Reframing Christian Worship ~ A Critic to John Frame's and R. J. Gore's Views of Worship - Frank J. Smith

One of the key reformational doct rines determinate of the health if not the being of a “Presbyterian” Church is the aptly named Regulative Principle of Worship. Th is principle which was clearly championed from the beginning of the Scottish Reformation, and central to English Puritanism, was refi ned and classically presented in the West minst er Standards, from whence it has been an integral doct rine of Presbyterianism ever since. Th e West minst er Assembly determined: “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is inst ituted 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.” (Confession of Faith, .). Th e Princeton professor, Dr. Samuel Miller, gives a succinct st atement of the principle when he writes that since the Scriptures are the “only infallible rule of faith and pract ice, no rite or ceremony ought to have a place in the public worship of God, which is not warranted in Scripture, either by direct precept or example, or by good and sufficient inference.” A briefer statement still which sums up the Presbyterian principle of worship, is that in the worship of God, “Not to Command is to Forbid,” or “Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.”
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Box 141084, Dallas, Texas, 75214.  E󰁤󰁩󰁴󰁯󰁲’󰁳 I󰁮󰁴󰁲󰁯󰁤󰁵󰁣󰁴󰁩󰁯󰁮 One o the key reormational docrine   determi-nate o the health i not the being o a “Prebyterian” Churh i the aptly named Regulative Priniple o Worhip.   Ti priniple whih wa learly hampi-oned rom the beginning o the Sottih Reormation, and entral to Englih Puritanim,   wa refined and Reframing Presbyterian Worship: A Critical Survey of the Worship Views of John M. Frame and R. J. Gore   . “I 󰁫now how diffi ult it i to peruade the world that God di-approve o all mode o worhip not exprely ancioned by hi word.” (John Calvin, “On the Neeity o 󰁒eorming the Churh,” Seleced Work of John Calvin: rac and Letter, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jule Bonnet. Edited and tranlated by Henry Bev-eridge [Edinburgh: ; 󰁒pt. Grand 󰁒apid: Ba󰁫er Boo󰁫 Houe, ] .-). “All wirhipping, honoring, or ervie inventit by the braine o man in the religioun o God, without hi own ex-pre ommandment, i Idolatrie.” (John 󰁋nox, “A Vindiation o the Docrine that the Sarifie o the Ma i Idolatry,” e Work of  John Knox,  ed. David Laing [Edinburgh: Printed or the Bannatyne Club, ; 󰁒pt NY: AMS Pre, ] .).  . While it may have been ued earlier, the term 󰁒egulative Prin-iple o Worhip apparently wa oined rom or at least popularized by uage in the  report o the OPC, “󰁒eport o the Committee on Song in Worhip Preented to the Tirteenth General Aembly, on the eahing o Our Standard 󰁒esecing the Song Tat May Be Sung in the Publi Worhip o God,” seifially ecion ‘A’ by John Murray ( Orthodox Prebyterian Churh, Minute of the General  Aembly   [] -). 󰁒eearh by Sherman Ibell upport Murray authorhip. See Endnote A.  . Te regulative priniple o worhip wa the etablihed do-trine o Sottih Prebyterianim, and o the Englih Puritan. See Endnote B.  . Prebyterianim the ruly Primitive and Apostolial Consti-tution of the Churh of Christ,  “Te Worhip o the Prebyterian Churh” (Philadelphia: Prebyterian Board o Publiation, ) -.  . Samuel 󰁒utherord, e Divine Right of Churh Government and Exommuniation  (London, ) . . John B. Adger, “A Denial o Divine 󰁒ight or Organ in Publi Worhip,” 󰁓outhern 󰁐rebyterian 󰁒eview,  . (January ) .  . George Gillesie  , A Disute Against the Englih Popih Cer-emonie,  ed. Christopher Coldwell (Dalla: Naphtali Pre, ) laially preented in the Westminster Standard, rom whene it ha been an integral docrine o Pre-byterianim ever ine.Te Westminster Aembly determined: “But the aeptable way o worhipping the true God i insti-tuted by Himel, and o limited by Hi own revealed will, that He may not be worhipped aording to the imagination and devie o men, or the ugge-tion o Satan, under any viible repreentation, or any other way not preribed in the holy Sripture.” ( Confeion of Faith,  .). Te Prineton proeor, Dr. Samuel Miller, give a uinc statement o the priniple when he write that ine the Sripture are the “only inallible rule o aith and pracie, no rite or eremony ought to have a plae in the publi worhip o God, whih i not warranted in Sripture, either by direc preept or example, or by good and uffi ient inerene.”   A brieer statement still whih um up the Prebyterian priniple o worhip, i that in the worhip o God, “Not to Command i to Forbid,”   or “Whatever i not ommanded i orbidden.”  A thi brie definition an lead to miunderstand-ing, a neearily orollary to thi priniple state that there are ome irumstane “onerning the worhip o God, and government o the Churh, ommon to human acion and oietie whih are to be ordered by the light o nature and Christian prudene, aord-ing to the general rule o the word, whih are alway to be oberved.” ( Confeion of Faith,  .). Defining thee “irumstane,” i part and parel with the di-uion o what authority the hurh ha in ordering the worhip o God. A or the hurh’ power in thi regard, George Gillesie give three ondition:  I diret my oure traight to the dieting o the true limit, within whih the hurh’ power o enating law about thing pertaining to the worhip o God By Frank J. Smith, Ph.D., D. D. and David C. Lachman, Ph.D.  󰁖olume  ()Te 󰁃onfessional 󰁐resbyterian  󰁖olume  ()  󰁒eframing 󰁐resbyterian 󰁗orshipTe 󰁃onfessional 󰁐resbyterian i bounded and onfined, and whih it may not over-leap nor trangre. Tree ondition I find neear-ily requiite in uh a thing a the hurh ha power to preribe by her law:  st  It must be only a irum-stane o divine worhip; no ubstantial part o it; no ared ignifiant and effi aiou eremony. For the order and deeny lef to the definition o the hurh, a onerning the partiular o it, omprehend no more but mere irumstane.…  nd  Tat whih the hurh may lawully preribe by her law and ordi-nane, a a thing lef to her determination, must be one o uh thing a were not determinable by Srip-ture beaue individua  are in󿬁nita ….  rd  I the hurh preribe anything lawully, o that he preribe no more than he ha power given her to preribe, her ordinane must be aompanied with ome good reaon and warrant given or the atiacion o tender oniene.” Alo, in hi letter to “All in the Reormed Churhe,” Gillesie defined irumstane thi way: “...there i nothing whih any way pertain to the worhip o God lef to the determination o human law, beide the mere irumstane, whih neither have any holi-ne in them, oramuh a they have no other ue and praie in ared than they have in ivil thing, nor yet were partiularly determinable in Sripture, beaue they are infinite.” ( EPC,  xli). Jame Henley Tornwell give a more detailed definition:  Cirumstane are thoe onomitant o an acion without whih it either annot be done at all, or an-not be done with deeny and deorum. Publi wor-hip, or example, require publi aemblie, and in publi aemblie people must appear in ome o-tume and aume ome posture…. Publi aemblie, moreover, annot be held without fixing the time and plae o meeting: thee are irumstane whih the hurh i at liberty to regulate…. We must distinguih between thoe irumstane whih attend acion a acion—that i, without whih the acion an-not be—and thoe irumstane whih, though not eential, are added a appendage. Tee last do not all within the juridicion o the hurh. She ha no right to appoint them. Tey are irumstane in the ene that they do not belong to the ubstane o the ac. Tey are not irumstane in the ene that they o urround it that they annot be eparated rom it. A liturgy i a irumstane o thi