Friday, May 25, 2007

The Conversation of Worship - The Regulative Principle

For worship to fit the proposed definition there must be both a reception of the truth and a response to the truth. The idea known as the Regulative Principle teaches that God has ordained the manner in which this reception and response should be carried out. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a widely recognized formulation of the Regulative Principle.

WCF 21:1 The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is 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 with 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 imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture

The Regulative Principle is the expression of the Reformer’s desire to return to sola Scriptura. Believing that the Scripture was sufficient for all things, it necessarily followed that it was sufficient to declare how the church should approach God in worship.[1] Frame says “Everything we do in worship must be divinely warranted.”[2] Or as Pratt puts it, “We must have positive biblical support for all that we do in worship.”[3]

The Regulative Principle distinguishes between the elements of worship (the constituent parts of it) and the circumstances (place, time of day, use of bulletins, musical instruments, etc.). The circumstances are the way in which we observe or practice the elements. The elements are prescribed while the circumstances are left to the discretion of the church.

Though the Regulative Principle is an ongoing topic of debate, it is generally agreed that there are five elements of worship prescribed in Scripture and therefore necessary for the church. Those five elements are 1) Reading of Scripture, 2) Prayer, 3) Singing, 4) Preaching, and 5) Sacraments or Ordinances. The intent here is not to make an argument for the Regulative Principle, nor to answer objections or address the suggested weaknesses of it. Rather, having previously defined worship as a conversation, the intent is to show how the conversation of worship is warranted by Scripture and should be considered as a paradigm for corporate worship.

[1] See D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2002), pp. 77ff.

[2] John M. Frame, “A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle,” /joh_frame/frame.ethics2005.afreshlookattheregulativeprinciple.pdf, accessed 17 Dec 06.

[3] Richard L. Pratt, “The Regulative Principle,” th.pratt.reg.prin.pdf accessed 17 Dec 06.

1 comment:

Todd Wood said...

Larry, these days I have been heavily entrenched on the interpretation of John 4:23-24. This is interesting.