Book Review: Worship that Pleases God by James W. Bartley

Bartley, James W. Worship that Pleases God: a Biblical Perspective. New York: Baal Hamon Publishing, 2008. 298 pp. $17.99

worship that pleases God book cover Introduction and Background

About The Publisher

Before I introduce this particular book and author, I would like to introduce the publishing company behind the book since they are based out of Nigeria with an office in New York. I must admit that I chuckled at first at the name Baal Hamon Publishers for the (hopefully) obvious reason of the name “Baal.” However, the name is found in Song of Solomon 8:11 where it reads, “Solomon has a vineyard in a place called Baal Hamon. There are farmers who rent it from him; each one pays a thousand silver coins. (GNB).

I was pleasantly surprised to discover their views of publishing and their standard for what they will publish. According to their website, “publishing is not just business. It is ministry. Our ultimate goal in publishing books is not profit but to affect lives and the society positively for Christ.” Baal Hamon says they are an “imprint” of the Joy and Truth Christian Ministry, which “is committed to promoting non-denominational, non-discriminatory, non-racial brotherliness among Christians from ALL backgrounds.”

About The Author

Dr. James W. Bartley has a Bachelor of Divinity (1951), a Master of Theology (1965), and Doctor of Theology (1975) from the Baptist Theological Seminary though I am not sure where this seminary is located. I can only assume that it is Uruguay since he taught there as well as became a missionary in that country until 1993. He has taught at numerous Baptist Seminaries throughout the world and according to the back of the book, “has earned an enviable international influence and recognition.”

Given all of his international ministry and teaching, he confesses that “This book is his confession [that] at 57 years of age and after 35 years of ministry, [he] came to discover for the very first time many of the biblical principles of worship” (p. i). That sentence is the second sentence of the Preface of the book and shows the reader the humility in which he writes. This humility is found on every page. His heart is to better equip believers to worship our awesome Triune God who alone is deserving of worship.

Summary of Worship that Pleases God

When I first picked up the book to read it for this review, I assumed that I would be reading an apologetic for the Regulative Principle of worship. In a sense, that is what I read; however, there was nothing about what we call the Regulative Principle to be found in the book. Dr. Bartley sticks to the scripture alone as his guide and offers a biblical theology for what kind of worship it is that pleases, and brings glory to, God.

The book is broke down into three sections: the Old Testament, the New Testament and a synthesis of the two. He breaks down both testaments according to the genres of books (OT: law, history, poetry, and prophets; NT: gospels, history, Pauline epistles and apocalyptic). He then systematically, and in canonical order, goes through each passage wherein the word worship is translated from the original languages. In Hebrew, the word is shachah. In the Greek, the word is proskuneo.

Dr. Bartley shows how the five modes of worship (response, dialogue, offerings, drama, and celebration) are found extensively throughout the Old Testament. He also shows how the Bible is clear in explaining what kind of worship is not pleasing to God and is considered idolatry. He has the same approach in the second section of the book looking at the New Testament.

In the final section, Dr. Bartley offers up a synthesis of what the whole Bible says regarding worship. He groups his findings under three general categories with subdivisions found in each. First, there is what precedes worship. This would include becoming aware of God and His nature. Second, there is what happens in the act of worship itself. Recognition of God’s glory and grace and man’s sinfulness are a couple of elements found in this category. Finally, there is what follows the act of worship. Here we discover God’s manifestations of pleasure (or displeasure with sin) and He is glorified further.

Critical Evaluation of Worship that Pleases God

I am not sure if Baal Harmon is a self-publishing company or not, but this book gives the feel of having been self-published. By that, I am referring to spelling and grammatical errors throughout the entirety of the book. They are not as glaring as many self-published titles, but they are present.

About the only other real critique, other than not always agreeing with his understanding of a few passages (this is to be expected for no other reason than we don’t all agree on everything), is his writing style. I realize this is more personal matter and therefore will not cause problems for others, but I found his style of writing a bit cumbersome at times. I only include this because I was asked to give the book reviewn In no way did it take away from the content of the book.

Conclusion

While I am highly suspect of smaller publishing companies who seem more along the lines of a self-publishing company, I found this book to be fairly sound theologically and exegetically. I find the subject matter to be unique in the sense that most people write for a particular historic understanding of worship with an appeal to the Bible. Dr. Bartley, on the other hand, appeals to the Bible in order that we may worship God according to what pleases Him.

I cannot recall seeing a book or bible study devoted to solely to understanding what the Bible says about worshiping God and therefore would recommend this volume to be added to your library for a couple of reasons. First, the author sticks to the Bible alone for his study material. Second, he writes with passion and humility on a topic that, while it has been divisive in the past, should be at the heart of everything we do in our lives. Obviously, you will not agree with everything Dr. Bartley says, but that is not the point of his book. His goal is to offer a systematic and biblical study of what kind of worship it is that God finds pleasing. I believe he met his goal.

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6 Responses to Book Review: Worship that Pleases God by James W. Bartley

  1. Re: “Dr. Bartley sticks to the scripture alone as his guide and offers a biblical theology for what kind of worship it is that pleases, and brings glory to, God.”

    -’Sticking to scripture alone as the guide and offering a biblical theology for worship’ is pretty much the definition of the Regulative Principle when applied to specific practices.

    Andrew Lindseys last blog post..Mark Driscoll’s Critique of Prayer Labyrinths

  2. Andrew, I couldn’t agree more. What I was saying is usually people want to argue for the Regulative Principle using Scripture (which is correct) but only end up in a debate because of the term “regulative.” What I liked about Bartley’s method was that he simply let the scripture do the talking without mentioning any buzzwords.

  3. Sounds great! Can’t wait to check it out.

    Andrew Lindseys last blog post..Cool Picture

  4. Thank you for your review, Terry. Baal Hamon Publishers is not a self-publishing service. Although we are small, we are a standard publisher and we are growing. I’m rather surprised at the grammatical and spelling errors you refer to. Dr. Bartley has several spelling alternatives that are not conventional. We checked them. Even though most were rather old-fashioned spellings, we chose to retain them as a commitment to maintaining the author’s originality. The same applied to grammar. You can check again (I personally consulted the Longman dictionary, Merriam Webster, and Cambridge Online dictionary in most cases). If you insist they were mistakes though, you can kindly let me know which specific ones you refer to.
    Thank you and God bless you.

    Julius B. Adewopo
    Editorial Department,
    Baal Hamon Publishers.

  5. Julius,

    Thank you for taking the time to engage with this review.

    My statement that the errors were not “glaring” is probably what you are referring to as spelling and grammatical alternatives. That would seem to support my personal conclusion that his writing style was sometimes “cumbersome.” I hope I was explicit in that these minor problems did not take away from the content of the book.

    Just out of curiousity, I wonder how much of the alternative spellings and grammar have to do with Dr. Bartley’s international missions work? Having only been out of the country with the military ten years ago, I lack an international view of writing.

    Terry Delaneys last blog post..Oh, By Thy Way, God is Still Working

  6. Julius, I don’t think my second paragraph makes any sense! I just read what I wrote and I don’t quite understand it. What I meant to say there was that the spelling and grammatical errors were not glaring in the same way they are in most self-published titles. However, you are not a self-publishing house (I apologize for that misunderstanding) and I am sure most of what I thought were misspellings and grammatical errors were precisely what you said were alternatives.

    I hope that makes more sense than what it seems to have in my earlier comment.

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