Howard Rice and James Huffstutler. Reformed Worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2001. 248 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-6645-0147-8. $24.95.
This book was penned by a theologian (Rice) and a pastor (Huffstutler) from the Presbyterian (USA) tradition. It consists of fourteen chapters with endnotes, bibliography, and a general index. Of the three books under consideration, this one exhibits the greatest incongruity between its title and contents. It reflects the abysmal perspectives and practices a truly Reformed outlook seeks to avoid. The opening chapter on the six "Characteristics of Reformed Worship" includes simplicity, combination of Word and Sacrament and the importance of singing Psalms. But the regulative principle does not even make the list. Rather "Martin Luther once said that God has given us five senses and we are ungrateful if we use fewer in worship." After opening the Pandora's box of worship in chapter one, the supposed Reformed characteristic of "adaptability" gives way to innovation and mutation. Following the two chapters on the history of worship are chapters on baptism and the Lord's Supper. There is no chapter on preaching the Word. Two pages of the chapter on "The Service of the Lord's Day" compose the painful tidbit offered. Here we read such tired clichés as: "the pastor stands with one foot in the biblical text and the other in the modern world"; "a sermon that makes no clear reference to the people's lives becomes irrelevant"; "a sermon should not pretend that the biblical passage has miraculously descended from the mouth of God"; "the preacher's task is to be personally present" (honest and self-revelatory because the people "long for authenticity"). Has "preaching" been replaced by "pastor" as means of grace? Any residue of preaching's grandeur is finally killed off with: "sermons exceeding twenty minutes cause minds to wander" because of the capacity of the television-tube brain. From this vacuous center, the worship service is then filled by stimulating the senses with stoles, paintings, artwork, banners, processional crosses, candles, etc. while concluding with a balloon release. The sage advice is: "think about the whole person who comes to worship with five senses." The nose of Luther's worship camel has now admitted into the tent the whole camel with circus in tow! There is nothing here of redemptive historical interest. There are only skeletal fragments remaining from a Reformed worship once fueled by a robust faith in the Word of God and the regulative principle.