The RPW & Public Worship

Discussion in 'Worship' started by 2ndViolinist, Jan 15, 2016.

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  1. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello everyone,

    I am fairly new to the Regulative Principle. From my understanding, it can be summarized in the following statement: only what God explicitly commands is permissible in the public and corporate worship of God on the Lord's Day.

    If that statement is incomplete or incorrect, please tell me. Applying this to a scenario, suppose that someone holds to a cappella exclusive psalmody (and in the interest of disclosure, this is not necessarily my position); on their own time outside of a worship service, would it be acceptable for them to play instruments and sing hymns--like from a Trinity Hymnal--or would that be dishonorable to God?

    Supposing that is permissible, what are passages in Scripture that justify this distinction between public and private worship? I am not questioning the RPW--I just want to be able to defend what it is I agree with and not follow blindly.

    There are so many threads on the RPW here and I am slowly trying to read through them. If there is one in particular that you think would be most relevant to my question, feel free to direct me to it.
     
  2. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am sure others will reply more thoroughly than me. You are right to make a distinction between the worship of God corporately and private worship; I would go further and add to the same category with private worship recreations, our actions, work, et al.. The rule for the corporate worship of God is that we shall not add nor diminish ought from what he has commanded (Deu.4:2); this principle is rightly termed regulative, for the our worship, as service to him is to be regulated by his express commands.

    A different principle is employed with respect to everything else, which is properly termed normative. The principle would best be summarized like thus: "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household" (Deu. 14:26) In this case we have Christian liberty to do what we like. Nevertheless, there remain certain normative principles: do all for the glory of God, be thankful, do not break any of the Lord's commandments, etc.

    Remember the corporate worship is often expressed as doing God service, and good service, as such, must be regulated by the one being served.
     
  3. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    This might be a useful thread: http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/78741-quot-spiritual-songs-of-mere-human-composure-quot

    The way I understand it, the principle that we ought only to worship God as he has commanded comes from the Second Commandment and so is applicable to all acts of "worship" (I don't see how one can worship God by means of images or candles just because the worship is not public or not on the Lord's day, e.g., consider the Pharisees' hand washing or maybe the golden calf incident.) Because there is a sense in which all actions we do to the glory of God are "worship," it is helpful to distinguish between "specific worship" and "generic worship." The restrictive principle applies to specific worship actions, whereas the general rules of the Word apply to generic worship actions. When we come together to "worship" God, we are speaking of "specific worship" actions; we are drawing nigh unto God to worship him. Hence, it is called a "worship service." So every action done during this service must be regulated by the regulative principle of worship.

    Outside of a "worship service," there are all sorts of actions we might or might not do. Actions that are specific actions of worship are restricted per the Second Commandment, while all other actions are not. If we decide to have a period of time we call "family worship" or "private worship," during which one will perform only specific actions of worship, then those specific actions are regulated. However, if "family worship" or "private worship" includes performing specific actions of worship and other things (e.g., catechism), then only those actions that are specific worship are restricted, while the others follow the general rules of the Word. The key here, I think, is that other actions may be incorporated because there is no authority involved to declare: this particular time must be devoted to specific actions of worship only. In public worship, there is that authority, and because of that, an additional reason for the regulative principle is to protect liberty of conscience.

    That is my understanding of the matter; it could be completely wrong (posting it above in hopes of correction if it is). From that understanding, I would say, it depends on what hymns and to what end the musical instruments are to be played. Are some hymns inherently offering specific worship to God? Are the musical instruments being played with the intention of specifically worshipping God by them? If so, then they ought not to be sung or played. Beyond that, it is a matter of wisdom. Is it wise to sing this or that hymn, given its use in the churches now? Those in the exclusive psalm singing group answer that question in different ways, but the thing usually agreed upon is that so long as it is not offered as a specific act of worship, then it is not necessarily wrong or right but requires thoughtful and careful application of Scripture principles to the situation.
     
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  4. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.


    WCF I.VI. 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 revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. 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: 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.
     
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  5. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That's a very helpful summary of the application of the RPW outside public worship, Ramón. It is a challenging subject to address with precision.
     
