The playing of instruments during the collection of tithes/offerings and the Regulative Principle of

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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I sense we're veering off topic here.

Yes, I suppose you could construe NEEDFUL to be BENEFICIAL if the words were nuanced in a specific context; though it appears that beneficial is somewhat dependent on needful in the case provided. But if both are placed side by side -- "am I doing this because it is inescapable if I'm going to fulfil the Lord's command, or am I doing this because it adds something to the worship itself," the two are clearly distinguishable.
 

BaptistCanuk

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by BaptistCanuk
I think music can help one to focus on God and worship Him during the Lord's Supper or offerings. My church stops the music when we're actually taking it. It's just while the elements are being given out that the music is played. I think it's reverent.
Am I the only one who thinks this?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by armourbearer
I sense we're veering off topic here.

Yes, I suppose you could construe NEEDFUL to be BENEFICIAL if the words were nuanced in a specific context; though it appears that beneficial is somewhat dependent on needful in the case provided. But if both are placed side by side -- "am I doing this because it is inescapable if I'm going to fulfil the Lord's command, or am I doing this because it adds something to the worship itself," the two are clearly distinguishable.
Actually, you helped me understand what you're saying. By using the term "inescapable" you really do call into question many circumstances of worship.

It's interesting that I was just reading last year's Confessional Presbyterian Journal just this afternoon and the subject of the RPW and Circumstance arose. The authors were making the same point you are concerning circumstance.

The problem I have was that they said that challenges to it such as "What about pews then?" are not reasonable and just absurd questions. They never address that issue but move past it as if it is even impious to ask about pews.

My question is: Why? Why is that an absurd question?

Chairs or pews or any other places to sit are not inescapable circumstances. I can assure you that I've stood for hours and am very capable of listening even more intently at a position of attention than in a seated position. I am given less to distraction and it is very hard to fall asleep (though not impossible as I've done that too).

That question is even less absurd when you consider the issue of Synagogue worship (after which our worship is patterned). The position of those taught was typically standing while the teacher sat on the ground. We even see examples of Christ sitting to teach.

I think this question is very germane because I find the term necessary and inescapable to be conveniently changed when it is a circumstance that certain people have no issue with. Instruments are a pet peave for some historically and so they are clearly not a necessary circumstance for them. The utility of standing or sitting during worship is of no more consequence to me in terms of outright necessity than an instrument is in worship.

Thus, it doesn't help me to just state that anything not completely necessary as a circumstance must be removed from worship. The term ceases to have meaning when what it means to be necessary is arbitrarily defined.

[Edited on 7-8-2006 by SemperFideles]
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich,

I think you are mixing Chris, Pastor Winzer and me up. As far as I can tell, looking back over the thread, only Pastor Winzer said that a circumstance of worship must be necessary. That is not my understanding of the term, and as far as I have understood Chris, that doesn't seem to be his position either.

Actually, I explicitly denied that circumstances are necessary:

That is, the use of an instrument is an aid to congregational singing and circumstantial in that regard....In the same way the use of the microphone is an aid during the preaching of the gospel, so that all might hear clearly. Neither is necessary, but they do aid in the clarity of the prescribed elements.
Circumstances aid in the fulfilment of the required elements of worship. The microphone aids in the preaching of the gospel so that all might hear clearly. A microphone is not necessary, it only serves as an aid.

I agree in your assessment that neither microphones, instruments, pews, air conditioning, heating, fans, lighting, a building, etc... are necessary to the worship service, but these are aids to help in the performance of the necessary elements.

However, such things can be abused, even to the point of making elements thereof. Another example: lighting. Certainly lighting can and usually is an aid to us during worship. However, having a candlelight service, i.e., lighting candles as part of the worship service, as a "picture" of Christ as the Light of the world and us sharing that light with those around us, is making an element out of what may commonly be used as an aid. No where does God prescribe the lighting of candles as part of New Testament worship. God gave his New Testament Church two sacraments, and lighting candles during worship is not one of them. The same with instrument music. As long as it is used as an aid in the performance of prescribed elements, it is okay. If it either detracts from, or adds to the prescribed elements, then there is a problem.

When it comes to the use of instruments during the collection of tithes and offerings (assuming that the collection thereof is an element of worship, which isn't being debated in this thread), the question then is: in what way is the use of instruments an aid to the collection of tithes and offerings?


[Edited on 7-8-2006 by Dan....]
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Dan,

My apologies to you and Chris if it sounded like I was implying that you held to the historic strictures of the RPW. I think I was trying more to define where I was coming from and letting you know that I appreciated your posts as well.

