Corporate Confessions of Sin & RPW

Status
Not open for further replies.

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
In reformed churches using a liturgy that includes a corporate reading of a confession of sin, what is the example or command from scripture for this practice? I've done some searching on the board but didn't find anything that clearly addressed it. I am coming from an EP understanding of what is to be sung so perhaps I am confusing categories when thinking about the issue of corporate confession or even prayer.
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman
Could we not take the penitential Psalms and the Lord’s prayer to be in support of corporate confession of sin?
 
Last edited:

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
You are able to take them for what they are, by good and necessary consequence, for in the element of prayer to pray for such things.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
In reformed churches using a liturgy that includes a corporate reading of a confession of sin, what is the example or command from scripture for this practice? I've done some searching on the board but didn't find anything that clearly addressed it. I am coming from an EP understanding of what is to be sung so perhaps I am confusing categories when thinking about the issue of corporate confession or even prayer.

The practice would fall more under the general rules of the Word, as we shape the individual elements in a worship service. We do have episodes of corporate confession (Neh. 9:1-3, Num. 21:7) as well as confession within the context of worship (Isa 6:1-8). We have commands to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (Jms 5:16). The general rules of the Word also teach us what is happening in worship. It is a meeting of a holy God with his covenant people, and when people enter God's presence in Scripture, we often see how they are aware of their sin and need for his mediation. So it can be useful to shape our liturgy to reflect those covenant and gospel realities when entering the presence of God, and also a useful application of teaching the Word, by teaching people how to pray and confess their sins while looking to Christ for forgiveness and grace.

It's important to remember that the RPW primarily deals with the required elements of worship (i.e. prayer, ministry of the Word), while the actual organizing of liturgy is left to the prudence of the local leaders applying those elements within the general rules of the Word and the needs of that local congregation. Is it required that we have a corporate prayer of confession in every service in that specific way? No. There are other ways to do it (i.e. having the minister alone pray that confession, either as a specific prayer of confession, or part of his larger pastoral prayer). But could a corporate prayer be useful and beneficial and done in an orderly way? Yes.

My two cents...
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
The practice would fall more under the general rules of the Word, as we shape the individual elements in a worship service. We do have episodes of corporate confession (Neh. 9:1-3, Num. 21:7) as well as confession within the context of worship (Isa 6:1-8). We have commands to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (Jms 5:16). The general rules of the Word also teach us what is happening in worship. It is a meeting of a holy God with his covenant people, and when people enter God's presence in Scripture, we often see how they are aware of their sin and need for his mediation. So it can be useful to shape our liturgy to reflect those covenant and gospel realities when entering the presence of God, and also a useful application of teaching the Word, by teaching people how to pray and confess their sins while looking to Christ for forgiveness and grace.

It's important to remember that the RPW primarily deals with the required elements of worship (i.e. prayer, ministry of the Word), while the actual organizing of liturgy is left to the prudence of the local leaders applying those elements within the general rules of the Word and the needs of that local congregation. Is it required that we have a corporate prayer of confession in every service in that specific way? No. There are other ways to do it (i.e. having the minister alone pray that confession, either as a specific prayer of confession, or part of his larger pastoral prayer). But could a corporate prayer be useful and beneficial and done in an orderly way? Yes.

My two cents...

Nehemiah 9:1-3
If I understand it correctly, I don't see any specifics as to how the confession was done - there is nothing to indicate they all read a prayer in unison or the like. The most natural way I read it is they would have confessed privately while gathered but I could be mistaken.

Numbers 21:7
Is clear that the people went to Moses and then he prayed for the people. This is more specific than the previous passage and would give example against the notion of some unison reading of a confession by the congregation. Sounds like what Pastor Barnes described in post #2.

Isaiah 6:1-8 Seems to again support what Pastor Barnes said in post #2 - perhaps I am missing something here though.

If the RPW only deals with what elements are required and not their manner doesn't that leave the door open to all sorts of shenanigans in worship?

Not being combative but trying to learn.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Nehemiah 9:1-3
If I understand it correctly, I don't see any specifics as to how the confession was done - there is nothing to indicate they all read a prayer in unison or the like. The most natural way I read it is they would have confessed privately while gathered but I could be mistaken.

Numbers 21:7
Is clear that the people went to Moses and then he prayed for the people. This is more specific than the previous passage and would give example against the notion of some unison reading of a confession by the congregation. Sounds like what Pastor Barnes described in post #2.