  6. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    yes

    Q109 of the LC:

    Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the second commandment?
    A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; 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; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

    That would be a break in the RPW

    The RPW governs all worship; Public, Private and family

    http://www.semperreformanda.com/creeds/the-directory-for-family-worship/

    http://www.semperreformanda.com/creeds/the-directory-for-the-publick-worship-of-god/
     
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  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The RPW very much needs to be found within its own, true, and right sphere. It needs to govern there, and govern well, Amen. And not outside of it.

    Unrestrained government is tyranny, by definition. The RPW itself (being biblical in the correct sense) cannot be tyranny, but the abuse of it would be.

    Some kind of respect to the limit on the RPW needs to be recognized, or else Presbyterians and Reformed types are obligated to execrate "Amazing Grace," everywhere and always.
     
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  8. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    There maybe needs to be more research on the thinking of Owen and the Westminster divines on this. It is an important aspect of the debate over the RPW and needs as much clarification as possible.

    I believe it was one argument that led to the Free Church changing its position in 2010, that and the fazct that the RPW side pulled their punches because they didn't want another split. There had already been a split in 2000. We need as much clarity as possible on the nuanced reasoning of the Puritans on the appropriate use of hymns. There may be more to be gleaned from their commentaries, etc.

    It seems that although the Westminster men didn't believe that there was a high enough warrant for the use of man made hymns in public worship, they didn't see biblical warrant for condemning their composition and use altogether.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The portions of the Confession and Catechism is pretty clear in my opinion. Check the directories as well...


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  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    OK. But what about the 1673 Puritan Preface and what Owen says on the matter?

    The more clarity we have on their reasoning from Scripture in this matter, the better able are we to defend the exclusive use of unaccompanied Psalms in public worship. I can guess at what their reasoning might be but I'd rather have it from the horse's mouth because it would certainly be more profound and authoritative.

    I know I grew up in an EP church - the FPCoS - where hymns weren't utterly eschewed.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
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  11. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    I think this passage is very relevant.

    Deuteronomy 7:25-26
    (25) The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.
    (26) Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.
     
  12. brendanchatt

    brendanchatt Puritan Board Freshman

    I would also look at Genesis 31:30 and following.
     
  13. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't have the document handy; what did Owen say?
     
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  14. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I recommend James Bannerman, Church of Christ, part 3, Matters in regard to which church power is exercised, division 2, Church power exercised in regard to ordinances. In the older edition it is vol. 1, pp. 322ff.

    Especially note the following important point on pp. 328-329: "All the parts of the public worship of the Church are characterised by this peculiarity, that as means of grace they either cannot be enjoyed and used at all by Christians individually, or not enjoyed and used to the same gracious effect." He then demonstrates and explains this point.

    The overall point is that special blessings are attached to the ordinances of the church as means of grace. At the same time it is in the care of the overseers of the church to see that these means of grace are properly administered. It is at this point that the regulative principle becomes operative and effective. Its purpose is to regulate church power so as to preserve the liberty of conscience of the worshipper in his public approach to God and use of means.
     
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  16. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    Wouldn't this allow for "contemporary" styles of music? By no means am I a fan of CCM writ large, but I have found a substantial amount of good theology and well made songs that could reasonably be sung in worship. Come to think of it, even the Getty's In Christ Alone and Oh to See the Dawn are contemporary in the sense that they make use of Irish music and are post-2000 in their advent. They are written as hymns and I don't think their composition (arrangement?) or newness makes them unable to be sung. I specify the Getty hymns since I don't think anyone would disagree that they are proper and edifying and good for worship. I mean to say that my reading of the quoted text would seem to allow for the use of contemporary music which is not hymnal, but nevertheless is edifying in lyrical content.

    Any objections? I can list examples of songs on my mind if someone desires.
     
  17. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    The tunes themselves would be circumstances of worship.
     
  18. Vox Oculi

    Vox Oculi Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not quite sure what that means, so I guess I'll go back and reread the whole thread before saying more.
     
