Normative vs Regulative Principle

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
As the RPW is to be guided by (and subservient to) the Scriptures, shouldn't even a passage like this, however anomalous it may seem, be considered? If you happen to find somebody who adequately answers this passage in relation to RPW via sermon or writing, and does it without making any assumptions not laid out in the text, I would be very happy to read it.

You are appealing to the RPW to allow a conclusion that directly violates the RPW. Something is amiss there. The RPW is, What is not commanded is forbidden. The appeal to a non-commanded feast is fitted to overturn that rule. It effectively says, the RPW cannot be right because Jesus worshipped at a feast which God never appointed.

Scripture is the only rule of faith and life; but Scripture does not rule all things in the same way. See WCF 20.2. There is the normative principle for all of life. The Scripture contains the moral law, which is applicable at all times and in all places. It says, What is not forbidden is permissible as long at it is expedient and edifying. Besides this "moral" rule for all of life, Scripture contains "positive" prescriptions for faith and worship. These positive prescriptions depend entirely on the will of the lawgiver and they are only applicable for the action prescribed. This is the regulative principle, which says, What is not commanded is forbidden, even if it is expedient and edifying. It does not depend on our reason but on the will of God alone. As God Himself is unsearchable and His ways past finding out, so also the Name which we worship is too wonderful for us to adore and appreciate without the disclosure of His own will. His majesty is too high to allow commoners to be so familiar with him as to tread His dignity under foot; as a monarch deigns to associate with his people under the strictest protocols which preserve his dignity, so the Most High graciously permits and invites our approach to Him but in a way that is accordant with His own majesty. One does not look at the general law of the land to see how the monarch is to be approached, but attention must be given to the specific protocols which the royal house has prescribed. In the same way, we do not look to the general rules of Scripture which govern all of life when we have in mind to worship our Sovereign, but we search out the specific form in which our great God and Saviour has prescribed for us to draw near to Him.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The thing about the Festival of Lights only records he was there. Can you show me in Scripture that it was a Sabbath Day celebration and that it was incorporated into the worship of God and in His ordained means of worship? Yes, we are commanded to give thanks. There is no prohibition of celebrating an occasion and being thankful for deliverance before the Lord. There is a prohibition of adding things to the Sabbath and Worship concerning how we are to worship on His day.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
This is not some odd interpretation of John 10:22. As I already noted, it is part and parcel of the worship war debates back when they were really wars.

George Hutcheson, Exposition of John (1657; repr. 1840) 210 “And Christ was present in the temple at that time, not to honour that feast or to countenance their human invention….”

Matthew Henry on John 10:22. “Christ forecasted to be now at Jerusalem, not in honour of the feast, which did not require his attendance there, but that he might improve those eight days of vacation for good purposes.”

David Calderwood, author of the massive History of the Kirk of Scotland, and equally huge Altare Damascenum.* From Perth Assembly (1619) “Christ’s walking in Solomon’s Porch, makes nothing for approbation of this feast. He had remained in Jerusalem from the feast of the Tabernacles, and came not up of purpose to keep that feast. He takes hold of the present opportunity to thrust his sickle into a thick harvest.” *“It is the most serious attack on Diocesan, or rather Anglican, Episcopacy which I suppose has ever been made in this country. Patiently and perseveringly Calderwood goes over the whole system, tearing it to pieces, as it were, bit by bit. The Bible, the Fathers, the Canonists, are equally at his command. It does our Church no credit that the Altare has never been translated.” James Walker, The theology and theologians of Scotland, 6.


George Gillespie, Rudolph Hospinian, Thomas Cartwright and William Fulke, from Gillespie, English Popish Ceremonies (1637).
It is but barely and boldly affirmed by Bishop Lindsay, that the Pharisees were not rebuked by Christ for this feast,1 because we read not so much in scripture; for there were many things which Jesus did and said that are not written in scripture (John 21:25). And whereas it seems to some, that Christ did countenance and approve this feast, because he gave his presence unto the same (John 10:22, 23), we must remember, that the circumstances only of time and place are noted by the evangelist, for evidence to the story, and not for any mystery. Christ had come up to the feast of tabernacles (John 7), and tarried still all that while, because then there was a great confluence of people in Jerusalem. Whereupon he took occasion to spread the net of the gospel for catching of many souls. And whilst John says, “It was at Jeusalem the feast of the dedication,” he gives a reason only of the confluence of many people at Jerusalem, and shows how it came to pass that Christ had occasion to preach to such a great multitude; and whilst he adds, “and it was winter,” he gives a reason of Christ’s walking in Solomon’s porch, whither the Jews resort was. It was not thought beseeming to walk in the temple itself, but in the porch men used to convene either for talking or walking, because in the summer the porch shadowed them from the heat of the sun, and in winter it lay open to the sunshine and to heat. Others think, that whilst he says, it was winter, imports that therefore Christ was the more frequently in the temple, knowing that his time was short which he had then for his preaching; for in the entry of the next spring he was to suffer.