Isaiah 6:1-8 Seems to again support what Pastor Barnes said in post #2 - perhaps I am missing something here though.

If the RPW only deals with what elements are required and not their manner doesn't that leave the door open to all sorts of shenanigans in worship?

Not being combative but trying to learn.

If you want more examples of corporate confession, just read the Psalms. Psalm 51, for example, is David's confession, but is was written for the congregation too. Psalms are both songs and prayers. You don't need specifics, when there are general principles that could be deduced by good and necessary consequence. We have examples of corporate confession, the Bible teaches us how to confess our sins, the Bible calls us to pray together. it also calls us to teach the Word, and therefore teach people how to pray. So one way to apply those principles could be a corporate prayer.

If you are following the RPW and the general rules of the word, then there will be no "shenanigans". But there's a difference between shenanigans and biblical liberty and prudence. If you are locked into a specific liturgy or form because you think its "the biblical one", then any other liturgy is going to seem like it has shenanigans.

A corporate confession is a prayer usually written by the pastor. The pastor is still leading the people, and teaching them how to pray at the same time.

Will there be more liberty in how congregations organize their liturgy? Sure. Can there be different ways to lead the congregation in prayer? Sure. But you couldn't smuggle in shenanigans like a liturgical dance or a skit. The Bible gives guidance on the form and content of prayer too. But much is still left to the prudence of the local session in organizing worship. And that's a beautiful part of the RPW. It creates a fence to keep out manmade traditions or innovations, but it's still a wide enough fence to allow flexibility to meet the specific worship needs of the congregation. So long as all is done in orderly obedience to God, in this case praying a biblically accurate prayer of confession, then your conscience should not be troubled.

My two cents...
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
If you want more examples of corporate confession, just read the Psalms. Psalm 51, for example, is David's confession, but is was written for the congregation too. Psalms are both songs and prayers. You don't need specifics, when there are general principles that could be deduced by good and necessary consequence. We have examples of corporate confession, the Bible teaches us how to confess our sins, the Bible calls us to pray together. it also calls us to teach the Word, and therefore teach people how to pray. So one way to apply those principles could be a corporate prayer.

If you are following the RPW and the general rules of the word, then there will be no "shenanigans". But there's a difference between shenanigans and biblical liberty and prudence. If you are locked into a specific liturgy or form because you think its "the biblical one", then any other liturgy is going to seem like it has shenanigans.
We have a clear command to sing psalms but I don't see how David's confession give way to make a unison confession of sin (different element). I realize now I am probably questioning the grounds for unison prayer in worship broadly speaking. The examples seem to show one man prays on behalf of the assembly. To be clear - I am not locked into anything but having reformed in a non-denominational setting and now visiting some reformed churches I am trying to understand some of the practices I have encountered.

A corporate confession is a prayer usually written by the pastor. The pastor is still leading the people, and teaching them how to pray at the same time.

Will there be more liberty in how congregations organize their liturgy? Sure. Can there be different ways to lead the congregation in prayer? Sure. But you couldn't smuggle in shenanigans like a liturgical dance or a skit. The Bible gives guidance on the form and content of prayer too. But much is still left to the prudence of the local session in organizing worship. And that's a beautiful part of the RPW. It creates a fence to keep out manmade traditions or innovations, but it's still a wide enough fence to allow flexibility to meet the specific worship needs of the congregation. So long as all is done in orderly obedience to God, in this case praying a biblically accurate prayer of confession, then your conscience should not be troubled.

My two cents...
I think this speaks to a big part of what I am struggling with. Shouldn't the minister only pray so that the congregation can speak or withhold their "amen"? Take the dance example (I know its ridiculous) but does it have less example from scripture than unison prayer (David danced)?

