Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Religious movies and the regulative principle

We are nearly finished now. I have been discussing the presumption that movies (or drama, by inference) should be used for evangelistic ends. I know I have been testing the patience of my readers with this, but I try not to get caught up in the time-defying fury of blogging. Your patience has been appreciated. Other posts in this series include:




A Response to Jason Janz's "Why we say 'Gospel'"




A continued response to the idea of religious movies







An Incitement to Postman (by Joel Zartman)







A continued response to the idea of religious movies: Tozer on acting







and, more incidently:







Speaking of religious movies







Spurgeon's protege finally speaks out against religious movies






My final plea is an appeal to the Regulative principle. I believe that all the previous reasons I have given thus far are sufficient more or less to cause a man in Christian leadership not to use religious movies (or even drama) in worship. The appeal of this article, I believe, is the strongest reason why we should not use religious movies for worship.


Christian leaders have always been tempted to introduce novel elements to worship. Whenever we decide to branch out from what God has prescribed, we hazard ourselves and our progeny. That the Lord Jesus was zealous for purity in worship is seen in his cleansing the temple. One shudders to think what he would think of our movie house temples today. Would he start with the projectors or the screen?


Tozer admonishes,

"Every generation is sure to have its ambitious amateur to come up with some shiny gadget which he proceeds to urge upon the priests before the altar. That the Scriptures do not justify its existence does not seem to bother him at all. . . . Soon it is identified in the minds of the Christian public with all that is good and holy. Then, of course, to attack the gadget is to attack the Truth itself" ("The Menace of the Religious Movie," in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment [Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997], 184-85).
Protestants have long been criticizing the extra elements imposed by the Roman Catholic Church, yet our own versions of worship go by unscathed.


The basis for the Regulative Principle stems from sola scriptura. Only the Holy Scriptures may direct the form and content of Christian worship. The Bible is God-breathed, profitable and sufficient for the all of the church's life, whether teaching or correction (2 Tim 3:16); this must include the corporate worship of the body of Christ. Paul instructed the Colossian church in Colossians 3:16-17 to have the Word of Christ dwelling richly in their midst. If the Bible is our primary source for theology, then it is our primary source for ordering and regulating worship as well. One could also bring up many other theological themes in Scripture, like mankind's sinful bent toward idolatry, the "truth" side of John 4:24, and the very nature of the Church's submission to Christ as Lord. I do not have time to give a full-fledged defense of the Regulative Principle here, but the basis stems from certain texts (like Acts 17:24-25, Col 2:16-23), but also from the principle, found in both Old and New Testament, that God does not delight in "humanly devised" worship.

The Second London Confession (1677) says,

"The acceptable way of Worshipping the the [sic] 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 representations, or any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures" (XXII.1, in William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith [Valley Forge: Judson, 1959], 280).
The Second London Confession was a Baptist confession; we are talking about a Baptist principle (for example, have you ever wondered why Baptists have only two ordinances or sacraments? You can see the comments of another Baptist, Mark Dever, on this here). Of course, these men realized that certain circumstances of worship were prudential. Earlier the 2nd London Confession says,
"There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church common to humane 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" (I.6 in Ibid.)
The important distinction here is between elements of worship and the circumstances of worship. The elements of worship are solely those things Biblically prescribed (prayer, Bible reading, singing, administration of the sacraments, preaching, etc). The circumstances include incidental matters (posture, place of meeting, times of services, etc.). And even though they allowed for some liberty in these matters, the Baptist confession (and the Reformed tradition) still admonished us to monitor these things "ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word." Let me say this clearly: Religious movies do not fall under the "circumstances" of worship. You cannot hold to any form of the Regulative Principle and accept movies as a legitimate element of worship. I agree with what Kevin Bauder said (on his sadly now dormant blog), "None of us has been granted the authority to . . . deploy a single new practice that is not revealed in Scripture." He adds,
"Why are any of [the extra-Scriptural elements] thought to be expedient? Because they are meaningful to God? How would we know that? Only if He tells us. Otherwise, any notion of expedience simply signifies that they are meaningful to us. In other words, we are doing them because they please us, not because they please Him. And that is simply another way of saying idolatry."
J. Ligon Duncan III echoes similar sentiments when he says,
"The key benefit of the regulative principle is that it helps to assure that God--not man--is the supreme authority for how corporate worship is to be conducted, by assuring that the Bible, God's own special revelation (and not our own opinions, tastes, likes, and theories), is the prime factor in our conduct of and approach to corporate worship" ("Does God Care How We Worship?" in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice [ed., P. G. Ryken, D. W. H. Thomas, and J. L. Duncan III; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003], 24).
Again, to reiterate my point, the Bible must be our sole authority, and this includes the elements with which the Church worships. Religious movies and drama receive absolutely no warrant from Scripture. We have just as much warrant to introduce "Christian cooking seminars" as part of the corporate worship of the Church. Some may give examples of the number of souls won through the use of movies in evangelism. I am sure that Christian cooking seminars, if they only had the chance, would produce similar effects. Neither have the privilege of a Biblical warrant.

One wonders how many of those advocating the religious movie would react if I proposed that we start housing religious operas on Sunday morning or for our casual entertainment.


A. W. Tozer asks,

"For the religious movie where is the authority? For such a serious departure from the ancient pattern, where is the authority? For introducing into the Church the pagan art of acting, where is the authority? Let the movie advocates quote just one verse, from any book of the Bible, in any translation, to justify its use. This they cannot do. The best they can do is to appeal to the world's psychology or repeat brightly that 'modern times call for modern methods.' But the Scriptures--quote from them one verse to authorize movie acting as an instrument of the Holy Ghost. This they cannot do. ("Menace," 199).
Tozer, in saying this, knew that some would believe that movies are simply a new medium to communicate the gospel--an improvement on writing and speech. To this he responded: "The movie is not the modernization or improvement of any scriptural method; rather it is a medium in itself wholly foreign to the Bible and altogether unauthorized therein" (Ibid., 199). He adds, "Arguments for the religious movie are sometimes clever and always shallow, but there is never any real attempt to cite scriptural authority" (Ibid., 200).



It simply will not do to say to all of this, "I am not a Regulative Principle purist." Those who embrace the Regulative Principle do so with a profound concern for its purity. A great number of contemporary evangelicals and fundamentalists, of course, today reject the Regulative Principle. But those who embrace it do so with its purity in the forefront of their mind. Moreover, what right have you or anybody else to inflict your whims of religious experience and preference on other believers? How do you know that God is pleased with your little "Christian" movie? You have absolutely no warrant or mandate from Scripture. We should mourn the state of the church we have now stooped to the point where in so many corners the Bible no longer holds a firm sway over the Church's worship. Is Christianity a mere man-made religion that one feels the liberty to trifle in this way with great and holy God Jehovah? Where is Jesus Christ in all of this? Where is his Lordship? It would be an extremely good thing in American Christianity for pastors everywhere to remember the examples of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 or Paul's sober words in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 before they ever acted so carelessly with the Church's holy worship.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Wow, that last paragraph was a zinger, but well-warranted.

2/21/2006 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for the post…I’ve been curious about this for a while, especially after Bauder’s series of posts on the Regulative Principle [by the way, has he retired his blog? Sad day]. I’m not negative about your concern over whacky “Christian” movies, but I have a few negative thoughts about this line of thinking.

I noticed your Reformed citations here. I agree with you that Reformed Baptists have held to a Regulative Principle, including those like Dever who follow after the Second London Confession (1689) and the Philadelphia Confession (1742). Both of these have major portions in common with the Westminster Confession and Puritan ideals, and teach the Regulative Principle as a result. I’m sure you are aware that the groups you cite here use a covenantal approach to theology in which the believer is still bound by certain aspects of the law--a covenantal understanding of “whatever I command you, you should be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

I understand you didn’t want to mount a full defense of the Regulative Principle—but I’m afraid it will come to that, eventually. I felt your post seriously glossed over what is not just the majority Baptist position—it’s a vast majority. Dispensational and moderately Calvinistic Baptist groups with roots in the New Hampshire Confession (1833) almost never hold to a Regulative Principle in worship (and it is unheard of among Baptists who are non-Calvinists).

I think it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain a proper distinction between Law and Grace and still affirm the Regulative Principle as it is traditionally taught. This is why Bauder’s work interested me—he attempted to frame his appeal from the New Testament (something that was not done in historic defenses of the idea). I found his work interesting because I don’t know of many other Baptists who hold his distinction between Law and Grace and yet still affirm the RP. I’m not demeaning his position, which is carefully reasoned—I’m merely pointing out that Baptists who defend the RP from the New Testament are a small subset of a tiny minority.

While admiring your courage in questioning Christians, I think it might be better for those who hold this position to focus on Tozer, McClain, and Delnay, rather than the RP. In general, I’m worried that the recent flap over the RP will turn into another of those “morality of music” things where we try to define orthodoxy over a non-essential idea, and then waste thirty years arguing over the meaning of the term rather than the meaning of Scripture. Has a renewed emphasis on the Regulative Principle helped the Presbyterians toward more conservative worship? Or unified ideas on worship? Not according to John Frame; he uses the RP to defend his use of contemporary Praise and Worship music.

2/21/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Kevin, just a slight correction to something you said because I just read about this.

Frame doesn't hold to the RP as articulated by the WC or SLBC. In several places (I don't have the info in front of me, but I will try to post it when I get home) he argues against the RP, while at the same time formulating his own adjusted "RP" involving the application of biblical principels. Therefore he does not defend P&W by using the traditional RP, but a modified form of his own creation.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and ask you a question, Ryan, about the RP. We are against viewing the Bible as an "encyclopeida of prohibitions." You've read an excellent article by Makujina on this subject, I know. How would you differentiate this kind of view from viewing the Bible as an "encyclopedia of acceptabilities," especially as it relates to the RP?

If I am unclear, please let me know. I have to run to class right now.