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The subject of worship regulated by Scripture is not much concerned with "style," unless that style interferes with or hinders the conduct of that which ought to be done.

    The fitness of modern songs is a later question from the issues of 1) *that* song belongs in regulated worship, and 2) *what* constitutes acceptable song-worship in reg. worship.

    A separable question has to do with instrumental music, 1) if it belongs in reg. worship, 2) does it belong in NT reg. worship, 3) how it may or may not be used in reg. worship.

    When it comes to modern "worship-music" (songs, tunes, instruments, etc.), there is are interrelated issues of Suitability and Singability.

    A lot of the older tunes to which psalms or other songs were set to sing by were "folk-music," which is by nature simple and accessible to ordinary vocalists (even when those professionals in the flower-child era were singing it).

    Much modern "worship-music" offerings are, frankly, repackaged "pop"--music that is created by professionals, sung/performed by professionals, to be listened TO--not so much engaged IN--by the listener.

    (see http://www.amazon.com/Why-Johnny-Cant-Sing-Hymns/dp/1596381957 )

    The same process that took folk-music (the people's vocalization) and made worship of-by-and-for the people, has taken modern music specialization (how moderns engage with music) and stuffed it into the church-scene.

    All without asking whether what seems to have been the proper course in the first instance (a kind of Reformational return-to-democracy in music after the professional Middle Ages), is equally proper in the latest departures from the Reformation tradition (broadly conceived).
     
  20. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, everyone. My understanding is still that Scripture governs every aspect of one's life whereas the RPW--deduced from Scripture--pertains specifically to public worship.

    Everything is to be done to the glory of God, but does that mean that everything we do is in itself an act of worship? Here is where I am a little confused. Everything we do should be God-honoring, but not all of our actions are done with the specific intention to give God praise. Am I right in thinking that?

    I really enjoy listening to and watching performances of Handel's Messiah. I can see how that would be inappropriate in a worship service, but what about outside of that context...?

    ^ That (among much else that was posted) was helpful.
     
  21. 2ndViolinist

    2ndViolinist Puritan Board Freshman

    My question about Handel's Messiah is mainly directed to those who believe the RPW governs all areas of worship.
     
  22. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    My apologies for excessive brevity.

    RPW applies to the elements of worship - what should or shouldn't be contained in a worship service. (emphasis on the 'what')
    Circumstances of worship applies to the 'how'.

    While some folks on the board might disagree with some of the specifics, a quick overview of elements and circumstances can be found here: http://www.challies.com/articles/worship-elements-and-circumstances
     
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  23. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Do you see anything incorrect in what I said: Post 3? It is obviously a bit incomplete. I understand that the RPW technically only applies to public worship, and that worship technically is what happens in "public worship." I suppose if I wanted to make my thoughts more complete, I could say that the RPW as an ethic only applies during public worship, but the principle that we should only approach God to worship him by the means he has appointed (in any aspect of life) still applies since that is just the 2nd Commandment. Is there any deficiency in my understanding?


    Yes, this is my current understanding. The reason for introducing the term "generic worship" is because people often respond to the RPW by saying that we are "living sacrifices" and so everything we do is "worship." The way I see it, the term "generic worship" concedes that "in some sense" it is true that everything we do is "worship" by drawing a distinction between "generic" and "specific" worship. The distinction does have reality to it, I think. Things we do in life are done in service to God, and there are some activities in life which lead us to worship God in the specific sense. Of course, worship is broader than just praise; there is prayer, reading of the Scriptures, etc. Any way by which we draw near to God to worship him.

    I have never actually seen or heard that piece except for a bit of the Hallelujah chorus. I'm undecided whether that bit is inherently an act of specific worship (because of the obvious "Hallelujah"'s) or not. I lean towards "no" because the piece is geared towards such a performance that one does not necessarily attempt to draw near to God to worship him when it is performed: there is too much distraction going on (one who has sung psalms acapella for a long time from something like the 1650 psalter might find this an easier argument to buy than one who has sung CCM or hymns to an orchestra). It would then fall under the category of "meditation," like a devotional piece of literature put to song. I am open to other opinions, especially if my premises turn out to be wrong.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    When we come to private worship it appears to me that the individual conscience chooses and acts by itself and for itself, whereas in the public worship service the aim is the common good; so the private context means the worship is not "regulated" in the same way as the public worship. For example, there is no preaching of the word in private worship, yet the regulative principle requires the preaching of the word to have a place of primacy. In private worship we read holy Scripture and meditate on it for our own benefit. This may include reading a commentary or devotional piece. Such an act would be contrary to the concept of hearing the word if it took place in the public worship service and came in competition with the preached word.