Howsoever, it is not certain of what feast of dedication John speaks. Bullinger leaves it doubtful; and Maldonat says that this opinion which takes the dedication of the altar by Judas Maccabeus to be meant by John, has fewest authors. But to let this pass, whereas the Rhemists allege,2 that Christ approved this feast, because he was present at it; Cartwright and Fulke answer them, that Christ’s being present at it proves not his approving of it.3 Christ did not honor the feast day specifically, says Junius, but the assembly of the righteous gathering on a feast day; for all opportunities of that kind for sowing his Gospel Christ pays attention to and seizes.4

As if indeed (says Hospinian) Christ left for Jerusalem for the sake of the Feast of Dedication. Nay, but he saw he had a convenient occasion, to teach a multitude of men who had come together for that feast day.5
1. Ubi supra, p. 32. [Lindsay, Proceedings, third pagination (1625 ed.), 32.]
2. In John 10:22 [Bullinger, In Divinum Jesu Christi Domini Nostri Evangelium Secundum Joannem, Commentariorum libri X (Tiguri: 1543) Book V, 123r]. Maldonatus, Com., ibid. [cf. Juan de Maldonado, Commentarii in Quatuor Evangelistas, volume 5 (Paris, 1844) 255]. Rhemists, Annot., ibid. [Cartwright, Confutation, 233].
3. [Cartwright, Confutation, 234; Fulke, Confutation of the Rhemish Testament (1834) 128.]
4.  Animad. in Bell., contr. 3, lib. 4, cap. 17, nota. 6. Non festum proprie honoravit Christus sed cætum piorum convenientem festo; nam omnes ejusmodi occasiones seminandi evangelii sui observabat et capiebat Christus. [Cf. Opera Theologica (1607) 2.857]
5. De Orig. Templ., lib. 4, cap. 22. [sic cap. 2.] Quasi vero Christus Encænoirum casuâ Hierosloymam abierit. ad instituendam hominum multitudenem, ad illud festum confluentiam. [Cf. “De Templis hoc est, de Origine, Progressu, usu et abusu Templorum & Rerum ad Templa pertinentium,”in Opera omnia in septem tomos distributa, volume 1 (Geneva: Samuel de Tournes, 1672) 381.]
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I think (correct me if I am wrong) that there are two different interpretations of the RPW being advocated here:

a) Whatever whatever is not commanded (and therefore morally binding on all churches) is forbidden (strict interpretation).

b) Whatever is not commanded or warranted (where warrant may or may not entail a command) is forbidden (broad interpretation).

The establishment of regular feast days apart from the Lord's day, in interpretation a) is forbidden, but in interpretation b) could be warranted were we to find in Scripture sufficient evidence that God allows the practice, in which case the question would be whether such feasts, once established, would be morally binding upon the believer.

The difference between the regulative and the normative principle is where the burden of proof rests. Under the NP, the burden rests on the prosecution to show where a practice is forbidden, whereas under the RPW the burden is to find warrant for the practice in Scripture.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
but in interpretation b) could be warranted were we to find in Scripture sufficient evidence that God allows the practice

The use of the word "allow" is not proper when considering the RPW. You are setting up three categories for elements of worship when you do this:

1) commanded
2) allowed, but not commanded
3) prohibited

I see #2 as forming an "optional" practice in which it is okay if you do it, but also okay if you don't. I don't believe this is based upon any scriptural teaching. I believe this again turns back into a normative principle.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I want to know where exactly folks get this stricter looser bifurcation? When our principles were being argued and defended in the fires of persecution, who held out this loose RPW and defended it? Where is its pedigree? Where is it in the Westminster Standards, or in the authors who crafted them? The so called looser RPW is a fiction. The strict RPW is the RPW.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Tim said:
I believe this again turns back into a normative principle.
I'm having trouble seeing this. Could you draw it out some? It seems to me to be a third principle, where whatever is allowed is permitted and whatever is commanded is required. The normative principle would be the same positively, but negatively it would say whatever is not forbidden is permitted. But this "third" principle seems to make another critera: Whatever is not forbidden and never permitted is forbidden, so there could be something that is not forbidden yet permitted that would be allowed, while there are some things not forbidden that are forbidden (namely, those things that are also not permitted); the normative principle would broadly allow anything not forbidden (albeit, under the conditions of expediency, edification, etc.). It feels very strange to me to think in this "third" way if it is a "third way, so I'm probably missing something....
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
My point was that there is no third category of "permitted-but-not-commanded" elements of worship. As Mr. Coldwell stated above, the strict RPW is the RPW. Anything other than that must necessarily fall under the normative principle. The two principles are mutually exclusive and together are exhaustive.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I see #2 as forming an "optional" practice in which it is okay if you do it, but also okay if you don't. I don't believe this is based upon any scriptural teaching. I believe this again turns back into a normative principle.

