Archive for the ‘Worship’ category

Biblical Worship: Resources on Worship and Music Ministry by Dr. Greg Brewton

March 31, 2009

Much of the “strange fire” present in Baptist circles today has to do with unbiblical worship.

This being the case, I would like to direct readers’ attention to a blog about which I’ve just been reminded: Biblical Worship by Dr. Greg Brewton.

Dr. Brewton was my professor for “The Worshiping Church” class at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; I’ve benefited greatly from his teaching and believe that consideration of the posts at Biblical Worship will be helpful to you as well.

“Infant Baptism and the Regulative Principle of Worship” by Fred Malone

April 17, 2008

In an issue of The Founders Journal titled Contending for Truth in Love an article by Fred Malone was published titled “Infant Baptism and the Regulative Principle of Worship.” I draw attention to this article because it rightly ties together topics of two recent discussions on Strange BaptistFire- the defense of believers’ baptism and the regulative principle of worship. Readers are encouraged to view the article HERE and to leave comments about the article in the meta of this post.

“A Godly Man Is Very Exact and Careful About the Worship of God” – Puritan Thomas Watson on the Regulative Principle of Worship

April 12, 2008

As most of you reading this are aware, this year SBF blogger Timmy Brister has organized a Puritan Reading Challenge in which participants read one classic work by a Puritan author each month. As the Puritans sought not only to purify the doctrine of the Church of England according to Reformed theology, but also the worship practices of the Church of England according to the Regulative Principle of Worship, it should have been expected from the outset of the Challenge that we would find teaching directly relevant to Timmy’s question to Mark Driscoll. The book from last month, The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson, contained a section titled, “A Godly Man Is Very Exact and Careful About the Worship of God,” which offers an excellent explanation of the convictions that drive the Regulative Principle. Below, I have reproduced the entire section. This is long, but I believe it to be of utmost importance, as it demonstrates the dangers of the Normative Principle that Driscoll and many others who would (in some sense) claim to be Reformed have adopted.

A Godly Man Is Very Exact and Careful About the Worship of God

The Greek word for ‘godly’ signifies a true worshipper of God. A godly man reverences divine institutions, and is more for the purity of worship than the pomp. Mixture in sacred things is like a dash in the wine, which though it gives it a colour, yet only adulterates it. The Lord wanted Moses to make a tabernacle ‘according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount’ (Exodus 25:40). If Moses had left out anything in the pattern, or added anything to it, it would have been very provocative. The Lord has always given testimonies of his displeasure against such as have corrupted his worship. Nadab and Abihu offered ‘strange fire’ (other than God had sanctified on the altar), ‘and fire went out from the Lord, and devoured them’ (Leviticus 10:1-2). Whatever is not of God’s own appointment in his worship he looks upon as ‘strange fire’. And no wonder he is so highly incensed at it, for it is as if God were not wise enough to appoint the manner in which he will be served. Men will try to direct him, and as if the rules for his worship were defective, they will attempt to correct the copy, and superadd their inventions.

A godly man dare not vary from the pattern which God has shown him in the Scripture. This is probably not the least reason why David was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’, because he kept the springs of God’s worship pure, and in matters sacred did not superinduce anything of his own devising.

Use: By this characteristic we may test ourselves, whether we are godly. Are we careful about the things of God? Do we observe that mode of worship which has the stamp of divine authority upon it? It has dangerous consequences to make a medley in religion.

  1. Those who will add to one part of God’s worship will be as ready to take away from another. ‘Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men’ (Mark 7:8). They who will bring in a tradition, will in time lay aside a command. This the Papists are very guilty of; they bring in altars and crucifixes, and lay aside the second commandment. They bring in oil and cream in baptism, and leave out the cup in the Lord’s Supper. They bring in praying for the dead, and lay aside reading the Scriptures intelligibly to the living. Those who will introduce into God’s worship that which has not been commanded, will be as ready to blot out that which he has commanded.
  2. Those who are for outward commixtures in God’s worship are usually regardless of the vitals of religion: living by faith, leading a strict mortified life; these things are of less concern to them. Wasps have their combs, but no honey in them. The religion of many may be likened to those ears which all run to straw.
  3. Superstition and profanity kiss each other. Has it not been known that those who have kneeled at the pillar have reeled against a post?
  4. Such as are devoted to superstition are seldom or never converted: ‘publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you’ (Matthew 21:31). This was spoken to the chief priests, who were great formalists, and the reason why such person are seldom wrought upon savingly is because they have a secret antipathy to the power of godliness. The snake has a fine colour, but it has a sting. So outwardly men may look zealous and devout, but retain a sting of hatred in their hearts against goodness. Hence it is that they who have been most hot on superstition have been most hot on persecution. The Church of Rome wears white linen (an emblem of innocence), but the Spirit of God paints her out in scarlet (Revelation 17:4). Why is this? Not only because she puts on a scarlet robe, but because her body is of a scarlet dye, having imbrued her hands in the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:6).