2/21/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, thank you for your response, its tone, and the good points you made. You are right in nearly everything you say, though I am interested in the Baptist approach to the RP. I sense that even the non "Reformed Baptists," to a certain extent, embrace a kind of "loose" regulative principle, in that it seems like Baptists from their earliest history have always been going back to Scriptures to prove their positions. I have not been able to find much on that yet. You are right and charitable to acknowledge that the point of my post was not to give a full-orbed history or defense of the Regulative Principle here. I have read a bit of John Frame, and are aware of some of his objections.

You raise some good points about a dispensational regulative principle as well. I again want to reiterate that my thinking on this is infantile. Yet I think we can go to some key New Testament passages to find its warrant. I mentioned some above: Col 2, Col 3, and 2 Tim 3. When you said, "I think it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain a proper distinction between Law and Grace and still affirm the Regulative Principle as it is traditionally taught," I understand your sentiment, but do not necessarily share it. I believe we have enough in the New Testament to warrant the principle.

I suppose I do not necessarily share your concerns. Theology is important, and so is hashing these things out. It does no good for us to "gloss over" these kinds of questions, just as an attempt at veiled unity. These questions are important, as soon as Pastor Whoever rolls out the movie projector some Sunday morning or the evangelistic crusade.

Nevertheless, I really do appreciate what you said, and hope that we can discuss these things. Perhaps I will give a dispensational defense of the RP a shot, though prudence would give me some restraint in doing that until a bit further down the road. In the meantime, let me ask you a question related to "Law and Grace," and the continuity of the testaments. What do you think of the 2nd commandment's validity today? Are we allowed to make graven images or idols to aid us in our worship of God today? How should a NT Christian approach this question in your opinion?

2/21/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

OK, here is the info I mentioned about Frame's view of the RP: he introduced his views on the RP in a 1992 journal article ("Some Questions About the Regulative Principle," WTJ 54:357-66) and went on to expand them in Worship in Spirit and Truth. My main point here is that Frame is not a good mouthpiece for the traditional Reformed view of the RP, nor can his defence of P&W be thus linked to the RP.

OK, I was definately unclear in my question to Ryan. Let's give it another try. I (and I know you) are against a veiw of the Bible that sees it simply as an encyclopedia of prohibitions. Instead, I view it as a window into the mind of God, an account of principles by which we can and should make right conclusions regarding adiaphora.

What I am wondering is if we who hold to the RP could be accused of doing the opposite -- viewing the Bible as only an encyclopedia listing those things that we are allowed to do.

If I'm still not clear, please let me know. But if I am, what would you say to such a charge?

2/21/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Scott—yes, I agree that Frame has provided an expanded definition for the term “Regulative Principle”—though he was laboring hard to demonstrate he was solidly in the Reformed tradition. I was trying to suggest that this (like the “morality of music”) is another argument over buzzwords. Now, because of Frame, we have to spend time discussing the meaning of the term, rather than the meaning of Scripture. In this regard, I think he fits my example pretty well. [Interesting thing about Frame: he does this while advocating sola scriptura as a theological method].

Ryan—I wish I had printed off Bauder’s RP stuff before his blog went down; maybe you can con him out of an archived copy. To answer your question: I think the NT teaching is that God is a spirit (John 4) and that we should not believe He is anything like the images man creates (Acts 17:29), and that these idols are merely hunks of wood and stone and sometimes celluloid (1Cor. 8:4), and that God’s children should stay away from idols (1 John 5:21). I would invoke this idea whenever I felt that the viewers were actually worshipping the screen or the actors as idols. As we know, the American Idol can be a real problem, not just an imaginary one. And it doesn’t have to be wood or stone; the idol could be green paper or “quality family time” or free enterprise or European art music (whoops, sorry).

But, ordinarily, I believe it is possible to view an object without automatically making it an idol at every viewing. Idolatry is an attitude, right? I don’t have to physically bow in order to worship an idol. And the sin is in me, not the thing, right? I could gaze upon Scott and make him an idol and worship at his blog – but this sin would not be Scott’s problem, it would be my sinful attitude (okay, goofy example).

The difference between the OT and NT, for me, is this: I do not need to fear punishment or wrath for my transgressions of idolatry (I’m free from the Law). Rather, my sin in this area brings a barrier between me and God; I miss out on God’s fellowship and blessings (I’m bound by grace). Interesting to think about this stuff.

2/21/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Scott, I'm going to answer your question, I promise.

This discussion not only opens up the whole RP debate (which is no small controversy), but the relationship of Law and Gospel debate (anyone solved that one yet?). I like some of your thoughts on idols, but I think you go too far at the end when you say that the matter is solely in the heart. We can discuss that another time. Thank you for that. I have many musings on the Christian and the Law, but this is not the place for that either. The truth of the matter is that I think we can defend the RP from NT grounds, and even cite coventant theologians here and there while we do it. Perhaps that may seem wrong to some, but the entire argument they present is not argued from the basis of covenant theology.

Kevin, I have another question for you, if I may be so bold. I am wondering if you have read anything respectable that discusses Baptists and the RP. I tried finding some stuff while I was preparing this, but came up somewhat short in my work.

2/21/2006 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Those last two paragraphs were for Kevin, by the way.

2/21/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

D.A. Carson discusses this a bit in Worship by the Book. He's Reformed Baptist, I think, but does not fully embrace the RP idea. And he touches on it during his online interview at: http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/articles/carsonworship.htm

Quote from there: "I would want to argue-speaking as a Baptist-that where the freedom and innovation of the Baptist heritage is combined with a profound biblical grasp, it is the best of all possibilities. In practice, of course, it can lead to people just doing the same thing every week, but not nearly as well as Cranmer did it, if you see what I mean!"

Peter Masters also addresses the issue in Worship in the Melting Pot (but here's a classic example of the problems with the Reformed Baptist RP position-- Masters holds that the instruments in Psalm 150 are figurative and devotional, not literal--so we shouldn't use them in church, either.)

In the end, I'm not sure I'd argue that the RP is a historically Baptist position. The best one could say is that certain English Baptists--who had political reasons for wanting to look as Presbyterian as possible--affirmed the RP in the Second London Confession. I'd love to have someone research how this worked in practice. At the time, folks used the RP to both condemn and affirm organs, so I've always wondered how useful the concept really is. Couldn't you argue your point without it?

Another problem: People who hold the RP usually limit it to worship, and generally practice adiaphora in other aspects of life. So, to practice the RP correctly, it seems you also have to argue and defend that the only purpose for the gathered church on Sunday morning is for worship. Otherwise, it's pretty much a moot point. A pastor could theoretically claim that a five-minute drama or movie was a teaching illustration, not "worship," and therefore allowable because of the mutual edification and fellowship aspects of the gathered church. And...as we've previously discussed, it's exceedingly difficult to rule out mutual edification and fellowship as activities of the gathered church. Yes, we could also label these activitites "a kind of worship," and then use the RP to regulate them (and to rule out drama and movies, if that is our intention). But then we're in another bind...if we resort to the "all of life is worship" argument and then claim the RP applies all of the time, that would seem to extend the RP further than any of the reformers were willing to do.

Seems to get messy pretty fast. I like what you are doing here, but I remain unconvinced that the RP will be a helpful teaching tool.

2/21/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, the point is not whether the RP is a useful "teaching tool." The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship. Those who argue for the regulative principle explain many of the difficulties with which you are concerned in stride.

My question, again, is the source of your history of Baptists and the RP. I could be totally off base. I have some reasons for my reasoning, and I would be happy in turn to provide them. Moreover, I am not sure I would be so quick to judge that the Baptists held to the RP for "political reasons." Even if that is coming from in a scholarly source, can we judge their motives so easily? I am interested in your sources that you are reading that are discussing historically Baptists and the RP.

2/21/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Here are some remarks on Baptists and the regulative principle I have found:

"Historically, Baptists have developed their practice of biblical authority in light of the “regulative principle,” summary by Jeff Robinson of T. Nettles' Ready for Reformation.

The London Confession of 1644 (which comes before the Westminister Confession), and is described by Lumpkin as more "moderate" Calvinism, says in article VII, "The Rule of this Knowledge, Faith, and Obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not mans inventions, opinions, devices, lawes, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but onely the word of God contained in the Canonicall Scriptures."

This is good, though not related to Baptists per se.

Another General Baptist confession, the Faith and Practice of the Thirty Congregations (1644) says in article 46, "That whosoever shall preach, teach, or practise any doctrine in the worship of God, pretending it in the name of Jesus Christ, which is not to be heard or read of in the record of God, which was given by inspiration of the holy Ghost; such teachers are lyable to the curse of God, howsoever, countenanced by men, Gal. I.8,9."

Scott, I going to finally try to answer your question. I am concerned to say that the Bible does not address every matter in life. It is not intended to show me the exact answer for every question of the will of God in daily living. The Bible does not address of how I can feel good or be comfortable. Neither does it tell me what I should eat. It is not that these matters are unimportant, for we are to "do all to the glory of God." But it does not address these things. Does the Bible intend to address the divinity of Christ? Yes. We place ourselves under submission of the Scriptures in understanding the nature of Christ; we, as followers of Christ, follow the teachings of his apostles and prophets in the Holy Scriptures to understand the nature of Christ. I am arguing that the writings of the apostles and the prophets intend to address how we as believers in the Lord Jesus are to worship him (1 Tim 3:14-15), not only individually in each book, but canonically by virtue of God's sovereignty in inspiring the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16). In other words, the Bible is not a specific rule book for every minutia of life, because it does not intend to address every minutia of life. It does, however, intend to address the elements and content of the Church's worship. And since it does so, we place ourselves under its authority specific to that end. As far as the forms and circumstances of worship (I am using technical terminology here), these are not specifically addressed, and thereby become adiaphora relative to prudential wisdom in the spirit of still placing oneself under the authority of revealed will of the Lord for worship in the Holy Scripture.

How's that?

2/21/2006 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Greg Wills says this in his chapter in Polity concerning the Baptists of the 18th and 19th centuries:

"Baptists believed, with most Protestants, that the practices of the apostolic churches were normative in all things essential to their worship, government, and discipline. Christ commissioned the apostles to establish his churches according to his pattern. He ruled the churches as their head and king. Since the apostolic churches exercised authority as democracies,
Baptists argued, so ought all other churches. Christ required all churches to follow the divine pattern" (21).