Let me also be clear. I do appreciate Rev Winzer's insights. I don't think I agree that the RPW must be so strict in circumstance and I'm trying to understand how, practically, this can all be worked out.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Also,

Usually when I see these discussion arise, the proponents of the tightest restriction (and I'm not accusing either of you of this) will present a litany of historic Presbyterian voices that are in general agreement. Unfortunately, many of the quotes tend to parrot and not add new information that gets to the "Why" or to a Scriptural ground that I can interact with and understand better. Many of the quotes on organ music connect the instrument with being popish and are wrested out of their historical context.
I'll not present you a "litany of historic Presbyterian voices." I'll leave that to those who are much more educated than I am. As for me, I simply see the RPW as a practicle application of the 2nd Commandment; i.e, that we are to worship God only as He has prescribed. The only historic voice I'll leave you with is the WLC, Questions 108,109:

Q108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A108: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word;[1] particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ;[2] the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word;[3] the administration and receiving of the sacraments;[4] church government and discipline;[5] the ministry and maintenance thereof;[6] religious fasting;[7] swearing by the name of God,[8] and vowing unto him:[9] as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship;[10] and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.[11]

Q109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A109: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising,[1] counseling,[2] commanding,[3] using,[4] and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself;[5] tolerating a false religion;[6] the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever;[7] all worshipping of it,[8] or God in it or by it;[9] the making of any representation of feigned deities,[10] and all worship of them, or service belonging to them;[11] all superstitious devices,[12] corrupting the worship of God,[13] adding to it, or taking from it,[14] whether invented and taken up of ourselves,[15] or received by tradition from others,[16] though under the title of antiquity,[17] custom,[18] devotion,[19] good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever;[20] simony;[21] sacrilege;[22] all neglect,[23] contempt,[24] hindering,[25] and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.[26]

108:
1. Deut. 32:46-47; Matt. 28:30; Acts 2:42; I Tim. 6:13-14
2. Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20
3. Deut. 17:18-19; Acts 10:88; 15:21; II Tim. 4:2; James 1:21-22
4. Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23-30
5. Matt. 16:19; 18:15-17; I Cor. ch. 5; 12:28
6. Eph. 4:11-12; I Tim. 5:17-18; I Cor. 9:1-15
7. Joel 2:12-13; I Cor. 7:5
8. Deut. 6:13
9. Isa. 19:21; Psa. 76:11
10. Acts 17:16-17; Psa. 16:4
11. Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22

109:
1. Num. 15:39
2. Deut. 13:6-8
3. Hosea 5:11; Micah 6:16
4. I Kings 11:33; 12:33
5. Deut. 12:30-32
6. Deut. 13:6-12; Zech. 13:2-3; Rev. 2:2, 14-15, 20, Rev. 17:12, 16-17
7. Deut. 4:15-19; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:21-23, 25
8. Dan. 3:18; Gal. 4:8
9. Exod. 32:5
10. Exod. 32:8
11. I Kings 18:26, 28; Isa. 65:11
12. Acts 17:22; Col. 2:21-23
13. Mal. 1:7-8, 14
14. Deut. 4:2
15. Psa. 106:39
16. Matt. 15:9
17. I Peter 1:18
18. Jer. 44:17
19. Isa. 65:3-5; Gal. 1:13-14
20. I Sam. 13:11-12; 15:21
21. Acts 8:18
22. Rom. 2:22; Mal. 3:8
23. Exod. 4:24-26
24. Matt. 22:5; Mal. 1:7, 13
25. Matt. 23:13
26. Acts 13:44-45; I Thess. 2:15-16
[Edited on 7-8-2006 by Dan....]
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by Dan....
When it comes to the use of instruments during the collection of tithes and offerings (assuming that the collection thereof is an element of worship, which isn't being debated in this thread), the question then is: in what way is the use of instruments an aid to the collection of tithes and offerings?
I didn't address this and I should have. I thought we could just talk about how musical instruments can aid an element but then the issue of whether a circumstance was permitted to merely aid but had to be absolutely necessary. If a circumstance has to do more than aid it (as the stricter RPW implies) then the issue of whether it is merely beneficial becomes a moot point.

Nevertheless, I stated earlier that I believe instrumental music (and singing in general) aids the offertory by helping the congregation express its communal joy at the receiving of the tithes and offerings. I think background music is probably less defensible. I'm less convinced one could argue for its utility from a standpoint of being beneficial.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Dan and Chris,

Interesting points. I had never really considered that the historic view on a circumstance was that it must be necessary to aid the element.
That is one thing I certainly do not think is true of circumstances: namely, that in order to be permissible they must be necessary for the good performance of the elements. Though I'm still thinking much of this through as you, Dan and many others here, one thing I definitely think is that such a view would begin to unbiblically and unconfessionally bind the conscience of believers, particularly by blurring the distinction between an element and a circumstance.