Let us, then, as we would show ourselves to be godly, keep close to the rule of worship, and in the things of Jehovah go no further than we can say, ‘It is written.’

Ninth Inning Rally?

December 8, 2007

There have been several kind folks who have asked me about my “Ask Anything” question that, for about a month, stood at #1 on Mark Driscoll’s “Ask Anything” website. Some of you will remember that exactly a month ago, I bailed out on the project as I thought things had gotten way out of hand, and the comments on the question seemed to miss the point. During this period of time, I seldom visited the “Ask Anything” site and did not vote. However, Andrew (here) and Nathan (here, here, and here) have been blogging it up, for which I am really grateful.

The current vote total for my question stands (as of 12.08.07 at 7:00 a.m.) at 15,236, landing it at #10 on the top 20 list. For the question to make the cut, a spread of around 1,200 votes will have to be overcome. At this point, there are only six days left before the voting process closes. That means we are in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Can the regulative principle rally and make it in the top 9? I think it is worth a try. I remember as a little leaguer when we would put on our rally caps, yell a little louder, and believe a little more. I guess that little leaguer in me is still there. So how is it going to happen? Well, I know at least it will require a team effort.

Here’s two suggestions of what you can do. First, vote ten times for the question every day until Friday. Second, encourage others in your circles to vote. Send out emails to your friends (with the links to the question explaining how to vote, 10 times each day), plug it on your blog, mention it on Facebook or Myspace, and talk it up in the comments of the question. But please do not vote illegally!

In case you missed it, the last time Driscoll actually spoke about my question (shortly after the bail out), he mentioned it in a positive light. Driscoll wrote:

“Much to everyone’s surprise the question on worship fell from the top spot for the first time. As I have been thinking about that question, it does have some good implications regarding the emerging church. Namely, do such things as icons, labyrinth walking etc. constitute freedoms in worship or paganism?”

And in the meta of my question, Driscoll wrote:

“But, for the record, I do think this is a good question and kindly stated. Especially with some Emergent type churches incorporating icons, labyrinths, prayer walking etc. it raises the issue of where a line is drawn between pagan and Christian worship practice. So, I do see this question as allowing me to speak broadly about how Scripture regulates our corporate worship as well as define worship in general as a life lived in totality under God’s rule over all. And, the man who asked the question is a man I have never meet and so I have no personal troubles with him at all. One of our Acts 29 planters I believe does know him and speaks very well of him as a great and thoughtful brother. Perhaps one day we will meet, and I suspect before then I will be preaching his question and I sincerely look forward to doing so as it is worthwhile.

Six days, down 1200 votes. Ninth-inning rally time. Let’s see what we can do to see this question makes the cut.

Vain Worship

December 1, 2007

By Nathan White

Regarding the recent discussion involving the Regulative Principle of Worship, I ask you to briefly note the following passage and consider my comments below:

Mark 7:1-13 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Note the following observations from this text, regarding the RPW:

  • There is such a thing as vain/useless worship, even when the worshiper is sincere: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’
  • The commandment of God is abandoned when man-made traditions are embraced: ‘You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.’
  • The Word of God is made void by implementing tradition: ‘thus making void the word of God by your tradition’.
  • The washing of hands was never condemned by the law, much like drama and other modern forms of ‘worship’ are never condemned in scripture, as they are all certainly seemingly harmless acts, but embracing traditions which are beyond the bounds of scripture, as if they are worship and/or obedience, is in actuality replacing and superseding scripture, which is vain, useless, and condeming worship.
  • The Old Testament law is specifically referenced by Jesus as binding on worship, just as we can now look to Deut 12:29-31 as binding/instructive on our principles of worship: ‘For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’’
  • The Pharisees claimed to be obeying the commandment to honor father and mother, and would never deny it’s truthfulness, but by setting up their tradition they undermined it completely.