2/22/2006 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

There are so many quotations from Baptists when one begins to simply look, which by coincidence slightly corresponds with a paper I am working on. I like this is one from John Quincy Adams, "Baptists, the Only Thorough Religious Reformers" (1876):

"Now Baptists are opposed to tradition, any where and every where; whether they find it in the Church of Rome, or in Protestant churches. They aim to elevate the Word of God above tradition, as the standard of duty in all places. It is professedly the grand doctrine of Protestantism – which Protestants themselves have abandoned – that Baptists steadily maintain. They aim to bring all to this standard. They, themselves, have always adhered to the Bible. Did any one ever hear of Baptists being charged with following tradition? The charge would be ridiculously absurd; for they have always opposed tradition as a guide in matters of religious duty."

2/22/2006 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And there's one more thing I want to say.

Everyone who disagrees with me is a stupid idiot. If they had the least bit of intelligence, they would see that I am right.

2/22/2006 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I appreciate your honesty, Ryan, but I don't understand why you felt the need to state this as though it were "news." Hasn't that been your position all along?

2/22/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger hoosierdaddy said...

I find this topic interesting and informing. I'm trying to gather your thoughts on this. Are religious movies and dramas outside of the church acceptable, say in a one on one scenario? Or does this apply to all forms of worship?
I found the phrase referring to the projector and screen humorous and disturbing. Are these wrong for church in and of themselves? Just some quick questions. Will listen.

2/22/2006 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Hey Ryan, peace. It’s your blog, so I’ll post and leave you with the last word.

You mentioned that “The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship.” But this isn’t quite the point, unless you are going deliberately mischaracterize the other position. The real question is: does the Bible regulate worship any differently than it regulates all of life? In this regard, I agree that the (first) London Confession got it right, equating “the worship and service of God,” with “all other Christian duties.” But this isn’t what the RP was teaching.

The Reformed understanding of the RP treated worship differently than the rest of life. Its purpose was to exclude the idea of adiaphora in worship, while affirming adiophora in other matters of life. The RP was designed for those churches who believed that the church was an extension of Israel and that NT worship is an extension of the OT Temple. As you know, I believe NT worship is an “all of life” activity, not limited to a time and place (such as the Temple or Sunday morning.) The Regulative Principle can’t “regulate” a church service unless its advocates can demonstrate that the church service is ONLY for worship. Otherwise, other elements (such as a sermon-illustration drama or a fellowship-oriented video) can creep into the service listed as “mutual edification” or “fellowship.” Let me mention again: it is exceedingly difficult to rule out mutual edification and fellowship as legitimate practices of the gathered church!

The Baptists who historically affirm the Regulative Principle also affirm covenant theology. Jeff Robinson’s quote is correct, as long as he admits he’s only referring to Baptists with covenant theology. As your own survey of the literature indicates, those who defend the RP use texts from OT Law, such as Deut 12:32, and they do so in the context of Calvin, Westminster, Presbyterianism, and covenant theology. It was a Puritan ideal. It would be great for a historian to trace the RP among Baptist churches (to my knowledge, this is yet to be done), but I suspect it will turn into “Where’s Waldo.”

I wonder if the Regulative Principle ever really regulated anything? It was too difficult to fully define the idea, or explain the difference between an “element” and a “circumstance.” So we ended up with lots of discussions over what Calvin really meant and what the terms really meant. But the meaning of scripture….?

2/22/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Sometimes it is just good to go and state the obvious.

Hoosierdaddy, I believe that no movie or drama should ever depict a religious theme--not for evangelism, certainly not in church, nor in the theater.

Kevin, I appreciate your sticking it out. I did not intend to be overwhelming, but I kept finding different by earlier Baptists. I am not sure where you are finding the connection between the Old Testament and this in the selections I quoted. I have yet to see the entire argument for the Regulative Principle begin with the Old Testament. I nearly always see it begin with sola Scriptura. Moreover, there were no developed "dispensational" theology until the late 19th century (arguably the 20th). The point is that if you tie it necessarily to covenant theology, you have a point. But I do not believe that you must at all. In fact, I have briefly argued here without such an appeal. Thereby your protest disappears. Your hunch about the trend of the RP being nonexistent among Baptists is hard for you to prove, I realize (since you must argue to a certain extent from silence or find arguments to the contrary). But I have provided numerous instances to the contrary, and even purposefully steered away from the more Calvinistic Baptists (like the Reformed Baptists, etc). All Baptists have always submitted to the authority of Scriptures in all the matters of the church.

Nevertheless, we differ in the purpose of the gathered Church, so this is probably a futile discussion. I am not sure where the difficulty lies in understanding the difference between element and circumstance, but I am sure those things are debated.

I know you said you were going to bow out, but I would like to ask you a question in response. If the Scripture is not binding in prescribing the church's activities when it is gathered together, what is your basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are?

2/22/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

By the way, for all who are offended by my calling those who disagree with "idiots," I am merely having fun with something I was accused of on another blog.

2/22/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

AAAk. Short on time here, got to run. I wasn’t bothered by the idiot comment, but on one point you seem to have unfairly characterized the other position. You’ve said “The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship,” and now you’ve implied the other side believes “…Scripture is not binding in prescribing the church's activities when it is gathered together.” But it might be possible that the other side is reading and applying the the Bible, too. Yes?

It’s more accurate to say that I believe that NT interpretation is the same for “the worship and service of God” as “all other Christian duties.” In other words, I believe adiaphora is possible in a church service—a position that is often labeled the Normative Principle. It would be a serious mistake to imply that only one side (yours) affirms sola scriptura. Luther practiced the Normative Principle and Calvin practiced the Regulative Principle, but both affirmed sola scriptura.

Those who practice the Normative Principle—allowing adiophora in worship as in all of life—have no need for the false distinction between “elements” and “circumstance.” You asked if we disregard the NT worship examples as the “basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are.” No. Some of the examples we affirm include: scripture reading (1 Tim. 4:13), scripture exposition (Acts 20:7), confession of faith (Acts 8:37), singing (Col. 3:16), prayers (Acts 2:42), congregational amen (1 Cor. 14:16), offerings (1 Cor. 16:1-2), responses such as “amen” (1 Cor. 14:16) and maybe “Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22), greetings such as the holy kiss (Romans 16:16), various physical actions, communion, and baptism. All of these could be practiced in a church under the Normative Principle. And in many cases, it would be tough to tell which church affirmed the Regulative Principle purely by visiting a service.

In a Normative Principle church, if a different idea surfaces (such as the use of vestments, organ accompaniment, the use of pitch pipes in congregational singing, the use of a mixed quartet to lead the worship service, the use of drama, movies, etc), the idea is not automatically excluded because it is not on a list of approved elements, neither does it provoke a complicated evaluation of whether to proposed idea is an "element" or a "circumstance." Instead, the idea is evaluated using biblical discernemnt. Under the Normative Principle, some churches allow a five minute drama or a five minute video to serve as a teaching illustration during a church service. Such things would be allowed as adiaphora, but would still be subject to biblical discernment (which is the heart of the matter for Normative Principle churches). For instance, if someone taught that a five minute drama was a new means of grace, it would immediately excluded as heresy.

Side note on the history—I can’t invest a lot of time on this right now, other than to say not much has been written about Baptists who practice the Regulative Principle. If you wish to explore the RP idea outside of its Calvinistic, Westminster, Presbyterian, covenant theology, and Puritan roots, I give you my best wishes. It’s a tough job; someone needs to do it!

I’m quite skeptical of some of your quotes above; for instance, two of the examples you cited (from Adams and Wills) don’t appear to be written reference to Baptist attitudes about the RP. And The Faith and Practice (1644) isn’t a classic affirmation of the RP either, in the sense that it doesn’t rule out adiaphora in worship or affirm a distinction between elements and circumstances (the classic definition of the RP). It does affirm the role of Scripture in worship, but don’t we all? May God help us to be discerning.

2/22/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thank you, Kevin. It is hard to enter into a debate at this point, because we have other prerequisites from which we are arguing. For instance, if we were to continue the debate over the RP, we would first need to establish that the assembly primarily gathers for worship. I affirm this (on Biblical grounds), and you do not.

I will concede that Wills is not arguing for the Regulative Principle here. As far as Adams goes, he is not addressing the RP, but what else is adiaphora, if not extra-Biblical "tradition" (i.e., humanly devised worship) of some sort? One other note in my defense, I did not say that the other side was not applying the Bible, but that the Bible was not "prescribing" their worship. Does the Bible "prescribe" your worship in the corporate body? It seems like that is the exact thing you are protesting against--that the church is bound to determine the elements and content of worship from Scripture alone.

And is there not a sense in which the elements of worship for those who hold to the RP built upon a more comprehensive embracing of sola Scriptura, while those who hold to the normative principle have more freedom to go beyond the prescribed elements of Scripture and add what they believe their "application" of the Scriptures allows? No, I never said that anyone who holds to the normative principle denies sola Scriptura. I know better than that. My main point is that those who embrace the RP begin with that affirmation. And, nevertheless,the RP, I think, is a much more thorough application of it.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your point about some of the difficulties of the RP. There have been, it seems, large controversies trying to make every congregation uniform that ignore the breadth of the tradition of those congregations that have embraced the RP. As D. Thomas says, "The issue has to be focused to ask the question: Is anything in the worship service that should not be there and are all the necessary elements of worship present?" (Give Praise to God, 83). Still, the distinctions between “elements” and “circumstances,” for example, are not false.

You said of me, “You asked if we disregard the NT worship examples as the “basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are.”“ Sigh. No. I was really just asking what the basis was for the added elements. I know that you do not disregard the elements mentioned in Scripture. I was asking a genuine question as to the basis of the elements not mentioned in Scripture (are we speaking past each other, Kevin?).