It would not. If, for example, I believe that we have Scriptural warrant for allowing instrumentation and uninspired hymnody in worship, but do not believe that EPers are violating Scripture. That is to say that certain forms could be legal but not binding, but in the case of silence, a practice is forbidden.

I want to know where exactly folks get this stricter looser bifurcation?

From later application. I'm not familiar enough with the thought of the Westminster Divines or the broader reformed tradition of the time to make a statement. I'm commenting on the practical applications and diversity that I see in the ranks of those who espouse the RPW.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Let us consider for a moment someone who believes there are these three categories:

1) commanded
2) allowed, but not commanded
3) prohibited

He writes a list of things that will be included in worship. First, he knows that he has to include the commanded things, so he writes those down. Second, he knows that he is not allowed to include things from the prohibited category, so he takes care that those don't get on his list. Third, he has several things for which there is neither a command nor a prohibition.

How will he determine if they are to be included? He must figure out if something is "allowed", according to the second category that we are assuming for the sake of this discussion.

Now, God can say three things about an element of worship.

1) Do.
2) Do not.
3) [Silence].

Since "silence" provides no information per se, the man must decide whether to the absence of the "do" or the absence of the "do not" should be the basis for his conclusion. The man's thought process can only take one of two courses

Option 1: If something is not commanded, it is not allowed ---> RPW
Option 2: If something is not prohibited, it is allowed ---> NPW

That is why I stated that if something is not the strict RPW, it must be the NPW. Feel free to interrogate my logic.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Well, I'm not unfamiliar with it. Who defends this loose principle and calls it the RPW?
From later application. I'm not familiar enough with the thought of the Westminster Divines or the broader reformed tradition of the time to make a statement. I'm commenting on the practical applications and diversity that I see in the ranks of those who espouse the RPW.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Now, God can say three things about an element of worship.

1) Do.
2) Do not.
3) [Silence].

Since "silence" provides no information per se, the man must decide whether to use the "do" or the "do not" as the basis for his conclusion. The man's thought process can only take one of two courses

Option 1: If something is commanded, it is allowed ---> RPW
Option 2: If something is not prohibited, it is allowed ---> NPW

That is why I stated that if something is not the strict RPW, it must be the NPW. Feel free to interrogate my logic.

There is a third category: things that God has allowed but not commanded. That is, the Scriptures have a positive word to say on it, but it is a statement that in area X we have freedom. This is what I mean by warrant: where you believe that a practice has Scriptural warrant (aka: not an argument from silence) but is not commanded (e.g. a Church that does not use said practice in worship is not sinning).

This would be if Scripture is silent it is forbidden. If Scripture commands it, is mandatory. If Scripture allows it, it is permitted but not mandatory. This is the distinction that I have been attempting to draw.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
That is to say that certain forms could be legal but not binding

But does God ever make such a pronouncement? What would be an example of a passage that is sufficient to establish the legality of a worship element, but insufficient to constitute a positive command for that element?

---------- Post added at 10:27 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:25 PM ----------

If Scripture allows it, it is permitted but not mandatory

Please, go to scripture and demonstrate an example of this category.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
What would be an example of a passage that is sufficient to establish the legality of a worship element, but insufficient to constitute a positive command for that element?

Establishment in Esther of the thanksgiving feast of Purim. I do not think that the church is required to establish days of thanksgiving apart from the Lord's day, but it may.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Since I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around this, I tried translating the "three" principles into sentential logic. Would these be fair translations (I always found translations to be tricky)?

Let A = allowed (I understand it to be the same as permitted), C = commanded, F = forbidden, R = required.