So I would not say that a valid circumstance should be necessary to the good exercise of an element. I would, however, say that a valid circumstance should be beneficial to the good exercise of an element - in other words, that it should truly aid the element, even if it is not necessary to the element's practice. Your example of chairs is an excellent one to illustrate this - a worship service could certainly function if the chairs (or pews) were simply removed; however, they aid the service in general in that they lessen people's instincts to focus on their position and feeling on a hard floor, thereby allowing them to focus more on the worship. The same goes for instrumentation with the commanded element of song - it is possible for a congregation to sing a cappella, but often difficult; thus, instrumentation allows people to worry less about keeping tune, thereby allowing them to more easily focus on the words. But can any similar benefit be thought to come from instrumentation simply playing by itself during a part of the worship service? I'm not sure.

And whose place is it to judge whether the addition of particular circumstances would be beneficial to the good exercise of the biblical elements of worship? The elders of a church. And much of the preliminary things on this issue that I have written in this thread so far are in some ways my out-loud thoughts of whether or not I would be able to justify stand-alone instrumentation as circumstancially beneficial if I were in such a position. But the role of elders to do so, and the very nature of circumstancial versus elemental issues, along with the lack of confessional (and perhaps even biblical) specificity on the nature of instrumentation in that type of role, is largely why I am not ready to call the practice sinful.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by Dan....
Usually when I see these discussion arise, the proponents of the tightest restriction (and I'm not accusing either of you of this) will present a litany of historic Presbyterian voices that are in general agreement. Unfortunately, many of the quotes tend to parrot and not add new information that gets to the "Why" or to a Scriptural ground that I can interact with and understand better. Many of the quotes on organ music connect the instrument with being popish and are wrested out of their historical context.
I'm not going to present you a "litany of historic Presbyterian voices." I'll leave that to those who are much more educated than me. As for me, I simply see the RPW as a practicle application of the 2nd Commandment; i.e, that we are to worship God only as He has prescribed. The only historic voice I'll leave you with is the WLC, Questions 108,109:

Q108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A108: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word;[1] particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ;[2] the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word;[3] the administration and receiving of the sacraments;[4] church government and discipline;[5] the ministry and maintenance thereof;[6] religious fasting;[7] swearing by the name of God,[8] and vowing unto him:[9] as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship;[10] and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.
While it probably doesn't satisfy some to say that I subscribe to that because I don't subscribe to the original way the RPW was understood, I will say I do subscribe to that. :)

Seriously though, unless one is an EP, non-instrumental music Presbyterian then it's impossible for some to accept that a person believes in the RPW.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Dan and Chris,

Interesting points. I had never really considered that the historic view on a circumstance was that it must be necessary to aid the element.
That is one thing I certainly do not think is true of circumstances: namely, that in order to be permissible they must be necessary for the good performance of the elements. Though I'm still thinking much of this through as you, Dan and many others here, one thing I definitely think is that such a view would begin to unbiblically and unconfessionally bind the conscience of believers, particularly by blurring the distinction between an element and a circumstance.

So I would not say that a valid circumstance should be necessary to the good exercise of an element. I would, however, say that a valid circumstance should be beneficial to the good exercise of an element - in other words, that it should truly aid the element, even if it is not necessary to the element's practice. Your example of chairs is an excellent one to illustrate this - a worship service could certainly function if the chairs (or pews) were simply removed; however, they aid the service in general in that they lessen people's instincts to focus on their position and feeling on a hard floor, thereby allowing them to focus more on the worship. The same goes for instrumentation with the commanded element of song - it is possible for a congregation to sing a cappella, but often difficult; thus, instrumentation allows people to worry less about keeping tune, thereby allowing them to more easily focus on the words. But can any similar benefit be thought to come from instrumentation simply playing by itself during a part of the worship service? I'm not sure.

And whose place is it to judge whether the addition of particular circumstances would be beneficial to the good exercise of the biblical elements of worship? The elders of a church. And much of the preliminary things on this issue that I have written in this thread so far are in some ways my out-loud thoughts of whether or not I would be able to justify stand-alone instrumentation as circumstancially beneficial if I were in such a position. But the role of elders to do so, and the very nature of circumstancial versus elemental issues, along with the lack of confessional (and perhaps even biblical) specificity on the nature of instrumentation in that type of role, is largely why I am not ready to call the practice sinful.
Chris,

I think you and I are on the same sheet of music. I'm also talking out loud on this and learn a lot from these topics on the historic position and it causes me to reflect on some things I just take for granted (and shouldn't).

Do you have the 2005 Confessional Presbyterian Journal? I literally started reading mine a few weeks ago because I only subscribed to it recently and went ahead and got last year's issue. As seems to happen so often, a topic like this comes up just as I read something that intersects what we're talking about.