Later you said, “Under the Normative Principle, some churches allow a five minute drama or a five minute video to serve as a teaching illustration during a church service. Such things would be allowed as adiaphora, but would still be subject to biblical discernment (which is the heart of the matter for Normative Principle churches). For instance, if someone taught that a five minute drama was a new means of grace, it would immediately excluded as heresy.” This is exactly where I get off the boat. Again, to ask what I asked in the article, what basis do you have for adding the element of drama? Why should I, were I a good faith member in your congregation be subject to your tastes as to what should be the elements of worship? How do I know that pleases God? What Biblical basis do you have for that?

This is exactly where Colossians 2 is so helpful in establishing the validity of the Regulative Principle in worship. It says, beginning in verse 16, “16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- 21"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22(referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Why should I be held under the mercy of a drama any more than someone who wants to add a holy day or the worship of angels. Kevin Bauder hits the nail on the head when he said back at NosSobrii regarding these verses, “The tendency to invent, to roll our own at home, is precisely what St. Paul is rebuking in Colossians 2:16-23. When we make up doctrines or practices (including elements of worship) that are not authorized in Scripture, we are no longer worshipping God according to His Word. On the contrary, we are now worshipping our own wills, and will-worship is crass idolatry.”

Perhaps I should let him have the last word.

In response to your side note, I hope I get the chance to study these things all my life.

If you want to keep this going, I am really being profited by the interaction.

2/22/2006 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Yeah, interacting here is kind of like being in the zoo, watching the crazy beasts and wondering how they can live like that, and wondering who is really behind bars.

[My time is limited, but this has been an interesting diversion. I wasn’t going to post again, but you ask a fair question, provoked by my “drama and movie” example that I knew would be exactly where you “got off the boat.” And I understand that my position is foreign to you!]

I’m sure you aren’t asking a question about pastoral leadership here when you ask “if I were a member of your congregation, why should I be subject to your tastes?” I assume you follow [obey] the leadership of your local church [by the way, a few readers here know that the music minister at Fourth mentored me in ministry for many years, and I have enormous respect for his work. Further, Fourth does not follow the Regulative Principle in worship].

Fast answers to the issues at hand. I think you prejudice the question by insisting on naming the issue under your own terms. I’m not at all concerned about whether drama is an “element;” I don’t need a distinction between elements and circumstances to hold my position. So if you were a congregation member who was genuinely seeking an answer, I would begin in Hebrews 5 and introduce the idea by showing that the difference between “good and evil” can only be learned through “the constant use of scripture.” Secondly, I would affirm that biblical prohibitions are real prohibitions and should be obeyed.

[If it seemed necessary at this point, I would show such a person that there is a distinction between Law and Grace. We are under no part of the OT Law; there is no “third use of the Law” that regulates our behavior today. The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith, but after salvation we no longer need this tutor (Galatians 3:21-25). As a result, our lives are enriched by OT history but, through progressive revelation, our ethical behavior is shaped by the teachings of Christ and, especially, the epistles. As a hermeneutical principle, the epistles will be our best source. The apostles give us commands, but these are not “Law,” in that they offer no punishment other than a fractured relationship with Christ that must be repaired through the confession of sin.]

At this point, I would jump into a few NT ethical principles that would help answer a person’s questions as soon as possible. For me, this involves highlighting that man is sinful and capable of creating artistic works that reflect that sin. For this reason, believers must separate from “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” and this means that some forms and styles can’t be used in worship. After establishing this baseline (which is crucial), I’d continue with NT discernment principles, emphasizing that “the deeds of the flesh are obvious” (not hidden or esoteric); these sinful forms can be immediately identified and rejected by anyone who is seeking after God. [and I’ll skip over some details regarding biblical discernment so I don’t duplicate the stuff I promised to post on Scott’s site] As you understand, the discernment process I use to evaluate church worship services is the same process I would use to evaluate any aspect of the Christian life. I do this because I believe worship is an “all of life” activity rather than a Sunday morning activity; and because I believe there is no NT distinction between the ethical decision making in a church service and the process used any other time. As noted in a previous post, I affirm the examples in the NT narrative regarding proper activities in church, but I’m no church Luddite. I’m comfortable using a method of technology to help the church's worship, mutual edification, the declaration or teaching of biblical truth, or for fellowship.

And, this may surprise you, I would use Col. 2 as support for this kind of biblical discernment. I’d emphasize that our worship should not be “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind;” this will lead to a rejection of any worship that does not “hold fast to the Head.” All of our ideas about worship must be Christocentric, whatever format they take. On this point you got it wrong; the passage is not ruling out a particular form or technology—it’s much more broad. It’s ruling out anything that does not have Christ as its center (and it gives the example of angel worship, asceticism, personal visions, human reason), but it is not making a ruling on pipe organs, pitch pipes, stereopticon slides, or movie projectors.

In fact, our human “pronouncements” about such things is just what the passage is condemning. In my teaching of this passage, I always point out that any attempt to ban “dotted rhythms” or “stopped anapestic beats” or “movie projectors” will always amount to a “taste not, touch not rule” that does nothing to stop sensuous living. This is why biblical discernment—the chief weapon of those living under Grace—is so important.

2/23/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, I am not sure how to take your first paragraph. If it is a knock, I probably deserve it. If it is anything else, it is completely incoherent. But I like that sort of thing . . . incoherence, that is.

If you are referring to Roger Kilian, I love the man dearly. I have very high regard for him, just as you do.

I agree with your Heb 5 principle, and I think I nearly agree with you on Law and Gospel, but I would probably offer little differences here and there. Those points seem somewhat incidental to our discussion.

When you go from your principle “the deeds of the flesh are obvious” (not hidden or esoteric);” all the way to say that that phrase means “these sinful forms can be immediately identified and rejected by anyone who is seeking after God.” I would respectfully disagree. We are far too prone to self-deception and idolatry. All I have to do is look at the vast majority of American evangelicalism for that to be quite obvious. For example, all I have to say is that I seek after God, and that I find movies to be a “work of the flesh.” Besides, we are not talking about sinful or good forms. We are talking about what God finds acceptable in worship, which may be a completely different question. Is cooking sinful? No. But should a little cooking show be part of a worship service? No! I could ask the same concerning the “one flesh” relationship between a husband and wife.

This would tie into your statement, “I believe worship is an “all of life” activity rather than a Sunday morning activity; and because I believe there is no NT distinction between the ethical decision making in a church service and the process used any other time.” So if all of life is “worship,” and there are no distinctions, why not show a Christian movie instead of having a service at all? And why not have the Lord’s table at home on a Thursday night with your wife and kids? Are there distinctions between these things? When does “church” start and when does “church” end. You yourself say there are “no distinctions.” Hmmm. This sounds like it came from America and equalitarianism.

I am not sure that I warrant the term Luddite. I have condemned both movies and drama, and even opera! My beef is not with technology, though technology should be used responsibly. Someday, the church I pastor will probably have at least some use of technology . . . maybe lights, or air-conditioning . . . maybe even a microphone (though I’m not sure I’ll need one).

Then you said, “our worship should not be “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind;” this will lead to a rejection of any worship that does not “hold fast to the Head.” All of our ideas about worship must be Christocentric, whatever format they take. On this point you got it wrong; the passage is not ruling out a particular form or technology—it’s much more broad. It’s ruling out anything that does not have Christ as its center.”

Whoa, there. First of all, this discussion is not about technology. I am the one, it seems who is adhering to what Christ prescribes and going no further. I am the one who is putting Christ as the center of worship. You are the one adding the elements you prefer to those listed in Scripture to worship the One True and Living God, based on your hopefully [!] correctly “trained senses.” Are you saying that the one who adheres only to what the Scripture allows is “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind”?

Finally, you said, In fact, our human “pronouncements” about such things is just what the passage is condemning. Again, this is not about human “pronouncements.” This is about what the Scripture prescribes. Is it a human pronouncement to say that the Bible alone will regulate what we include in worship? If I add a new category of church leadership (I am thinking “Duke” or Chief Koombah”) in the name of Christ, am I adding a “touch not, handle not” “human pronouncement” if you protest? If I add a few new sacraments in the name of Christ (something like last rights and baseball games is what I’m thinking) is that a “touch not, taste not” “human pronouncement” if you protest?

Well, I guess I have to “follow” you and “let” you violate my conscience with your “whims” of worship preference. Yipee. I can’t wait to worship.

Okay, that was a little sarcastic (I mean that paragraph in fun), but you are not really answering that point of mine very well. What about my conscience? Where do you get the right to tell me that we have a new way of worshipping God when I do not see such a warrant to include these elements from Scripture? Where does my conscience come in? Why must my freedom to worship the Holy Son of God be so upset by your freedom to impose your random religious preferences, and going even above Scripture, the very book the Lord’s Spirit inspired for his church?

By the way, I am kind of getting mixed signals from you. I expected this conversation to fall flat because you do not believe the church is for worship. Yet you seem to be conceding that point at several instances:

“I’d emphasize that our worship . . .”

“. . . a rejection of any worship . . .”

“All of our ideas about worship . . .”

“I’m comfortable using a method of technology to help the church's worship . . .”

Etc.


Sorry to badger you a bit about after a perfectly polite response.

2/24/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I don’t consider this badgering, since the person you construct in your reply barely resembles me. You’ve asked a few fair questions, and if you are genuinely confused I think I owe you the time for another answer; I pray that I write clearly.

About my use of the word “worship”: Yes, I do refer to worship when the church gathers on Sunday morning, because I believe that this is one of the purposes of the gathered church. I don’t believe this is the only time we worship, and I don’t believe that worship is the only thing the church does when it gathers. So don’t be scared if I suddenly use the word in reference to a church service (and I’ve used it a few times in the article I just gave Scott).

About your conscience: I don’t see how anything I’ve written violates the theological idea of individual soul liberty, neither do I believe it to be inconsistent with the way Baptists have practiced the idea. If you lived in Ames, I’d probably counsel you to join another church—you would violate your own conscience too many times if you attended our church. If a member of my church regularly attacked a policy of our church in a public way (say, in a blog), I’d probably sit down with the member and counsel them.