RPW:
Do: C->R
Forbidden: ~C -> F
F->F
Not forbidden: ~F -> F

NPW:
Do: (C -> R) & (A -> A)
Forbidden: F -> F
Not Forbidden: ~F -> A

"Third" principle:
Do: (C -> R) & (A -> A)
Forbidden: (~A&~C) -> F
Which is equivalent to ~(AvC) -> F Also equivalent to ~F -> (AvC)
F->F
Not Forbidden:
~F -> (FvA) which is equivalent to ~(FvA) -> F


If I worked it out right, ~F-> (FvA) entails ~F->A, and ~F->A entails ~F->(FvA). However, it is that other category I'm not sure of: ~F -> (AvC) or ~(AvC) -> F. Probably because it seems to have two places for "not forbidden." I'm also not sure that "Do" is the best word to use for the positive part of each principle.



Edit: Saw the above posts, and it looks like discussion has moved on! But I guess it doesn't matter in the end anyway whether it's two or three principles: this "third" isn't the RPW.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
What would be an example of a passage that is sufficient to establish the legality of a worship element, but insufficient to constitute a positive command for that element?

Establishment in Esther of the thanksgiving feast of Purim. I do not think that the church is required to establish days of thanksgiving apart from the Lord's day, but it may.

Keep in mind that when "thanksgivings upon special occasions" is mentioned in WCF 25:5 as an occasional (as opposed to ordinary) element of worship, the Scriptural proof text is Esther 9:22 (i.e., a reference to Purim).
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
RPW:
Do: C->R
Forbidden: ~C -> F
F->F
Not forbidden: ~F -> F

Raymond, congratulations. You have just written a "Puritan Board classic post", ever to be remembered in our hall of fame! :applause:

I actually am not familiar with the notation you are using (I have no formal training in this area). I am sure it is fairly simple, and perhaps I could work through it, but it would be good for someone else to help out on what you have provided.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Tim said:
Raymond, congratulations. You have just written a "Puritan Board classic post", ever to be remembered in our hall of fame.
And a bit too late, since discussion moved on (and I guess it doesn't matter too much in the end whether there's two or three principles: this "third" certainly isn't the RPW)! Whoops!
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Well, we are still discussing whether this third category exists. There is still some disagreement, and I am happy to continue the discussion. Although, it's really getting late....
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
That's a fair translation.

I don't think the question is whether the third category exists, but whether it's a development of the RPW.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This would be if Scripture is silent it is forbidden. If Scripture commands it, is mandatory. If Scripture allows it, it is permitted but not mandatory. This is the distinction that I have been attempting to draw.

Watching you defend this distinction is like observing a man pulling tissues out of his ear. It looks clever even though you know it is not possible. :)
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
This would be if Scripture is silent it is forbidden. If Scripture commands it, is mandatory. If Scripture allows it, it is permitted but not mandatory. This is the distinction that I have been attempting to draw.

Watching you defend this distinction is like observing a man pulling tissues out of his ear. It looks clever even though you know it is not possible. :)

Logically, I think this is certainly a possible category. I'll take this comment as a compliment, I think.

I'm trying to avoid two things:
a) The normative principle (anything goes as long as you can't find Scripture forbidding it)
b) Absolute rigidity of practice. That is, the idea that all worship practices must be such that one would be obligated to bind the consciences of all others with them.

Granted, most of the practices that I would place under the third category might conceivably be placed under the heading of circumstances or of things outside the context of ordinary worship.

I think I'll leave things there.
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
I thought the PCA held to the regulative principle of worship, at least for the record.

To the point of the original post:

"Temporary statement adopted by the Third General Assembly to preface the Directory for Worship: The Directory for Worship is an approved guide and should be taken seriously as the mind of the Church agreeable to the Standards. However, it does not have the force of law and is not to be considered obligatory in all its parts. BCO 56, 57 and 58 have been given full constitutional authority by the Eleventh General Assembly after being submitted to the Presbyteries and receiving the necessary two-thirds (2/3) approval of the Presbyteries."

This is the PCA's official stance in as expressed in their Directory of Public Worship (here). The only binding chapters are Baptism, the Lord's Supper and Admission of Persons to the Sealing Ordinances. Thus the other chapters do not have "full constitutional authority" such as The Principles and Elements of Public Worship, The Sanctification of the Lord's Day, The Ordering of Public Worship, The Public Reading of the Holy Scripture, The Singing of Psalms and Hymns, Public Prayer, The Preaching of the Word, The Worship of God by Offerings and Confessing the Faith.

This means there is much diversity of practice in the PCA.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Absolute rigidity of practice. That is, the idea that all worship practices must be such that one would be obligated to bind the consciences of all others with them.

Do you not feel it proper that all people are bound to the worship practices below?

