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Marva J. Dawn (born 20 August 1948, Napoleon, Ohio) is an American Christian theologian, author, musician and educator, associated with the parachurch organization Christians Equipped for Ministry in Vancouver, Washington. She also serves as Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dawn is generally perceived as a Lutheran evangelical. She often writes in a paleo-orthodox style, stressing the importance of Christian tradition and the wisdom of the Church through the centuries. Her birth surname is Gersmehl; Dawn is a pseudonym.
A scholar with four master's degrees and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics and the Scriptures from the University of Notre Dame, she has taught for clergy and worship conferences and at seminaries throughout the United States and Canada and in Australia, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore and Scotland. She is also well known as a preacher and speaker for all ages and sometimes contributes to worship by means of her musical gifts. She is married to Myron Sandberg.
Her 1995 book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture, which urged a second look at so-called "contemporary Christian worship", caused a stir in evangelical circles, being the first scholarly work from within the evangelical community to seriously question "seeker sensitive" style worship. Dawn claims that much contemporary worship, which seeks primarily to evangelize through entertainment, is not really Christian worship at all. Rather than focus on bringing people into the church through worship, Dawn argues that worship should instead focus upon the glory and grace of the triune God, not ignoring the artistic treasures and traditions of the Church through the ages. The book remains her most widely read and most talked about work. Dawn continued this exploration in her 1999 book, A Royal "Waste" of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World.
In her more recent work, Dawn has drawn on Albert Borgmann's notion of the device paradigm to develop a critique of the church in its capitulation to commodification where worship, for example, becomes a device to attract and please.
Some other notable works include: