Frame and the Regulative Principle

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Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Understood, but no one wants to keep belaboring the point of the RPW when there are those who've gone before us who have answered John Frame before he even existed. Further, my only point is that the Puritan Board is not a place where "exegesis" of Frame's position is going to be welcomed, because that's advocacy of something that is blatantly anti-Confessional. It's not intended to make everyone angry, but to keep the board tightly knit.
I understand busy-ness, and it happens to the best of us. If you can get a copy, I'd suggest Jeremiah Burroughs' Gospel Worship. Burroughs is a very practical writer (In my humble opinion) and does a great job of expositing the historical reformed position on the right manner in which we are to draw nigh to God. "Stuffy," say some. But I don't think so.

I understand your point. While the Puritans may have great literature on the subject, I think that's a different thing than answering "John Frame before he even existed." As I mentioned before, I think it would be unwise to just say, "Frame's wrong, go read the guys of the past and you'll get it." It's possible that we might read the guys of the past, read Frame, and still need some things cleared up. I'm not talking about advocacy of Frame. I'm talking about dealing seriously with what he brings up.

I'll try to get a copy of Burrough's book. It may take me a bit to read it as I've been busy, but I'd love to read it.

But their views (the Puritans) is the original intent of said Confession, not John Frame's view. That's the crux of the matter.

Hmm, that's something I'll have to think through a bit. Obviously, authorial intent is important, but I'm not sure how far to take that regarding the theology of the Westminster Divines...do we go with only what they wrote down, or what they held to which led to what they wrote down? Haven't really thought through that one, add it to the list.

And improved on much of Augustine's deficiencies, I might add. I'm not so sure that we can improve too much on the genius of the Puritans. I'm ready to defer to them in most things. That being noted, there are current things that deal with Frame's view (and several have been mentioned in this thread). I'd encourage you also to pick up the Confessional Presbyterian Journal (see Chris Coldwell - aka - Naphtali Press) for various articles dealing with worship and the historic confessional understanding of the RPW.

Perhaps...but I think it's a difficult tension to deal with. That is, relying heavily on the teachers of the past, and yet being willing to test what they said against Scripture. Obviously Calvin did that, and I suspect he would expect us to do the same. Notwithstanding the genius of his work (along with the Puritans and other greats).

The historic understanding of the RPW "continues to make sense" because it was right in the first place, and truth doesn't change with time. By the way, I'm not writing you off as anti-Confessional, and that was never the intent nor thrust of my comments. I hope you know that. My apologies for not being clearer.

No worries...I understand your position. I guess I'm just saying, sure this is a Confessional board. And I consider myself confessional. But at the same time, I want to understand...and part of that understanding is questioning and thinking critically.

R. Scott Clark

Joel,

The Frame/Hart debate is not very satisfactory. For one thing Darryl didn't take it very seriously. He thought email was a fad! Who knew he'd have his own blog one day (Old Life Theological Society)?

I did get that impression after reading through most of the debate.

Second, the plain fact is that there are three sides in this argument. Two of the sides on this triangle (not a tri-perspectival triangle, however) believe the RPW and one side simply does not.

There are strict confessionalists who think WCF 21 has to be read in the light of the Directory for Public Worship and who see the trajectory of Reformed worship since the 18th century as a decline from orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

There are conservatives (of which Darryl is one) who affirm the RPW in theory but are more conservative of the revisions in practice since the 18th century (e.g., hymns and instruments). Darryl would be happy to sing only Scripture (and he would certainly like to sing more psalms) and he might be willing to do without instruments but I think he accepts them as circumstances. Have you read With Reverence and Awe? John and Darryl did a very good job in that volume. The contrast between it and John's book on worship is quite stark.

I'm not sure I'm quite getting the distinction you are making between the "strict confessionalists" and Hart's position (unless the distinction you are making is between adherence and non-adherence to exclusive psalmody).

I have read most of With Reverence and Awe?. I began to read it in seminary as extra reading, but required reading and life squeezed it out unfortunately. I have it around somewhere, so hopefully I can get back to it and finish it. Based on what I did read, I found it helpful at several levels, but found the chapter on music less than convincing. I talked with John Muether briefly about that chapter while at RTS-O, and I think I understood his point a little more clearly then. I just haven't had time recently to think carefully through the issues and do more reading.

Then there are the radicals such as Gore and Frame who radically revise the RPW so as to make it stand on its head. John simply doesn't agree with the Reformed churches (in Europe or the British Isles) so he revises the RPW via triperspectivalism in a radically subjective manner. He drives the RPW like a volkswagen going off road. He makes it do things (govern all of life in the same way as it was originally intended to govern worship). The result is that there is very little that can't be justified in John's version of the RPW.

I understand that their views do not align with the historic use of the RPW. Still, I found some aspects of Frame's arguments compelling, and it is those that I want to understand from the traditional-RPW side better.

Once more, not that my treatment (in RRC) is definitive by any means but it will outline the issues for you. I hope you'll look into this. It's vitally important for the future of the Reformed churches. Either the WCF and HC are correct about how God should be worshiped or they are not. We cannot mouth affirmation of the confessions and deny them in substance, not and retain any credibility or even theological and doxological integrity.

I hope to get a copy of your book as well. Reading continues to stack up, but I will try to read this and some of the other resources mentioned sooner rather than later. Thanks for your post.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Thomas,

I deal a little with the claim that there is a "historic Dutch" view of the RPW in RRC. The short answer is that, in principle, there is no great difference between the Dutch (e.g. the Synod of Dort) and the British. The long answer is in the book.

-----Added 8/19/2009 at 01:00:44 EST-----

Joel,

One issue to think through very carefully is that of Christian freedom. When a session calls a stated service on the Sabbath, members of the congregation are expected to attend to the means of grace. If they're able (in town, not infirm etc) they're under obligation.

Thus, whatever is done in the service must, according to WCF 21 and according to the Word, have explicit or implicit divine warrant. Whatever is done cannot bind the conscience of the Christian without the authority of the Word. That's why our principle, going back to Reformed theology before Calvin, has always been that stated in HC 96 and WCF 21. We only do that which is required by God's Word. Full stop.

When Reformed ministers and elders plan divine services they must ask themselves: do I have authority from God's Word to require God's Word to sing/say p or q?

If we could just get to grips with the principle: we do only that in worship required by God's Word (relative to elements, i.e. Word [incl. sacraments] and prayer) we would be free of a lot of controversy.
 

Covenant Joel

Puritan Board Sophomore
Joel,

One issue to think through very carefully is that of Christian freedom. When a session calls a stated service on the Sabbath, members of the congregation are expected to attend to the means of grace. If they're able (in town, not infirm etc) they're under obligation.

Thus, whatever is done in the service must, according to WCF 21 and according to the Word, have explicit or implicit divine warrant. Whatever is done cannot bind the conscience of the Christian without the authority of the Word. That's why our principle, going back to Reformed theology before Calvin, has always been that stated in HC 96 and WCF 21. We only do that which is required by God's Word. Full stop.

When Reformed ministers and elders plan divine services they must ask themselves: do I have authority from God's Word to require God's Word to sing/say p or q?

If we could just get to grips with the principle: we do only that in worship required by God's Word (relative to elements, i.e. Word [incl. sacraments] and prayer) we would be free of a lot of controversy.

That is a helpful perspective. I have not thought of it in quite that way before. And I agree with that. While I haven't spent enough time thinking it through, I think there are two big things that I struggle with at this point:

1) While I understand the intent behind the distinction between elements, circumstances, and forms, I'm not sure I see the biblical support for that 100%. It makes sense, but I struggle to see it worked out quite like that.
2) Granted the distinctions between the above, sometimes it seems to me that folks are too rigid about which is which. They may be exegetically valid distinctions, but given that their application is not spelled out in plain speech, I get frustrated sometimes when people act like a difference in one's view on the application is a test of orthodoxy.

But like I said, I'm working through those things, trying to get a better understanding. Hopefully the before-mentioned books will help me to sort through it all.
 
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