Reading For the Glory of God had the feel of sitting at the feet of a learned professor as he pours out a lifetime of study of the Scriptures. The book provides insightful understanding concerning many biblical matters but is primarily focused on tracing the theme of worship throughout the Bible. Block states his thesis as such:
In addition to a commitment to let all Scripture contribute to the recovery of a biblical theology of worship, this book is driven by two other foundational principles. First, true worship is essentially a vertical exercise, the human response to the divine Creator and Redeemer. For this reason the goal of authentic worship is the glory of God rather than the pleasure of human beings, which means that forms of worship should conform to the will of God rather than to the whims of fallen humanity. Second, knowledge of the nature and forms of worship that glorify God comes primarily from Scripture (p. 6).
Block outlines his own book for us:
I begin by asking three fundamental questions: What do the Scriptures have in mind when they speak of worship (chap. 1)? Who is the object of true worship (chap. 2)? Whose worship is acceptable to God (chap. 3)? Building on chapter 3, chapters 4 and 5 explore worship as expressed outside of corporate gatherings, in one’s personal ethics, vocation, and home life. Chapters 6–10 turn to corporate worship, focusing on elements that have become vital to Christian worship: the ordinances (chap. 6), the ministry of the Word (chap. 7), prayer (chap. 8), music (chap. 9), and offerings and sacrifice (chap. 10). The final three chapters return to more general topics: the place of corporate worship within the drama of life (chap. 11), the importance of space set aside for worship (chap. 12), and the role of leaders in promoting genuine worship (chap. 13) (p. XIV).
Most chapters address a particular issue related to worship, such as prayer (chap. 8) or music (chap. 9). Block lays out the teaching on that particular issue as traced through the Old Testament (which he consistently calls the “First Testament”), then he explores information found in the New Testament and finally concludes with application of the biblical insights to modern worship. Along the way rich material is revealed to ponder and implement. It was refreshing to find an author who insisted on hearing the voice of Scripture alone, rather than accepting the traditions or fads of people. Of course not every interpretation or application will meet with agreement. This reviewer disagrees that the church is the new Israel (pp 153, 159) and was saddened by a quote from N. T. Wright (p 327). The author admits that some of his conclusions are subject to debate, but by and large Block is simply digging out the treasures God has placed in the Word as related to worship. While every chapter is important, the ones on Scripture, prayer and music in worship (chap. 7-9) are gold mines.
For the Glory of God seeks to address five maladies that plague worship in the North American church:
(1) trivializing worship by a preoccupation with atmospherics/mood (it’s all about how worship makes me feel); (2) misdirecting worship by having a human-centered rather than God-centered focus (it’s all about me, the worshiper); (3) deadening worship by substituting stones for bread (the loss of the Word of God); (4) perverting worship with emotional, self-indulgent experiences at the expense of true liturgy; and (5) exploiting worship with market-driven values (p. XII).
By turning to the record of Scripture, Block provides rich analysis of worship and insightfully addresses all of these issues and more. For the Glory of God was a delight to read and I intend to make good use of what I have learned both in teaching and in public worship.
For the Glory of God, Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship, by Daniel I. Block (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014) 410 pp. + XIX, Hard $24.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher Southern View Chapel