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Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Dan...., Jul 4, 2006.
I'm going to sleep on this one and think about it for a while.
Let's see if we can die this discussion with a nice Presbyterian blue colour.
If the word "circumstance" is taken together with its usual distinguishing word, "essence"; and if we understand the historic philosophic meaning of this distinction, which goes all the way back to Aristotle; it will be clear that the word "circumstance" does not refer to anything that is not of the essence of worship, but is being used in the sense of "accidental." This means that the action is attached in some manner to the part of worship which Scripture prescribes.
Now, a place and a time of meeting are "attached" to the act of meeting together, as per the requirement of Scripture. These can definitely be shown to be a circumstance of worship. Any sub-category of time and place is completely at the disposal of Christian prudence to organise, as long as it is in accord with the general rules of the Word, i.e., it does not require a transgression of its moral principles. So the choice to meet internally or externally is not a circumstance of worship. Neither is the choice to sit the people on pews. Sitting is a circumstance (except in the case of prayer, where there is good Scriptural warrant to believe standing is mandated); however the choice of seat is not. These things are not attached to the action of worship prescribed by God, so they are not accidental or circumstantial to it.
Mmmh. Pretty. I was going to make the suggestion that perhaps the general topic of "circumstances of worship" should be split off to its own thread and maybe we could accumulate some of the background material on it that Chris is seeking (I think Owen has some material but I don't have him). Maybe someone can split the approriate posts off to start that. I really think this needs addressing out of the context of the specific subject of this thread. For what it's worth.
Here is what the WCF says on circumstances of worship.
WCF 1.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man´s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelaÂ¬tions of the Spirit, or traditions of men.m Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:1n and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.o
m. 2TI 3:15-17. And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiraÂ¬tion of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. GAL 1:8-9. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 2TH 2:2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
n. JOH 6:45. It is written in the prophÂ¬ets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 1CO 2:9-12. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neiÂ¬ther have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
o. 1CO 11:13-14. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? 1CO 14:26,40. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
1. (1) Under "œn" the original has: 1CO 2. 9, 10, 12. "œThis has puzzled the editors, and is probably one of the rare undetected errors in the authoritative editions. The scribe probably wrote "˜9 to 12´; in the small type confusion between "˜to´ and "˜10´ is easy, and occurs often." Carruthers, 92. (2) "œand there are" (PCUSAa): PCUSA. Edition f restored "œthat", but it was omitted again in h.
Here are a few additional helps for the discussion on circumstances in worship, some of which relate specifically to instrumental music. Please pardon the length of the citations. I don't intend to enter the discussion at hand beyond providing these excerpts which I think are relevant and profitable.
From William Young, The Puritan Regulative Principle of Worship:
John L. Girardeau, The Discretionary Power of the Church:
John L. Girardeau, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of God:
[Edited on 7-11-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
I have to admit that I'm greatly confused and more than a bit annoyed by these discussions sometimes. I try not to let my frustration cloud my ability to hear the arguments but I really wish folks could develop a sense of the RPW from the Scriptures and explain Puritan thinking and simply break it down so I can understand how they develop their thinking on something.
At the end of the day, it seems like the basic principle is nothing more than this:
I say "seems" because I want to think it's more than this but it appears that the argument always stems back to "Puritans said instruments were a relic of Popery. I believe it. That settles it."
I've tried to understand necessary circumstance but it seems like the definition expands or contracts based on no discernible criteria. I'm told that nature and prudence defines the circumstances of an element but that the "parts" of that circumstance are somewhat immaterial. I therefore need not "worry" that a lectern was placed in the Church because once we decided on a place for worship that was the necessary circumstance and the other parts of that circumstance should not be trifiled with.
Yet, one comes to the element of singing and one chooses the circumstance that the congregation will sing a song during a certain portion of the liturgy and the "sub-circumstance" of instrumental accomponiment is excluded. It cannot be considered as a part of the larger circumstance in the same way that a pew is to a building. In all "societies" I've studied, a capella singing is most un-natural. Prudence would dictate to me that one accompanies a song. I believe, in fact, that he "error" of instruments (if indeed it is error) stems largely from the fact that instruments and music are so naturally linked together in most men's minds. That is, unless, one has a built-in aversion to instruments (because they see it as popery). If you're going to correct "the light of nature" in this case then you need to do more than say "Knox said".
Frankly, I agree with R.C. Sproul that if one cannot explain something to a 6 year old child then it is likely it is not well understood by the person presenting the argument. Some may think I have no more intelligence than a 6 year old child but I have wrestled for a few days trying to understand why amplification of a voice is an acceptable "sub-circumstance" to a sermon but musical accompiment is not. Is the best answer we have is that "...the Puritans said so."?