Chapter XXI:

III. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,[6] is by God required of all men:[7] and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,[8] by the help of His Spirit,[9] according to His will,[10] with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love and perseverance;[11] and, if vocal, in a known tongue.[12]

V. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[17] the sound preaching[18] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence,[19] singing of psalms with grace in the heart;[20] as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:[21] beside religious oaths,[22] vows,[23] solemn fastings,[24] and thanksgivings upon special occasions,[25] which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[26]
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Well, for what it's worth, I have strangely found (if I did the work properly) that ~F -> (AvC) does not entail ~F -> A (The "not forbidden" of the normative principle), yet I have found that the "not forbidden" of the normative entails ~F -> (AvC), as does the "forbidden" of the RPW (which is equivalent to ~F->C). So unless I've missed something, it does seem this "third" principle doesn't reduce down to the other two when translated but rather is a combination of the two; but it's always possible that the definitions of "commanded" "allowed" "required" and "forbidden" relate in a way that makes this "third" principle reduce to the others. Regardless, I need to go to bed. I'll definitely have to see where this thread went tomorrow. It still sounds strange to my ear though to have worship that is not commanded but permitted.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Thus the other chapters do not have "full constitutional authority" such as The Principles and Elements of Public Worship, The Sanctification of the Lord's Day, The Ordering of Public Worship, The Public Reading of the Holy Scripture, The Singing of Psalms and Hymns, Public Prayer, The Preaching of the Word, The Worship of God by Offerings and Confessing the Faith.

This means there is much diversity of practice in the PCA.

So, PCA churches are free to omit or include the items above, as they please?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Do you not feel it proper that all people are bound to the worship practices below?

A qualified yes, given that certain of these are only to be practiced occasionally. However, the practice of these will vary, and much of our debate over the RPW takes place over how much variance may be allowed within these parameters.

---------- Post added at 11:33 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:27 PM ----------

but it's always possible that the definitions of "commanded" "allowed" "required" and "forbidden" relate the words in a way that makes this "third" principle disappear.

Commanded would entail both required and allowed. Forbidden entails not commanded, not required, and not allowed. Allowed entails not forbidden, not commanded, and not required. I would also add that in the "third" position, allowed would be modified to entail "warranted." So, Warranted=W. Also, ~A would always entail F.

W -> A
~W -> ~A -> F
 

Shawn Mathis

Puritan Board Sophomore
RPW:
Do: C->R
Forbidden: ~C -> F
F->F
Not forbidden: ~F -> F

Re-translated for the audience [& = logical and; v = logical or]

Do: A Commandment implies a Requirement
Forbidden: What is Not (tilde) Commanded implies Forbidden
Forbidden implies Forbidden
Not Forbidden: Not (tile) Forbidden implies Forbidden

Of course, the idea of circumstances common to all men is missing (and would likely fall into "not forbidden"). And there should be two Fs: F1: that which is expressly forbidden in the Bible and F2: the moral requirement of 'forbidden"--this is akin to the distinction you make between 'Commandment' and 'required'.

But let us stick with English. All logical notation is sterile. Sterile is not fruitful. But the Bible commands me to be fruitful. Using English is fruitful. Therefore, I will use English and not logical notation. QED :detective:

(Laughing at my own sad humor:lol: )
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I want to know where exactly folks get this stricter looser bifurcation?
I want to ask where the Normative gives influence and scriptural justification.
2) allowed, but not commanded
Where does this come from? Allowed but not commanded? Tim, I know you didn't think this was true. I have been in a few different places in life. I am still looking for where this comes from. Jeremiah Burrough's ought to be read. Gospel Worship.

(Lev 10:1) And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.

(Lev 10:2) And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

We should be very careful here. Very Careful! BTW, God didn't command Nadab, Abihu, or anyone else not to offer fire from another source. He commanded how He should be worshiped though. Please read Jeremiah Burroughs guys. Please. The fire was not as commanded. The situation as to how they were to perform was already laid out and what fire they were to have and use. In this (even if it wasn't commanded against) situation Nahab and Abihu brought something in that wasn't commanded against. Ussa did something he thought was correct and died even though he might have been jealous for God. They died for their trespass.

(1Ch 13:9) And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.

(1Ch 13:10) And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.


We can call that the Normative if you please. They already had prescription with who, what, when, and where. These things are highly condemned by God as He already told them what to do and how to Worship Him. Please be very careful in worship. God is so Holy. God commands us and tells us how He desires to be worshiped. Why would anyone want to do differently? I suspect it has to with Idolatry. We want to fashion a God as we perceive him or her to be. BTW, God is a He. I am speaking in modern terms and Idolatry. This is an Idolatry issue.

Please understand this. I am a sinful man also.
 
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