Brethren, as we have spent several posts outlining, the Regulative Principle of Worship is not a legalistic, arbitrary, and binding set of rules aimed at ruining the worship experience, but it is rather a firm conviction, based on an abundant of Old and New Testament texts, which keep us fallen creatures to falling into error, heaping up condemnation, and erecting idols in our worship of the Living God. Let us magnify Christ by preaching and proclaiming His word; let us not nullify it by setting up our seemingly harmful traditions in place of Christ.

John Calvin on the Regulative Principle of Worship

November 26, 2007

Richard Barcellos over at Illumination recently posted a 4 part series on John Calvin and the Regulative Principle of Worship. With our recent consideration of this topic here at SBF, we certainly recommend these posts to you.

Calvin on Public Worship (I)

Notable quote from Calvin in this post:

“…we must always carefully insist that simplicity and order be observed in the use of ceremonies so that the clear light of the gospel be not obscured by them, as if we were still under the shadows of the law; and then that there may be nothing allowed that is not in agreement and conformity to the order established by the Son of God, and that the whole may serve and be suited to the edification of the Church.”

In the comment section of the last post on this issue, it was pointed out that a form a drama was used in the Old Testament, specifically in the sacrificial ceremonies of the law which prefigured Christ. Note that Calvin mentions here that the shadows of the law obscured the gospel. Thus, it would seem odd for us to return to shadows even if it were prescribed New Testament worship, given that the greater revelation of Christ and the gospel were hindered thereby.

Calvin on Public Worship (II): The RPW

Notable quote from Calvin in this post:

“…there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish his authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions.”

Also,

“Every addition to his word, especially in this matter [worship], is a lie. Mere “will worship” …is vanity. This is the decision, and when once the judge has decided, it is no longer time to debate”

Calvin on Public Worship (III): The RPW – 2

Notable quote from Calvin in this post:

While discussing vows, he says:

“…[God] declares all self-made religion, however splendid and beautiful it may be in men’s eyes, accursed … If all voluntary worship which we ourselves devise apart from God’s commandment is hateful to him, it follows that no worship can be acceptable to him except that which is approved by his Word.”

Calvin on Public Worship (IV): The RPW – 3

Notable quote from Calvin in this post:

In his exposition of the Second Commandment, Calvin says,

“He [God] declares here more openly what sort of God he is, and with what kind of worship he should be honored, lest we dare attribute anything carnal to him”

What do you think? Did Calvin and subsequently the Puritans take an extreme view on the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Second Commandment?

Drama and the Christmas Season

November 20, 2007

With the Christmas season officially just days away, we’ll undoubtedly begin to see quite a few churches putting on Christmas plays over the next month or so. Because the Regulative Principle of Worship has been a topic here of late, I’d thought it would be appropriate to briefly discuss the issue of drama and how it relates to the principle and the season. (If you are not familiar with the Regulative Principle of Worship, please briefly research the issue here and here in order to properly follow the line of thinking in this post.)

Drama in Public Worship
No doubt that there will be many churches this holiday season using drama to tell the story of Jesus or some other Christmas-related tale –especially here in the South. From my personal experience, Christmas plays are often seen as an important tradition, at times just as foundational as the Christmas trees and the Christmas Eve services that have become apart of our very culture. Given this traditional element, questioning the biblical precedent for the practice is often seen as cold, divisive, narrow-minded, and, must I say it, scrooge-like. :)

The Appeal of Christmas Drama
It certainly must be noted that drama in worship is most often employed by seeker-sensitive, Arminian ministries, in an apparent attempt to evangelize. Everybody loves Christmas, especially here in the Bible belt, and there are relatively few who actually deny the birth of Jesus as the historical root of the holiday. So for holiday cheer and tradition, the Christmas play is appealing to a very wide audience –Christian, non-Christian, Mormon, Catholic, agnostic, family, friends, coworkers, etc.

Therefore the logic among many is that we should get people into church any way possible. We have discussed the root error of this line of thinking before, which ultimately lies in the misunderstanding of the nature of sin, the will of man, and the sovereignty of God (to say nothing of the methodology given by scripture), so it needs no repeating today. But it must be emphasized that the preaching of the word, the very proclamation of Jesus Christ, is simply not good enough, according to this logic, to attract a wide audience, and so the Christmas play is employed to bring in those who wouldn’t otherwise darken the door. Christmas plays do not offend, they do not divide households, they are generally warm and fuzzy at a very family-oriented time of year, and so they provide a great impetus for the numbers-driven mindset.