About Col 2: I knew my approach with the passage would irritate you. Here is what I would like you to consider: First, the context of the passage is not limited to the gathered church on Sunday morning. The main difference between the RP and the NP is that your position treats Sunday morning worship differently than the rest of the week (ie, the RP accepts adiaphora the rest of the week, just not in the worship service). So, you need to make your point using a passage that is limiting itself to worship as a “Sunday Morning Gathered Church” thing. Citing a passage that has “all of life” as its context does nothing for you. Second, I believe v. 16-17 are not restricting the believer, they are freeing the believer. Clearly Paul is allowing individual believers to decide whether they wish to eat a particular food or observe a feast day (Paul is being consistent with himself, though he does not bring up his “weaker brother” qualification that he mentions elsewhere). Verses 16-17 are, if anything, adiaphora. Paul says “don’t let anyone judge” whether your practice on these issues is wrong. Third, I believe v. 18-19 addresses doctrinal error that must be condemned and exposed: angel worship, asceticism, personal visions, and over-emphasis on human reason. I’m happy to condemn all that Paul is condemning here. And I agree with Bauder that the common element among these is a “roll your own theology.” Fourth, v. 23 concludes the adiaphora idea introduced in 16-17. The net effect is to allow the individual to decide certain matters for themselves—a prohibition of “taste not, touch not” rules. If I could attempt to isolate our differences in this passage, I would be happy to identify as adiaphora some of the “trends” that concern you; you would not.

Your post seems to indicate, obliquely, that you are opposed to doctrinal error and I’m not. Here is where I must apologize for writing too quickly or too obscurely. Surely I’ve failed to write well (you said “you’re not answering my point well”), or maybe you’ve been unfair? I want to think the best about you, and I doubt you wish to imply that only your position features orthodox theology. It is possible that your literary style tends toward hyperbole, which makes you a good blogger and sometimes makes me a nerd. But I personally don’t see how your examples of “a little cooking show…part of a worship service.” or “the Lord’s table at home on a Thursday night with your wife and kids,” or “a new category of church leadership (I am thinking ‘Duke’ or ‘Chief Koombah’” are anything close to what I’ve suggested. It is for this reason that I take no offense; again, the person you construct in your reply barely resembles me.

About progressive sanctification: you have correctly identified the challenge of my position, in that it relies on fallen and regenerated people to make spiritual decisions. Yes, I agree that a spiritually immature person could make the wrong decision (call this sin) and make wrong worship choices. But I’m not sure how this negates the truth of “the deeds of the flesh are obvious.” All you have succeeded in demonstrating is that immature people act immature. You use the word “hopefully” to suggest that we can’t trust our people to become spiritually mature. I’m resting in what Ketcham once called “God’s provision for normal Christian living.” I can’t be a musical priest, stepping in making every decision for our church members. (Though yes, we do have rules). If I am to do my job correctly, I should be building disciples who recognize that “the deeds of the flesh are obvious.”

Ryan—there’s a system at work here. I understand that it is not your system or your position, but I’m laboring to integrate my theology into my life and worship. If any of this discussion has interested you, good, I’ve been happy to talk to you. But I need to move on…blessings.

2/24/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin,

I am truly sorry if I can across as accusing you of advocating cooking shows, new leadership titles, or anything else.

I know I have a tendency towards hyperbole, and I am sorry that I have not been treating your argument fairly.

Really, what I intended to ask is What mechanism do you have in place to forbid these from worship? If there are no distinctions between worship and "all of life" (and these are part of "all of life"), why do movies get a pass and these do not? On what basis do you forbid 1) "cooking shows," (let's say for the purpose of teaching) 2) new sacraments, or 3) new leadership roles, and not movies? I think this is a straightforward question. Hopefully I have stated it in a fairer way.

Let's say I want to have as part of the worship service a wrestling demonstration, maybe to teach or to show the glory of God in creating man. Why would you say yes or no to that? I am not saying you would (I would hope you would not!), I want to know your method of saying No.

I hope you will favor me with a return and an answer.

2/24/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Mud wrestling or jello?

In either case, will they be fully immersed, or just sprinkled with goo?

Will they be wearing singlets?

[okay. busy right now. more later.]

2/24/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I nearly said mud wrestling, so let's go with that.

2/24/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Okay Ryan. I quickly clipped the headings from some other stuff I’m working on right now, just to give you a fast answer on where I’d head on the idea of musical discernment. This is fast hack job, sorry about the incomplete cut and paste.

Part of this assumes that we’ve already built a few fences that put both of us inside the same chorale. For instance, we would have to agree on a similar epistemology (one that embraces some form of critical realism). And we’d have to agree on a few core theological beliefs (I would list the following as “fences” that would separate orthodox church musicians from the rest of the church music world: The Bible is true, The Bible can be understood by all, Scripture is sufficient, All people are individually accountable to God, All people are depraved, New Testament believers live under grace, not Law, The role of the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture, convicts of sin, and sanctifies the believer) Again, I’m just cutting and pasting so you get a quick idea of where I would go…

Next, I’d emphasize these teaching points in discernment:
1. Discernment through Bible study.
2. Discernment in the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Discernment through grace principles for godly living.
4. Discerning weights to our spiritual life.
5. Discernment by separation from ungodliness.
6. Discernment and communication to the world.
7. Discernment and the weak believer.
8. Discernment and Christian liberty.

And, if you’ve read what I posted on Scott’s website, you can see how I might work these out on a practical, local level. Got to run. I’ve got the garden hose running into the baptistery, and the Jello sets up pretty fast if you don’t watch it carefully.

2/24/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No, Kevin. I know I am sounding persnickety (spelling?), but I want you to reason how wrestling is not appropriate for worship while drama or movies is. Again, if there is no distinction between worship on Sunday morning and other times, why can't a family have the Lord's table at home among themselves? Why can't we introduce new sacraments? Why can't we introduce new leadership? Or liturgical dance or some ballet of a Bible story? Why not mud wrestling or cooking shows this Sunday . . . particularly since all of life is worship?

Why "yes" to movies, and "no" to all these other things? I do not want your principles. I want to see your reasoning powers specifically at work. Let's assume that I am going to embrace every principle you believe. Let me see your reasoning at work.

I am asking all of this respectfully. I want to understand the position, partly so that I can speak against it coherently, partly so that I can understand my own. There is also the possibility that I may change my position (I believe that even those who embrace the normative principle should forbid drama and movies). I am also not seeing from your principles why I could not include these different specific elements, particularly if all of life is "worship." For example, I can play "shoots and ladders" with my kids to the glory of God. Why can't I shoots and ladders as part of a worship service to the glory of God? There is no distinction right?

2/24/2006 03:44:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Religious movies and the regulative principle

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Religious movies and the regulative principle

We are nearly finished now. I have been discussing the presumption that movies (or drama, by inference) should be used for evangelistic ends. I know I have been testing the patience of my readers with this, but I try not to get caught up in the time-defying fury of blogging. Your patience has been appreciated. Other posts in this series include:




A Response to Jason Janz's "Why we say 'Gospel'"




A continued response to the idea of religious movies







An Incitement to Postman (by Joel Zartman)







A continued response to the idea of religious movies: Tozer on acting







and, more incidently:







Speaking of religious movies







Spurgeon's protege finally speaks out against religious movies






My final plea is an appeal to the Regulative principle. I believe that all the previous reasons I have given thus far are sufficient more or less to cause a man in Christian leadership not to use religious movies (or even drama) in worship. The appeal of this article, I believe, is the strongest reason why we should not use religious movies for worship.


Christian leaders have always been tempted to introduce novel elements to worship. Whenever we decide to branch out from what God has prescribed, we hazard ourselves and our progeny. That the Lord Jesus was zealous for purity in worship is seen in his cleansing the temple. One shudders to think what he would think of our movie house temples today. Would he start with the projectors or the screen?


Tozer admonishes,

"Every generation is sure to have its ambitious amateur to come up with some shiny gadget which he proceeds to urge upon the priests before the altar. That the Scriptures do not justify its existence does not seem to bother him at all. . . . Soon it is identified in the minds of the Christian public with all that is good and holy. Then, of course, to attack the gadget is to attack the Truth itself" ("The Menace of the Religious Movie," in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment [Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997], 184-85).
Protestants have long been criticizing the extra elements imposed by the Roman Catholic Church, yet our own versions of worship go by unscathed.


The basis for the Regulative Principle stems from sola scriptura. Only the Holy Scriptures may direct the form and content of Christian worship. The Bible is God-breathed, profitable and sufficient for the all of the church's life, whether teaching or correction (2 Tim 3:16); this must include the corporate worship of the body of Christ. Paul instructed the Colossian church in Colossians 3:16-17 to have the Word of Christ dwelling richly in their midst. If the Bible is our primary source for theology, then it is our primary source for ordering and regulating worship as well. One could also bring up many other theological themes in Scripture, like mankind's sinful bent toward idolatry, the "truth" side of John 4:24, and the very nature of the Church's submission to Christ as Lord. I do not have time to give a full-fledged defense of the Regulative Principle here, but the basis stems from certain texts (like Acts 17:24-25, Col 2:16-23), but also from the principle, found in both Old and New Testament, that God does not delight in "humanly devised" worship.

