Posts Tagged ‘Regulative Principle’

I slept slightly later, but had plenty of time to take another walk around the park. I didn’t plan on the seminar in the interest of rest. Phil and I arrived in plenty of time for the panel discussion with the Study Committee on Women in the Ministry of the Church. They tried, and I think largely succeeded, in writing a consensus document (you can see my recent blog posts about it). A variety of opinions were found on the committee on some specifics. But all of them examined the questions before them within the context of the authority of Scripture, our confessional documents and our denominational commitment to complementarianism.

Mary Beth McGreevy summed it up well for me regarding the “slippery slope.” Many of the women of the denomination want to fully use the gifts God has given in the way God has intended. But they feel like they are driving in a 65 mph zone stuck behind a guy going 45 mph who doesn’t want her to break the law. There is no desire to break the law, simply a desire to be as fruitful as possible for the kingdom. Kathy Keller fully affirmed complementarianism and that she doesn’t know anyone who wants to ordain women as elders. This isn’t about that, and if it happens she promises to come back to haunt those who approve it. There is some disagreement as to whether the office of deacon has authority (per our BCO) or not. It is a question worth asking, and finding a biblical answer for. I was disappointed that we didn’t hear from alternate Leon Brown. But as he says, if you put a microphone in front of him he’s going to pray or preach.

Sadly some of the questions at the end revealed that some people don’t believe what was said (or written) and are still fearful of the slippery slope and that we will be just like the PC(USA). We affirm the inspiration & authority of Scripture. They don’t. This is the massive difference. The day we give that up is the day I’m gone. But I don’t know anyone arguing for that view in the PCA.

How I Felt

It was to be a largely frustrating day. Much of the afternoon, about 2 ½ hours, was taken up with the report from the Study Committee on Women in the Ministry of the Church. We became mired in the parliamentary process as some people sought to improve it, remove things they thought offensive, obstruct the process and any other number of things. “Point of order” and “Personal Privilege” were commonly cried out as we continually got lost in a rat’s nest of substitute motions and amendments to the motion. I don’t hate Roberts’ Rules of Order, but I hate what some people do with them and how they often help us avoid helpful, brotherly conversation. Some of the very people who cry out “sola scriptura” & the Regulative Principle make use of RRoO, which isn’t Scripture, to govern our meetings. How is that fundamentally different from “commissioning persons”?

I felt very bad for the women present or live streaming this. It reminded me of Chattanooga. There the debate wounded many of our African-American members quite unnecessarily. They felt unwanted by some, put off yet again as though their experiences didn’t happen or don’t matter. Some of the women I talked to felt this way. Those who are more restrictive come across as devaluing women. I’m not saying they do, just that’s how it comes across. More than 50% of PCA members are women and should feel valued and free to serve. We hear words like “lead” and assume judicial authority. Some of this is the wording of the document which is using a term some take as exercising authority.

I had lunch with Ed Eubanks, Eddie, Adam Tisdale and his wife at Darryl’s Wood Fire Grill. Interesting décor. It was time for more sweet tea. I ordered the Tennessee Black Jack Chicken. They were very busy, but I still thought it took too long for our meals to arrive. My chicken was tasty, but the lunch portion was nearly microscopic. I did have ample amounts of broccoli and mashed potatoes. It was good catching up with Ed, and we talked about the book and the delay. Doulos uses p/t editors and my manuscript is like a curse. When one gets it, the editor’s life gets crazy and they don’t have time to work on it. Now it is Ed’s turn to edit it. Hopefully this means it will be done soon. But I will go through and remove some material that is unnecessary or unhelpful.

The worship music Wednesday afternoon was similar to Tuesday. Irwyn Ince’s sermon was great. From Hosea he talked about God’s plan to redeem, restore and reunite God’s people. I’d recommend buying a copy. I’m glad they freed him from the Study Committee chair “prison” so he could preach.

I was looking forward to the evening of fellowship planned downtown: food trucks, a concert, a message by Rankin Wilbourne (which wasn’t promoted). As usual, I was worn out (jet lag and large crowds) by the time dinner came around. So Eddie and I went out instead. At 7 pm the Japanese steakhouse still had a 45 minute wait, so we went to a thai place instead. He loved his red curry. My Drunken Noodle was not very spicy, and frankly I’ve had better. But it was a quiet evening. I almost called Dr. Schneeberger and Bo to see about having a beer, but decided a quiet night reading a book would serve me well.

My quiet night was very quiet as shortly after arriving at the BnB, the power went out during another thunderstorm, and would stay out until about midnight. A little light came thru those basement windows. It was like I was in an isolation chamber or remote cave. Around 11 I gave up and went to sleep.

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As I begin preparation for my examination in theology, Bible, government and sacraments, I thought I would resume the process of putting my study notes on-line.   It’s been awhile since I put some material on the Westminster Confession of Faith up here.  So today I’m covering the chapters on Religious Worship & the Sabbath Day, and Lawful Oaths and Vows.  Some good things to consider (the same caveats apply- I’m not arguing with anyone: if I misrepresented a position let me know).

Chapter XXI: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

214. Explain the significance of the statement: “… the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture”.   Scripture provides us with the elements of worship, and also prohibits some other practices.  We are not to imagine that our understanding of acceptable worship is better than God’s.  There is freedom in how we carry out those elements of worship so they are culturally appropriate.

215. Given your understanding of this principle, what would you consider to be prohibited in worship (particularly those elements currently practiced in other churches)?  The use of crucifixes, patriotic music or services, pictures of “Jesus”, worshipping the elements of the Supper as if they were Christ himself, snake handling, women preaching.

