So many ways not to worship God....

(David) It's easy not to worship God. I can read a blog rather than the Bible. I can go to a soccer meet rather than a worship service. But tragic as such gross rejection of worship is, there is an easier and more insidious way for the Christian to refuse to worship God.

It's a far deeper and more soul-searing rejection of worship to read the Bible and only find within it what we want to find, to attend and invest ourselves in corporate worship only when that worship is precisely aligned with our personal likes and dislikes.

In the Reformed world this kind of refusal to worship is often cloaked by a deep-voiced intonation of the "requirements of the Regulative Principle of Worship." 

Nothing in the Reformed world today more resembles the Pharisee's specious arguments about the Law and more demonstrates the legalistic hypocrisy of that sect than our battles over what constitute proper "elements" and "circumstances" of worship.

We fight over hymns vs. psalms vs. silence and argue for the exclusion of instruments from worship based on distinctions between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church. You thought these kinds of hard-and-fast dichotomies between OT and NT forms and principles were only found in dispensationalism? Think again. Dance, prescribed as it is in Scripture, is not a proper New Testament, churchly form of worship, because it was part of "national" worship. Instruments may have been proper in temple worship, but, "[I]t is ill advised to use the temple as the pattern for Christian worship, for the temple was instituted under Moses as part of the typological system that was temporary by divine intention." (Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, p. 244).

So we can't "praise Him with timbrel and dancing" (Psalm 150:4) because it's idolatrous.

We can't worship in tongues, with interpretation, because it's, what?

Let's not go there....

Trust me, neither dance nor tongues have been part of our worship at CTW. But we don't freight our practice in these areas with the weight of divine imperative, based upon some penumbra of an emanation from Scripture.

Which means, of course, that it is at least conceivable that dance could break out in our worship some day. In fact, I harbor a quiet hope that dance will one day break out in our worship. (CTW brothers and sisters, trust me here please--I'm not talking about teenage girls waltzing with ribbons...)

What's given up in the course of this arguing over angels and pinheads? Worship, true worship of God all too often. But even more centrally and objectively, lost in this shuffle is Scripture's clear, abiding, bright line on illicit worship, the Second Commandment's prohibition of graven images.

So we live in a Reformed world where anything goes because nothing's actually allowed. And when everything is potentially forbidden, nothing's actually out-of-bounds.

When instruments become idols, then elephants become pillows, and visions of sugar plums dance in our heads.

Brothers and sisters, constrain the eyes by rejecting images other than those of the reality God has surrounded us with, constrain the mind by disciplining it to heed the Word of God, restrain the heart through confession of sin, constrain the body by turning away from the lusts of the flesh, and then let the body, mind and heart fly free toward God in worship.

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And, finally, let's agree that worship such as that represented in this bulletin from a Reformed church is actually a violation of the Law of God, combining icons and videos (and even pledges to icons) in a mishmash of violations of the second commandment far more objectively idolatrous than any combination of instruments, dance, rap or even speaking in tongues we might conjure up to amount to a violation of the Second Commandment. Note the sermon title....

Bulletin--redacted

Comments

Inteesting how you trash the Regulative Principle and those who hold to it, yet make a very (valid) RPW application with regards to the bulletin.

Don't paint with too broad a brush, brother. It is true, some carry the RPW to legalistic excess, but not all.

Dear Kevin,

The problem is not that a few carry the RPW to excess, it's that the RPW as practiced by virtually all Reformed folk today has become personal preference invested with the weight of Biblical authority--and this is as true of those who permit drums as of those who allow only pitch pipes.

To the Reformers I might make a valid RPW application in my comments about the bulletin, because the Reformers viewed the RPW as grounded in the Second Commandment. But my point in including the bulletin was to show how modern application of the RPW has us battling motes and ignoring beams. This is exactly the kind of mishmash worship you get when you turn away from the Second Commandment which explicitly forbids the kinds of things practiced in that service and turn instead to the subjective and usually undefinable RPW to judge such worship. When was the last time you knew of a case of church discipline arising out of the application of the RPW? Modern application of the RPW hasn't helped us worship more biblically, it's actually hindered it by giving us no objective basis for judging: hence, we never judge.

May I gently suggest that the very fact that you don't mention the Second Commandment in your comment but suggest only that I've properly applied the RPW is evidence of this? Why go to a tertiary, even tendentious, modern summary of Biblical teaching on worship to criticize this bulletin when the primary text is so blazingly obvious?

That's the very reason I placed the bulletin in this post: to demonstrate what a hash modern attempts to view worship through the lens of the RPW have made of things. An obvious violation of the Second Commandment is rendered cloudy and obscure by our insistence on looking at things through the warped lens of the modern RPW.

Love in Christ,

David

Dear Kevin,

Nowhere in this post does pastor Bayly "trash the Regulative Principle and those who hold to it." He holds to it himself, I'm sure.

The point here is not the RPW per se, but how this principle is perverted by many in the Reformed world today who use it to protect personal preferences and stiff-arm the Holy Spirit.

In Christ,

How can you, on the one hand, invoke idolotrous pledges to the United States, sing America the Beautiful, etc; Yet, preach a sermon titled "Duel Citizenship: Living in two Kingdoms." I am assuming (I concede I could be mistaken) such a sermon would push two kingdom theology. Therefore, my question is if there are two kingdoms, God's and the world's, why would you pledge your allegiance to the latter at all, not to mention in worship? Then, are you not serving two masters?

As a sidenote, the Lord Jesus Christ really is the sovereign ruler of the nations. He says in Matt 28:18-20 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." So a two kingdom approach denies that He has , in fact, been given all authority on earth (since only the church is really under His sovereign will) as well as the obligation of the church to desciple the nations(since we are a separate entity from the societies in which we live). The greatness of the Great Commission is its promise of victory "behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age." If He has all authority on heaven and earth, and He is with us in our task, how then could we fail in our mission to baptize this world in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? But, I concede it is always much easier to bury one's talent than to go out and work it into ten.

>Yet, preach a sermon titled "Duel Citizenship: Living in two Kingdoms."

Pistols or Claymores?

Hi, David. I did not invoke the Second Commandment, because I thought we were talking about an application of it, namely the RPW.

Nevertheless, I agree with you about what was brought into the service. I ignored Independence Day, for the most part, beyond 1). Briefly reminding the congregation of their obligation to be good citizens and 2). Reminding the congregation that it was the Lord's Day and that evening worship was more godly than going to a fireworks display.

FWIW, wouldn't drums be a circumstance? ;-)

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