Where the Regulative Principle of Worship Speaks to this Issue
Setting aside the mindset and the root cause of such thinking, drama in worship, without a doubt, *is* a violation of scripture, and the RPW rightly speaks to this very issue. But, contrary to popular belief, it must be emphasized that the RPW is *not* designed to suppress, or to put God ‘in a box’. It is rather for our good and for our greatest joy in the Lord. God Himself knows what is best for our souls, and God Himself has given us means of worship as the highest and best means of attaining grace in our lives. God, through scripture, has left drama completely out of His Word and instruction to His Church, and that for an important reason. You just won’t find drama in scripture, despite the fact that drama was very prevalent during New Testament times, and you won’t find it because drama is inadequate to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is insufficient in placing Christ as preeminent in our worship.

To break it down in practical terms:

    • *What can be better for our souls than the preached Word?
    • *What can be better for those outside of Christ than the clear proclamation of the gospel through the preached Word?
    • *If preaching was completely sufficient to minister and save in scripture, who are we to say that it is now supplemented, at times, by better things? Has market research replaced biblical revelation?

Sadly, some believe that drama in certain situations is better for the soul than the very means which God has given us in His word. By implication, God simply left something out. By implication, the preached word, the Lord’s Table, prayer, singing of Psalms and Hymns, and baptism are insufficient for the Christian to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. By implication, instead of the preaching of the Word bringing about faith in the unbeliever (Rom 10:14), the gospel must somehow be communicated through another media which is at times superior to the preaching of the Word.

We are to Place Christ as Preeminent in Worship
My Brethren, Jesus Christ not only demands obedience and preeminence, He has given His Word to instruct us in all matters of faith and practice. The RPW isn’t simply to avoid the judgment of God in offering ‘strange fire’ before the Lord, but it is also aimed at placing Jesus Christ as absolutely preeminent in worship. It is for our good! Drama in public worship, unfortunately, will only do more harm to your souls than good.

We have been given means to which we are to commune with Jesus Christ! Do you not see Christ as Prophet and King in the preaching and proclamation of His Word? Do you not see the broken body of Christ in the bread, and the spilled blood of Christ in the wine? Do you not see the image of Christ stamped upon the saints in their prayers and singing of hymns? Do you not see Christ as our High Priest in the prayers offered up to heaven’s throne and the preaching of the Gospel of grace? Where is Christ in drama? Where is Christ in the skits and the earthly, woefully insufficient representations of His earthly body? Where is Christ in the comedy, the showmanship, and the entertainment?

The plain fact is that we don’t see Jesus Christ in these methods; we see ourselves. And that, my friends, is why this principle is even debated. People want to be entertained, and they will respond in droves if you give that to them. But our hearts are idol factories; the subtleness runs deeper than we can imagine. Let us not look ourselves and what we want in worship, or what we think will best communicate the gospel to those outside of Christ; Christ, by His mercy, has saved us from ourselves, so let us look to Him in the Word.

We have been given Jesus Christ through the given means of worship. Let us ever seek to set Christ as preeminent in all things, especially our worship.

“Vote Early, Vote Often:” Mark Driscoll on RPW

November 9, 2007

Do you believe that the Scripture not only regulates our theology but also our methodology? In other words, do you believe in the regulative principle? If so, to what degree? If not, why not?

The above question(s) have been posed by SBF blogger Timmy Brister to Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll has established a forum on which those who have encountered the ministry of Mars Hill Church through the Internet can ask him direct questions. Having narrowed the list down to the top 50 questions, Driscoll is allowing people to vote to determine the top nine questions. Once voting closes on December 14th, Driscoll will take these nine questions and preach a sermon series on them early next year.

Driscoll is known as one who wishes to reach the postmodern culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this regard, Driscoll is known as an “emerging” minister. This term “emerging” is distinguished from “emergent,” which describes those who not only wish to reach postmodern culture, but who have also embraced a postmodern theology (i.e. figures such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones who question or deny many of the historic doctrines of the Christian Faith). Driscoll rejects postmodern theology and has vigorously defended such culturally unpopular Bible teachings as substitutionary atonement and the exclusivity of Christ in salvation.

Driscoll has also described Mars Hill Church as holding to “Reformed theological convictions” including a high view of God’s sovereignty in salvation. As discussed in my last post, one historical Reformed theological conviction has been the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) [if you do not know what the RPW is, or if you think that it means only signing the Psalms, then please read my last post HERE]. Now, Driscoll has, in the past, stated that he holds his theology with an closed fist, but his methodology with an open hand. This sentiment, in itself, is not necessarily against the RPW (any thinking adherent to the RPW would agree that Western orchestral music is probably not appropriate on the mission field). But what are Driscoll’s views on how the Bible informs our worship? How does he come to a conclusion concerning whether it is acceptable, say, to sprinkle water on an infant or pray through an icon as part of a worship service? What does it mean practically for Driscoll to be both “emerging” and “Reformed” when it comes to worship?