I am not so sure about such things being prevented from being smuggled in outside of requiring biblical warrant for them which is what I am not yet seeing for a corporate/unison confession of sin (prayer). My concern for the purity of worship being grounded on scripture and not preference - outside of the reformed world where I have dwelled most of my christian life I have seen many strange things come and go on the shaky grounds of preference. As we check out reformed churches after being through several non-reformed churches in the past (RC, efree, non-denom) I am examining everything to the best of my ability. I am glad the Lord has saved me from many false doctrines (and lack of doctrine) and wish to discern well with the work he has done in me as we look at joining a reformed church (currently we have been visiting one about 40 minutes away).
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
There seem to be examples of prayer done with many voices as one in Scripture. One is Acts 4:24ff ("they lifted their voices together to God"). Another example is Deuteronomy 26:5-9 which may be more of an example of a unified confession.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
We have a clear command to sing psalms but I don't see how David's confession give way to make a unison confession of sin (different element). I realize now I am probably questioning the grounds for unison prayer in worship broadly speaking. The examples seem to show one man prays on behalf of the assembly. To be clear - I am not locked into anything but having reformed in a non-denominational setting and now visiting some reformed churches I am trying to understand some of the practices I have encountered.
I too became reformed in a non-reformed setting, and went through that questioning process. You are not alone there, and I encourage you to keep asking questions, but look to the deeper Reformed understanding of Scripture on it. It was not until a joined a reformed congregation, and began digging down into more history and tradition that I better understood how the RPW both restricts and liberates our worship, and how that was variously applied among the different Reformed denominations. The RPW restricts us to use only commanded elements, but allows for wisdom in applying and organizing those commands under the general rules of the Word (WCF 21, 1.6). There's a reason the Westminster Assembly provided a "directory" for worship rather than imposing a "common book" of liturgy like the Anglicans had before. They recognized that distinction.


I think this speaks to a big part of what I am struggling with. Shouldn't the minister only pray so that the congregation can speak or withhold their "amen"? Take the dance example (I know its ridiculous) but does it have less example from scripture than unison prayer (David danced)?
David's confession was sung/prayed by the whole congregation, thus making it corporate. But again, I only point that out as an illustration of the broader biblical principles of prayer, confession, and corporate participation in it. We have no such commands or principles given for an element of dance. In that case, David's act was unique, and did not set a precedent or command for dance as an element of corporate worship. Does that make sense?

I am not so sure about such things being prevented from being smuggled in outside of requiring biblical warrant for them which is what I am not yet seeing for a corporate/unison confession of sin (prayer). My concern for the purity of worship being grounded on scripture and not preference - outside of the reformed world where I have dwelled most of my christian life I have seen many strange things come and go on the shaky grounds of preference. As we check out reformed churches after being through several non-reformed churches in the past (RC, efree, non-denom) I am examining everything to the best of my ability. I am glad the Lord has saved me from many false doctrines (and lack of doctrine) and wish to discern well with the work he has done in me as we look at joining a reformed church (currently we have been visiting one about 40 minutes away).

You are right to want to have everything grounded in Scripture. But it's not just a matter of "Scripture vs. preference". When it comes to organizing practical congregational worship and the elements within it, Scripture provides very little specific guidance. We are told what kind of things to do (i.e. preaching, prayer, singing, etc.) and to do them in an orderly and edifying way within the broader teaching of worship in Scripture. That leaves a lot to the discretion of local leadership. Many simply follow a traditional format since it had proven useful over the years, but that format is not binding.

For those seeking to avoid the distortions and disorder in the broader evangelical world, it could seem appealing when someone says this form of prayer is "the Reformed or biblical way". It can feel secure to just make a rule that prevents chaos, but then you fall back into the error of a man-made tradition. The RPW doesn't provide that kind of security. Instead, it calls the church to worship wisely in the ways God commands. There is a fence with the elements. But wisdom is needed to apply them, and leaves liberty for local congregations to apply them differently. So you will find Reformed churches organizing worship differently, and there is no sin in those differences.

There are two major questions when organizing worship. First, is the activity commanded? Second, are we doing these things wisely (wisely defined more broadly as orderly and edifying, within the general biblical teaching on worship)? Matters of wisdom are not matters of "preference" but what is helpful to build up that local congregation in faith. And that can look differently from one congregation to another. Purity in worship is obeying God's commands with wisdom, not uniformity.

So in this case of prayer; in some contexts, it may be wise for the minister alone to pray the prayer of confession. In another, it may be wise to have the people pray it corporately (i.e. as a way to teach them to pray, or confess a common sin). So long as the prayer is offered in a biblical way, there's no sin or violation of the RPW. You certainly could ask, "is that the wisest way to pray in this context", and ask the elders for a rationale as to why they do it that way. But I think you would hard pressed to say this corporate prayer is a "sin", in light of the previously mentioned examples of corporate participation and the fact that it is still being led by the pastor. And this sort of analysis would apply to any element or order of worship. Something may be done unwisely, but that in itself doesn't make it a sin or violation of conscience.

