Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
RAR 9:2 (Spring 2000) p. 155
Worship, Community, And The Triune God Of Grace, James B. Torrance. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press (1996). 130 pages, paper, $12.99
This book, based on a series of lectures by the author, is a wonderful summary of and introduction to the thinking of James B. Torrance (Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, University of Aberdeen) on worship. His brother, Thomas F. Torrance (Professor Emeritus of Christian Dogmatics, University of Edinburgh) has made parallel contributions in this area. (See Torrance worship bibliography at the end of this review.)
The book (and its title) is born out of the author’s conviction that “true theology is done in the presence of God in the midst of the worshiping community” (10). (This is reminiscent of J.I. Packer’s incisive statement: “The purpose of theology is doxology. We study in order to praise.”) What he presents to us is a magisterial presentation of the meaning and significance of worship.
Torrance insists that “how we worship God must reflect who God is—the triune God of grace—and what he has done and is doing for us in Christ and by the Holy Spirit” (10). He claims with searing insight that much, if not most, of evangelical worship is, in practice if not in theory,” “Unitarian” in nature: God has saved us, and now we do something for him in return when we worship. “We sit in the
RAR 9:2 (Spring 2000) p. 156
pew watching the minister doing his thing, exhorting us ‘to do our thing,’ until we go home thinking we have done our duty for another week” (20)! How infinitely richer, Torrance shows us, is a Trinitarian understanding of worship: one which fully takes into account the ongoing high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, in his humanity continuing to mediate between God and man, in both God’s revelation to us and in our response to him. “Christian worship is ... our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father” (15).
What a grand and glorious vision of worship—and how sorely we need today such an exalted perspective of the highest of all human activities! How desperately we need to despair of our own trivial debates over styles and preferences, and recognize with awe and wonder that
the real agent in all true worship is Jesus Christ. His is our great High Priest and ascended Lord, the One true worshiper who unites us to Himself by the Spirit in acts of mercy and in a life of communion, as he lifts us up by word and sacraments into the very triune life of God (17).
How trifling and petty our worship debates (and even “wars”) seem next to such a vision! To be sure, there are important questi...
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