Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Review: The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias

I was interested in reading this book, as I had heard only good things about Christian apologist Ravi Zarcharias, but had not yet read him. The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives is about:

...seeing the designing hand of God and his intervention in our lives in such a way that we know he has a specific purpose for each of us and that he will carry us through until we meet him face-to-face and know ourselves completely (11).

Thus Zacharias sets out a bold thesis for his readers and promptly drops it. He addresses his thoughts on a variety of subjects, such as dealing with disappointments and pain, God's calling on our lives, personal morality, and spiritual practice, among other concerns, but essentially does not tie them into his thesis.

Individual passages are quite interesting. The chapter on worship and how the Book of Acts outlines the basic forms of Christian worship is fascinating and helpful. For example, Zacharias believes that music has so dominated modern Christian worship that it has come to eclipse teaching and the Eucharist in worship. He relates one story of a botched Communion in a praise service:

But first the table for Communion had to be positioned -- and with such little room on the platform, it was difficult for anything to feel liturgically comfortable. After the reading of a portion of Scripture, the bishop took the bread to break ti. Finding no good spot on which to place his Bible, he placed it on the floor. while the ushers were distributing bread, somebody's cell phone rang -- no one knew whose it was until it went off again. It belonged to one of the Communion stewards. Pausing from her distribution of the bread, she scurried to the front of the auditorium to turn off her phone. By the time the worship concluded that evening, this experience had supplied a potent symbol of what has happened to the church.

Somewhere, somehow, we have been led to believe that music is the centerpiece of worship. It isn't. It is included in "praise," one of the five expressions of worship. The clearing of the platform in order to accommodate the musicians and the displacement of everything else in order to facilitate the music set would lead us to believe that because w have sung, we have worshiped. We haven't -- not necessarily anyway (145)
.

Zacharias wisely critiques some of the failings of modern Western Christian worship. But I got the sense that this essay was written independently of the rest of the book and simply tacked on. It has no relationship to the central thesis of The Grand Weaver. Zacharias writes that he has had an itinerant ministry (156), wandering all over the world teaching and preaching. His book reflects this itinerancy, as it wanders from subject to subject without any clear objective.

Grade: C-

Disclosure note: This book was given to me for free from the publisher in exchange for a book review.

5 comments:

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

It seems like lots of people are (rightly) criticizing the tendency (almost exclusive to "contemporary styled" churches) to equate singing - especially hearty singing - with worship. A good way to combat this is to start having worship services without music once in a while - with prayer and preaching and sacrament and liturgical declarations of the worthiness of God (ascription of worth is the root of "worship").

Many Anglican churches and others do this whenever they keep the daily offices or celebrate a non-choral communion.

John Meunier said...

Thanks for the review, John. That publisher might be more cautious about sending you books if you insist on being honest about your views. :)

I think the caution about music is good. I think the bigger issue is church as a performance - with the 'audience' seated and watching rather than participating.

I'd heard good things about Zacharias as well. I'm sliding him down my long list of books to read though.

Dale Tedder said...

Guys,

I've read a few books by Zacharias and find his apologetic/worldview books to be quite good, coherent, and helpful. Three of note:

1.) A Shattered Visage
2.) Can Man Live Without God?
3.) Deliver Us From Evil

I think, if you like reading on such subjects, that these books may be better places to start (particularly the latter two).

Blessings,
Dale

JD said...

John,

Thanks for the review. I would not mind reading more on his comments regarding worship, liturgy, and the incorporation of it relative to the church service. I think my Churh of Christ co-workers may have that understanding of music's place in worship pretty well understood.

PAX
JD

truevyne said...

I found the excerpt on worship to be very interesting. Why is singing such a focus of the church? Not that i don't like singing, but how come we refer to the singing as worship? Worship is listening and responding to the Word of God...songs, Eucharist, sermon just some piece of worship.