I was just reading the article critiquing John Frame and some other guy today on the elliptical trainer (I do most of my reading while working out). Anyway, as an introduction the authors were quoting Gillespie and some other WCF divines on this very topic of circumstance. Their position was unequivocally that a circumstance had to be necessary and could not merely be beneficial. They even critique the question of pews as impious as if the question is out of bounds which is why I bring it up.

I don't mean to sound impious but I have trouble understanding the reasoning of Gillespie and others sometimes. I wish we could interact. I readily admit I could be completely obtuse and unable to see the wisdom and scriptural warrant of such strictness but it escapes me. In the end, they were just men however and we should be willing to test their ideas against the Scriptures no less than those of today. I do want to give them a fair hearing at the same time as they are my most venerable elders of Church history and it would be very impious to simply dismiss them out of hand.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich and Chris,

I hear you. We're on the same page here.

One thing that does make it important to me is that my wife is a church pianist. I see myself as having a responsibility to make sure that neither my wife nor I are doing that which is unlawful in worship. Hence the reason I started the thread. It is not for the sake of argument, but rather so I can bounce ideas off others here and hopefully, someone here might set me in the right direction.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If your church started instituting holy days, ceremonies, vestments, etc., all under the congenial title of "circumstances of worship," I think you would understand Gillespie very well. And yet, when it is thought through consistently, many of today's innovations under the name of "circumstances" are equally grievous: it is just that they don't seem so bad because they are more congenial to (post) modern taste.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Rich, I think I culd have been clearer in my earlier posts regarding the necessary/beneficial distinction. One example is that I would add (in bold) to one thing I had said before by saying, "Singing (a commanded element) by definition requires tune, and though instruments are not necessary in order to sing with tune, singing with tune is made easier for people through instruments. But is there anything about the commanded element of, say, the Supper, that requires tune? If not, then it must be asked whether or not there is thus anything potentially beneficial about the use of instruments in that setting." Dan has already basically stated my thoughts here.

Originally posted by SemperFideles
Nevertheless, I stated earlier that I believe instrumental music (and singing in general) aids the offertory by helping the congregation express its communal joy at the receiving of the tithes and offerings. I think background music is probably less defensible. I'm less convinced one could argue for its utility from a standpoint of being beneficial.
Background music or the equivalent is basically what I (and I think Dan as well) am talking about here. If it is music that is being used to ease the singing of song, even during another part of the service (possibly even the Supper), the potential problem currently being considered is eliminated altogether. Now, the nature of the offertory itself as a distinct part of the service is another (relevant but different) issue altogether, and one for its own thread! ;)

In any case, know that I absolutely agree with your disagreement with a lawful circumstance having to be necessary to the performance of the elements, as that, if consistently followed, truly would eliminate pews, microphones and instruments. In fact, it would ultimately even eliminate the worship service itself, since no particular time on the Lord's Day is necessary for the service to be held, thus any listed time for the service would not itself be necessary for its functioning, and hence any such listed time would not be a valid circumstance - but since no particular time is commanded in Scripture, and since the time itself is not something we are focusing on and presenting to God, time would not be an element, either; ergo, if the time of the service was neither a circumstance or an element, we had better not have a time for the service! (The last example was tongue-in-cheek, but to truly illustrate the ridiculous outworkings of an unbiblically rigid view on circumstance.)
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
In any case, know that I absolutely agree with your disagreement with a lawful circumstance having to be necessary to the performance of the elements, as that, if consistently followed, truly would eliminate pews, microphones and instruments. In fact, it would ultimately even eliminate the worship service itself, since no particular time on the Lord's Day is necessary for the service to be held, thus any listed time for the service would not itself be necessary for its functioning, and hence any such listed time would not be a valid circumstance - but since no particular time is commanded in Scripture, and since the time itself is not something we are focusing on and presenting to God, time would not be an element, either; ergo, if the time of the service was neither a circumstance or an element, we had better not have a time for the service! (The last example was tongue-in-cheek, but to truly illustrate the ridiculous outworkings of an unbiblically rigid view on circumstance.)
Good point.

Said another way:
If circumstances were necessary:
It is not necessary that we meet in a building for worship.
Nor is it necessary that we meet out in the open.

Hence, if neither are elements nor circumstances of worship, then we could not meet for worship at all.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Chris,

I think you and I are on the same sheet of music. I'm also talking out loud on this and learn a lot from these topics on the historic position and it causes me to reflect on some things I just take for granted (and shouldn't).

Do you have the 2005 Confessional Presbyterian Journal? I literally started reading mine a few weeks ago because I only subscribed to it recently and went ahead and got last year's issue. As seems to happen so often, a topic like this comes up just as I read something that intersects what we're talking about.
I keep posting new posts only to see that I then have another one to consider that was posted while I was writing! :) I think we seem to be on the same page as well. And yes, I do have the 2005 CPJ, and just a couple days ago started thinking about re-reading that article. I'll certainly have to do that now!

