Regulative Principle of Worship - complete worship

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panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This is a compilation of a couple other posts from another thread that I wanted to capture and discuss.

I wanted to title this - "The Regulative Principle of Worship - spirit, truth and holiness" (title restriction), because I think a key understanding of the RPW is not only to focus on the negative aspects but also on the positive aspects.

That is - not focus soley on the "Thou shalt not", so as to restrict the worship of God in a narrow and legalistic way, but also focus on the requirement that we are to worship God as completely as He has commanded through Scripture, as well - heart, soul, mind, strength - and all that is tied to it.

Regulate does not mean legalistically restrict or prohibit - regulation helps to insure we do not abuse the liberty given and allow the freedom we have to be bounded by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. The HS and Scripture combined define worshipping in spirit and truth.

We must be careful not to create commandment where none exist, thus becoming one who would "strain at a gnat" of some invented stricture, thus "swallowing the camel" of legalism just as the Pharisees did in their misguided zeal.

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

Lest we forget - liberty is bounded freedom and in the case of Christians, we are bounded by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Christ's public ministry began by first proclaiming freedom. He then demonstrated the bounds of this freedom with His life and teaching, then prompting the men who would record His actions and significant teachings through the Holy Spirit.

The RPW is a wonderful guiding principle, but we must be careful not to turn it into a heavy yoke. In the areas Scripture is clear - clear adherence is mandated - where it is not so clear - there is liberty. That is - liberty within the boundaries of the Scriptural mandate - what I believe has been determined as "circumstantial".

1 Chronicles 16:29
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;bring an offering and come before him!Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness

Psalm 29:2
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96:9
Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Finally - holiness - as evidentiated most clearly by our Lord and Saviour - is not iterating out every rule that could possibly be implied from Scripture and adhering legalistically to it.

Holiness for us is worshipping God in Spirit and truth...and where the Spirit of Lord is there is liberty. Again - Liberty is freedom within the boundaries of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. It is not in the polar extremes of licentiousness anarchy or Pharisaical legalism.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
JD:

I think you're on the right track. Some of the things, though, that you include in "liberty" are actually liberties that are commanded. There are also commandments within those liberties that we may still be guided by principles of the Word. We are to pray, or example, but there are things we are commanded not to pray for. We are not to pray for things that we desire to spend upon ourselves, but we are to pray for our own and others' specific needs.

"Is anyone among you in suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise." (James 5:13)
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
JohnV said:
"Is anyone among you in suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise." (James 5:13)
Sorry; I've got psalleto, from the verb form of psalmos. In other words, it isn't "Let him 'sing' (verb) 'praise' (noun)"; it's "Let him 'psalm' (verb)."

:sing:
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Sorry; I've got psalleto, from the verb form of psalmos. In other words, it isn't "Let him 'sing' (verb) 'praise' (noun)"; it's "Let him 'psalm' (verb)."

:sing:

You won't get any argument from me. It's what I've been saying all along. But that's not what this thread is about. I'm sorry I included that part. I was trying to point out that we are indeed granted certain liberties, and that there still are rules inside those liberties. I think that this was what JD was driving at, if I'm not mistaken.

If there's something to pray for, we are free to pray for it. If there is something to praise God for, we should praise God for it. If there is something worthy or excellent, it should be shared with all.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you." (Phils. 4: 8,9)

We have all the freedom we can have, and yet within the confines of pursuing excellency in all things. This is put in the context of rejoicing in the Lord always.
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
I wanted to title this - "The Regulative Principle of Worship - spirit, truth and holiness" (title restriction), because I think a key understanding of the RPW is not only to focus on the negative aspects but also on the positive aspects.

The good thing is that the Reformed take worship seriously. There is an entire theology - RPW - that is routinely written about, commented on, critiqued and tweaked.