216. What are the “elements” of worship?  Call to Worship, Prayer, Creeds (Confession of Faith), Confession of Sin, Songs of Worship, Scripture Reading & Preaching, Giving, Sacraments, Benediction

217. What is the function of preaching in worship? With what attitude should it be received?  It should exalt God, edify Christians and evangelize the lost by making known & applying the Scriptures expositionally with a focus on Christ’s work for us, in us and thru us.  It is to be heard in faith and love to be stored in our hearts and practiced in our lives.

218. Is the fourth commandment a perpetual part of the moral law? How do you sanctify the Lord’s Day?  Yes, in that we should rest & worship one day in seven.  I spend a day resting from my ordinary work, spending time with my family.  On the Lord’s Day we worship Him.

Chapter XXII: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

219. What is a lawful oath? Why is an oath a part of religious worship? The person calls God as a witness to what he asserts or promises to do.  It is part of religious worship lest we use God’s name loosely or falsely.

220. What is a vow? What are some examples? When is it lawful to vow? A vow is like a promissory oath.  You may vow to give 25% of your income to the church for missions.  It must be made to God and done voluntarily.

221. Are there vows or oaths into which a Christian should not enter, either within or outside the church (for example, those related to secret societies, military service, or civic organizations)?  We are not to take vows which would lead us to sin by either omission or commission.

One of my exceptions is regarding the Lord’s Day/Sabbath.  I take a more Continental view (as opposed to the Puritan view) which was held by John Calvin.  It permits recreation since you are ceasing from your regular work to provide for your family.  In most things I tend to fall in line with Calvin.  I find him most consistent with Scripture.

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(this is the second in a series on Covenantal Worship by R. J. Gore)

 Argument Against the Puritan Regulative Principle

Gore argues that Jesus, our model, violated the Puritan Regulative Principle!  His argument is summarized here.

  1. Jesus regularly worshiped in the synagogue.   The origin of the synagogue is speculative (during the Babylonian captivity).  There is no command by God to form synagogues.  There are no directions as to how to carry out synagogue worship.  As a result, synagogue worship itself would violate the norms of the Regulative Principle (it is neither explicitly commanded, nor is the result of good and necessary inference).  However, Jesus regularly participated in the synagogue.  If it was sinful, Jesus would not do it.
  2. Jesus celebrated Chanukah.  John 10 tells us that Jesus went to the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.  This was the feast of dedication of the temple celebrating the victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks.  There is no biblical command to celebrate this feast (unless we include the Apocrypha), nor any good and necessary inference since this is the result of extra-biblical history.  To celebrate this feast would violate the Regulative Principle.  Jesus did celebrate it.  Therefore, it cannot be sinful. 

In light of the weakness of the Puritan view of the Regulative Principle, we must articulate a better principle for regulating the worship of God’s people.  The last section of Gore’s book is to lay out what he calls Covenantal Worship.  Here is what he means.

Covenantal Worship “implies responsibility and certainly provides no room for any notion of simple, mechanical conformity.  Indeed, the obligation of the covenant requires faithful, responsible, and intentional obedience to covenant precepts and principles (pp. 138).”  Covenantal Worship is an attempt to honor the Biblical commands concerning worship while offering freedom for those areas in which Scripture is silent.  This would actually be in keeping with the WCF 1.6 which reads “that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, … which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.” 

In other words, Scripture tells us what to do, but does not tell us how to do it.  We are to sing, and make music to the Lord.  Scripture does not regulate which instruments may or may not be used, or which styles may or may not be used (if it did, our hymns would not meet that criteria since they are products of 16th-19th century European culture).  We are commanded to pray, but there is freedom concerning how we pray (prepared prayers, spontaneous prayers, silent prayers etc.)  We find Jesus using culturally understandable illustrations when he preached.  It may be appropriate to use culturally understandable illustrations such as film clips in the worship service.  “The covenantal principle of worship says that whatever is consistent with the Scriptures is acceptable in worship.  Here is where the major difference with the Puritan formula appears (pp. 140).”

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(I’ve been swamped, so I’m pulling stuff out of archives.  Enjoy!)

T0875525628he “world” of Presbyterian worship is in disarray.  There is no longer any such thing as “Presbyterian worship.”  Many congregations cling to a more traditional style of worship.  Others, particularly church plants, have embraced contemporary or modern worship styles.  Others have tried to balance them, blending the best of both (they hope). 

Being Presbyterians, we tend to think the way ‘we’ do things is the right way.  This has meant that various groups criticize one another.  One positive has been an increase in the discussion of the Regulative Principle and how it should and should not determine our worship practices.

R.J. Gore Jr., dean of Erskine Seminary, wrote Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Principle to facilitate our understanding of the principle and perhaps change the tone and direction of our discussion.  After tracing the history of the Puritan Regulative Principle as expressed in the Westminster Directory of Public Worship and the Westminster Confession of Faith, he examines Calvin’s view.  Gore then argues that the Principle as expressed by the Puritans is not in harmony with Scripture.  He develops the concept of what he calls “covenantal worship”.  This maintains the use of Scripture as the guide for worship, while allowing for greater latitude in “unclear” matters.

The Regulative Principle is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Directory of Public Worship which have guided Presbyterians since the 17th century.  Before we see what the Confession says about worship, let us remember that the Confession itself reminds us that Scripture is the only authoritative rule for faith and practice.  If the Confession departs from the teaching of Scripture, we should not follow it at that point.


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