Originally posted by Dan....
Rich and Chris,

I hear you. We're on the same page here.

One thing that does make it important to me is that my wife is a church pianist. I see myself as having a responsibility to make sure that neither my wife nor I are doing that which is unlawful in worship. Hence the reason I started the thread. It is not for the sake of argument, but rather so I can bounce ideas off others here and hopefully, someone here might set me in the right direction.
I admire your willingness and desire to be truly and carefully attentive to such an important matter that directly pertains to your worship, and especially your family right now. If you wouldn't mind sharing at this point, what are the practices of your congregation with respect to the type of music we're currently discussing?

Originally posted by armourbearer
If your church started instituting holy days, ceremonies, vestments, etc., all under the congenial title of "circumstances of worship," I think you would understand Gillespie very well. And yet, when it is thought through consistently, many of today's innovations under the name of "circumstances" are equally grievous: it is just that they don't seem so bad because they are more congenial to (post) modern taste.
I can certainly understand Gillespie's drive to go to great lengths to remove those additions, including adopting a stricter view on circumstances. At the same time, there's a side of me that can't help but think that that view was possibly an overreaction to the idolatry of his time - that is because viewing a circumstance as necessary to the proper exercising of an element does not seem necessary in order to show the emptiness in such additions as those in Gillespie's day, as it seems that emptiness could just as easily be shown by asking the question of whether or not holy days and ceremonies are truly even beneficial to the commanded elements of worship.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Originally posted by Dan....
Said another way:
If circumstances were necessary:
It is not necessary that we meet in a building for worship.
Nor is it necessary that we meet out in the open.
Hence, if neither are elements nor circumstances of worship, then we could not meet for worship at all.
The conclusion is a non sequitur. It argues from a specific premise to a general conclusion.

It is necessary, in general, to meet for worship. One can meet for worship in a building or in the open; therefore either are equally viable. Christian prudence will determine which is better.

With regard to musical instruments, however, it has not been proven that they are necessary in general. So the reductio ad absurdum fails to deliver.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by armourbearer
Originally posted by Dan....
Said another way:
If circumstances were necessary:
It is not necessary that we meet in a building for worship.
Nor is it necessary that we meet out in the open.
Hence, if neither are elements nor circumstances of worship, then we could not meet for worship at all.
The conclusion is a non sequitur. It argues from a specific premise to a general conclusion.

It is necessary, in general, to meet for worship. One can meet for worship in a building or in the open; therefore either are equally viable. Christian prudence will determine which is better.

With regard to musical instruments, however, it has not been proven that they are necessary in general. So the reductio ad absurdum fails to deliver.
In your second paragraph here, you seem to be inconsistently borrowing from the view that a circumstance need not be necessary to be valid: One could presumably say the same thing with regard to instruments: "One can sing for worship with or without accompaniment; therefore either are equally viable. Christian prudence will determine which is better." To that I assume you would respond in effect, "No, that is not the case, because the option of accompaniment is not necessary." Well, the particular option of worshipping inside is not necessary, either; not is the option of worshipping outside necessary in itself. That is why neither option (being outside or inside) qualifies as a circumstance when considered individually by your apparent standard; but since neither option is an element either, neither option would be permissible in worship if judged by the "Circumstances must be necessary to be valid circumstances" standard.

As a note, I think some good considerations and issues are being discussed here, so let's make sure we continue to keep on-topic as such. My current post was intended to get at the issue of whether a valid circumstance must be necessary to the elements or merely beneficial to them, since that issue is relevant to the issue on which Dan started the thread - but let us not allow it to develop into a mere discussion on the lawfulness of instruments themselves; I do not think anyone has done that so far, but am just throwing out the caution not to do so, especially since the current post does make use of that topic in considering the central topic. (In other words, that sub-topic of instruments is circumstancially beneficial in discussing the elementary and necessary topic of the necessary/beneficial distinction!) ;)
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
In your second paragraph here, you seem to be inconsistently borrowing from the view that a circumstance need not be necessary to be valid: One could presumably say the same thing with regard to instruments: "One can sing for worship with or without accompaniment; therefore either are equally viable. Christian prudence will determine which is better." To that I assume you would respond in effect, "No, that is not the case, because the option of accompaniment is not necessary." Well, the particular option of worshipping inside is not necessary, either; not is the option of worshipping outside necessary in itself. That is why neither option (being outside or inside) qualifies as a circumstance when considered individually by your apparent standard; but since neither option is an element either, neither option would be permissible in worship if judged by the "Circumstances must be necessary to be valid circumstances" standard.
Sorry, I don't follow the remark about inconsistent borrowing. The command is to not forsake the assembling together. To assemble together requires a meeting place. Hence a meeting place is the circumstance in general. The choice might then be prudently made as to where to meet, in a building or in the open.