Hopefully that is helpful...
 

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
I too became reformed in a non-reformed setting, and went through that questioning process. You are not alone there, and I encourage you to keep asking questions, but look to the deeper Reformed understanding of Scripture on it. It was not until a joined a reformed congregation, and began digging down into more history and tradition that I better understood how the RPW both restricts and liberates our worship, and how that was variously applied among the different Reformed denominations. The RPW restricts us to use only commanded elements, but allows for wisdom in applying and organizing those commands under the general rules of the Word (WCF 21, 1.6). There's a reason the Westminster Assembly provided a "directory" for worship rather than imposing a "common book" of liturgy like the Anglicans had before. They recognized that distinction.
My understanding of the RPW is that it regulates more than just the element (depending on how the term element is applied). We are not just to sing but to sing psalms (even in the non-EP sense the biblical mandate is still quite narrow - the idea only the element of singing is commanded seems to nulify any discussion of what is to be sung: Exclusively Psalms, Inclusively Palms, Excluding Psalms). Etc. There is a good deal of direction given on the substance of the element. With prayer isn't the normative biblical example one person praying publicly? Even in the directory it says the minister should pray, I don't see anything about a corporate confession (where every speaks/reads a prayer at once). Not saying this proves it but it doesn't seem to be in mind.

"Of Publick Prayer before the Sermon.
AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the
psalm,) the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get
his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their
sins, that they may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord,
and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by
proceeding to a more full confession of sin
, with shame and
holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:"


David's confession was sung/prayed by the whole congregation, thus making it corporate. But again, I only point that out as an illustration of the broader biblical principles of prayer, confession, and corporate participation in it. We have no such commands or principles given for an element of dance. In that case, David's act was unique, and did not set a precedent or command for dance as an element of corporate worship. Does that make sense?
This isn't clicking for me. David's confession was recorded with inspiration as a Psalm which we are commanded to sing - different element. I do not question that Psalm 51 (or the others) should be sung together - I think it should be done & often. It seems the case for dance to be a part of displaying joy in worship with this approach rather than as a specific element (not saying I agree just trying to logically follow this out). Although I agree the Psalms are useful for instruction the use of the Psalm as a public confession is itself commanded when sung. It seems a bit beyond the intent to say we should borrow from one element to determine another. The psalms speak of many things that we are blessed to sing of but would never incorporate into another element. Their blessing is in the sung psalm.

You are right to want to have everything grounded in Scripture. But it's not just a matter of "Scripture vs. preference". When it comes to organizing practical congregational worship and the elements within it, Scripture provides very little specific guidance. We are told what kind of things to do (i.e. preaching, prayer, singing, etc.) and to do them in an orderly and edifying way within the broader teaching of worship in Scripture. That leaves a lot to the discretion of local leadership. Many simply follow a traditional format since it had proven useful over the years, but that format is not binding.

For those seeking to avoid the distortions and disorder in the broader evangelical world, it could seem appealing when someone says this form of prayer is "the Reformed or biblical way". It can feel secure to just make a rule that prevents chaos, but then you fall back into the error of a man-made tradition. The RPW doesn't provide that kind of security. Instead, it calls the church to worship wisely in the ways God commands. There is a fence with the elements. But wisdom is needed to apply them, and leaves liberty for local congregations to apply them differently. So you will find Reformed churches organizing worship differently, and there is no sin in those differences.
We visited two OPC churches. One follows a more traditional liturgy (Cavin's) and the other I'm not sure if they follow a liturgy but they have rotating worship style for singing that always includes some form of on stage "worship band" and may or may not include psalms. This doesn't leave much difference between "reformed worship" and other "evangelical worship" styles. This less strict OPC church we visited didn't seem very different from our current non-denominational or previous efree churches.

Just as a point of conversation the OPC with the worship band (not sure what else to call it) was the first time my wife and I had been to an actual Presbyterian church. From our studies of the WCF & related documents and affirming them as biblical we left very confused on how that was reconciled to the confession. They used acoustic instead of electric instruments and a hand drum instead of a kit but that is just preference of modernity vs traditionalism - in principal the worship wasn't really any different from our non-confessional church. The second OPC we visited had no such "worship band". In your understanding of the RPW there is room for either style without conflict? I am struggling to see how anything is regulated in this view. Most churches I have been in are not inventing new things like a part of service that is dance, band performance or smoke machines but rather would be changing what I gather you are calling circumstances.

