Learning Theology through the Church's Worship

An Introduction to Christian Belief

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This book introduces students to theology with sustained attention to how Christian beliefs and the church's worship interact, both historically and in practice. Veteran theology teacher Dennis Okholm approaches the subject from the necessary intersection of theology and liturgy, showing that Christian belief and worship are inextricably related and that learning the church's doctrine apart from its worship undermines both.

Learning Theology through the Church's Worship flows as if the reader were participating in a service of worship. Although it uses examples from traditions that are more "liturgical," the spirit of the book is ecumenical. It features illustrative charts and figures that clarify challenging concepts and includes suggestions for assignments at the end of the book. This volume will benefit professors and students in introductory theology classes as well as pastors and church leaders.

Contents
Preface: How to Read This Book
1. Liturgical Ophthalmology, or Why Christian Theology and Ethics Begin and End with Worship
We Enter by "Gathering"
2. What Is Christian Theology?
We Pray the "Collect" of the Day
3. What Are the Sources for and the Results of Doing Theology?
We Hear Scripture and Respond in the "Liturgy of the Word"
4. Who Is God? The Doctrine of the Trinity
We Recite the "Creed" in Response to Hearing the Word
5. Who Is Jesus Christ? Christology
We Ponder the Creed's Meaning for Our Belief in Jesus Christ
6. How Did the World Come into Existence and What Keeps It Going? Creation and Providence
We Join in the "Prayers of the People": Thanksgiving and Intercession for the World and the Church
7. What Is a Human Being? Theological Anthropology
We Kneel in the "Confession" of Our Sins
8. What Did Christ Do for Humans? Soteriology
We Hear That We Are Forgiven in the "Absolution"
9. Who Is the Holy Spirit and What Does the Holy Spirit Do? Pneumatology
We Pray the "Epiclesis" That Invokes the Holy Spirit's Active Presence in Communion
10. What Is the Church? Ecclesiology
We Continue the "Liturgy of the Table" with the "Passing of the Peace of Christ"
11. The Sacraments
We Practice "Baptism" and Celebrate "Eucharist"
12. What Is the Future of God, Humans, and the World? Eschatology
The "Dismissal" That Sends Us Out into the World from Which We Gathered
The Benediction
Appendix: Examples of Assignments to Be Used with This Book
Indexes


Endorsements

"In this terrific and timely book, Dennis Okholm demonstrates that the study of theology and the practices of worship ought to be close neighbors, constantly talking and learning from each other. Students will receive a double blessing in studying this book because they will both learn the remarkably deep conversation of Christian theology and see with new eyes the rich theological implications of worship."

Leanne Van Dyk, president and professor of theology, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Worship and doctrine are inseparable, yet for too long evangelicals have been constructing worship ad hoc as if it bears no relation to belief. This arbitrariness must end! And Okholm convincingly shows why. This book could serve as an excellent resource for catechetical instruction. The evangelical world is richer for Learning Theology through the Church's Worship."

Simon Chan, editor, Asia Journal of Theology; Trinity Theological College

"Theology and worship belong together. What we do together in public worship arises out of and then further forms our particular visions of who God is, the kind of salvation that is offered to us in Jesus Christ, and the nature of the Holy Spirit's work in the world. Ideas, practices, convictions, and perceptions all work together. Thanks to Dennis Okholm for inviting students to see so many of the connections! This book promises to deepen our engagement in worship, to encourage us in our life of faith, and to invite us to further reflection and learning."

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary

"Through careful and accessible theological discussions, Okholm gives a much-needed voice to liturgy in this introductory book on Christian theology. Learning Theology through the Church's Worship provides fresh and refreshing theological insights that will be beneficial to all students of theology."

Victor I. Ezigbo, professor of theology, Bethel University

"Professor Okholm pens this book with the admirable goal and heartfelt hope that it will enable the reader 'to see how the church's doctrine often arose out of worship and, conversely, how its worship reflects its doctrine.' My kudos! Mission accomplished! As a biblical studies instructor, I appreciate the thorough and thoughtful interface of Scripture with careful and informed theological reflection. As a worship studies instructor, I welcome an approach that puts the history and practice of Christian liturgy in conversation with systematic theology. I especially commend Okholm's pastoral concern and spiritual sensitivity in recognizing that prayer and the work of theology always belong together. Okholm offers a most helpful model for the integration of biblical theology, theology proper, and worship studies. I enthusiastically recommend the book for pastors, teachers, students--all Christian worshipers."

Andrew E. Hill, professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College; professor of worship studies, Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies

"Learning Theology through the Church's Worship is an amazing ride! Okholm has brought prayer and worship together with orthodox and historical theology around a liturgical outline in a truly engaging way. This book has rare breadth, and where needed, serious depth--all aimed at showing how praying and worshiping shape followers of Jesus in true belief and fruitful practice."

Todd Hunter, Anglican Bishop; founder, Churches for the Sake of Others

"A pestilent dichotomy between doctrine and worship has infected Christian thought, making the doctrines of the Trinity, the atonement, and creation among many others seem foreign to the church's life and worship. Reading Learning Theology through the Church's Worship will heal you of the disease. In this book, Okholm introduces us to the rich beauty of our doctrine, performed every time we come together in worship. Reading this book will lead you to profound hallelujahs!"

Brian Lugioyo, Azusa Pacific University


The Author

  1. Dennis Okholm

    Dennis Okholm

    Dennis Okholm (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University and adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. He speaks frequently in church and youth group settings and is a canon theologian for the Diocese of...

    Continue reading about Dennis Okholm


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