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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul A. F. Castellano


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday as we enter the Lenten Season in earnest. I will be commenting on this in the weeks to come, however, since I'm going to be in Tucson for the Tucson Festival of Books, I thought this would be an opportune time to give a brief overview of the book.

The title of the book sets the foundation, as most book titles generally do, for the discussion In the book, I broach a number of topics broadly, though not superficially, I hope. The overarching focus of the book is worship but in discussing that all-important topic, I point out that there are a number of equally important theological subjects that play significant roles in what we understand true Biblical worship to be and how it is to look as well as who is to lead worship.

I believe that one of the most important and overriding challenges facing Christianity is the nature of the Church. And when we address the Church, worship of the triune God of the universe is the beating heart of her ministry. This book engages that matter.

While engaging the subject of worship, I weave in answers to various statements and/or questions that have been raised as we address true worship as Christians. An example of some of the statements and/or questions addressed in the book (in no particular order) are the following:

1. As long as one worships in "spirit and truth" they can approach

God as "the spirit moves them."

2. Since there is no specific Scriptural prescription on how to approach God, we can't require a specific form.

3. Since there is no specific Scriptural instruction as to how to organize church government, as long as it is not heretical, we must allow for liberty.

4. Since there is only anecdotal information about how to understand ministerial orders, we must do the best we can with what we have.

5. As long as I gather together and follow John 4: 24 and Matt 18, I'm worshipping in a "true church."

6. Is there one "true expression of the Church?"

Each of these points (and so much more) are addressed in the book. If these questions are of interest to you - and as Christians, I hope they are - allow me to introduce you to the chapters of the book in the hope that it stimulates your curiosity. It is written at the popular level, though there are a couple of chapters that deal with Greek and Hebrew. However, terms are defined and explained and if one has a high school reading level it should be no problem.

Without further ado, here we go: Introduction: The Soil of Christianity is Judaism. While in many books the introduction is just that, the introduction to my book actually provides a theological, biblical, and historical basis for connection to all that we find in the N.T. There I discuss terms, that as Christians, we take for granted that have deep and meaningful roots in the Old Testament such as covenant, atonement, sacrifice, etc.

Chapter 1: The Model of Worship from Heaven. It is the common practice within the broader Christian community but specifically the Evangelical expression, when discussing matters of the Church in general and worship in particular, to begin at various places in Scripture or history. Some begin in the early Middle Ages to establish what the Church is to look like; others will drive us back to the early Church and the Fathers in order to provide a foundation for the Church; still, others will jump directly into the N.T. and begin to speak of the "house churches;" and others will draw the connection between the Church and synagogue; the very persistent will even push the discussion as far back as the tabernacle/Temple. All of these carry with them an element of truth but miss the true starting point for this discussion. As one Old Testament professor has stated, "everything that happens on earth takes its cue from heaven." This chapter presents that as the starting point for the entire discussion. Chapter 2: From the Kingdom of Heaven to the Kingdom on Earth. Once I lay out the starting point as heaven, I then show how the concept of "Kingdom" is vital to our understanding of what the Church is, how it is to be led, and who are those who lead it. The discussion of "Kingdom," with all of its detail and structure is crucial to a proper understanding of how we understand the Church and her worship. The elements we find in discussing "Kingdom" are the elements that will robustly fill in and fill out, our understanding of the Church, its government, leaders, its legislation, its moral code, its ordinances, and of course, worship. Chapter 3: What do we mean by Worship? Here I take a look, not only at what is meant by "true worship," worship in "spirit and truth" if you will but juxtapose it with common (mis)conceptions of how many, not exclusively Evangelicals, understand worship. Chapter 4: The Tie that Binds - Covenant: Part 1. With Chapter 4 I begin to include those theological concepts that are so critical to our understanding of the Church and worship. Many speak of the nature of "covenant" in Scripture. Here I want to show how important understanding the covenantal connection is when we speak of the Church and worship. One of the key points I drive home is how critical it is for us to understand that Old Covenant "patterns" or " paradigms" are integral in understanding the N.T.; particularly in regard to the Church and worship. I point out how important it is to distinguish the "pattern" or "paradigm" we are given in the Old Covenant from its content and how this distinction informs the New Covenant. Chapter 5: The Tie that Binds - Covenant: Part 2.

