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church-of-the-redeemer-cross-candle-bibleWhat about all of the other items not covered by command, example, or principle? Such as the chairs, the pews, the air-conditioning, and the building itself?

These “other items” not addressed by the command, example, or principle of Scripture are called “circumstances.” Since the days of John Calvin Christians have understood the importance of these items to worship while unashamedly admitting they are not prescribed for us in Scripture. This is not to say that Scripture is incomplete or an untrustworthy guide for worship. It only means that Scripture gives us the elements which must be present for acceptable worship to God but not the circumstances which aid but are not essential to worship. These circumstances are given through God’s gift of common sense. This is what the authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Second London Confession of Faith, and the Philadelphia Confession of Faith all recognized with this exact wording, “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.” (Chapter 1, Paragraph 6)

So yes, keep the chairs, the pews, the air-conditioning, and the building itself!

In hindsight it was rather foolish to begin a new blog during the busiest week of the busiest month of the semester. With that said, I hope to be more consistent in the future. So here is part one of several posts examining the Regulative Principle of Worship which is helpful to anyone responsible for leading worship.

What is the Regulative Principle?

Justification by faith alone was the hot button topic of the Protestant Reformation. It divide the Catholic Church from the emerging Protestant Churches. And although this was the major topic being held in dispute it was not the cause. The cause of the disagreement was over the Church’s view of Scripture. Luther and the Reformers believed that Scripture was the highest authority in the life of the Church and should appropriately have the final say on all matters of doctrine; resulting in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The Catholic Church on the other hand viewed the Scriptures and the church’s traditions as equally authoritative and consequently derived a doctrine of justification by faith, minus the “alone.” All of this was because of the Protest understanding of Scripture which would become known by the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura.

As the Protestant split from the Catholic Church became permanent the Reformers began to realize the need for reform in all areas of church life especially the exceedingly important area of worship. With this Sola Scriptura was applied and the Protestant worship service began to tear away from the Catholic Mass. Yet, there were differences in how Sola Scriptura was applied to worship. In Martin Luther’s view the Church was required to include any element of worship commanded by Scripture, deny any element forbidden, and was permitted to include any element of worship which was not forbidden by Scripture. This view became known as the “Normative Principle.” John Calvin, writing many years later, applied Sola Scriptura in a different way. He thought that the Church should worship, “by subjecting ourselves to his word, and by putting a bridle on ourselves, so as not to introduce anything except what he commands and approves. The right rule then as to the worship of God is, to adopt nothing but what he prescribes. (Calvin’s Commentaries, v. 10 p. 543, Jeremiah 44:17) Therefore Calvin included in the worship of his church only those things commanded by God in the Scriptures. This view of what should be included in worship is known as the “Regulative Principle.”

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