The Second London Confession (1677) says,

"The acceptable way of Worshipping the the [sic] 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 representations, or any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures" (XXII.1, in William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith [Valley Forge: Judson, 1959], 280).
The Second London Confession was a Baptist confession; we are talking about a Baptist principle (for example, have you ever wondered why Baptists have only two ordinances or sacraments? You can see the comments of another Baptist, Mark Dever, on this here). Of course, these men realized that certain circumstances of worship were prudential. Earlier the 2nd London Confession says,
"There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church common to humane 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" (I.6 in Ibid.)
The important distinction here is between elements of worship and the circumstances of worship. The elements of worship are solely those things Biblically prescribed (prayer, Bible reading, singing, administration of the sacraments, preaching, etc). The circumstances include incidental matters (posture, place of meeting, times of services, etc.). And even though they allowed for some liberty in these matters, the Baptist confession (and the Reformed tradition) still admonished us to monitor these things "ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word." Let me say this clearly: Religious movies do not fall under the "circumstances" of worship. You cannot hold to any form of the Regulative Principle and accept movies as a legitimate element of worship. I agree with what Kevin Bauder said (on his sadly now dormant blog), "None of us has been granted the authority to . . . deploy a single new practice that is not revealed in Scripture." He adds,
"Why are any of [the extra-Scriptural elements] thought to be expedient? Because they are meaningful to God? How would we know that? Only if He tells us. Otherwise, any notion of expedience simply signifies that they are meaningful to us. In other words, we are doing them because they please us, not because they please Him. And that is simply another way of saying idolatry."
J. Ligon Duncan III echoes similar sentiments when he says,
"The key benefit of the regulative principle is that it helps to assure that God--not man--is the supreme authority for how corporate worship is to be conducted, by assuring that the Bible, God's own special revelation (and not our own opinions, tastes, likes, and theories), is the prime factor in our conduct of and approach to corporate worship" ("Does God Care How We Worship?" in Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship: Celebrating the Legacy of James Montgomery Boice [ed., P. G. Ryken, D. W. H. Thomas, and J. L. Duncan III; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003], 24).
Again, to reiterate my point, the Bible must be our sole authority, and this includes the elements with which the Church worships. Religious movies and drama receive absolutely no warrant from Scripture. We have just as much warrant to introduce "Christian cooking seminars" as part of the corporate worship of the Church. Some may give examples of the number of souls won through the use of movies in evangelism. I am sure that Christian cooking seminars, if they only had the chance, would produce similar effects. Neither have the privilege of a Biblical warrant.

One wonders how many of those advocating the religious movie would react if I proposed that we start housing religious operas on Sunday morning or for our casual entertainment.


A. W. Tozer asks,

"For the religious movie where is the authority? For such a serious departure from the ancient pattern, where is the authority? For introducing into the Church the pagan art of acting, where is the authority? Let the movie advocates quote just one verse, from any book of the Bible, in any translation, to justify its use. This they cannot do. The best they can do is to appeal to the world's psychology or repeat brightly that 'modern times call for modern methods.' But the Scriptures--quote from them one verse to authorize movie acting as an instrument of the Holy Ghost. This they cannot do. ("Menace," 199).
Tozer, in saying this, knew that some would believe that movies are simply a new medium to communicate the gospel--an improvement on writing and speech. To this he responded: "The movie is not the modernization or improvement of any scriptural method; rather it is a medium in itself wholly foreign to the Bible and altogether unauthorized therein" (Ibid., 199). He adds, "Arguments for the religious movie are sometimes clever and always shallow, but there is never any real attempt to cite scriptural authority" (Ibid., 200).



It simply will not do to say to all of this, "I am not a Regulative Principle purist." Those who embrace the Regulative Principle do so with a profound concern for its purity. A great number of contemporary evangelicals and fundamentalists, of course, today reject the Regulative Principle. But those who embrace it do so with its purity in the forefront of their mind. Moreover, what right have you or anybody else to inflict your whims of religious experience and preference on other believers? How do you know that God is pleased with your little "Christian" movie? You have absolutely no warrant or mandate from Scripture. We should mourn the state of the church we have now stooped to the point where in so many corners the Bible no longer holds a firm sway over the Church's worship. Is Christianity a mere man-made religion that one feels the liberty to trifle in this way with great and holy God Jehovah? Where is Jesus Christ in all of this? Where is his Lordship? It would be an extremely good thing in American Christianity for pastors everywhere to remember the examples of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 or Paul's sober words in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 before they ever acted so carelessly with the Church's holy worship.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Wow, that last paragraph was a zinger, but well-warranted.

2/21/2006 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for the post…I’ve been curious about this for a while, especially after Bauder’s series of posts on the Regulative Principle [by the way, has he retired his blog? Sad day]. I’m not negative about your concern over whacky “Christian” movies, but I have a few negative thoughts about this line of thinking.

I noticed your Reformed citations here. I agree with you that Reformed Baptists have held to a Regulative Principle, including those like Dever who follow after the Second London Confession (1689) and the Philadelphia Confession (1742). Both of these have major portions in common with the Westminster Confession and Puritan ideals, and teach the Regulative Principle as a result. I’m sure you are aware that the groups you cite here use a covenantal approach to theology in which the believer is still bound by certain aspects of the law--a covenantal understanding of “whatever I command you, you should be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).

I understand you didn’t want to mount a full defense of the Regulative Principle—but I’m afraid it will come to that, eventually. I felt your post seriously glossed over what is not just the majority Baptist position—it’s a vast majority. Dispensational and moderately Calvinistic Baptist groups with roots in the New Hampshire Confession (1833) almost never hold to a Regulative Principle in worship (and it is unheard of among Baptists who are non-Calvinists).

I think it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain a proper distinction between Law and Grace and still affirm the Regulative Principle as it is traditionally taught. This is why Bauder’s work interested me—he attempted to frame his appeal from the New Testament (something that was not done in historic defenses of the idea). I found his work interesting because I don’t know of many other Baptists who hold his distinction between Law and Grace and yet still affirm the RP. I’m not demeaning his position, which is carefully reasoned—I’m merely pointing out that Baptists who defend the RP from the New Testament are a small subset of a tiny minority.

While admiring your courage in questioning Christians, I think it might be better for those who hold this position to focus on Tozer, McClain, and Delnay, rather than the RP. In general, I’m worried that the recent flap over the RP will turn into another of those “morality of music” things where we try to define orthodoxy over a non-essential idea, and then waste thirty years arguing over the meaning of the term rather than the meaning of Scripture. Has a renewed emphasis on the Regulative Principle helped the Presbyterians toward more conservative worship? Or unified ideas on worship? Not according to John Frame; he uses the RP to defend his use of contemporary Praise and Worship music.

2/21/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Kevin, just a slight correction to something you said because I just read about this.

Frame doesn't hold to the RP as articulated by the WC or SLBC. In several places (I don't have the info in front of me, but I will try to post it when I get home) he argues against the RP, while at the same time formulating his own adjusted "RP" involving the application of biblical principels. Therefore he does not defend P&W by using the traditional RP, but a modified form of his own creation.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and ask you a question, Ryan, about the RP. We are against viewing the Bible as an "encyclopeida of prohibitions." You've read an excellent article by Makujina on this subject, I know. How would you differentiate this kind of view from viewing the Bible as an "encyclopedia of acceptabilities," especially as it relates to the RP?

If I am unclear, please let me know. I have to run to class right now.

2/21/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, thank you for your response, its tone, and the good points you made. You are right in nearly everything you say, though I am interested in the Baptist approach to the RP. I sense that even the non "Reformed Baptists," to a certain extent, embrace a kind of "loose" regulative principle, in that it seems like Baptists from their earliest history have always been going back to Scriptures to prove their positions. I have not been able to find much on that yet. You are right and charitable to acknowledge that the point of my post was not to give a full-orbed history or defense of the Regulative Principle here. I have read a bit of John Frame, and are aware of some of his objections.

You raise some good points about a dispensational regulative principle as well. I again want to reiterate that my thinking on this is infantile. Yet I think we can go to some key New Testament passages to find its warrant. I mentioned some above: Col 2, Col 3, and 2 Tim 3. When you said, "I think it would be exceedingly difficult to maintain a proper distinction between Law and Grace and still affirm the Regulative Principle as it is traditionally taught," I understand your sentiment, but do not necessarily share it. I believe we have enough in the New Testament to warrant the principle.

I suppose I do not necessarily share your concerns. Theology is important, and so is hashing these things out. It does no good for us to "gloss over" these kinds of questions, just as an attempt at veiled unity. These questions are important, as soon as Pastor Whoever rolls out the movie projector some Sunday morning or the evangelistic crusade.

Nevertheless, I really do appreciate what you said, and hope that we can discuss these things. Perhaps I will give a dispensational defense of the RP a shot, though prudence would give me some restraint in doing that until a bit further down the road. In the meantime, let me ask you a question related to "Law and Grace," and the continuity of the testaments. What do you think of the 2nd commandment's validity today? Are we allowed to make graven images or idols to aid us in our worship of God today? How should a NT Christian approach this question in your opinion?

2/21/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

OK, here is the info I mentioned about Frame's view of the RP: he introduced his views on the RP in a 1992 journal article ("Some Questions About the Regulative Principle," WTJ 54:357-66) and went on to expand them in Worship in Spirit and Truth. My main point here is that Frame is not a good mouthpiece for the traditional Reformed view of the RP, nor can his defence of P&W be thus linked to the RP.

OK, I was definately unclear in my question to Ryan. Let's give it another try. I (and I know you) are against a veiw of the Bible that sees it simply as an encyclopedia of prohibitions. Instead, I view it as a window into the mind of God, an account of principles by which we can and should make right conclusions regarding adiaphora.

What I am wondering is if we who hold to the RP could be accused of doing the opposite -- viewing the Bible as only an encyclopedia listing those things that we are allowed to do.

If I'm still not clear, please let me know. But if I am, what would you say to such a charge?

2/21/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Scott—yes, I agree that Frame has provided an expanded definition for the term “Regulative Principle”—though he was laboring hard to demonstrate he was solidly in the Reformed tradition. I was trying to suggest that this (like the “morality of music”) is another argument over buzzwords. Now, because of Frame, we have to spend time discussing the meaning of the term, rather than the meaning of Scripture. In this regard, I think he fits my example pretty well. [Interesting thing about Frame: he does this while advocating sola scriptura as a theological method].

Ryan—I wish I had printed off Bauder’s RP stuff before his blog went down; maybe you can con him out of an archived copy. To answer your question: I think the NT teaching is that God is a spirit (John 4) and that we should not believe He is anything like the images man creates (Acts 17:29), and that these idols are merely hunks of wood and stone and sometimes celluloid (1Cor. 8:4), and that God’s children should stay away from idols (1 John 5:21). I would invoke this idea whenever I felt that the viewers were actually worshipping the screen or the actors as idols. As we know, the American Idol can be a real problem, not just an imaginary one. And it doesn’t have to be wood or stone; the idol could be green paper or “quality family time” or free enterprise or European art music (whoops, sorry).