I do agree there is a degree of liberty in regards to many things and wisdom needs to be applied, btw. For example the tune used to sing in worship aught to be chosen with great wisdom and care.

There are two major questions when organizing worship. First, is the activity commanded? Second, are we doing these things wisely (wisely defined more broadly as orderly and edifying, within the general biblical teaching on worship)? Matters of wisdom are not matters of "preference" but what is helpful to build up that local congregation in faith. And that can look differently from one congregation to another. Purity in worship is obeying God's commands with wisdom, not uniformity.
I agree but is the activity of everyone praying a confession together in worship commanded or is it the minister praying? In my mind this is a pretty big difference.

So in this case of prayer; in some contexts, it may be wise for the minister alone to pray the prayer of confession. In another, it may be wise to have the people pray it corporately (i.e. as a way to teach them to pray, or confess a common sin). So long as the prayer is offered in a biblical way, there's no sin or violation of the RPW. You certainly could ask, "is that the wisest way to pray in this context", and ask the elders for a rationale as to why they do it that way. But I think you would hard pressed to say this corporate prayer is a "sin", in light of the previously mentioned examples of corporate participation and the fact that it is still being led by the pastor. And this sort of analysis would apply to any element or order of worship. Something may be done unwisely, but that in itself doesn't make it a sin or violation of conscience.

Hopefully that is helpful...
I think this is sort of getting at what I am asking but I still don't have a clear answer. Is it biblical to pray all together or should the minister do it? When the minister prays is it not still the congregation ascending in prayer and confessing (satisfying doctrines derived from the Psalms but following biblical example)?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
It may be helpful to answer the more general question of whether corporate prayer is to be done through corporate recitation, since a corporate confession is a corporate prayer. Historically corporate recitation is the English practice, and other reformed churches didn't so much practice it.
One criticism of corporate confession is found in the Dutch Leiden Synopsis, which considers the mass liturgy dishonest for making all recite "mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa" ("I am guilty, I am guilty, I am so greatly guilty"), since they would make even those with a clean conscience recite it. The same criticism applies to all but the most vague corporate confessional recitations.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
My understanding of the RPW is that it regulates more than just the element (depending on how the term element is applied). We are not just to sing but to sing psalms (even in the non-EP sense the biblical mandate is still quite narrow - the idea only the element of singing is commanded seems to nulify any discussion of what is to be sung: Exclusively Psalms, Inclusively Palms, Excluding Psalms). Etc. There is a good deal of direction given on the substance of the element. With prayer isn't the normative biblical example one person praying publicly? Even in the directory it says the minister should pray, I don't see anything about a corporate confession (where every speaks/reads a prayer at once). Not saying this proves it but it doesn't seem to be in mind.
Yes, the element is regulated by the general rules of the word. Even in reformed congregations that don't practice EP, the singing is regulated by the commands related to it. They must wisely teach the Word, not something else. The same would be true of prayer. If there is a concept of praying together in Scripture, then there must be a way to apply it. Yes, most often we see one person leading it. That doesn't rule out the possibility or usefulness of a corporate prayer. Again, in a corporate setting, we are not just worshipping, we are also teaching (hence the common practice of corporately praying the Lord's Prayer). And in reformed history, even the structure of worship is often shaped by our covenantal understanding of God, and how we relate to him. We are not required to structure our liturgy this way, but it is useful for edification and reinforces our theology. A corporate confession can have a role within that, teaching and reinforcing how to pray consistently with our understanding of God. It's not required, but it could be wise or edifying to do it.

This isn't clicking for me. David's confession was recorded with inspiration as a Psalm which we are commanded to sing - different element. I do not question that Psalm 51 (or the others) should be sung together - I think it should be done & often. It seems the case for dance to be a part of displaying joy in worship with this approach rather than as a specific element (not saying I agree just trying to logically follow this out). Although I agree the Psalms are useful for instruction the use of the Psalm as a public confession is itself commanded when sung. It seems a bit beyond the intent to say we should borrow from one element to determine another. The psalms speak of many things that we are blessed to sing of but would never incorporate into another element. Their blessing is in the sung psalm.

