RPW, instruments in worship etc

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Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
I have very sadly felt the need to separate from my church this last week. It has perhaps been a long time coming, but suffice to say, I could no longer, in good conscience continue to worship in a way which (in my present understanding) is wholly contrary to the revealed will of God.

The church I belonged to has basically gone from reverent worship which included a piano only to increasingly irreverent worship (or at least certain aspects of it were irreverent). Instruments have been added to the piano; the cello, saxophone, violin, piano, oboe and this last Lord’s Day an electric guitar and drums were thrust upon all members. (As an aside, but this might be of interest to some members, the church embraced a hymn book called ‘Praise’ some years ago and it would seem that Dr Masters thoughts on this hymn book, written some 12 years ago, are proving to be prophetic, for pretty much what he said would take place, has taken place in this church. I was away in the USA for 5 years and on my return, saw significant differences, not for the better, and now another 2 years later the downgrade is on a seemingly unstoppable roll. His article can be found here: Praise! - A Review by Dr Peter Masters)

I hold to (so far as my understanding of it goes) the RPW. Accordingly I do not celebrate Christmas, Easter etc and I believe worship must be ordered in accordance with the revealed will of God. However, up until the present, I have not considered a piano or an organ to be contrary to the RPW. In light of the goings on at my church, I have studied this matter out again, more specifically with regards to the use of instruments and am close to concluding that to be faithful to the RPW one must refuse all instruments in worship. There doesn’t appear to be a solid Biblical defense of the view which permits a piano or an organ but forbids every other instrument (though Peter Masters offers a compelling argument for this view). After all, if a piano is permissible, then it begins to be far more difficult (for me at any rate) to claim (from Scripture) that other instruments are forbidden. At least, it begins to appear contradictory to me in my limited understanding. I don’t want to take on the zero instrument position simply because doing so makes it easier to argue against the use of more obviously carnal music, but if indeed it is the Scriptural position, I desire to understand it better than I presently do.

I came across this link which was very interesting: What Early Christians believed about USING INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC and have also read this:Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God

I have read recently ‘Give Praise to God’ A Vision for Reforming Worship which proved very helpful, but not conclusive insofar as the use of instruments. Again, Peter Master’s book ‘Worship in the Melting Pot’ offers much which is useful, but he permits the use of the organ and so leaves me with a few unanswered questions.

Can anybody offer any helpful thoughts or direct me to books which clearly and Biblically present the A Capella position?

I’m not likely to find an A Capella church here in England (if anybody knows of one in West Yorkshire or thereabouts please let me know) and not sure how welcome English people would be in Scotland right now (joking :)) but nonetheless, I would like to solidify my own understanding and hope to be led to a church where the worship is at the least reverent and truth is sung rather than charismatic and ecumenical ditties!
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I can understand being grieved and wanting to find a church that doesn't do those things you mentioned have come in recently to the worship of your church, but it doesn't call for separation unless they are making you play the instruments. I would start investigating, look around, and if you find a better church join it. But I would not just separate unless you are being forced to sin. Take a gradual approach. Girardeau's book remains the most compelling modern Presbyterian work; there is a recent book by a Reformed Baptist, John Price, Old Light on New Worship. He presumes the RPW but otherwise the work has been well spoken of.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
I doubt I can be of any help, but what seems to have gone awry is the hymnal that they began to use. It would be completely impossible for instruments such as drums and an electric guitar to be used at our church using the hymnal we use. They just wouldn't fit. So perhaps you would want to find a church which uses an appropriate hymnal and following that would use only a piano and possibly a flute if you can't find an A Capella church.
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
if anybody knows of one in West Yorkshire or thereabouts please let me know
The closest ones that I have listed (see my signature) are the Free Presbyterians in Barnoldswick and Stockport. I have also heard of Bolton Reformed Anglican Church in School Hill, Bolton, but I have not been able to confirm their practice. Based on UK standards of distance, however, you will probably find these options too far to travel.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Chris, I appreciate your counsel. The separation has been very, very gradual (2 years of struggles/discussions with the Pastor and Elder etc over more than one difficulty) and has been very heartbreaking (for me personally). I love the folks at this church.

