Regulative Principle - books/articles

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Has anyone heard of the book "Covenantal Worship: Reconsidering the Puritan Regulative Princple" by R. J. Gore? It is being promoted as the book to read for anyone interested in the RP and concludes by saying:

"At the beginning of this study, Presybterian worship was described as confused due to the lack of consensus regarding foundational liturgical principles. Indeed, this problem is real. The answer, however, is not to repristinate the past. The notion that some past era was the golden age of liturgical faithfulness falls apart in the light of the cold, hard reality of history. So efforts to return to the Geneva of the sixteenth century, or to the Scotland of the seventeenth century, are not the real answers to our difficulties. Instead, the answer lies in the genius of the Reformed liturgy: the church's faithful application of abiding truths to the changing situations of the day.

So we return once more to the liturgical confusion that surrounds us. Our study has provided evidence that this description of the situation is fundamentally correct. And there are reasons for that confusion. We have seen that the Puritan regulative principle of worship was an exaggeration of, and departure from, the worship practice of John Calvin, whom the Puritans regarded as a leading father in the faith. We have also seen that the Puritan regulative principle of worship has been fraught with difficulties from the very beginning. Further consideration of biblical and theological principles has established beyond any reasonable doubt that the Puritan regulative principle exceeded the bounds established in Scripture and imposed strictures on its adherents that were unduly narrow."

First Question: Is Gore right in his conclusion? It doesn't sound right to me, but then again, I have not studied this area enough to be certain.

Second Question: Can anyone recommend some books/online articles I could recommend for the people looking to learn about the RP?

Thanks for any help!


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
It is interesting that in the Dutch churches, which I grew up in, we had the second commandment, and not a formal Regulative Principle. Whether that is the historic Dutch position may be another matter. But we had a pretty strict worship, when it came to what was allowed.

It was only when the entire Ten Commandments began to get pushed aside, as if only suplementary to the worship service, that worship itself started to become personalized.

The RPW is relatively new to me, but the idea of regulating worship by the second commandment I don't think is not strange at all to Reformed worship, and is the basis for the RPW. The idea of Sola Scriptura has always, to my thinking, been especially true for regulating worship.



Puritan Board Graduate
For a historical perspective, I recommend:

[1] Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship That Is Reformed According to the Scripture

[2] Horton Davies, The Worship of the American Puritans

These deal with historical practices as well as some doctrine (the Old book weaves doctrine an history together more than the Davies book).

Also, using the confessional standards is helpful in defining the principle. It is basically the Cavlinistic / puritan understanding of the Second Commandment. Here is an excerpt from the Confession:

"I. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[404] But 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 worshiped 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.[405]"

The scripture proofs for FN 405 are:
Deuteronomy 12:32. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. Matthew 15:9. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Acts 17:25. Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. Matthew 4:9-10. And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Deuteronomy 4:15-20. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. Exodus 20:4-6. 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: 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; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Colossians 2:23. Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

See the Larger Catechism on the Second Commandment and related scripture proofs for more detail. They are available in a searchable format online at


[edited to repair links]

[Edited on 3-31-04 by pastorway]


Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for the replies, I'm learning lots.

The churches I have been in do not hold to the RP, so I'm somewhat unaware of what it would look like. To me, it does boil down to the issue of the sufficiency of Scripture and holding to sola scriptura.

I'm finding that a lot of opposition I see to the RP is coming from people's personal preferences regarding worship, and has not been backed up by Scripture.

I will check those books out! :thumbup:


Puritan Board Freshman
Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) - free books/articles/

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Mr. Gore is dead wrong regarding Calvin and the RPW, in my opinion.

One of the best books for proving this is [b:fcc3d47574]Carlos Eire's _War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin_[/b:fcc3d47574] (published by Cambridge University Press, ).

Eire shows that as the Reformation progressed the primary focus of the Reformers' became upholding God's sovereign prerogative in worship -- what today is called the regulative principle of worship.

Eire's _War Against the Idols_ also demonstrates the extent of the Reformers clear condemnation of Arminianism in worship (i.e. will-worship [Col. 2:23]) in rejecting all elements of worship that did not have Scriptural warrant.

[b:fcc3d47574]Erie also includes a number of first-time English translations of Calvin's writing in this work[/b:fcc3d47574] (as a great deal of Calvin's writing still remains untranslated [into English], I've been told). This helps give a much more complete view of Calvin's thought on worship to those who read only English -- than what had been available before this book was first published.

I can't find Mr. Gore's book at the moment (my wife sometimes comments that I have too many books -- but we all know that is impossible), but near the time it was first released I remember thinking how odd it was that the book did not contain any mention of Eire's _War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin_, that I could find. If anyone can find any references to Eire's _War Against the Idols_ in Mr. Gore's book, please let me know, as I would love to see how he justifies what he concludes about Calvin in light of information that Eire sets forth -- for if he'd read _War Against the Idols_ there is no way I can see that he could come to the conclusion he did. If I can find my copy of Mr. Gore's book I'll also check over it again and report here what I find.

[b:fcc3d47574]Because of the importance of Eire's _War Against the Idols_ we make this book available at, under "EIRE, CARLOS M.N."[/b:fcc3d47574]

If you send an email to [email protected] and ask for the "_War Against the Idols_ Newsletters" I (SWRB) will send you [b:fcc3d47574]two free newsletters with eight pages of excerpts from this book[/b:fcc3d47574] (which we obtained permission from Cambridge University Press to publish). Please remember to include your full mailing address.

