Book Review - Engaging with God

Simon Vibert

by David Peterson (Apollos 1992)

The Ten Second Summary

What is it? Engaging with God: A biblical theology of worship by David Peterson (Apollos, 1992) [ISBN 0-85111-428-8]

What’s it about? It is not a how to do it manual but rather it builds a careful study of the biblical theology of worship in a way which helps us truly understand how we are to worship.

Who’s it for?  Any Christian who wants to get to grips with what worship is really about and to understand and engage in it from a biblical perspective,  seeing how it impacts on every aspect of their lives.

What’s it like?

Best insight? The importance of building our understanding of worship from a biblical understanding – that  great worship  is not about how ‘I’ feel but about how God wants us to engage with him and  not just when we meet together on a  Sunday.

Favourite quote?  ‘Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church. It alone will endure like the love for God which it expresses, into heaven when all other activities of the Church will have passed away. ‘  (a quote Peterson uses from W. Nicholls Jacob’s Ladder: The Meaning of Worship)

One line summary? An exploration of the biblical teaching on the nature and practice of worship – informative and challenging.

How do you rate it? ****

Sell it to me?

First question – do we need another book on worship?  Yes if it is this one!  There are many books written about worship but there is still much confusion over what we exactly mean by the term. Even worse, worship rather than uniting Christians can often leads to divisions. There are many books on the how to of worship but not so many that seek to engage with trying to answer the questions David Peterson poses such as:  ‘What is the purpose and character of the type of meeting that we call a ‘service’?’  He helps us to understand that worship is so much more than just about what we do that we should focus more on what God does. The essence of worship is more about how we engage with God.  Peterson’s great desire is that Christians today would once again experience the richness of biblical worship that helps us truly engage with God.

To help us do this Peterson takes us through the Scriptures bringing out the insights it provides on the true nature of worship. He helps us understand the true nature of worship by first helping us see how God can be known and approached. His hypothesis is that the worship of God is essentially ‘an engagement with him on terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible’.

Peterson takes us through the Old Testament looking at how God is engaged with and honour, respect and service is given to him and then into the New Testamenat. The theology of worship and other biblical themes such as revelation and redemption show the continuity between the Old and the New Testament, but also highlight how the gospel brings the transformation of many traditional categories and patterns of worship.

Does the book do what its author sets out as its goals – absolutely! There are good clear conclusions at the end of each chapter which help us easily follow the line of thought.  It sets worship into its proper context – God -centred.  A challenging biblical unpacking of what worship means.