In 2013, Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theologian Seminary, wrote a kind review in Artistic Theologian of my first book, Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship (2009). Ever since I first met Dr. Patterson, I’ve known that he has a deep interest in and concern for biblical worship. This is one reason, among many, that Dr. Patterson has maintained, supported, and built up the largest graduate School of Church Music in the world at Southwestern Seminary (our bachelor’s degree in music is growing fast, now, too). Dr. Patterson somehow got a hold of my book while I was still a PhD student, and we had occasion to have several conversations about it before and leading up to my appointment to the faculty.
In his review, Dr. Patterson noted several positive aspects of Worship in Song:
- First, he observed that “the references cited in the book are extensive and eclectic and demonstrate a consummate familiarity with the field.”
- Second, he noted that “the consideration of a theologian who also happens to be a top-level musician is apparent in this volume. Skilled in scriptural exegesis and thoroughly informed in theologian investigation, Scott Aniol writes as a theological musician.” Kind, generous words to say the least!
- Third, Patterson wrote that “in every way Worship in Song is the most thorough and cogent consideration of issues in church music that I have seen anywhere.” Again, generous words!
However, as any good book reviewer would, Dr. Patterson noted a few areas where the book could be improved, and I was very thankful to see these suggestions:
- First, Dr. Patterson suggested that “[Aniol] needs to put greater consideration on the impact of culture on music.”
- Second, he noted that “one of the reasons frequently provided by its advocates for the use of contemporary music is that it is evangelistically potent . . . This is a subject that needs to be addressed at some length because it contains truth.”
Dr. Patterson was exactly right in these two suggestions. In Worship in Song I did not explicitly deal with either the question of Christianity and culture, nor the increasingly relevant question of the relationship between worship/music and evangelism.
Ironically, I had noted these two areas that needed treatment even before Dr. Patterson wisely suggested them, which is what led me to write my latest book, By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture (2015).
I wrote By the Waters of Babylon to explicitly deal with both the large issue of how Christian worship and music should relate to the matter of culture and the question of how Christian worship connects with the Great Commission. I deal with these issues by examining and evaluating the missional church movement, which is itself intensely concerned with both of these questions, and its impact on Evangelical worship. I use this movement as a foil to explore what the Bible says about these important topics.
This new book, I believe, helps fill the gaps Dr. Patterson accurately observed in my first book. For this book, Dr. Patterson graciously offered an endorsement, writing, “Clever, thought provoking, biblical, and firm, Aniol’s perspective is profoundly relevant to our churches today.”
My prayer is that By the Waters of Babylon, combined with Worship in Song and my more popular level book, Sound Worship, will help Christians think biblical about these critical issues.