I think that if folks who are serious about preserving a more conservative approach to the RPW could speak plainly, explain themselves, and re-state Biblical arguments to a contemporary audience who does not live in dreadful fear of the shadow of Rome then it would help their cause. Otherwise, it just appears like folks are unable to craft the argument and are more content with scaring people that they're not like Calvin or the Puritans in their understanding of the RPW. How can I side with them if I can't appreciate their arguments?
[Edited on 7-11-2006 by SemperFideles]
Son, would you please put that plate on the table? Yes, dad.
Son, I asked you to PUT the plate on the table, not to THROW it.
Nice analogy. Now apply it to the case in point.
We're in the same time zone so I'm willing to pay attention. I'm just having trouble appreciating the argument.
Interestingly, when someone challenges us with the Doctrines of Grace, we're all able to articulate depravity, election, atonement, calling, etc without constantly saying "Calvin said" or "Knox said". We're able to articulate to non-Presbyterians, even Arminians, and demonstrate these points from the Scriptures.
When we begin to discuss the RPW and the propriety of an instrument in worship, why is the argument harder to craft, from plain Scripture, then these other doctrines? Why can't we make the argument so that people can appreciate the weight of the Scriptural argument?
The untrained mind of a child is unaware of the consequences of an action. That is why parents are specific in their instructions, or quickly learn to be. Likewise, God is high above us. We cannot know the consequences of our innovations when it comes to engaging in a heavenly act like worship. Hence we are better off keeping as strictly to what He has prescribed as possible.
PUT the plate on the table
The boy THREW the plate.
Mechainical instruments are introduced to lead in singing Psalms.
OK, understood, so why is it not:
PUT the plate on the table
PREACH A SERMON
the boy THREW the plate
A microphone is used to amplify the voice of the preacher.
This would be better:
The boy THREW the plate
The preacher told jokes.
The microphone doesn't enter into the nature of the action. Of old they would make buidlings so that the acoustics would carry. Now they even have telephone hook ups. Why do we have chairs with backs, some with cushions? Carpet on the floors, with different colours, curtains on the windows. These things are part and parcel of those actions which we commonly perform.
However, singing itself is commanded. And we must consider that mechanical instruments belonged to OT worship. If this is accepted, then it is clear that the duty to sing in the NT is without musical instruments, the ceremonial worship of the OT having been abolished. One could as easily argue that burning incense is a circumstance of prayer as argue that mechanical instruments are a circumstance of praise.
I hope this is helpful.
I only just realised where you are in the world. That explains why we are on while the others are off.
I understand the classification of circumstances versus sub-categories of circumstances as you are describing it. What I'm interested in is support (Scriptural, confessional, historic) for that particular way of classifying them.
I see your point, but also think that the issue of instruments during something like the Supper or during the collection of tithes and offerings is directly contingent on one's view of what constitutes a circumstance versus an element, and whether or not the former must be necessary for the element or simply beneficial for it. So I think the discussion on that can remain in the current thread as long as we make sure not to veer off into simply discussing the biblical allowance for instruments altogether.
How does the portion of the confession that you put in bold support or imply the notion that circumstances of worship are those more general categorical things that are necessary to the elements (rather than those more specific things that are simply beneficial to the elements)?
I think it might be hard to arrive at a single statement. We begin with the RPW -- If it is not commanded it is not to be done, and the usual passages in Deut. and Matt. to establish that. Here is the substance. The accidence is arrived at by realising that certain things which are not commanded must be done in order to fulfil the command. And passages which speak of "nature" and "decency and order" then apply.
I suppose I am saying the distinction naturally follows once the RPW is accepted. Any other idea seems to undermine the validity of the RPW.
But that comparison does not take into account or accurately represent the very thing that we are arguing validates instruments as a circumstance of praise: Their sole function is to maximize the ability of the congregation to engage in the element (indeed, that function being key to a circumstance is the reason we all at least agree that background music by itself is questionable). A consistent beat and tune helps people to be able to truly sing in a very real way, a way in which I somehow don't see incense helping people to engage in the element of prayer.
Sort of. The reason why we see things differently is because you view mechanical instruments in an elemental way (attached to ceremonial worship). Since I do not but merely see them as something that naturally aids singing in the same way that a microphone (or good acoustics) aids speaking then I don't make the same connection. It appears we might agree that instruments would be acceptable if we agreed that instrumental music was not an element of worship.
