From My Bookshelf: Twentieth-century Classics on Knowing and Worshiping God
Joshua Waggener, professor of church music and worship in the School of Church Music and Worship, provides his top five books of twentieth-century classics that focus on knowing and worshipping God. Before he began serving at Southwestern Seminary in 2022, Waggener served at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Dietrich Bonhoeffer is known for his death as a martyr at the hands of the Nazis, but in his life he wrote books that encouraged both individual discipleship and life together in Christian community. The book Life Together will challenge you to imagine how you might read the Scriptures, sing hymns, say prayers, and enjoy fellowship with others. Then, it will call you to solitude, silence, and meditation before you emerge again for ministry, confession, and communion.
The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer – This twentieth-century classic on the attributes of God comes from the pen of A. W. Tozer, who (in another book) referred to worship as “the missing jewel” of the evangelical church. Tozer’s brief reflections on what is true about our incomprehensible God are both pithy and profoundly related to our worship. For example, regarding God’s infinitude, he notes “how completely satisfying” it is “to turn from our limitations to a God who has none” (47). After starting each chapter with a prayer, Tozer emphasizes points throughout the chapters with excerpts from sacred poetry and hymns, both ancient and modern.
Knowing God by J. I. Packer – Another twentieth-century classic on the attributes of God also helps us connect our doctrine with our doxology. British author J. I. Packer leads us to contemplate the Godhead of God, the powers of God, and the perfections of God, all for the aim of knowing God in and through the Gospel of Christ. It also shows how we can seek God in biblical prayers, modeled on the psalms and other verses of Scripture.
Music through the Eyes of Faith by Harold Best – This book written by the emeritus dean of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music helps us look at music afresh. Harold Best first develops a biblical aesthetic of music that he then applies to music making, music listening, and music ministry. He considers music’s creation and meaning, as well as the value of both musical pluralism and musical excellence, where “excellence and diversity are compatible” (5). Ultimately, he helps us to see music-making for Christians as “neither a means nor an end but an offering, therefore an act of worship” (15).
Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper – In 1993, this passionate preacher with a heart for the nations shocked our evangelical sensibilities by stating, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is.” In this book, we find the relationship between our proclamation and our adoration, our witness and our worship. Filled with references to Scripture, Let the Nations Be Glad also introduces us to Piper’s view of God-glorifying New Testament worship as an all the time, all of life worship from the heart that is fully satisfied with God in Christ.