Being solely responsible for three young children also comes into play. My children were all horrified last Lord’s Day. My 5 year old was actually scared and instinctively put her hands over her ears. After church she asked me why they were playing ‘worldly’ music at church. (The music has not been the only difficulty.) The last thing I want for my children is for them to grow accustomed (purely by being exposed to it week in week out) to that which is carnal and altogether offensive (as I believe it is) to a holy God. I desire for them to maintain that sense of horror and to be easily able to differentiate between that which is holy and that which is profane. However, primarily, in the end, it had to come down to my personal obedience. Not everybody in Israel made the golden calf, but everyone who joined in with the ‘worship’ of it was accountable for their part. I might not be playing the instruments or directly partaking in the irreverence but by continuing on there, I am joining in with the ‘worship’ and would be doing so in the full knowledge that it was a form of idolatry and offensive to God.

There are very many disagreements which can be and should be set aside and brethren worship together in peace but there are some disagreements which make it impossible for even true brethren to worship God together. I think this ended up being in the latter category and my Pastor has agreed that to continue worshipping there would be almost asking for increasing difficulties. His plans are firmly set on a path I cannot walk down.

Thanks also for the book recommendations. I will definitely look into them.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I cannot speak directly to your situation not being there (but it sounds horrid); but I would just be careful of that line of argumentation. Please consider the work below for careful balance (or more directly the work by James Durham on Scandal) and how we partake of the sins of others. Since this sounds not spur of the moment and your pastor has pretty much said he's not going to consider your concerns, then I would find a better place to worship (which is not "no place").
1.The Visible Church and the Outer Darkness
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
if anybody knows of one in West Yorkshire or thereabouts please let me know
The closest ones that I have listed (see my signature) are the Free Presbyterians in Barnoldswick and Stockport. I have also heard of Bolton Reformed Anglican Church in School Hill, Bolton, but I have not been able to confirm their practice. Based on UK standards of distance, however, you will probably find these options too far to travel.
Tim, I followed the link in your signature, but couldn’t see England. I saw Scotland, Ireland, USA etc. Am I looking with my eyes shut?
Also, are you listing only Presbyterian churches or do you list Reformed Baptists also (my being a Baptist :)).
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Jo,

You will indeed have great difficulty finding an acapella church in England. There are a few - Salisbury Evangelical Church where Malcom Watts ministers, and maybe one or two others but all are a bit to far from West Yorkshire!

You should however be able to find various reformed churches which still maintain just a piano or organ (for some reason English churches seem to prefer organ over piano in my experience).

Your go to resources must be a) John Price's book and b) Girardeau. John is a personal friend and his book is superb. I will have a think about other specific options in your area. For my money I believe permitting a piano or organ is by far prefarable to the 'band' but is rather inconsistent and is a very weak protection against pressure to introduce instruments. I believe the RPW is not consistently applied where there are any instruments, however I have not viewed it as a reason for church separation etc. (we all have things we may not like in regard to a given church's practice e.g. frequency of LS etc.).
 

Tim

Puritan Board Graduate
Tim, I followed the link in your signature, but couldn’t see England. I saw Scotland, Ireland, USA etc. Am I looking with my eyes shut?
Also, are you listing only Presbyterian churches or do you list Reformed Baptists also (my being a Baptist ).
The England & Wales map is there, but you can check out this more direct link:

Exclusive Psalmody Churches (England & Wales)

I should mention that my listings are for Psalm-singing churches, but since many such churches are also a capella, the listings may still be of value to you. I think Pastor Wallace is correct that the Baptist churches seem to be in Southern England.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Sarah, thanks for your response. I agree, the hymnal is most definitely key!