The Psalms are not just songs to be sung, but Scripture and prayers as well. Scripture itself is clear that the Psalter is much more than a hymnbook. As Scripture, they are God's revealed Word to be preached and read, not just sung. As inspired prayers, they teach us how to pray as well, which includes a corporate dimension. The full content of the Psalms is given for all these purposes, not just for singing. Even if you believe in EP, you cannot reduce the use of the Psalter to just a hymnbook or the content of song.

We visited two OPC churches. One follows a more traditional liturgy (Cavin's) and the other I'm not sure if they follow a liturgy but they have rotating worship style for singing that always includes some form of on stage "worship band" and may or may not include psalms. This doesn't leave much difference between "reformed worship" and other "evangelical worship" styles. This less strict OPC church we visited didn't seem very different from our current non-denominational or previous efree churches.

Just as a point of conversation the OPC with the worship band (not sure what else to call it) was the first time my wife and I had been to an actual Presbyterian church. From our studies of the WCF & related documents and affirming them as biblical we left very confused on how that was reconciled to the confession. They used acoustic instead of electric instruments and a hand drum instead of a kit but that is just preference of modernity vs traditionalism - in principal the worship wasn't really any different from our non-confessional church. The second OPC we visited had no such "worship band". In your understanding of the RPW there is room for either style without conflict? I am struggling to see how anything is regulated in this view. Most churches I have been in are not inventing new things like a part of service that is dance, band performance or smoke machines but rather would be changing what I gather you are calling circumstances.

No, the RPW does not address musical style or instruments as an element, not directly anyway. Yes they would fit under circumstances or forms and are matters covered under the general rules of the Word and wisdom. That does make it more difficult to work through those questions, but not impossible. Is it wise to use a worship "band"? Does it interfere or promote congregational singing? Does it drown out the human voice, or merely guide it? Musical tunes also communicate messages. Do they fit with the words and meaning of the text? These are all matters covered by general rules of the Word and wisdom in the local setting. And that is actually part of the beauty of the RPW, which makes it useful to transcend different congregations or cultures and the way they express devotion to God. I've seen worship "bands" used in a beneficial way and in a disruptive and distracting way. And I've also had the same experience with an organ or piano. And often, traditional or contemporary music is used to promote an unbiblical emphasis on a type of experience in worship, a defective theology of worship. But this would fall under the general teaching of the Word and wisdom to correct that.

And yes, there is often a difference between a typical "reformed" vs. "evangelical" order of service. But such differences in liturgy are allowable under the RPW. We are not given a liturgy. How you arrange the elements is flexible. And yet, some could arrange the elements to promote a defective theology of worship, (i.e. the over-emphasis on experience). The problem to confront there is the defective theology behind the liturgy, not the elements themselves (unless of course an element like a song or sermon is also teaching that defective theology). But still, you must be careful to investigate before judging that liturgy, especially if you are comparing liturgy cross-culturally or in a congregation in the process of reform.

What types of instruments to use today vs. others is a question for prudence since Scripture doesn't address it. Even if you argue, as some do, that musical instruments are elements that disappeared with the Temple, you are still left with questions of musical style in the tunes you choose and the way in which you sing (i.e. only Western tunes? unison or parts? shall we not sing harmony because Scripture doesn't command it?, etc.), and it's still a question of wisdom. Is it orderly, is it beneficial, does it help communicate the Word which is sung? Etc.

Even in an EP congregation, you are singing pre-determined arrangements of words, tunes, and even vocal parts. And how is that different from a corporate prayer written by the minister? Both are led activities directing their hearts to God in a way consistent with the broader teaching about the element, and all within the RPW.

I agree but is the activity of everyone praying a confession together in worship commanded or is it the minister praying? In my mind this is a pretty big difference.

I guess I don't see it as a "big" difference so long as you are following the general rules of the Word with wisdom. We do it with singing, as noted above. And what about a corporate reading or responsive reading of Scripture? Some psalms are written in an antiphonal pattern, apparently intended to be read back and forth between leader and congregation or between two groups. In Deuteronomy the congregation reads out the blessings and curses. Is that the usual way? No. Ordinarily, it's one person reading, and that's usually the wisest way to do it. But there are times it could be wise or useful to do it corporately and still allowable by the RPW.

Hopefully, that is helpful. If I'm still not getting to your question feel free to prod more.
 