kind…. In publi wor-hip, indeed in all ommanded external acion, there are two element—a fixed and a variable. Te fixed element, involving the eene o the thing, i beyond the diretion o the hurh. Te variable, involving only the irumstane o the acion, it eparable a-ident, may be hanged, modified or altered, aord-ing to the exigenie o the ae. Gillesie’ third ondition raie another priniple whih relate to the hurh’ power regarding worhip, whih i the docrine o Christian Liberty or Liberty o Coniene. Te Westminster divine state at Con-eion o Faith .: “God alone i Lord o the on-iene, and hath lef it ree rom the docrine and ommandment o men, whih are in any thing on-trary to Hi Word; or beide it, i matter o aith or worhip.”  Te language o the Coneion at thee everal point i reminient o both the writing o Gillesie, and o hi Westminster olleague, Samuel Rutherord. In one o Rutherord’ work irulating in the Aem-bly during the early part o the diuion on Christian Liberty, and ited at the ame time during debate on the ubjec o Exommuniation, he write (Ruther-ord, ):  -. Hereafer  EPC.  “Ti large volume i the most elaborate deene o the lai Puritan-Sottih Prebyterian view o the reg-ulative priniple, reently reprinted. Gillesie wa an influential member o the Westminster Aembly.” John M. Frame, Worhip in Spirit and ruth  (Phillipburg, NJ: P&󰁒 Publihing, ) . Hereafer,  Spirit and ruth.   . Cited rom John L. Girardeau, D.D. LL.D., “Te Diretion-ary Power o the Churh,” Sermon,  ed. by 󰁒ev. George A. Bla󰁫-burn (Columbia, SC: Te State Company, . 󰁒pt. in Life Work and Sermon of John L. Girardeau,  Sprin󰁫le Publiation, nd) -. See alo, “Churh Board and Prebyterianim,” e Colleced Writing of Jame Henley ornwell   (󰁒pt. Edinburgh: Te Banner o ruth rust, ) -. On the nature o irumstane, ee alo: e Work of John Owen,  v. , “Dioure Conerning Litur-gie,” ed. William H. Goold (󰁒pt. Edinburgh: Te Banner o ruth rust, ). . 󰁒egarding the long inorrec text, “ontrary to Hi Word, or beide it, in matter o aith or worhip,” Dr. S. W. Carruther note: Ti double error i the most important in the whole Coneion. It ha obured a distincion o great ignifiane … Te divine’ ar-gument i thi: men are ree in all thing direcly ontrary to God’ word; but, in addition, i the question i one o aith or worhip, they are ree in matter not stated in the word. Te distincion between matter ivil and religiou, and the great docrine onerning thing indifferent in the eleiastial world, are ompletely obured by the hange o a ingle letter and an alteration o puncuation.” S. W. Carruther, e Westminster Confeion of Faith: Being an aount of the Preparation and Printing of it Seven Leading Edition, to whih i appended a ritial text of the Confeion with note thereon  (Man-hester: 󰁒. Ai󰁫man & Son, []) -.  . See the Minute o the Aembly, -. Alexander F. Mithell and John Struther, ed.  Minute of the Seion of the   󰁖olume  ()Te 󰁃onfessional 󰁐resbyterian󰁁rtiles In acion or Religiou mean o Worhip, and acion Morall, whatever i beide the Word o God, i against the Word o God; I ay in Religiou mean, or there be mean o Worhip, or Cirumstane Phyiall, not Morall, not Religiou, a whether the Pulpit be o stone or o timber, the Bell o thi or thi Mettall, the houe o Worhip stand thu or thu in Situation.Our Formalist  will have it in the power o ruler to Command in the matter o Worhip, that whih i be-ide the Word o God, and o i negatively Lawull, though it be not Poitively onorm to God Word, nor Commanded or warranted by pracie; whih I grant i a witty way o Rome  deviing, to make entry or Religiou humane Ceremonie. Gillesie wrote the ollowing a deade beore the Aembly, whih not only ontain imilar thought a the Coneional statement, but relate a well to the ommon uage, popularized later by men uh a Jame Bannerman and William Cunningham, resec-ing the power o the ivil magistrate ira ara  [about religion] a oppoed to in ari  [in religion] ( EPC,  , , , ):  Te hurh i orbidden to add anything to the om-mandment o God whih he ha given unto u, on-erning hi worhip and ervie (Deut. :; :; Prov. :); thereore he may not lawully preribe anything in the work o divine worhip, i it be not a mere irumstane belonging to that kind o thing whih were not determinable by Sripture.