Chris, I will take the time to read properly the link you shared. I’ll be honest, I have gone backwards and forwards with this matter these last couple of years, seeking to understand Biblically my duty/responsibility/need for loyalty to the local church and if/when that loyalty should cease etc. I am not a church hopper by any means and these things have seen me truly striving in prayer to know the will of the Lord. Whilst it is no excuse, I do find it very hard to make these kinds of decisions (where ordinarily a husband would be doing so).

Having skim read some of the link, you will likely not agree with this, but here is what Peter Masters says about loyalty to the local church. (He writes this in his book entitled ‘Church Membership in the Bible’ in which he strongly teaches the need for full membership of and loyalty to a local church and strongly teaches against all church hopping etc. However, he does give three circumstances where he believes loyalty to the local church would be wrong.)

“Here are three areas of misconduct which involve such serious disobedience to God that dedicated Christians must withdraw-if the church refuses to address the situation:

First, if a church refuses to exercise church discipline when serious offenses are committed by members............
Second if a church shows no inclination to obey the great commission............
Thirdly if a church ignores the standards of God’s Word by allowing the use of worldly and carnal styles of worship............."

With regards to point three he says “True believers are bound to experience a crisis of conscience. How can they cleave to a church which corrupts holy things and makes its members participate in ungodly worship? Loyalty to the Lord and His commands in such areas certainly comes before loyalty to the local church.”

He concludes this with another exhortation to loyalty where these problems do not exist.

“Where such problems do not exist we must believe that God calls us to a church and commands us to be loyal to it. We should regard ourselves as permanent limbs or parts of that body. The Christian life is not a life of selfish individualism, but a life to be spent as a fellow laborer and fellow soldier in that unit of believers where God intends us to be.”

What would your thoughts be on those recommendations? I perhaps will find the answer to that when I read the link properly (which will have to wait until tom now.) :)

This has been the struggle for me. I desperately want to be loyal to the church and part of me feels like I am leaving a sinking ship, but then all the other questions arise and I have no wish to remain loyal to a church at the cost of true loyalty to God. It is very confusing at times. I did seek counsel from my parents also (my Dad is a Pastor.....reformed in belief, but not in a reformed denomination) and they strongly counseled me against remaining any longer. They have walked through the various difficulties with me this last couple of years and I have been very relieved to have their counsel and not be trying to work these things out entirely alone.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Jo,
What I'm not saying is that you should not leave; what I am saying is I'm concerned you have a Reformed view versus a separatist view on departing a church. I recommend reading the whole piece I linked to. There are all sorts of corruptions in worship; if they involve being forced to sin, there's no choice, when it doesn't, it's more complicated, but there is not a necessity, while there is freedom. The linked article is the Reformed view vs. a separatists view.
 

Free Christian

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Jo. I once went to a church that brought in that new hymn book. What you can count on is this, that along with that soon follows other changes, which I saw, and the church transforms for the worse and goes on a downhill slide. Its catering to the masses. I understand too how any church can say "yes this organ is good to use, but no that guitar is not" is without reason biblically. My question to them is "says who and prove it". I know im no help here but I have been in the same situation as yourself and it is and can be a big decision to make. All the best Jo.
 

Tirian

Puritan Board Sophomore
1.The Visible Church and the Outer Darkness
I just read the book, took around an hour I guess, and found it very edifying. Thanks for sharing - I have forwarded it to a friend who is caught between two churches at the moment over the issue of worship.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Those instruments you mentioned - piano, cello, saxophone, violin, oboe, guitar, and drums - all have their analogs in Scripture, in that the Bible contains examples of percussion instruments (drums, piano), string instruments (cello, violin, guitar), and woodwind instruments (oboe, saxophone). (There are also trumpets [brass instruments] in the Bible, of course.) The scriptural instruments are different, of course, but the categories and principles upon which they operate are the same. I don't see your problem.
 