Last edited:

aaronsk

Puritan Board Freshman
This is helpful. I will likely prod a bit more but will need to take some time to properly consider your thoughts. Thanks again!
 

Northern Crofter

Puritan Board Freshman
We do have episodes of corporate confession (Neh. 9:1-3, Num. 21:7) as well as confession within the context of worship (Isa 6:1-8). We have commands to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (Jms 5:16). The general rules of the Word also teach us what is happening in worship. It is a meeting of a holy God with his covenant people, and when people enter God's presence in Scripture, we often see how they are aware of their sin and need for his mediation. So it can be useful to shape our liturgy to reflect those covenant and gospel realities when entering the presence of God, and also a useful application of teaching the Word, by teaching people how to pray and confess their sins while looking to Christ for forgiveness and grace.
"Episodes of corporate confession" (along with corporate episodes of most anything) in the old dispensation of grace should not necessarily inform or shape our liturgy in the new. It might be better to argue (as many of our forefathers did) that some of those events are there to inform and shape national episodes of corporate confession in the current/new dispensation of grace. In my own subjective experience I have observed in many congregations that operate under the banner of "Reformed" an inverse relationship between doing what the DPW clearly states and what it does not. For example, in a congregation where I see little of something clearly required in the DPW (like less Psalms being sung), I generally see more unmentioned (and thus not clearly required) "liturgy" added (collection of tithes/offerings during the worship service, for example). Some may say this is a matter of preference. I agree - I prefer more of what is clearly required and less of what is not.
 

Northern Crofter

Puritan Board Freshman
the old dispensation of grace
I'm new here - I'm not sure if using this word might offend some people. I am using it intentionally but not to intentionally offend. It's just the right word. WCF 7.6. Some things I will not surrender (like rainbows and being "catholic") just because others misuse them.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
There are clearly examples of corporate confession of sin in Scripture, primarily (only?) in the Old Testament. There are also examples of the multiple people praying in one voice as nearly as I can tell, but it's not always 100% clear (for example, in Acts 4:24, "they lifted their voices together to God" ESV could be metaphorical for one person's voice speaking on behalf of many voices) if it's one person praying on behalf of everyone. We certainly see antiphonal responses, such as in Psalm 136 (maybe only sung) and spoken in places like Ezra 3:11. I struggle with the argument I once would make that we only see the pattern of the congregation saying "Amen" and singing during the service as I've meditated on some of the accounts of different services of worship we see in Scripture. I still see some merit in the idea that corporate confessions of sin, corporate confessions of faith, and in general raising one voice in prayer (Deuteronomy 26:5–9; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; various examples in Nehemiah; Numbers 21:7) were part of OT worship but not NT worship. I think what makes that tough though is that there are also examples of group confessions of sorts that occur in visions of heavenly worship (Isaiah 6; Revelation 4, 5, and throughout the book).
 

Northern Crofter

Puritan Board Freshman
There are clearly examples of corporate confession of sin in Scripture, primarily (only?)
Agreed. But do these translate into the regular worship and liturgy of the Church in this present dispensation? Or are these now models for nations to repent and confess Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Stating some thoughts as assertions for brevity's sake... any corporate vocal confessions, prayers, and songs should be only inspired ones. The church can't/shouldn't be commanded to publicly speak aloud (i.e. confess with her mouth) words that could contain doctrinal or other error. I believe this was true from the beginning. Moses was commanded to and did put a song in the mouths of the people; the song being an inspired word of prophecy.
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Agreed. But do these translate into the regular worship and liturgy of the Church in this present dispensation? Or are these now models for nations to repent and confess Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
I'll have to think about that one. I had never thought of that or heard it presented that way until you brought it up. It's interesting to think we could have separate examples of liturgy for national repentance that is distinct from a typical worship service.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
It may be helpful to answer the more general question of whether corporate prayer is to be done through corporate recitation, since a corporate confession is a corporate prayer. Historically corporate recitation is the English practice, and other reformed churches didn't so much practice it.
One criticism of corporate confession is found in the Dutch Leiden Synopsis, which considers the mass liturgy dishonest for making all recite "mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa" ("I am guilty, I am guilty, I am so greatly guilty"), since they would make even those with a clean conscience recite it. The same criticism applies to all but the most vague corporate confessional recitations.
This is a good point, I've been reflecting on it ever since you made it. Is "Leiden Synopsis" referring to this newly translated work Synopsis Purioris Theologiae?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top