OTOH, when I recently met with clergy who practice the Normative Principle of Worship and asked them if there were any authors (other than Hooker) who defended this point of view, I was met with confusion. The first response was a defense of the liturgy with an appeal to "tradition." No Scripture, just "tradition." As they finally understood that I wasn't attacking the NPW, just asking for some guidance on some apologetics for it, they acknowledged that they knew of none specifically. Finally, after some thought, they mentioned a contemporary author who *might* have written something of what I was asking about, but they weren't sure.

Question: Why do the Reformed take the RPW so seriously as to routinely write about it and discuss it, while those who practice the NPW don't? (And remember: This is a question from someone who has been, and will be, pastoring an NPW church.)
 

panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Question: Why do the Reformed take the RPW so seriously as to routinely write about it and discuss it, while those who practice the NPW don't? (And remember: This is a question from someone who has been, and will be, pastoring an NPW church.)

Good question - I think that it partially goes back to the desire of the Reformers to eliminate the excesses the RCC had adopted in worship (it should be noted that the RCC has even had movements to reduce excess in worship) - but I believe the root of the reason is that our source of authority and truth is Scripture and we want to be Berean-like in our approach to ALL things, particularly worship. Since worship is a definitive command, the WHY is answered, we know WHO, we know WHEN, the RPW is concerned with WHAT ways and HOW we worship a holy God.

The NPW takes the "spirit and truth" statement and focuses worship only on the spiritual component (the promptings of the Holy Spirit) and intent, while leaving behind a major "truth" component (Scriptural boundaries), thus allowing non-ordained and unregulated worship to God.

Key in this discussion is:

"WHOM do we seek to honor and please?"
"HOW do we know WHAT honors and pleases Him?"

The priority placed on these questions determines how seriously a church approaches worship.

my::2cents:
 

panta dokimazete

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The NPW takes the "spirit and truth" statement and focuses worship only on the spiritual component (the promptings of the Holy Spirit) and intent, while leaving behind a major "truth" component (Scriptural boundaries), thus allowing non-ordained and unregulated worship to God.

I also wanted to add:

In the reverse extreme, some practitioners of the RPW exalt the "truth" component and completely smother the "spirit" component, stifling the liberty that exists within the regulation.

Again: Key in this discussion is:

"WHOM do we seek to honor and please?"
"HOW do we know WHAT honors and pleases Him?"

Again: The priority placed on these questions determines how seriously a church approaches worship.

my::2cents: ...again...so, that would be $.04 :D
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
Again: Key in this discussion is:

"WHOM do we seek to honor and please?"
"HOW do we know WHAT honors and pleases Him?"

Again: The priority placed on these questions determines how seriously a church approaches worship.

I think you're correct. The issue is the seriousness with which a church engages in worship. Does tradition, in its lowest and worst sense, dominate? Or do we wish to know the reason for worship, Who we worship, Why we worship Him, and What He desires of us?

It may be that the NPW has some good points (e.g., the 1662 liturgy we're using has wonderful Calvinist theology), but is it ever "unpacked" or merely taken for granted. I think the RPW may wish to avoid the latter at all costs.

It's important to note that this indicates that being RPW does NOT means "doing the opposite of whatever Rome does." I've run across that mentality too often. There must be solid, biblical theology at work behind the scene.

E.g., I was recently at a conference sponsored by 9 Marks Ministries. Mark Dever commented that he spends about 1 hour on Saturday night just composing his pastoral prayer. THAT is evidence of taking the RPW seriously.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Kevin:

Is it possible to put the differences side by side for us? Is there some of the one in the other? Etc.
 

Staphlobob

Puritan Board Sophomore
Kevin:

Is it possible to put the differences side by side for us? Is there some of the one in the other? Etc.

I'm not sure what you're asking. Difference side by side of what in particular?

Let me post the following and see if this is what you're talking about. In the 1662 service of Holy Communion there is a communion prayer that is standard. When I was examining it I realized how Reformed it was in its intent, but I even changed a phrase to make it more so. Here it is ...

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in Your tender mercy You gave Your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. He made there by His once-and-for-all offering of Himself, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of all His elect children. He instituted, and in His holy gospel commands us to continue, a perpetual memory of His precious death until He comes again.