In the parallel instance, one can sing without the use of mechanical accompaniment. Hence the parallel is incongruous from the beginning.

If it could be established that mechanical accompaniment is necessary the parallel could then descend to particulars, i.e., the choice of mechanical accompaniment isleft to Christian prudence. However, no such necessity can be pleaded as in the case of a meeting place. Hence the reductio ad absurdum fails to deliver.

If a parallel is going to be made, please construct it on an equal platform. That is, start with the general circumstance, and then descend to particulars.

I think we are on the right path by starting with time and place of worship, as they are traditionally accepted as circumstances.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Do you have the 2005 Confessional Presbyterian Journal?....
I was just reading the article critiquing John Frame and some other guy today .... Anyway, as an introduction the authors were quoting Gillespie and some other WCF divines on this very topic of circumstance. Their position was unequivocally that a circumstance had to be necessary and could not merely be beneficial. They even critique the question of pews as impious as if the question is out of bounds which is why I bring it up.
Rich,
The other guy was R.J. Gore. ;)
Since I wrote the editorial introduction to the Smith&Lachman piece, I hope you don't mind my asking, to what you are refering? The only place I believe pews are mentioned are in my comments (I don't think the quotations given refer to pews specifically). I raised the example of pews because I've seen just that kind of objection to the RPW raised, and it is due to a failure to undertand the RPW proper in conjunction with the Assembly's corollary teaching on circumstance given in WCF 1.6. I think your use of "impious" is an over-reaction to what is intended to be a straight forward correction of many's misunderstanding of this important corollary to the Divines' teaching on the Regulative Principle. Here is the quotation:
These lengthy citations and definitions are given because the regulative principle of worship is often misunderstood or mischaracterized when they are ignored. For instance when the doctrine regarding circumstances is ignored, one may see questions in reaction to the regulative principle such as, "œIf you believe in this regulative principle then why do you use pews in public worship, since they are not mentioned in Scripture?" As William Cunningham writes, just before alluding to Confession of Faith 1.6, "œThose who dislike this principle, from whatever reason, usually try to run us into difficulties by putting a very stringent construction upon it, and thereby giving it an appearance of absurdity."¦"12 Also, without any reference to historical theology, or to the theological milieu in which the language of the Westminster Standards were drafted, the meaning of the divines may be recast and the traditional/historical meaning divorced from their foundational statements by some postmodern deconstruction of their words. This leads to statements like, "˜I hold to the regulative principle of the Westminster Confession of Faith, but not to the Puritan understanding of that principle.´
[Edited on 7-8-2006 by NaphtaliPress]
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Chris,

I didn't realize you wrote that portion. Maybe I mis-read that portion. I had read it right after a portion that I thought bore on the issue that a circumstance had to be necessary (in the sense of being indispensible to the element). I would never raise the issue of pews in a simplistic way equating pews to an element and asking why you sit in pews. If someone challenged instruments as a circumstance on the basis of necessity however then I think the question is germane.

Blessings,
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, my little addition since I thought it needed an intro to both pieces. :) You are correct that prior to the quotation in question I cover Gillespie, Thornwell etc on the nature of circumstances. But at the point in question I was reiterating why the corollary is important because many have made the RPW out to be absurd because scripture doesn't command sitting in pews. I understand that is not the nature of this discussion. I disagree that instrumental music is a proper solution to the circumstantial need of keeping the same time and tune, but I agree that that is the better argument than those who turn musical instrumentation into an element of commanded worship.
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Chris,

I didn't realize you wrote that portion. Maybe I mis-read that portion. I had read it right after a portion that I thought bore on the issue that a circumstance had to be necessary (in the sense of being indispensible to the element). I would never raise the issue of pews in a simplistic way equating pews to an element and asking why you sit in pews. If someone challenged instruments as a circumstance on the basis of necessity however then I think the question is germane.

Blessings,
[Sorry for the spelling mistakes. Edited on 7-8-2006 by NaphtaliPress]

[Edited on 7-8-2006 by NaphtaliPress]
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by armourbearer
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
In your second paragraph here, you seem to be inconsistently borrowing from the view that a circumstance need not be necessary to be valid: One could presumably say the same thing with regard to instruments: "One can sing for worship with or without accompaniment; therefore either are equally viable. Christian prudence will determine which is better." To that I assume you would respond in effect, "No, that is not the case, because the option of accompaniment is not necessary." Well, the particular option of worshipping inside is not necessary, either; not is the option of worshipping outside necessary in itself. That is why neither option (being outside or inside) qualifies as a circumstance when considered individually by your apparent standard; but since neither option is an element either, neither option would be permissible in worship if judged by the "Circumstances must be necessary to be valid circumstances" standard.
Sorry, I don't follow the remark about inconsistent borrowing. The command is to not forsake the assembling together. To assemble together requires a meeting place. Hence a meeting place is the circumstance in general. The choice might then be prudently made as to where to meet, in a building or in the open.