Once we've engaged the power of the covenantal connection I bring in the sacraments - in the Old Covenant: circumcision and Passover; in the New Covenant: baptism and the Lord's Supper. Here I begin to tighten the links in order to demonstrate what the Church, worship, her leaders, etc., is to look like. Chapter 6: Here's Where We Pray: Houses of Worship/Synagogue Churches. Within the Evangelical community specifically, there is usually a call for modern denominations to "get back to the N.T. house church." The assumption is, that all forms of "formal," or "liturgical" worship are either extreme departures from the pure simplicity of N.T. house churches or are outright false and aberrations of what the N.T. Church is to be. I analyze this assertion and point out where it is amiss and why it is an incorrect understanding of what was actually taking place in the N.T. and what these so-called "house churches" truly were. Chapter 7: Who's In Charge Here? The Structure. Of all of the contentious issues facing the Church, the question of authority eventually jumps to the fore. What, actually, is ecclesiastical authority? How is it defined? How is it implemented? Who has it, if anybody?! If they have it, how did they get it? This chapter lays out the why's, wherefore's, and who of authority in the Church. Chapter 8: Christ Fulfills the Old Testament. As I was writing this book I found this issue to be the most commonly invoked and most commonly misunderstood. What does it mean when we say "Jesus fulfilled the O.T.?" What does the Greek word for "fulfilled" mean? I spend the entire chapter providing lexical definitions from the various generally accepted Greek scholars showing how wrong the common understanding of this word, in current Christian circles, actually is. Chapter 9: "Bishop/Elder" or "Bishop AND Elder"?

Of all of the chapters, this is THE most specific and direct expression of a particular understanding of a denomination and its expression of Church government. In the history of Christian discussions of the Church, the question of Church government is one of the most contentious. If you refer back to the first 6 points of the blog, you will see how this issue is generally presented. At the heart of the issue is the question of the meaning of "elder" and "overseer" or "priest" and "bishop" respectively, in Scripture. This chapter is the most technical as it includes, out of necessity, the most extensive inclusion of linguistic support in the book. As in the case of "fulfill," there is a decided slopiness in understanding and eventually applying, the meaning of these terms to how they are implemented in the Church and worship. This chapter was originally 2 separate chapters but, for the sake of concision, I had to merge the two. Full disclosure, I shouldn't have done this because it might lead to confusion. I do apologize, but I think, if one reads closely, my point is evident. Chapter 10: Conclusion.

As I wrapped up the book, I attempted to tie the themes covered and anticipate and answer a few objections. Appendix A: The Curious Case of St. Jerome Immediately prior to completion of the book, a minister and friend of mine, presented the question of St. Jerome's position on the matter raised in Chapter 9. It is important due to St. Jerome's position as a revered scholar within the Roman Church. If his position, as a representative of Episcopal Church government, can be shown to be divergent from the standard and generally accepted understanding of what Episcopacy is, then we have a dilemma in advocating Episcopacy as understood today; which undermines that form of Church government. I tackle this directly. Appendix B: Example of an Anglican Worship Service.

This is fairly straightforward. I present here one expression as to how an Anglican service is to be conducted in light of all that has been previously presented in the book. I not only highlight the service, I give a step-by-step explanation of the theological meaning and rationale of why what is being done, is being done. If you've ever wondered what all those motions, bells, smells, and recitations mean, this chapter explains them. Appendix C: Why Use the Book of Common Prayer? This is an outright apology and defense of the Book of Common Prayer. In the main section of the book, I attempted to rely heavily on non-Anglican scholars to prove my case. I didn't want to be accused of question-begging, cherry-picking, or any variety of ad hominem circumstantial fallacy. Here I invoke competent, irenic Anglican authorities (and a few modifications of my own to boot) in order to show, not only the validity of using the Book of Common Prayer but the Biblically established support and therefore the necessity of using such a work alongside the Bible in, not only our public worship but every aspect of our lives. It doesn't replace the Bible in any way as our only absolutely infallible and inerrant authority. It organizes elements of the Bible for the Bible's use in public worship as established in the Biblical pattern.

I hope then this has piqued your interest and you'll take a look at the book. I'll leave you with what one of the reviews wrote, which is echoed by others who have reviewed the book:

"This is a book for new and veteran Christians alike ... HIGHLY recommended, especially for those who question The Lord's Day worship practices of their particular congregation ... FIVE STARS here, Fr Paul. This is a gift to the Christian Church. Thank you." See you in two weeks.

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1 Comment

Mar 01, 2022

a most excellent gift indeed.

buy and read this book now or suffer the consequences. i needed it and so do you.

safe travels

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