Evaluating the Regulative Principle
Is the Regulative Principle really that helpful in the “worship wars”? I came across this today in a footnote that asks questions regarding the RP and practices in congregational worship:
John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1996) shows how great a variety of forms the basic biblical elements can take. Some have argued against the use of choirs and solos on the basis of the “Regulative Principle,” namely, that they are not prescribed by Scripture. But Frame asks, If some are allowed to pray aloud while the rest of the congregation meditates, why can’t some be allowed to sing or play aloud while the rest of the congregation meditates? (p. 129). Why would song be regulated in a different way than prayer and preaching? Some have argued against using hymns and non-scriptural songs on the basis of the Regulative Principle. But Frame asks, If we are allowed to pray or to preach using our own words (based on Scripture), why can we not sing using our own words (based on Scripture)? (p. 127). Why would song be regulated in a different way than prayer and preaching? Some have argued against the use of dance of worship, but aside from many apparent references to dance in worship in the Psalter, Frame asks, If we are exhorted to raise hands (Neh 2:8; Ps 28:2; 1 Tim 2:8), clap hands (Ps 47:1), and fall down (1 Cor 14:25), is it not expected and natural that we accompany words with actions? (p. 131). We can’t preach, surely, without using our bodies to express our thoughts and words, so how can we arbitrarily “draw the line” to exclude dance? Frame points out that the real way to make decisions about these issues (such as dance) is wisdom and love—namely, what will edify? In other words, if you think that dancers in leotards will be too distracting and sexually provocative for your congregation, just say so—don’t try to prove that the Bible forbids it. It is a bad habit of mind to seek to label “forbidden” what is really just unwise. ~ D. A. Carson, ed. Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 198 n12.
Other Sources on the Regulative Principle
Aniol, Scott. “The Liberating Regulative Principle for Worship.” Religious Affections Ministries. http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-worship/the-liberating-regulative-principle-of-worship/.
Challies, Tim. “The Regulatory Principle.” Challies Dot Com. http://www.challies.com/articles/the-regulatory-principle.
DeYoung, Kevin. “The Freedom of the Regulative Principle.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/02/14/the-freedom-of-the-regulative-principle/.
Frame, John M. “Questions about the Regulative Principle.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. http://www.reformed.org/misc/index.html?mainframe=/misc/frame_regulative_principle.html.