But, ordinarily, I believe it is possible to view an object without automatically making it an idol at every viewing. Idolatry is an attitude, right? I don’t have to physically bow in order to worship an idol. And the sin is in me, not the thing, right? I could gaze upon Scott and make him an idol and worship at his blog – but this sin would not be Scott’s problem, it would be my sinful attitude (okay, goofy example).

The difference between the OT and NT, for me, is this: I do not need to fear punishment or wrath for my transgressions of idolatry (I’m free from the Law). Rather, my sin in this area brings a barrier between me and God; I miss out on God’s fellowship and blessings (I’m bound by grace). Interesting to think about this stuff.

2/21/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Scott, I'm going to answer your question, I promise.

This discussion not only opens up the whole RP debate (which is no small controversy), but the relationship of Law and Gospel debate (anyone solved that one yet?). I like some of your thoughts on idols, but I think you go too far at the end when you say that the matter is solely in the heart. We can discuss that another time. Thank you for that. I have many musings on the Christian and the Law, but this is not the place for that either. The truth of the matter is that I think we can defend the RP from NT grounds, and even cite coventant theologians here and there while we do it. Perhaps that may seem wrong to some, but the entire argument they present is not argued from the basis of covenant theology.

Kevin, I have another question for you, if I may be so bold. I am wondering if you have read anything respectable that discusses Baptists and the RP. I tried finding some stuff while I was preparing this, but came up somewhat short in my work.

2/21/2006 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Those last two paragraphs were for Kevin, by the way.

2/21/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

D.A. Carson discusses this a bit in Worship by the Book. He's Reformed Baptist, I think, but does not fully embrace the RP idea. And he touches on it during his online interview at: http://www.beginningwithmoses.org/articles/carsonworship.htm

Quote from there: "I would want to argue-speaking as a Baptist-that where the freedom and innovation of the Baptist heritage is combined with a profound biblical grasp, it is the best of all possibilities. In practice, of course, it can lead to people just doing the same thing every week, but not nearly as well as Cranmer did it, if you see what I mean!"

Peter Masters also addresses the issue in Worship in the Melting Pot (but here's a classic example of the problems with the Reformed Baptist RP position-- Masters holds that the instruments in Psalm 150 are figurative and devotional, not literal--so we shouldn't use them in church, either.)

In the end, I'm not sure I'd argue that the RP is a historically Baptist position. The best one could say is that certain English Baptists--who had political reasons for wanting to look as Presbyterian as possible--affirmed the RP in the Second London Confession. I'd love to have someone research how this worked in practice. At the time, folks used the RP to both condemn and affirm organs, so I've always wondered how useful the concept really is. Couldn't you argue your point without it?

Another problem: People who hold the RP usually limit it to worship, and generally practice adiaphora in other aspects of life. So, to practice the RP correctly, it seems you also have to argue and defend that the only purpose for the gathered church on Sunday morning is for worship. Otherwise, it's pretty much a moot point. A pastor could theoretically claim that a five-minute drama or movie was a teaching illustration, not "worship," and therefore allowable because of the mutual edification and fellowship aspects of the gathered church. And...as we've previously discussed, it's exceedingly difficult to rule out mutual edification and fellowship as activities of the gathered church. Yes, we could also label these activitites "a kind of worship," and then use the RP to regulate them (and to rule out drama and movies, if that is our intention). But then we're in another bind...if we resort to the "all of life is worship" argument and then claim the RP applies all of the time, that would seem to extend the RP further than any of the reformers were willing to do.

Seems to get messy pretty fast. I like what you are doing here, but I remain unconvinced that the RP will be a helpful teaching tool.

2/21/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, the point is not whether the RP is a useful "teaching tool." The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship. Those who argue for the regulative principle explain many of the difficulties with which you are concerned in stride.

My question, again, is the source of your history of Baptists and the RP. I could be totally off base. I have some reasons for my reasoning, and I would be happy in turn to provide them. Moreover, I am not sure I would be so quick to judge that the Baptists held to the RP for "political reasons." Even if that is coming from in a scholarly source, can we judge their motives so easily? I am interested in your sources that you are reading that are discussing historically Baptists and the RP.

2/21/2006 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Here are some remarks on Baptists and the regulative principle I have found:

"Historically, Baptists have developed their practice of biblical authority in light of the “regulative principle,” summary by Jeff Robinson of T. Nettles' Ready for Reformation.

The London Confession of 1644 (which comes before the Westminister Confession), and is described by Lumpkin as more "moderate" Calvinism, says in article VII, "The Rule of this Knowledge, Faith, and Obedience, concerning the worship and service of God, and all other Christian duties, is not mans inventions, opinions, devices, lawes, constitutions, or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but onely the word of God contained in the Canonicall Scriptures."

This is good, though not related to Baptists per se.

Another General Baptist confession, the Faith and Practice of the Thirty Congregations (1644) says in article 46, "That whosoever shall preach, teach, or practise any doctrine in the worship of God, pretending it in the name of Jesus Christ, which is not to be heard or read of in the record of God, which was given by inspiration of the holy Ghost; such teachers are lyable to the curse of God, howsoever, countenanced by men, Gal. I.8,9."

Scott, I going to finally try to answer your question. I am concerned to say that the Bible does not address every matter in life. It is not intended to show me the exact answer for every question of the will of God in daily living. The Bible does not address of how I can feel good or be comfortable. Neither does it tell me what I should eat. It is not that these matters are unimportant, for we are to "do all to the glory of God." But it does not address these things. Does the Bible intend to address the divinity of Christ? Yes. We place ourselves under submission of the Scriptures in understanding the nature of Christ; we, as followers of Christ, follow the teachings of his apostles and prophets in the Holy Scriptures to understand the nature of Christ. I am arguing that the writings of the apostles and the prophets intend to address how we as believers in the Lord Jesus are to worship him (1 Tim 3:14-15), not only individually in each book, but canonically by virtue of God's sovereignty in inspiring the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16). In other words, the Bible is not a specific rule book for every minutia of life, because it does not intend to address every minutia of life. It does, however, intend to address the elements and content of the Church's worship. And since it does so, we place ourselves under its authority specific to that end. As far as the forms and circumstances of worship (I am using technical terminology here), these are not specifically addressed, and thereby become adiaphora relative to prudential wisdom in the spirit of still placing oneself under the authority of revealed will of the Lord for worship in the Holy Scripture.

How's that?

2/21/2006 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Greg Wills says this in his chapter in Polity concerning the Baptists of the 18th and 19th centuries:

"Baptists believed, with most Protestants, that the practices of the apostolic churches were normative in all things essential to their worship, government, and discipline. Christ commissioned the apostles to establish his churches according to his pattern. He ruled the churches as their head and king. Since the apostolic churches exercised authority as democracies,
Baptists argued, so ought all other churches. Christ required all churches to follow the divine pattern" (21).

2/22/2006 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

There are so many quotations from Baptists when one begins to simply look, which by coincidence slightly corresponds with a paper I am working on. I like this is one from John Quincy Adams, "Baptists, the Only Thorough Religious Reformers" (1876):

"Now Baptists are opposed to tradition, any where and every where; whether they find it in the Church of Rome, or in Protestant churches. They aim to elevate the Word of God above tradition, as the standard of duty in all places. It is professedly the grand doctrine of Protestantism – which Protestants themselves have abandoned – that Baptists steadily maintain. They aim to bring all to this standard. They, themselves, have always adhered to the Bible. Did any one ever hear of Baptists being charged with following tradition? The charge would be ridiculously absurd; for they have always opposed tradition as a guide in matters of religious duty."

2/22/2006 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And there's one more thing I want to say.

Everyone who disagrees with me is a stupid idiot. If they had the least bit of intelligence, they would see that I am right.

2/22/2006 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I appreciate your honesty, Ryan, but I don't understand why you felt the need to state this as though it were "news." Hasn't that been your position all along?

2/22/2006 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger hoosierdaddy said...

I find this topic interesting and informing. I'm trying to gather your thoughts on this. Are religious movies and dramas outside of the church acceptable, say in a one on one scenario? Or does this apply to all forms of worship?
I found the phrase referring to the projector and screen humorous and disturbing. Are these wrong for church in and of themselves? Just some quick questions. Will listen.

2/22/2006 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Hey Ryan, peace. It’s your blog, so I’ll post and leave you with the last word.

You mentioned that “The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship.” But this isn’t quite the point, unless you are going deliberately mischaracterize the other position. The real question is: does the Bible regulate worship any differently than it regulates all of life? In this regard, I agree that the (first) London Confession got it right, equating “the worship and service of God,” with “all other Christian duties.” But this isn’t what the RP was teaching.

The Reformed understanding of the RP treated worship differently than the rest of life. Its purpose was to exclude the idea of adiaphora in worship, while affirming adiophora in other matters of life. The RP was designed for those churches who believed that the church was an extension of Israel and that NT worship is an extension of the OT Temple. As you know, I believe NT worship is an “all of life” activity, not limited to a time and place (such as the Temple or Sunday morning.) The Regulative Principle can’t “regulate” a church service unless its advocates can demonstrate that the church service is ONLY for worship. Otherwise, other elements (such as a sermon-illustration drama or a fellowship-oriented video) can creep into the service listed as “mutual edification” or “fellowship.” Let me mention again: it is exceedingly difficult to rule out mutual edification and fellowship as legitimate practices of the gathered church!

The Baptists who historically affirm the Regulative Principle also affirm covenant theology. Jeff Robinson’s quote is correct, as long as he admits he’s only referring to Baptists with covenant theology. As your own survey of the literature indicates, those who defend the RP use texts from OT Law, such as Deut 12:32, and they do so in the context of Calvin, Westminster, Presbyterianism, and covenant theology. It was a Puritan ideal. It would be great for a historian to trace the RP among Baptist churches (to my knowledge, this is yet to be done), but I suspect it will turn into “Where’s Waldo.”

I wonder if the Regulative Principle ever really regulated anything? It was too difficult to fully define the idea, or explain the difference between an “element” and a “circumstance.” So we ended up with lots of discussions over what Calvin really meant and what the terms really meant. But the meaning of scripture….?