I suppose it doesn't take that into account. But then I am coming at it from the other side. Who says it maximises ability to sing? Is maximum ability to sing even desirable, when grace in the heart is what the Lord is looking at? A highchurchman might argue for maximum ability to pray with the burning of incense. Just as a jus humanum episcopalian argues for maximum ability to unify the church by the installation of a diocesan bishop. Then come vestments, altars, festival days, etc, etc. These are all man's thoughts about what is best.
The whole purpose of the RPW is to ensure that worship (in the biblical sense of the word, "bowing down") is an honouring of the divine name by bowing down to the divine will. We do not have an image to bow down to -- God is a spirit. All we have is the will of God by which to express our adoration and submission. True worship is declaring that God is transcendantly holy, He reigns over all things, and His will is supreme, and we desire it to be known, obeyed, and submitted to in all things.
Man's thought to be but vanity,
the Lord doth well discern.
Bless'd is the man thou chast'nest Lord
and mak'st thy laws to learn.
Good post. I found it after I had come back from being away from the computer.
Pastor Winzer: My main problem with the assumption that instruments must be considered as elements in worship has been debated previously and I didn't want to recreate the argument here and distract the issue. In brief, however, to focus on elements of Temple worship misses the point that NT worship is patterned after Synagogue worship. Candles and plates were commanded elements of the Temple but are mere cirumstances of NT worship and were so of Synagogue worship as well. A Levite. was an element of Temple worship but was a circumstance of Synagogue worship (if he taught there) as a Rabbi could be from any tribe.
"...the light of nature and Christian prudence..." say so.
The same slippery slope argument could be taken with any circumstance. What prevents elders from singing a Psalm a capella to the tune of some Alice Cooper song?
You seem to have little trust in "...the light of nature and Christian prudence..." to govern the application of a circumstance.
[Edited on 7-11-2006 by SemperFideles]
But according to episcopalians the light of nature and Christian prudence say alot more than you are willing to admit. Are we really left to a subjective basis for these things? What is the purpose of the RPW, if not to limit the exercise of church power to the command of Christ?
That would be morality, not decency. There are some good articles which argue against the use of rock in Christian worship from a moral as over against an aesthetic ground.
2000 years of church history proves that my lack of trust is not ill-founded.
Yeah but ".. which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence." is language right out of the WCF.
I could appeal to the framers of the WCF to show what they meant by that, and that it didn't include mechanical instruments, but then I am going back to the "Gillespie said," "Rutherford said," problem raised above.
To confine myself to the Confession, please note that it is speaking about actions common to societies. As far as worship is concerned, there are actions comon to meeting, such as time and place, as I have said earlier. Singing praise to God is not an action which the church shares with other human societies, so how does one derive from those societies the precedent to use mechanical instruments in worship?
Because while singing specifically to God is not an action common to society, singing is itself such an action, and that is the point. It's just like with the seating and microphone: While listening to a sermon about God and sitting through a pastor's teaching are not actions common to society, listening to speech and sitting during speech are themselves such actions.
In other words, by your definition and logic above, could I not likewise presumably exclude microphones and pews by saying, "Hearing preaching on God is not an action which the church shares with other human societies, so how does one derive from those societies the precedent to use microphones in preaching?"
Uggh...I know Gillespie and Rutherford despised mechanical instruments. My goodness. I know you do not accept instruments as a circumstance but it seems like we don't get anywhere because you won't grant that point even for the sake of argumenation. As Chris states above, the light of nature and Christian Prudence are guiding the leaders on how they apply circumstance. If I ascribe no more religious significance to the use of an instrument, with respect to singing, than I do with use of a microphone, with respect to preaching, then the "light of nature" will tell me that singing is better when accomponied.
I don't buy the idea that it is more pious when people are singing out of tune and out of meter because we worship in Spirit and Truth. If an instrument is not an element then it is a natural aid to singing in all societies.
Let's take your reduction as valid: where are these human societies that sing, and from which you derive a precedent for ordering the circumstances of the worship of God according to them? If your analogy is OK, then the fact that some societies have patriarchal heads could provide a vindication of the papacy.
Let me see if I understand you correctly. You want me to change my definition of a circumstance, so that I can accept musical instruments as a circumstance, for the sake of the argument. But that is the issue. Why can't you just accept my definition of a circumstance, and the fact that instruments do not fall in with that definition, just for the sake of the argument?
Because I'm American!
But I'm not the prime minister!
It's nice to have somebody to interact with at this time of day. All the other PB'ers are too concerned with sleep to talk to us in the middle of the day. Satz is from Australia too I believe but he's been scarce lately.
I'm glad you're on the board. You write very well and have excellent command of the Scriptures and theology. You're posts have been a blessing to me.