PaulMc

Puritan Board Freshman
I have read recently ‘Give Praise to God’ A Vision for Reforming Worship which proved very helpful, but not conclusive insofar as the use of instruments. Again, Peter Master’s book ‘Worship in the Melting Pot’ offers much which is useful, but he permits the use of the organ and so leaves me with a few unanswered questions.
Hi Jo,

Sorry to hear about your situation.
Regarding the above, I think that Peter Masters does set forth a mostly solid view on music and instruments in worship, but is inconsistent in then allowing an organ (which he would claim is circumstantial and necessary for leading the singing). This follows through in him then having the organ play before and after the service and while the offering is taken up. Also, Spurgeon managed without an organ with thousands at the Met Tab!

Your best option if you leave might be to find a good Reformed Baptist church which has reverent worship, albeit with the singing accompanied by an organ. My view, like yours, is acapella singing, however as you know such congregations in England are few and far between and so it's something that almost by necessity must be compromised.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Jo,
What I'm not saying is that you should not leave; what I am saying is I'm concerned you have a Reformed view versus a separatist view on departing a church. I recommend reading the whole piece I linked to. There are all sorts of corruptions in worship; if they involve being forced to sin, there's no choice, when it doesn't, it's more complicated, but there is not a necessity, while there is freedom. The linked article is the Reformed view vs. a separatists view.
I read the link and found it to be saying much the same as Richard Baxter in his ‘A Christian Directory’. I wonder if a Reformed Baptist view would, needs must, take a slightly different path? Just considering Dr Masters and his ‘reasons for removing loyalty from a local church’ and the fact that not one of them involves a believer being forced to sin (unless it was considered that the ungodly worship forced on all members was a forcing them to sin, but that would still leave the first two.) Is this related to a difference in church government (I am not very familiar with the differences in government) or just a different theology on covenants/Christian unity/Biblical separation etc?

The thrust of both (the link and Baxter) is that no corruption within a true church or it’s members should be considered a just cause for separating from it unless that corruption forces the believer to sin. Baxter does give a couple of examples when leaving one church and transferring membership to another one might be considered the reasonable/most edifying thing to do (even where no sin was being forced upon the one transferring).

The difficulty then remains (and neither the link, nor Baxter gave me an answer to this) at what point does a corruption in corporate worship force a believer to sin? How far can a believer compromise their understanding of God’s commands without stepping into personal disobedience? Or asked in a slightly different manner, how would ‘what is not of faith is sin’ fit in with this without leading to sinful individualism?
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Jo. I once went to a church that brought in that new hymn book. What you can count on is this, that along with that soon follows other changes, which I saw, and the church transforms for the worse and goes on a downhill slide. Its catering to the masses. I understand too how any church can say "yes this organ is good to use, but no that guitar is not" is without reason biblically. My question to them is "says who and prove it". I know im no help here but I have been in the same situation as yourself and it is and can be a big decision to make. All the best Jo.
Brett, I appreciate your sharing of a similar experience. I am assuming the church you speak of was in Australia? I hadn’t realized that this particular hymn book had been received outside of the UK. I don’t suppose I had given that any thought though.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
I have read recently ‘Give Praise to God’ A Vision for Reforming Worship which proved very helpful, but not conclusive insofar as the use of instruments. Again, Peter Master’s book ‘Worship in the Melting Pot’ offers much which is useful, but he permits the use of the organ and so leaves me with a few unanswered questions.
Hi Jo,

Sorry to hear about your situation.
Regarding the above, I think that Peter Masters does set forth a mostly solid view on music and instruments in worship, but is inconsistent in then allowing an organ (which he would claim is circumstantial and necessary for leading the singing). This follows through in him then having the organ play before and after the service and while the offering is taken up. Also, Spurgeon managed without an organ with thousands at the Met Tab!

