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The Regulative Principle of Worship

Discussion in 'Ask a Calvinist' started by onajourney87, Mar 7, 2006.

  1. onajourney87

    onajourney87 Contributor

    I know this isn't a belief held by all Calvinists, but it is fairly common I think.

    The teaching regarding this drives me nuts; differing people have differing ideas of what it means and how it applies. Some say no crosses in churches, some say no instruments, some say you must dress up to worship in church, some insist that we lay hands upon those we are praying for, etc, etc.

    Is there any basic, common ground here? Is there any Biblical references for such a teaching? The info I'm finding is very contradictory and has been of little help so far...

    Thanks, :)
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  2. edie19

    edie19 Legend Supporter

    As I understand the Regulative Principle (and as my church practices it) - we worship as prescribed by Scripture. Thus, our worship entails prayer, music, sacraments and teaching. I think there is latitude re: instruments, attire and such.

    But, if Scripture doesn't clearly indicate that something should be part of worship, we leave it out. What my church doesn't include in their worship service are passing an offering plate or announcements (there are a couple of exceptions to that - if we have a special speaker or new member).

    One of my favorite quotes by Michael Horton (sorry, I know he said it, but don't remember which book I read it in)

  3. rmwilliamsll

    rmwilliamsll avid reader

    There is a reasonable straightforward continuum of beliefs on the issues.

    to the right are the exclusive psalmody, without instruments, just to their left allow instruments, then the bulk of Presbyterians who allow organs and sing hymns but conservative older hymns. then the contemporary Christian music people who sing praise songs with electric guitars. i guess the next step is liturgical dance...*grin*

    we are actually going through the issues in a Sunday School class, could i offer http://rinconmountainpca.com/worshipclassnotes.html
    to watch over the next 3 months for the answer?

    i don't have the bibliography posted there yet, but i will this week.

    as you can see we are using J.Frame's _Worship in Spirit and Truth_ which represents a little to the left of the bulk of PCA churches.
  4. onajourney87

    onajourney87 Contributor

    Thanks for the reponses and link. :)

    Could someone please shed some more light on this part of the Horton quote?
  5. heymikey80

    heymikey80 Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum viditur


    DEU 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

    Deuteronomy 17 also describes some of the conditions.

    MAT 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    ACT 17:25 Neither is he worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.

    EXO 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

    The Regulative Principle essentially asserts that God gets to institute the conditions methods and means under which God is to be worshipped. Westminster Ch. 21 describes some of these principles, as well as what they're based on.

    But according to Westminster Ch. 20, people aren't supposed to be forced to agree conscientiously as far as worship is concerned, with anything outside what Scripture states as required or not required. God didn't create a group of elders to decide what His worship should include. God only assigned the group of elders to organize the parts of worship He instituted (ca. 1 Cor 14 about "everything being done in good order").

    Me, I hold to the regulative principle of a sort, but not by what Calvin thought of it. Calvin agreed with a massive simplifying of worship -- no instruments, no trappings of imagery or groups of assigned singers or players or dancers or actors.

    Later Puritans and Presbyterians shifted this to exclude all but the Psalms, antiphonally sung. Worship was confined to Sunday: no holydays, again they were consider "Romish".

    In the mid-1800's this essentially began shifting back, I forget the theologian that started the shift in the US (I'll remember it in an hour or so!).

    The real question for me is whether the arguments really have Scriptural merit. I think many are artifacts of the way we systematized Reformed thought, excising the "ceremonial". And at the same time western culture pressed us further and further away from ritual as not being ... "real."

    If we back up into the heart of the Reformation project, though, we can see the basic ideas at work, why Calvin and other Reformers excluded instruments and the like. When the trappings of ritual interfere and exclude the message of the Gospel, the trappings should be excluded and the Gospel preached. But even there, some went to extremes. Zwingli excluded singing in worship, for instance.

    And Luther accepted the "normative" principle of worship, a rather different view which essentially says whatever's not rejected by God can be included in worship.

    So ... a bit rambling, but I hope it helps.