Archive for the ‘Worship’ category

“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).

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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…)

The way you worship determines the God you worship

April 30, 2007

It was just May of last year when the news of Dr. Ronnie Floyd’s ‘Children’s ministry’ at First Baptist Springdale was brought to the attention of many within the Southern Baptist Convention. A fire-engine baptistery, complete with confetti and water cannons, was not exactly warmly received by many in the SBC.

But the question I would like to raise today is:

On what basis do we declare that a fire-engine baptistery and a children’s church service complete with “fun praise and worship, hilarious skits and videos, cutting edge technology, and interactive Bible lessons”, is or is not pleasing to the Lord? What should guide our principles of corporate worship: what seems best to men, or what is prescribed in scripture?

I’d like to use this example as a jump-start for a discussion the Regulative Principle, -specifically how the RP could/should be applied in the SBC.

Have you ever heard of the Regulative Principle? Essentially, the Regulative Principle is a classic Reformed/Puritan doctrine that teaches that true corporate worship is only that which God has commanded of us in His word. In other words, God has given us methods for the church to worship Him (psalms-hymns-spiritual songs, preaching, giving, discipline, baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and anything outside of these things is not true worship, and should not be a part of corporate worship. The 1689 London Baptist Confession breaks it down nicely,

Chapt. 22:1._____ The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. ( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )

However, don’t confuse the Regulative Principle with private worship. Sam Waldon has said,

“It seems that one of the major intellectual stumbling blocks which hinders men from embracing the Regulative Principle is that it involves the idea that the church and its worship is ordered in a regulated way different from the rest of life…The Regulative principle…involves a limitation on human initiative in freedom not characteristic of the rest of life. It clearly assumes that there is a distinction between the way the church and its worship is to be ordered and the way the rest of human society and conduct is to be ordered. Thus, the Regulative Principle is liable to strike many as oppressive, peculiar, and, therefore, suspiciously out of accord with God’s dealings with mankind and the rest of life.”

Essentially, there are two views in this area. The Regulative Principle teaches that only what God gives us in scripture is acceptable in corporate worship, and the moderate or normative principle teaches that whatever is not prohibited by Scripture is permitted in worship, as long as it is agreeable to the peace and unity of the Church.

In an age where the popular church is filled with drama, concerts, testimony times, games, comedians, Christmas pageants, youth group activities, singles parties, etc., the Regulative Principle is certainly a foreign and even ‘outdated’ concept to most American professing Christians. But I would encourage you to consider what the 1689LBC teaches above, as I prepare to post on this issue at least once more. Specifically, in light of many aberrations or abuses of corporate worship by many churches, should the SBC consider adopting a principle of worship such as the Regulative Principle of the 1689?

As we prepare to discuss this topic in more detail, please keep a few things in mind when thinking of your own position regarding this subject:

  • -Was God sovereign in giving us ‘everything for life and Godliness’ when He gave us the scriptures?
  • -Is human philosophy, creativity, and preferred methodology absolutely necessary to truly worship God?
  • -Are we to look at the Old Testament for any kind of examples or teaching on this matter, or are we to consider the New Testament alone?
  • -Should the SBC adopt a principle for corporate worship to guard against the many abuses of corporate worship that are quite common?
  • -Finally, on what basis do we condemn or applaud such things as the fire-engine baptistery, the Children’s church entertainment service, or such things as the ‘hanging of the greens’? Is there an overarching principle of scripture to guide us, or should we handle this in an ‘as needed’ manner?

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