… Tee  praeognita [ thing foreeen ] being now made good, ome we to seak more partiularly o the power o prine to make law and ordinane about thing whih onern the worhip o God.… But in all the Sripture prine have neither a ommendable ex-ample, nor any other warrant, or the making o any innovation in religion, or or the preribing o ared ignifiant eremonie o men’ deviing.… Now a touhing the other ort o thing whih we onider in the worhip o God, namely, thing merely ir-umstantial, and uh a have the very ame ue and resec in ivil whih they have in ared acion, we hold that whenoever it happen to be the duty and part o a prine to institute and enjoin any order or poliy in thee irumstane o God’ worhip, then he may only enjoin uh an order a may stand with the oberving and ollowing o the rule o the word, whereunto we are tied in the ue and pracie o thing whih are in their general nature indifferent. Tee lengthy itation and definition are given beaue the regulative priniple o worhip i ofen miunderstood or miharacerized when they are ignored. For instane when the docrine regarding irumstane i ignored, one may ee question in reacion to the regulative priniple uh a, “I you believe in thi regulative priniple then why do you ue pew in publi worhip, ine they are not men-tioned in Sripture?” A William Cunningham write,  just beore alluding to Coneion o Faith ., “Toe who dilike thi priniple, rom whatever reaon, uu-ally try to run u into diffi ultie by putting a very stringent onstrucion upon it, and thereby giving it an appearane o aburdity.…”   Alo, without any reerene to historial theology, or to the theologi-al milieu in whih the language o the Westminster Standard were drafed, the meaning o the divine may be reast and the traditional/historial meaning divored rom their oundational statement by ome postmodern deonstrucion o their word. Ti lead to statement like, ‘I hold to the regulative priniple o the Westminster Coneion o Faith, but not to the Puritan understanding o that priniple.’Whether they ully understand them or not, it i true that many do rejec Prebyterian view o worhip. Dr. Cunningham write o thoe “latitudinarian” who imply find uh a priniple repugnant: “O the view generally held by the Reormer on the ubjec o the organization o the Churh, there are two whih have been alway very offenive to men o a looe and lati-tudinarian tendeny—viz. the alleged unlawulne o introduing into the worhip and government o the Churh anything whih i not poitively warranted by Sripture, and the permanent binding obligation o a partiular orm o Churh government.…” ( Reform-er and the Regulative Priniple,  ). Tere i alo an understandable rejecion o Prebyterian priniple by thoe o an Anglian, Lutheran or imilar peruaion, who proe aith in a different rule o worhip, “that Westminster Aembly of Divine.  (Edinburgh: William Bla󰁫wood and Son, ).  . Jame Bannerman, e Churh of Christ   (Edinburgh : & Clar󰁫, . 󰁒pt. Edinburgh: Te Banner o ruth rust, ; and ) -. William Cunningham, “Churh Power,” Diuion on Churh Priniple  (Edinburgh: & Clar󰁫, ) .  . William Cunningham, “Te 󰁒eormer and the 󰁒egulative Priniple,” in e Reformation of the Churh: A ollecion of Re- formed and Puritan doument on Churh iue  (Edinburgh: Te Banner o ruth rust, ; 󰁒pt. ) -. Ti i an extrac rom Cunningham’ e Reformer and the eology of the Reforma-tion  (Te Banner o ruth rust,  󰁒pt) -.
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