    We could multiply examples and they would all show that the special blessing promised upon the public worship requires the regulative principle in a way that is not applicable to the private worship. It also shows the important point that public worship is to be preferred before private, as well demonstrated in David Clarkson's sermon on that subject.
     
  25. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    In my post, I was trying to distinguish between "actions as worship actions" and "actions taking place within a time and meeting dedicated to worship." To my mind, the Second Commandment tells us what actions are appropriate in the specific acts of worship of God. Whereas the regulative principle is concerned with what actions take place during a particular period of time and meeting. Hence, other actions can be included in a time called "private worship" that cannot be included in public worship. I'm trying to figure out precisely what way the regulative principle applies to private worship (since I agree that the regulative principle is not required in the same way as it is for public worship) and give a name to what is being done. Is this a fair way to state the matter?

    Maybe I draw the distinction incorrectly, since it's not just a period of time that the RPW is concerned with, but the blessings associated with public worship?
     
  26. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    If I remember correctly, Dr Begg would not countenance the Messiah being sung because it was a performance, and he opposed the word of God being performed. When you think of it, probably most of the artists and the choirs would not be converted anyway.
     
  27. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    There is the moral rule in the commandment that God should only be worshipped as He has appointed. The specific acts of worship are by positive institution. They are not contained in the second commandment itself. It is like the Sabbath commandment, in that there is the moral rule to set aside one day in seven, but the actual day requires positive appointment.

    The individual is bound to the moral rule of the second commandment when he comes to worship God in private. God will be sanctified by all that draw near to Him whether in public or private. The question then is, What has God positively instituted in this regard?
     
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  28. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you! It seems then that besides that imprecision of mine in saying that the Second Commandment tells what actions are appropriate, that my analysis is correct.... Unless by "private worship" you mean actual specific worship actions and are viewing reading commentaries or devotional literature as parts of specific worship when done in private (perhaps classifying them under "meditation"?)? The way I understand the term, "private worship" refers to a period of time (or set of actions) of religious or devotional activity. Specific acts of worship may be done, but other actions may also be done, since it is up to the individual (or family/larger gathering of Christians) to determine whether a particular action done is intended as a specific act of worship or not; in contrast with public worship where the body is gathered to perform acts of specific worship.

    As another, follow up question: What do you make of Exodus 15 where the musical instruments are played with the song that is "sung unto the Lord" (suggesting an action of specific worship)? Many view it as a national, civil celebration, due to the instruments played by the women. If so, then this seems to be a case where either (a) musical instruments accompanied a specific act of worship in a non-ceremonial manner or (b) what is a specific act of worship in and of itself was not sung as a specific act of worship but was sung during the celebration (part of which included musical instruments).

    I understand that in any case, this gives no precedent for musical instruments in worship now, even as it gave no precedent back then. But I wonder about whether this passage suggests a non-ceremonial use of musical instruments in worship or that a "psalm" is sung in a manner that is not a specific act of worship (perhaps like singing a psalm while one labors in one's secular vocation).
     
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    "Miriam the prophetess" indicates the prophetic nature of the action. The women went out after her, thus participating in the same action. If one uses this as a precedent for worship he or she should demonstrate evidence that he or she is exercising a prophetic gift.
     
  30. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I think it is a glorious piece of music and have listened to it a number of times on the CD player, sometimes on the Sabbath. And I believe that involves worship in a sense.

    But it is unsuited for a worship service which is a holy time peculiarly dedicated to the Lord and to worship, for which he has given us the Psalms of David, and not specified the use of any instruments.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
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