In the parallel instance, one can sing without the use of mechanical accompaniment. Hence the parallel is incongruous from the beginning.

If it could be established that mechanical accompaniment is necessary the parallel could then descend to particulars, i.e., the choice of mechanical accompaniment isleft to Christian prudence. However, no such necessity can be pleaded as in the case of a meeting place. Hence the reductio ad absurdum fails to deliver.

If a parallel is going to be made, please construct it on an equal platform. That is, start with the general circumstance, and then descend to particulars.

I think we are on the right path by starting with time and place of worship, as they are traditionally accepted as circumstances.
While I do not like using this phrase in general, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this point. We seem to be thinking in different ways about the relationship between necessity and benefit and their implications for the different circumstances of worship considered individually and particularly as well as collectively and generally. As such, if I were to reply to your last post, it would basically be an attempt to reiterate and clarify what I previously said.

On a note that will still help us to further discuss the necessity/benefit issue, but that may be more direct and simple to discuss than the general and particular issues of time and place, what are your thoughts on the use of pews, chairs and microphones, specifically as Rich has mentioned them? Are they necessary to the biblical exercising of the commanded elements?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
On a note that will still help us to further discuss the necessity/benefit issue, but that may be more direct and simple to discuss than the general and particular issues of time and place, what are your thoughts on the use of pews, chairs and microphones, specifically as Rich has mentioned them? Are they necessary to the biblical exercising of the commanded elements?
Chris,
Matthew may correct me if I am missing the point, but it seems to me the circumstances concerned are posture and I suppose "speaking to be heard". Pews and chairs answer to aiding in the posture of sitting; a microphone in being heard. But none of them are "necessary" per se. It is necessary that we assume some posture and that the preacher be heard. Again, I'm not sure the point here and may simply be stating the obvious. If so, please excuse as I didn't want to go back over this lengthing thread.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by NaphtaliPress
Originally posted by Me Died Blue
On a note that will still help us to further discuss the necessity/benefit issue, but that may be more direct and simple to discuss than the general and particular issues of time and place, what are your thoughts on the use of pews, chairs and microphones, specifically as Rich has mentioned them? Are they necessary to the biblical exercising of the commanded elements?
Chris,
Matthew may correct me if I am missing the point, but it seems to me the circumstances concerned are posture and I suppose "speaking to be heard". Pews and chairs answer to aiding in the posture of sitting; a microphone in being heard. But none of them are "necessary" per se. It is necessary that we assume some posture and that the preacher be heard. Again, I'm not sure the point here and may simply be stating the obvious. If so, please excuse as I didn't want to go back over this lengthing thread.
Chris (the Naphtali one),

Are pews and microphones a circumstance of worship?

You seem to indicate they are. According to a stricter view of the RPW, a circumstance must not only aid but must be necessary. Neither are.

As I stated earlier, years of training have taught me that standing is actually a better posture for paying attention. Some CEO's even have meetings standing up as it helps people to focus and get to the point. Don Rumsfield works standing up.

The only reason for pews and chairs is comfort and to keep "undisciplined" people from complaining. Frankly, a pastor could be as unyielding in this regard and say "Well you just need to train your bodies to stand for a few hours. If the Jews of Jesus day could do it then so can you."

Microphones fall into the same category.

As circumstances, in fact, I believe they have less warrant than musical accomponiment. From the standpoint of keeping tune and meter, accomponiment greatly aids the congregation and is more than just a convenience as microphones and pews are.

So the question is: why pews and microphones and not instruments?

In this case I need you to assume the fact that instruments are a circumstance which I know you don't agree with but, for the sake of argument, please assume that.
 

gwine

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by SemperFideles


Are pews and microphones a circumstance of worship?

You seem to indicate they are. According to a stricter view of the RPW, a circumstance must not only aid but must be necessary. Neither are.

. . .

Microphones fall into the same category.

As circumstances, in fact, I believe they have less warrant than musical accomponiment. From the standpoint of keeping tune and meter, accomponiment greatly aids the congregation and is more than just a convenience as microphones and pews are.

. . .
As someone who is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids, I find microphones and the speaker system to be more than helpful, if not a necessity, since some of the elders that lead in corporate prayer do not speak loud enough. I cannot use a portable listening device, as my hearing loss would probably blow either the device's speaker or the person next to me out of the water. I do sit up front, but then I can't hear the people in the back when they submit prayer requests, although if the elder remembers he will repeat what was said.
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think there is a difference in understanding the definition of "circumstance".

