A Body of Praise
Understanding the Role of Our Physical Bodies in Worship
Do our physical bodies really matter in corporate worship? Isn't our soul the most important part of us? Aren't our bodies, at best, negligible to worship and, at worst, a hindrance? The answer to this last question is categorically no, as Christians have attested throughout history and across the global church. The purpose of the body instead is to offer to God in worship what only it can offer--and what must be offered to God.
By drawing on the wisdom of the Bible, church history, and theology, and by taking advantage of the unique insights of the arts and sciences, ethics, and spiritual formation, a respected theologian and pastor argues in this book that there is something for our physical bodies to do that decisively forms Christlikeness in us within the context of corporate worship. What we do with our postures, gestures, and movements in worship matters. How our senses of sight, scent, sound, taste, and touch are involved in worship matters. How our spontaneous and prescriptive activities form us in worship matters. All of it matters to faithful and fulsome worship for the sake of a body that is fully alive in the praise of God.
1. The Glory of the Body
An Introduction to the Body in Worship
2. The Map of the Body
Mapping Out the Landscape of the Body in Worship
3. The Story of the Body
Historical Perspectives on the Body in Worship
4. The Benediction of the Body
Biblical Perspectives on the Body in Worship (Part 1)
5. The Future of the Body
Biblical Perspectives on the Body in Worship (Part 2)
6. The True Image of the Body
Theological Perspectives on the Body in Worship
7. The Nature of the Body
Scientific Perspectives on the Body in Worship
8. The Art of the Body
Artistic Perspectives on the Body in Worship
9. The Way of the Body
Ethical Perspectives on the Body in Worship
10. The Discipline of the Body
The Prescriptive Body in Worship
11. The Freedom of the Body
The Spontaneous Body in Worship
12. The End of the Body
A Conclusion to the Body in Worship
"'The body is his book' said the poet John Donne about human love, and in this excellent, nuanced, and well-timed study, David Taylor explains how the body is indeed the 'book' of our relationship with the love of God. The bodily dimensions of worship are explored with comprehensive empathy and scholarly depth. As we wrestle with the long-term impact of the pandemic on our worship practices, this work is an indispensable resource."
Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury
"The role of the human body in Christian worship has been neglected for too long but is now significantly enriched by Taylor's work. This book is wide in scope yet deep in wisdom. His writing displays a lifetime of scholarship and reflection, now brought together in mature form for the benefit of worshiping communities everywhere."
Constance M. Cherry, professor emeritus of worship and pastoral ministry, Indiana Wesleyan University; professor, doctor of worship studies, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies
"Against our culture's increasingly transhumanist anthropology, David Taylor reminds us that to be human means not merely to have a body but to be embodied. And at the heart of God's design for embodied persons made in his image is worship--worship that praises God, celebrates his good creation, and joyously engages every dimension of our corporeal and corporate existence."
Joel Scandrett, associate professor of historical theology, Trinity School for Ministry
"David Taylor has curated the story of the body throughout church history in a clear, concise, and compelling way. This book is for both lay leaders and the academic, with rigorous research that gives both a macro- and microperspective on what it means to live as bodies in a world aching for the redemption of all things. The collective minds and hearts of Christians need this book as we learn and relearn what the body has known all along."
Lore Ferguson Wilbert, author of A Curious Faith and Handle with Care
"David Taylor's thoughtful and highly readable work shows that, whether it's 'free church' or 'liturgical,' holistic worship must engage the whole body in all its senses. He makes his case by drawing from a wide range of studies: from Scripture and Christian tradition to the arts and sciences. This book should effectively put to rest the notion that online worship can be an adequate substitute."
Simon Chan, former lecturer in systematic theology, Trinity Theological College, Singapore; editor of Asia Journal of Theology
"The topics of this book are close to my heart and close to the needs of the church today. Taylor knows that good theology and good practice form a whole, and he lays that out in ways that will bless us body and soul. This book will be useful across a wide variety of worshiping traditions."
Beth Felker Jones, professor of theology, Northern Seminary
"This well-written, vivid study on the role of our bodies in corporate worship is timely and helpful in the wake of our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor correlates the theological and pastoral wisdom of the church with the findings and insights of the arts and sciences to show how the triune God interacts with his people bodily in worship and engages them spiritually with their physical senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch."
John W. Kleinig, emeritus professor, Australian Lutheran College; author of Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body
"As striking as Ezekiel's vision of enfleshing bones, Taylor knits together the motivating force of grief in a world reluctantly awakened to our common fragility. Involved in the human-God story through the provocation of perplexing questions, we are encouraged to trust and begin to live into the gifted smallness of our bodies as we reflect the glory of the divine image. Through overcoming the wounds we pile on others and ourselves by a host of misconceptions, this book, at once exhortation and evidence, invites us into newness and renewal. No longer dry, we rise."
Cecilia González-Andrieu, professor of theology and theological aesthetics, Loyola Marymount University; author of Bridge to Wonder: Art as a Gospel of Beauty