Book Review: Worshipping With Calvin by Terry L. Johnson


Worshipping With Calvin by Terry L. Johnson EP Books 2014. Pages 460. Kindle Paperback

Calvinism (not too fond of that term) is on the rise. There is a revival of the Reformed tradition amongst us today. Colin Hansen coined the phrase “young, restless and reformed” describing the new calvinism. I am pretty sure I would be lumped in there with the “young, restless and reformed” group. As part of this group, Johnson is reaching out and issuing a call to me, new calvinism, old calvinism and everyone else to understand and worship with Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

In the first part of Worshipping with Calvin Johnson sets the scene for us. There is a worship problem in the church. Worship in many churches has become more about “my emotional experience” and the “seeker” than the worship of God. He goes on to make a case and a call for us to return to Reformed worship tradition. He covers the Reformed worship tradition in five sections. Reformed worship is God-centered, Bible filled, gospel-driven, church aware and Spirit – dependent. The rest of the book takes a deeper look into these areas.

There is much that I enjoyed and agreed with Johnson in Worshipping with Calvin. I really enjoyed the rich history that was provided by Johnson concerning each element of reformed worship. As someone new to the Reformed tradition and theology I appreciated the thorough work and study Johnson provides the reader. I have a better understanding and appreciation for worship from the Reformed tradition.

I also identified with Johnson in many areas. Our journeys are similar in the sense that I grew up and attended churches that did not follow a prescribed order of service. Churches that were not liturgical at all. I experienced the churches that Johnson describes in the book which are emotion/seeker driven. Church services which focused more on the participant than God. Johnson makes the case for a revival of theological and biblical content in our services. From our songs to our prayers, from our sermons to the sacraments.

I appreciate the depth and the journey that Johnson laid out in each chapter. He was thorough and informative. He left no stone unturned when it came to describing the worship of the reformers and the changes they called for when they broke off from the Roman Catholic church. Johnson makes the case for the reformers desire and commitment to do church “according to the Scriptures”.

With that being said, I didn’t agree with everything in the book. I know Johnson was against “contemporary worship” that was based on emotion and the seeker and I agree with him. But I have been involved in and experienced, what Johnson would call “contemporary worship services” with a praise band or hip hop worship which were rich in theological and biblical content. The Sermon was expositional and rich. The prayers were rich in Scripture and confession. The whole service was focused on God and yet it seemed like Johnson would say this was the wrong way because the church used a praise band or hip hop as the medium for worship.

Another area of contention was baptism. I know the Reformed tradition is predominantly Paedo Baptist and I am a Credo Baptist. To me, this is a minor issue. I don’t make a big deal out of it. With that being said, I enjoyed reading the history on the section of baptism.

Overall I enjoyed reading Worshipping with Calvin. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all, especially if you want to learn more about worship from the Reformed tradition. I also recommend this book be used in an academic setting. Until next time.

Soli Deo Gloria  

I received this book free from the publisher through the Cross Focused Reviews book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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