If I am following Chris Coldwell and Pastor Winzer correctly, they seem to be defining circumstance in a broader sense. In other words, location is a circumstance of worship. Subcatagories of location include in a building, under a tent, in the woods, or out in the open. These are circumstantial locations, and hence cannot be defined as elemental. Another circumstance of worship would be posture. Subcatagories of posture include standing, sitting and kneeling. These are circumstantial postures, and hence, cannot be defined as elements. Another circumstance would be acoustics. Subcatagories of acoustics include various means of applification.

If I am following them correctly, then the issue that needs to be answered by instrumentalists is determining the broader circumstantial catagory under which the use of instruments falls.

Circumstances of singing include melody, harmony, and rhythm. The question is whether the use of instruments falls under the circumstance of singing.

Am I following you correctly?


[Edited on 7-9-2006 by Dan....]
 

Dan....

Puritan Board Sophomore
If I am understanding them correctly, then, by their definition of circumstance, the broad catagories of circumstance are indeed necessary to worship. That is, we cannot meet for worship and rightly perform the elements of worship without circumstances. For example, we cannot meet for worship without a location. Whether that location be in a home, in a building, out in the open, etc.. is circumstantial, but meeting at a location is necessary. Posture is also necessary to worship. Sitting, standing kneeling -these are circumstantial, but some posture is necessary. The same is true of acoustics, time, the act of singing, etc... circumstances are necessary.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by Dan....
I think there is a difference in understanding the definition of "circumstance".

If I am following Chris Coldwell and Pastor Winzer correctly, they seem to be defining circumstance in a broader sense. In other words, location is a circumstance of worship. Subcatagories of location include in a building, under a tent, in the woods, or out in the open. These are circumstantial locations, and hence cannot be defined as elemental. Another circumstance of worship would be posture. Subcatagories of posture include standing, sitting and kneeling. These are circumstantial postures, and hence, cannot be defined as elements. Another circumstance would be acoustics. Subcatagories of acoustics include various means of applification.

If I am following them correctly, then the issue that needs to be answered by instrumentalists is determining the broader circumstantial catagory under which the use of instruments falls.

Circumstances of singing include melody, harmony, and rhythm. The question is whether the use of instruments falls under the circumstance of singing.

Am I following you correctly?
I think I stated my question to Chris Coldwell pretty plainly. I'm trying to determine that very thing to make sure we're understanding the same thing.

Nobody has argued that the location is elemental. If time and place are circumstances then the subcategories of time and place are still circumstances.

I haven't heard Chris Coldwell really weigh in precisely what his position is on circumstance but Pastor Winzer has very clearly stated that his view of circumstance is that any circumstance must be indispensible to the element of worship.

Let's consider location for example as a circumstance. It is not merely enough to say that a location is indispensible for the people to meet. This is so. A structure is also indispensible. A room big enough to accommodate the worshippers would also be indispensible.

The question would be then: Have we met the requirements necessary for the location? What if it is winter and the building has no central heating. Is it indispensible to bring in kerosene heaters for the congregants or is that merely beneficial?

With regard to preaching, it seems that once you have a location you have met the minimal circumstances indispensible to preaching. Common to many Reformed Churches, however, is a large lectern or podium. Indispensible? Hardly, yet some go to great efforts to ensure they are installed. I can understand inheriting a building that already had one but some go through the trouble of installing them.

The same is true of pews. Indispensible? No. In fact, I have argued that the listening of the congregants would be enhanced if they were less comfortable rather than more so. Beneficial? Yes in the sense of comfort but perhaps No in the sense of listening.

I'm being very specific in these examples because I want to get to the heart of the standard here on circumstance. If the standard is indispensibility (as is the objection to instruments as a circumstance) then one must defend lecterns, sound systems, chairs, and other things that Elders do out of kindness and concern for their sheep but hardly fall into the category of indispensibility.
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by SemperFideles
If time and place are circumstances then the subcategories of time and place are still circumstances.
This seems to be one of the (if not the) key differences in how Chris and Matthew are approaching and defining things versus how you, Dan and myself are. In other words, as Dan noted, I don't think they would agree with the above statement. Furthermore, under that paradigm, I must admit the "necessary" view doesn't seem as unreasonable, comparatively speaking. That is because the posture and hearing themselves would be the circumstances, and they certainly are necessary, since people must hear the sermon, and there is by definition some posture, be it sitting or standing. Thus, there could consistently be liberty with the particulars of those circumstances (e.g. microphone, sound-bouncing walls, chairs, pews, standing, etc., none of which are themselves necessary), but not with those two circumstances themselves (which are necessary).

At the same time, though the circumstancial necessity viewpoint seems more plausible (at least to me) when taken specifically in light of the broader definition of circumstance, I must also admit that I am not particularly familiar with that definition, as I have always thought of that particulars themselves as being circumstances. Chris or Matthew - what would you point to (both Scripturally and historically) that could shed more supportive, documentative and explanatory notes on that broader definition of circumstance?
 
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