary church. While I’m not sure what to call my ‘position’ on worship, I was at one time pretty securely camped out on Muether’s and Hart’s side of the fence. Though my views have shifted (“matured”, I like to think; others may prefer “deteriorated”) I know that these men have something to teach us. But teaching cannot be heard when the tone is set on “attack”.
This is the type of book which garners rave reviews from those already convinced of its premises, but which will persuade no one not already persuaded. Sadly, there is nothing here to engage or to improve those who differ. The logic is often fallacious, and the argument selective. And the combative tone squelches any dialog. The final chapter implies that those who differ tread close to, if they have not already crossed, the line separating the true church from the false. If we don’t agree it is because of the non-confessional and anti-intellectual climate of our day.
Worship, being a human activity, will always be constantly maturing, growing, shifting. The church therefore needs wise and biblical counsel to guide its practice. Muether and Hart might have input if they did not couch their counsel in such ‘you’re bad; we’re good’ terms.
The good ship Worship has long since left Muether’s and Hart’s port and it’s not coming back. Their best contribution would come if they would style themselves as fellow passengers with the rest of us instead of simply screaming at the ship.