Note how part of the emphasis is on election and predestination.

I'm not sure if this is what you meant though.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Kevin:

I was asking about your comment here:

The good thing is that the Reformed take worship seriously. There is an entire theology - RPW - that is routinely written about, commented on, critiqued and tweaked.

OTOH, when I recently met with clergy who practice the Normative Principle of Worship and asked them if there were any authors (other than Hooker) who defended this point of view, I was met with confusion. The first response was a defense of the liturgy with an appeal to "tradition." No Scripture, just "tradition." As they finally understood that I wasn't attacking the NPW, just asking for some guidance on some apologetics for it, they acknowledged that they knew of none specifically. Finally, after some thought, they mentioned a contemporary author who *might* have written something of what I was asking about, but they weren't sure.

Question: Why do the Reformed take the RPW so seriously as to routinely write about it and discuss it, while those who practice the NPW don't? (And remember: This is a question from someone who has been, and will be, pastoring an NPW church.)

You could say that every church has a RPW of some kind because every chuch will at least say, "We don't do those kinds of things here." and cite some kind of Scripture. Some of them, if you ask them about the RPW, they ask what that is, though. But others can give you the ten latest essays on the subject in the past five years. It's a sliding scale, you might say: some who never heard of it to those of the other extreme, but everyone has it.

I tend to believe that those who hold the RPW properly don't write about the RPW so much as use it to write about why the Scripture doesn't allow some things or does allow other things; the RPW isn't so much an end in itself as it is a description of the end of staying Scriptural. It would seem that the more you pay attention to the RPW itself the more there is a tendency to become legalistic about it.

What I was asking was, along that sliding scale, where does the NPW come in? It wouldn't tend to be legalistic, but it may tend to be a kind of off-side legalism to get around the RPW, like Dr. John Frame tries to do as I understand. His is not really a NPW as much as it is an anti-RPW it seems to me. But that doesn't have to be the case. The NPW can be an attempt to moderate the RPW, but it can also be a kind of RPW in itself without being anti-RPW.

Would you say this is the case? Or am I misunderstanding it? But if it is, where would the NPW fit in with the RPW?
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
OK, here's my thinking on this. I hope this is still within JD's intent for this thread.

One thing that bothers me, that I just can't get past is the idea of establishing as a rule of doctrine something that stands not on Scripture, but on principle. This to me is "normative". It's regulative in the sense that we all must agree to it, so that we do things together as a body; but it's not regulative as in a direct Biblical command. What's called the RPW calls directly upon what the Bible commands or what it doesn't command. But the Bible also commands many places that discretion, a normative rulership, be in place in the Church too.

Let's say that the RPW looks into what the Bible requires, and the NPW looks into what ought to be required within that realm, which is left to the godly discretion of the rulers in the Church. The RPW looks to the Bible; the NPW looks to the Church's traditions, writings, old and new; and both are within the Biblical command to govern the Church properly.

It seems to me that what might be called an appeal to RPW by some is actually more of an appeal to the NPW. Appealing to antiquity, or writings other than the Scripture, or traditions of the Church, is really an appeal to what is normative, not actually to what the Scripture directly requires. The Scripture also requires normativity for the sake of normal human society within the Church, but includes or excludes certain things on the whole. Within that realm of what may happen in worship there is a discretion along Biblical guidelines that takes place as normative for worship, but also requiring everyone to agree and submit.

It's not one or the other, but we have to have both. But at the same time we should not confuse them, or what it is they appeal to. We all know that appealing to great traditions, leading works in books written by men we admire and learn from, or age-old practices, all these have their value so that the modern day does not overrule the many who came before simply because the dead cannot vote today. But it is within the RPW to have a NPW to govern things that fall within Biblical command, and yet also requires wisdom and discernment on the part of the leadership. Each sermon and each prayer in the worship service calls upon the careful observance of a RPW and NPW, so that we don't fall into liberalism or legalism, either one being an extreme of the one or the other principle in worship.

I hope that this doesn't sidetrack JD's intent for this thread.
 
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