Your best option if you leave might be to find a good Reformed Baptist church which has reverent worship, albeit with the singing accompanied by an organ. My view, like yours, is acapella singing, however as you know such congregations in England are few and far between and so it's something that almost by necessity must be compromised.
Paul, yes I only recently discovered that Spurgeon did not make use of an organ. I think I had (until the last year or so) just presumed a piano/organ in worship and so laid that presumption upon past preachers/churches also.

I have had an Independent Baptist church recommended to me, which is not too very far away. Lord willing, we will visit next week. They have apparently not gone down the ‘Praise’ hymnbook route and so likely will not have gone down the ‘band’ route either. A piano/organ is rather more easy to live with than the drums. :)
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I think a view of the church probably does figure as there is a shorter line from congregationalist government than presbyterian to separatism. I think the Visible Church book took on the question of how we partake of others' sins, rather directly in chapter 3, Partakers of Other Mens' Sins.
Jo,
What I'm not saying is that you should not leave; what I am saying is I'm concerned you have a Reformed view versus a separatist view on departing a church. I recommend reading the whole piece I linked to. There are all sorts of corruptions in worship; if they involve being forced to sin, there's no choice, when it doesn't, it's more complicated, but there is not a necessity, while there is freedom. The linked article is the Reformed view vs. a separatists view.
I read the link and found it to be saying much the same as Richard Baxter in his ‘A Christian Directory’. I wonder if a Reformed Baptist view would, needs must, take a slightly different path? Just considering Dr Masters and his ‘reasons for removing loyalty from a local church’ and the fact that not one of them involves a believer being forced to sin (unless it was considered that the ungodly worship forced on all members was a forcing them to sin, but that would still leave the first two.) Is this related to a difference in church government (I am not very familiar with the differences in government) or just a different theology on covenants/Christian unity/Biblical separation etc?

The thrust of both (the link and Baxter) is that no corruption within a true church or it’s members should be considered a just cause for separating from it unless that corruption forces the believer to sin. Baxter does give a couple of examples when leaving one church and transferring membership to another one might be considered the reasonable/most edifying thing to do (even where no sin was being forced upon the one transferring).

The difficulty then remains (and neither the link, nor Baxter gave me an answer to this) at what point does a corruption in corporate worship force a believer to sin? How far can a believer compromise their understanding of God’s commands without stepping into personal disobedience? Or asked in a slightly different manner, how would ‘what is not of faith is sin’ fit in with this without leading to sinful individualism?
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes, it was very helpful and direct (and I plan to share it with a group of ladies who are absolutely certain they must obey their husbands even if he commands them to sin and thus far, they simply will not be moved from that position) but I suppose I was thinking more of very specific examples. It isn’t always straight forward to place your own situation into a more general category. Well, I speak for myself at any rate.

In Baxter’s ‘A Christian Directory’ he does answer in detail very specific questions and cases of conscience. I wonder if anybody in recent years has felt the need for a similar work to Baxter’s aimed at answering specific cases of conscience which are perhaps unique to the present generation? Granted, the Scripture never changes and so the rule for our life is unchanging whatever era we live in, but is there a place for counsel aimed at questions which arise in response to the specific challenges/difficulties within the life of the church and individual believers today? I could provide plenty of questions. :)
 

Free Christian

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi Jo. Not 100% it was/is the exact same one, I just remember a Baptist church I went to for a while when I was living in another state, in Australia, began to introduce a new song book to replace the old hymns. Im sure I can see the word Praise on the cover in my mind though, and if my memory is right it was a purple book cover. Anyway, the songs were all up tempo kind of things, little substance and more along the happy clappy type of path.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
Just to update. I am glad to say that there has been peaceable and understanding communication between my Pastor (as was) and I. It really has been a heartbreaking time for me, but that the leaving has been able to be as peaceable as it has been, with good relationships maintained, is a huge relief and blessing.

The children and I will be visiting a reasonably nearby Independent Baptist tomorrow. (Very close in USA talk.........25 minutes away in the car.)
I have purchased and received the two books recommended and am on with Girardeau at the moment. This should be essential reading for every born again believer.
 
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