If you think that this is an issue that Driscoll should address, I urge you to vote for Timmy’s question HERE. As the title of this post says, vote early (starting today), and vote often (voters are allowed ten votes per day).

(more…)

Historical Introduction to the Regulative Principle of Worship

November 8, 2007

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the authority of the Roman Catholic popes and councils was called into question because, as Martin Luther pointed out at the Diet of Worms (1521), “they have contradicted each other.” Protestants sought to return to Scripture as the single, final basis for the faith and practice of the Church. As the Reformers rejected the Roman Catholic practice of the Mass, and pronouncements from popes and councils concerning worship in general, so they had to carefully consider how the Bible informs our worship practices. Over time, two main Protestant views on this subject became apparent.

The first is what is today known as the Normative Principle of Worship (NPW). The NPW teaches that Christians ‘may do anything in worship that is not forbidden by Scripture.’ Thoughtful adherents to the NPW qualify this definition, pointing out that everything must be done decently and in order and that all aspects of worship should focus our attention on the preaching of the Word. Branches of Protestantism that consciously follow the NPW include the Lutherans and the Anglicans.

The second, competing view on how Scripture informs our worship practices is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). The RPW teaches that ‘we may do only what is commanded in worship.’ The Reformed branch of Protestantism has historically followed the RPW. We who adhere to the RPW believe that God has given us a sufficient and clear guide in Scripture as to how He is to be worshiped. As John Calvin wrote:

We may not adopt any device [in our worship] which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have him approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed… God disapproves all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned in his Word. [John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, quote from a class handout by Dr. Greg Brewton]

As the elders of my home church, Grace Heritage Church, have expressed this principle:

Worship is the corporate expression of the delight, awe, and thankfulness that come from knowing our infinitely glorious and sovereign God and Savior. Because the distance between God and His creatures is so great, the only acceptable way of approaching God in worship must be revealed to us by God Himself. Therefore, He may not be worshiped in ways invented by us. This principle protects us from idolatrous worship and focuses our energies on those activities through which God has called us to draw near.

The RPW is particularly important for Baptists, because it is a thorough-going commitment to this principle that gave rise to Baptist convictions in the first place. As certain groups within the English separatist movement of the early 1600s began to seek continuing church reformation, they came to realize that the Bible provides no command nor example of infant baptism. From this consideration of Scripture and commitment to the RPW, the modern Baptist movement arose (I say “modern” as we believe that the apostolic churches practiced believers’ baptism). Baptist churches today that question the RPW must be able to give some answer as to why they refuse to sprinkle infants. If the Normative Principle is followed instead- if we may do in worship whatever is not forbidden- then where in Scripture do we find a command not to practice paedo-baptism?

It is certainly true that through the centuries the RPW has been applied in different ways by different groups. Some who (I believe, wrongly) only look to the New Testament to inform worship without drawing principles from the Old Testament have rejected the use of musical instruments in worship. Others have rejected hymns and other songs in favor of singing only the Psalms. This last issue was addressed in the late 1691 by the great Baptist theologian Benjamin Keach in his book, The Breach Repaired in God’s Worship, or Singing of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs Proved to be an Holy Ordinance of Jesus Christ. Keach addressed the issue from the Scripture within the perspective of the Regulative Principle. Since that time the great majority of Baptists (and, indeed, the great majority of all adherents to the RPW) have sung psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (with instruments!) in their worship.

Update: Readers are directed to comment #23 below as there is a correction to my understanding of Keach’s work.

On racial diversity (or the lack thereof) in our churches

July 12, 2007

A recent Supreme Court ruling of two school integration plans as unconstitutional prompted the Albert Mohler Radio Program (guest-hosted by Dr. Russell Moore) to feature conversations specifically focused on issues of racial diversity. This program, which aired on June 28, 2007, featured two special guests: John McWhorter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Pastor Eric Redmond, Second Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

McWhorter primarily focused on the subject of integration in education, whereas Redmond was focused on diversity in our churches. As the discussion with Eric Redmond is more in line with the format of this blog, the remainder of this post will focus on some of the statements he made. (more…)


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