[i:fcc3d47574]We also have a large section of free resources (book, articles, MP3s) on this topic at:[/i:fcc3d47574]

[b:fcc3d47574]+ Reformation Worship, the Regulative Principle, Iconoclasm, etc.[/b:fcc3d47574]

This may also be of interest, for those looking for actual books or CDs on this topic:

[b:fcc3d47574]+ Reformation Worship Sale [/b:fcc3d47574]

BTW, because of what he saw in Eire's _War Against the Idols_, Kevin Reed of Presbyterian Heritage Publications had some more of Calvin's work translated and published in an attractive hardcover volume. This book is titled [b:fcc3d47574]_Come Out From Among Them: The "Anti-Nicodemite" Writings of John Calvin_[/b:fcc3d47574] and can be found at under "CALVIN, JOHN."

Here is a quote by Calvin, from _Come Out From Among Them_, on separation from false worship (i.e. worship not based on the second commandment or what is now called the regulative principle of worship) and worshipping privately (in your home),

"Some one will therefore ask me what counsel I would like to give to a believer who thus dwells in some Egypt or Babylon where he may not worship God purely, but is forced by the common practice to accommodate himself to bad things. [b:fcc3d47574]The first advice would be to leave [i.e. relocate--GB] if he could. . . . If someone has no way to depart, I would counsel him to consider whether it would be possible for him to abstain from all idolatry in order to preserve himself pure and spotless toward God in both body and soul. ***Then let him worship God in private*** (in his home--RB), praying him to restore his poor church to its right estate[/b:fcc3d47574] (John Calvin, Come Out From Among Them, The Anti-Nicodemite Writings of John Calvin, Protestant Heritage Press, "A Short Treatise," pp. 93-94, emphases added. Come Out From Among Them is also on the [b:fcc3d47574]new PHP CD[/b:fcc3d47574] at ).

The Calvin quote (above) cited in: Appendix G in [b:fcc3d47574]_The Covenanted Reformation Defended_ by Greg Barrow[/b:fcc3d47574] ( free at ), "A brief examination of Mr. Bacon's principles regarding the visible church and the use of private judgment. Also, some observations regarding his ignoble attack upon Kevin Reed in his book entitled _The Visible Church in the Outer Darkness_."

Moreover, if this does not sound like the Calvin you have read or heard about from second or third-hand sources, please take a look at what was really happening in the covenanted Reformation in Geneva in the time of Calvin (from some of the quotes from source documents) at:

+ [b:fcc3d47574]_Calvin, Close Communion and the Coming Reformation (a book review of Alexander and Rufus... by John Anderson [1862])_ by Reg Barrow[/b:fcc3d47574] (Shows how Calvin practiced close communion and covenanting and how the biblical view of these ordinances led to blessings for the individual, church and state. Refutes the Popish and paedocommunion heresies (regarding this sacrament), as well as all views of open communion. This is Reformation History Notes number two.)
[b:fcc3d47574]FREE ONLINE ARTICLE AT:[/b:fcc3d47574]

BTW, Mr. Gore once phoned here (Still Waters Revival Books) and He and I had an interesting discussion/friendly debate on the regulative principle of worship. I certainly appreciated the calm spirit in which we were able to discuss our differences (as this is something that I always strive for, 2 Tim. 2:24). However, given our conversation, I had much higher hopes for his book and was very disappointed at what I saw in the book once it was published (some of the reasons, thought there are many more, being noted above).

Your Servant in Christ (for the Third Reformation),
Serving Christians worldwide (in over 100 countries) for 19+ years.

"For everyone to be admitted to the Lord's Supper, without distinction or selection, is a sign of contempt that the Lord cannot endure. The Lord himself distributed the supper to his disciples only. Therefore anyone not instructed in the doctrine of the gospel ought not to approach what the Lord has instituted. [b:fcc3d47574]No one should be distressed when his Christianity is examined even down to the finest point when he is to be admitted to the Lord's Supper.[/b:fcc3d47574] It should be established as part of the total state and system of discipline that ought to flourish in the church that those who are judged unworthy should not be admitted" ([b:fcc3d47574]John Calvin, "Letter on Various Subjects" in Calvin's Ecclesiastical Advice[/b:fcc3d47574], , emphases added).

"When the greatest part of a Church maketh defection from the Truth, the lesser part remaining sound, the greatest part is the Church of Separatists" ([b:fcc3d47574]Samuel Rutherford, Due Right Of Presbyteries[/b:fcc3d47574], p. 255, ).

Rich Barcellos

Puritan Board Freshman
First Question: Is Gore right in his conclusion? It doesn't sound right to me, but then again, I have not studied this area enough to be certain.

Here are some statements by Calvin:

Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have him [God] to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish his authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions. Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits, that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke his anger against us (John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, [Dallas, Texas, Protestant Heritage Press, 1995], 17, 18).

"I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that
God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word." He cites First Samuel 15:22 and Matthew 15:29 in this context and says, "Every addition to his word, especially in this matter [worship], is a lie. Mere "will worship" vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate" (Ibid., 18).

Similar statements can be found in the Institutes and his exposition of the second commandment.
Not open for further replies.