By: John Jefferson Davis
Article written by: rm Kocak
“As its central concern this book argues that American evangelical churches need to recover a sense of the holiness and majesty of God, and of the real, personal presence of the risen Christ in the midst of his people in the power of the Spirit as the central realities of biblical worship.”
- Worship and the Reality of God, pg. 33.
John Jefferson Davis has written a gift to modern American evangelicals in Worship and the Reality of God. Davis prophetically calls pastors and church leaders to consider the realities that are shaping the worship experience in most churches. Davis goes to great length in the book to explain the extent that modern and post-modern ontologies (views of reality) have covertly saturated our lives. As a result, we as Evangelicals now have an inadequate understanding of the nature of the church (ecclesiology) as well as a theology of worship (doxology).
After a chapter of introduction Davis structures his book around four themes:
- God, The Church and the Self, Why God has been lost and where we can look to find him.
- Reality in Worship, The Real Presence of God on Sunday Morning
- The Eucharist, Meeting the Risen Christ at the Table
- From Ontology to Doxology, From theory to practice in worship renewal.
Davis uses a lot of very technical and heavy words in this book (ex- ontology, ecclesiology, epistemology, aseity, theanthropic, ect.); however, as a teacher he goes to great lengths to explain and define the meanings of these words. When you are finished reading this book you are not only left challenged, but more theologically educated. The last chapter “From Ontology to Doxology” is written to pastors, elders, deacons, bishops, and church leaders in a way so that they may practically implement some of the theological concepts that were plotted out in the first four chapters of the book.
“Your “God” is too “light”; your vision of the church is too low; your view of your self is too high, and consequently, your worship is too shallow.”
- Worship and the Reality of God, pg. 38.
Davis spends two chapters working specifically on the ontology of God, the Church and the Self and on the reality of Worship. Two theories of reality that impact Christian worship are scientific naturalism (modernity) and postmodern virtuality (postmodernity). Davis goes into depth of what these often loaded terms mean and gives every day examples of how they work to shape the American view of reality. What I appreciate about Davis is that he always offers vision for his critiques. Davis describes the ontology of the church as, “High, Heavy and Theantrophic” and of the self as, “Trinitarian, Ecclesial and Doxological.”
“Just as the risen Lord was present to the disciples at Emmaus, so it is today that “he is present ‘in the midst’ at every Eucharist as the true celebrant; present, according to this point of view, rather ‘at’ than ‘on’ the Holy Table, personally feeding his own with the sacred gifts, and imparting his own great gift, the forgiveness of sins and communion with God through him.”
- Worship and the Reality of God, pgs. 145-146.
The chapter on the Eucharist is phenomenal for the liturgical novice and expert alike. Davis takes the reader through the Reformation conflicts, the Eucharistic liturgy of the early church, the four-fold action of historical worship, and traces how the “real presence” in worship has become a “real absence” in the majority of American evangelical churches. The footnotes alone in this section make my heart happy with names like: Gregory Dix, Simon Chan, Brilioth, J.J. Von Allmen, John Robinson, White, Calvin, Luther, ect.
“The Bible, the sacraments and the liturgy are the software; the church building, furnishings and musical instruments are the hardware; the mind of the triune God is the heavenly server that archives all the software and the history of its action.”
- Worship and the Reality of God, pg. 110.
Davis is a theologian, ethicist, and worshiper. He has written numerous articles and a book (The Frontiers of Science & Faith) on the relationship between science and faith. Davis draws on this background in explaining some of the abstract concepts of reality and the real presence of God in worship. Davis uses the examples of the World of Warcraft, Google search algorithms, the Matrix, holograms, and cyberspace in his numerous examples. The inner nerd in me smiled many times.
Overall, Worship and the Reality of God remains a must read for ALL Evangelical students, pastors, teachers, and worshipers. It is a challenging, prophetic, balanced, educational, and timely word for the American church.