D.G. Hart and John R. Muether. With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002. 208 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8755-2179-7. $12.99.
In refreshing contrast to the former is the contribution from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's historians Hart and Muether. The book is based on adult Sunday school lessons. As such its style is unencumbered, pointedly stated, and tightly argued. The lengths of the introduction and conclusion push the otherwise eleven-chapter book toward thirteen. It concludes with endnotes and indexes general, scriptural and confessional. Those of an old school persuasion will find their Reformed views fleshed out and defended. Others will be forced to consider "what spirit they are of." Reformed Presbyterian pastors could confidently pass this one out to newcomers or others questioning our basic assumptions. The authors are to be commended for filling in a gap with this contribution toward "returning to the basics of Reformed worship." And yes, the subtitle is appropriately backed up with a full chapter on the regulative principle.
From a BT (Biblical Theology/Theological) perspective the book has its shortcomings. It was disappointing to find no references to Vos, Kline, Gaffin, or Ridderbos, to name a few BT favorites. The two footnotes to Clowney are generic. Machen is footnoted six times and Calvin twenty-two. This reviewer would have been delighted to see more of a redemptive historical foundation to the opening three chapters on the church and the fourth on the Sabbath. The shape of the discussion and its chapter by chapter cohesion would have been served by tying it all into the church as the eschatological colony of heaven reflecting its ultimate identity every week in its Sabbath worship. This could have filled in the already-not yet schema in informing the church's holiness (as belonging to the age to come and heaven above in contrast to this age/world), spiritual commission, peculiar worship, and rational for Sunday worship. As it is, the portrait was more black and white rather than in eschatological living color. This criticism is not intended to infer BT barrenness or resistance. BT sympathies are witnessed at various points: we are aliens in exile (p. 29); "the Church at worship is the real world . . . the gathering of the saints in the holy of holies is the eschatological foretaste of the new heavens and the new earth, the reality to which all of history is headed" (p. 34). These BT snippets are encouraging to see within the fabric of the discussion, but would have given the book an overhaul if they had been laid as major support beams. It is not surprising that we find no plug for redemptive historical preaching. Strangely, only a few pages are given to preaching (pp. 152-153; 182-183). They ask, "What is a better form of a sermon?" They answer "one that conforms to the teaching of the Bible . . . what the Bible teaches as a whole . . . the system of doctrine taught in Scripture." I would wish to have heard the answer, "Christ-centered sermons anchored in redemptive history." Avid BT preachers will groan over the brevity given to preaching and BT since "God's Word is at the heart of Reformed worship" (p. 183). They will wish that BT factored in more fundamentally into the book's development. But despite these weaknesses the book is an excellent presentation from a more doctrinal/systematic slant. All Reformed pastors will find this a welcome volume and an invaluable instructional tool for persuading and settling minds in "the basics of Reformed worship."
(Upon giving it to others, a copy of Larry Semel's 2001 Kerux Conference Lecture, "The Church as the Colony of Heaven," could be taped to the book as redemptive historical ballast.)