Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Contrasts Review: Worship, Mission, and Music



A Contrasts Review is where we contrast very different kinds of material
to better understand them all.

Begbie, Jeremy S. and Steven R. Guthrie, Editors. Resonant Witness: Conversations Between Music and Theology (The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. 497 Pages. Paper. $34.00. (LHP)

DeYoung, Kevin and Greg Gilbert. What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 287 Pages. Paper. $15.99. (LHP)

The best thing about writing book reviews is that I get to read.

Let me rephrase that: I have to read.

Books are a necessary part of being a pastor. Piles of unread books are unsightly...and embarrassing. 

Third try: The best thing about writing book reviews is that I have to read (and review) because there is accountability. I owe it to myself. I pray that my opinions are helpful to both author and publisher and are neither too harsh nor too kind. And I am thankful to the readers of Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit Quarterly Book Review for enouraging my habit and hobby all these years.

Two very different books are the focus of our attention today, one by Eerdmans and the second by Crossway.

Series: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies (CICW)

Resonant Witness gathers together a wide, harmonious chorus of voices from across the musical and theological spectrum to show that music and theology can each learn much from the other -- and that the majesty and power of both are profoundly amplified when they do.

With essays touching on J. S. Bach, Hildegard of Bingen, Martin Luther, Karl Barth, Olivier Messiaen, jazz improvisation, South African freedom songs, and more, this volume encourages musicians and theologians to pursue a more fruitful and sustained engagement with one another.


  • Jeremy S. Begbie
  • Bruce Ellis Benson
  • Alastair Borthwick
  • Daniel K. L. Chua
  • Nancy van Deusen
  • Margot Fassler
  • Steven R. Guthrie
  • Carol Harrison
  • Trevor Hart
  • C. Michael Hawn
  • Joyce Irwin
  • John Paul Ito
  • Anthony Monti
  • David J. R. S. Moseley
  • Michael O'Connor
  • Catherine Pickstock
  • Richard J. Plantinga
  • Robert Sholl
  • Nancy van Deusen
  • John D. Witvliet


Academy of Parish Clergy, Top Ten Books for Parish Ministry (2012)

(Publisher's Website)

I have made no secret that I have struggled with the content, style, and relevance of previous volumes of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies series. Of the volumes we have reviewed to date, this is by far my favorite.

No, I didn't care for a Darwin reference (342), but it was a positive one that showed essayist and editor Begbie's point as from a hostile witness.

My three favorite essays in the collection were on Bach (because I've seen his copy of the Calov Bible Commentary), emotion (not to be confused with faith or fact), and "Wisdom and Song," coincidentally by volume editors Steven R. Guthrie and Jeremy S. Begbie (one of QBR's favorite authors--Resounding Truth).

Perhaps the attitude of this volume's Introduction (and quote from Mann's Faustus) wil guide future volumes in the series:

It is better to get a headache from exercises in canons, fugues and counterpoint than from confuting the Kantian confutation of the evidence for the existence of God. Enough of your theological spinsterhood!

Our Resonant Witness in both music and theology is to preach Christ. Kudos to Begbie and Guthrie for accomplishing both in this book. Recommended.

Preaching Christ is the mission of the Church. Doe we really need another book on the topic?



Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He is the author of several popular books, including Just Do Something and Why We Love the Church.

Greg Gilbert earned his BA from Yale and his MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the author of What Is the Gospel? and the co-author of What Is the Mission of the Church?


Christians today define mission more broadly and variably than ever before. Are we, as the body of Christ, headed in the same direction or are we on divergent missions?

Some argue that the mission of the Church is to confront injustice and alleviate suffering, doing more to express God's love for the world. Others are concerned that the church is in danger of losing its God-centeredness and thereby emphasize the proclamation of the gospel. It appears as though misunderstanding of mission persists.

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert believe there is a lot that evangelicals can agree on if only we employ the right categories and build our theology of mission from the same biblical building blocks. Explaining key concepts like kingdom, gospel, and social justice, DeYoung and Gilbert help us to get on the same page—united by a common cause—and launch us forward into the true mission of the church.

(Publisher's Website)

Like the editors of the above book, authors DeYoung and Gilbert probe the concepts of "mission" and even "missional" (21). I will differ with them on the meaning of baptism (46) in Matthew 28, but not their assertiion that both baptizing and teaching are part of making disciples for Jesus.

Without depriving you of the joy of finishing the book and the authors leading you in their way to a conclusion that returns the focus of the Church in Mission to doing Jesus' mission, allow me to share their "preliminary conclusion" (62):

The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey his commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.

I commend this volume for consideration by church body mission boards, seminary mission professors, mission societies (like Lutheran Womens' Missionary League) and pastors and laypeople confused by a focus on anything at the expense of the Gospel. Stephen Neill said it well: "If everything is mission, nothing is mission."



In summary, both books reminded me of this quotation by John Piper:

"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever…Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions" (17).


Piper, John, Let the Nations Be Glad, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. 256 Pages. Paper. $14.99

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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