2/22/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Sometimes it is just good to go and state the obvious.

Hoosierdaddy, I believe that no movie or drama should ever depict a religious theme--not for evangelism, certainly not in church, nor in the theater.

Kevin, I appreciate your sticking it out. I did not intend to be overwhelming, but I kept finding different by earlier Baptists. I am not sure where you are finding the connection between the Old Testament and this in the selections I quoted. I have yet to see the entire argument for the Regulative Principle begin with the Old Testament. I nearly always see it begin with sola Scriptura. Moreover, there were no developed "dispensational" theology until the late 19th century (arguably the 20th). The point is that if you tie it necessarily to covenant theology, you have a point. But I do not believe that you must at all. In fact, I have briefly argued here without such an appeal. Thereby your protest disappears. Your hunch about the trend of the RP being nonexistent among Baptists is hard for you to prove, I realize (since you must argue to a certain extent from silence or find arguments to the contrary). But I have provided numerous instances to the contrary, and even purposefully steered away from the more Calvinistic Baptists (like the Reformed Baptists, etc). All Baptists have always submitted to the authority of Scriptures in all the matters of the church.

Nevertheless, we differ in the purpose of the gathered Church, so this is probably a futile discussion. I am not sure where the difficulty lies in understanding the difference between element and circumstance, but I am sure those things are debated.

I know you said you were going to bow out, but I would like to ask you a question in response. If the Scripture is not binding in prescribing the church's activities when it is gathered together, what is your basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are?

2/22/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

By the way, for all who are offended by my calling those who disagree with "idiots," I am merely having fun with something I was accused of on another blog.

2/22/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

AAAk. Short on time here, got to run. I wasn’t bothered by the idiot comment, but on one point you seem to have unfairly characterized the other position. You’ve said “The point is whether or not the Bible regulates the church's worship,” and now you’ve implied the other side believes “…Scripture is not binding in prescribing the church's activities when it is gathered together.” But it might be possible that the other side is reading and applying the the Bible, too. Yes?

It’s more accurate to say that I believe that NT interpretation is the same for “the worship and service of God” as “all other Christian duties.” In other words, I believe adiaphora is possible in a church service—a position that is often labeled the Normative Principle. It would be a serious mistake to imply that only one side (yours) affirms sola scriptura. Luther practiced the Normative Principle and Calvin practiced the Regulative Principle, but both affirmed sola scriptura.

Those who practice the Normative Principle—allowing adiophora in worship as in all of life—have no need for the false distinction between “elements” and “circumstance.” You asked if we disregard the NT worship examples as the “basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are.” No. Some of the examples we affirm include: scripture reading (1 Tim. 4:13), scripture exposition (Acts 20:7), confession of faith (Acts 8:37), singing (Col. 3:16), prayers (Acts 2:42), congregational amen (1 Cor. 14:16), offerings (1 Cor. 16:1-2), responses such as “amen” (1 Cor. 14:16) and maybe “Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22), greetings such as the holy kiss (Romans 16:16), various physical actions, communion, and baptism. All of these could be practiced in a church under the Normative Principle. And in many cases, it would be tough to tell which church affirmed the Regulative Principle purely by visiting a service.

In a Normative Principle church, if a different idea surfaces (such as the use of vestments, organ accompaniment, the use of pitch pipes in congregational singing, the use of a mixed quartet to lead the worship service, the use of drama, movies, etc), the idea is not automatically excluded because it is not on a list of approved elements, neither does it provoke a complicated evaluation of whether to proposed idea is an "element" or a "circumstance." Instead, the idea is evaluated using biblical discernemnt. Under the Normative Principle, some churches allow a five minute drama or a five minute video to serve as a teaching illustration during a church service. Such things would be allowed as adiaphora, but would still be subject to biblical discernment (which is the heart of the matter for Normative Principle churches). For instance, if someone taught that a five minute drama was a new means of grace, it would immediately excluded as heresy.

Side note on the history—I can’t invest a lot of time on this right now, other than to say not much has been written about Baptists who practice the Regulative Principle. If you wish to explore the RP idea outside of its Calvinistic, Westminster, Presbyterian, covenant theology, and Puritan roots, I give you my best wishes. It’s a tough job; someone needs to do it!

I’m quite skeptical of some of your quotes above; for instance, two of the examples you cited (from Adams and Wills) don’t appear to be written reference to Baptist attitudes about the RP. And The Faith and Practice (1644) isn’t a classic affirmation of the RP either, in the sense that it doesn’t rule out adiaphora in worship or affirm a distinction between elements and circumstances (the classic definition of the RP). It does affirm the role of Scripture in worship, but don’t we all? May God help us to be discerning.

2/22/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thank you, Kevin. It is hard to enter into a debate at this point, because we have other prerequisites from which we are arguing. For instance, if we were to continue the debate over the RP, we would first need to establish that the assembly primarily gathers for worship. I affirm this (on Biblical grounds), and you do not.

I will concede that Wills is not arguing for the Regulative Principle here. As far as Adams goes, he is not addressing the RP, but what else is adiaphora, if not extra-Biblical "tradition" (i.e., humanly devised worship) of some sort? One other note in my defense, I did not say that the other side was not applying the Bible, but that the Bible was not "prescribing" their worship. Does the Bible "prescribe" your worship in the corporate body? It seems like that is the exact thing you are protesting against--that the church is bound to determine the elements and content of worship from Scripture alone.

And is there not a sense in which the elements of worship for those who hold to the RP built upon a more comprehensive embracing of sola Scriptura, while those who hold to the normative principle have more freedom to go beyond the prescribed elements of Scripture and add what they believe their "application" of the Scriptures allows? No, I never said that anyone who holds to the normative principle denies sola Scriptura. I know better than that. My main point is that those who embrace the RP begin with that affirmation. And, nevertheless,the RP, I think, is a much more thorough application of it.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your point about some of the difficulties of the RP. There have been, it seems, large controversies trying to make every congregation uniform that ignore the breadth of the tradition of those congregations that have embraced the RP. As D. Thomas says, "The issue has to be focused to ask the question: Is anything in the worship service that should not be there and are all the necessary elements of worship present?" (Give Praise to God, 83). Still, the distinctions between “elements” and “circumstances,” for example, are not false.

You said of me, “You asked if we disregard the NT worship examples as the “basis for determining what the elements and content of the service are.”“ Sigh. No. I was really just asking what the basis was for the added elements. I know that you do not disregard the elements mentioned in Scripture. I was asking a genuine question as to the basis of the elements not mentioned in Scripture (are we speaking past each other, Kevin?).

Later you said, “Under the Normative Principle, some churches allow a five minute drama or a five minute video to serve as a teaching illustration during a church service. Such things would be allowed as adiaphora, but would still be subject to biblical discernment (which is the heart of the matter for Normative Principle churches). For instance, if someone taught that a five minute drama was a new means of grace, it would immediately excluded as heresy.” This is exactly where I get off the boat. Again, to ask what I asked in the article, what basis do you have for adding the element of drama? Why should I, were I a good faith member in your congregation be subject to your tastes as to what should be the elements of worship? How do I know that pleases God? What Biblical basis do you have for that?

This is exactly where Colossians 2 is so helpful in establishing the validity of the Regulative Principle in worship. It says, beginning in verse 16, “16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- 21"Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22(referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? 23These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

Why should I be held under the mercy of a drama any more than someone who wants to add a holy day or the worship of angels. Kevin Bauder hits the nail on the head when he said back at NosSobrii regarding these verses, “The tendency to invent, to roll our own at home, is precisely what St. Paul is rebuking in Colossians 2:16-23. When we make up doctrines or practices (including elements of worship) that are not authorized in Scripture, we are no longer worshipping God according to His Word. On the contrary, we are now worshipping our own wills, and will-worship is crass idolatry.”

Perhaps I should let him have the last word.

In response to your side note, I hope I get the chance to study these things all my life.

If you want to keep this going, I am really being profited by the interaction.

2/22/2006 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Yeah, interacting here is kind of like being in the zoo, watching the crazy beasts and wondering how they can live like that, and wondering who is really behind bars.

[My time is limited, but this has been an interesting diversion. I wasn’t going to post again, but you ask a fair question, provoked by my “drama and movie” example that I knew would be exactly where you “got off the boat.” And I understand that my position is foreign to you!]

I’m sure you aren’t asking a question about pastoral leadership here when you ask “if I were a member of your congregation, why should I be subject to your tastes?” I assume you follow [obey] the leadership of your local church [by the way, a few readers here know that the music minister at Fourth mentored me in ministry for many years, and I have enormous respect for his work. Further, Fourth does not follow the Regulative Principle in worship].

Fast answers to the issues at hand. I think you prejudice the question by insisting on naming the issue under your own terms. I’m not at all concerned about whether drama is an “element;” I don’t need a distinction between elements and circumstances to hold my position. So if you were a congregation member who was genuinely seeking an answer, I would begin in Hebrews 5 and introduce the idea by showing that the difference between “good and evil” can only be learned through “the constant use of scripture.” Secondly, I would affirm that biblical prohibitions are real prohibitions and should be obeyed.

[If it seemed necessary at this point, I would show such a person that there is a distinction between Law and Grace. We are under no part of the OT Law; there is no “third use of the Law” that regulates our behavior today. The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith, but after salvation we no longer need this tutor (Galatians 3:21-25). As a result, our lives are enriched by OT history but, through progressive revelation, our ethical behavior is shaped by the teachings of Christ and, especially, the epistles. As a hermeneutical principle, the epistles will be our best source. The apostles give us commands, but these are not “Law,” in that they offer no punishment other than a fractured relationship with Christ that must be repaired through the confession of sin.]

At this point, I would jump into a few NT ethical principles that would help answer a person’s questions as soon as possible. For me, this involves highlighting that man is sinful and capable of creating artistic works that reflect that sin. For this reason, believers must separate from “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” and this means that some forms and styles can’t be used in worship. After establishing this baseline (which is crucial), I’d continue with NT discernment principles, emphasizing that “the deeds of the flesh are obvious” (not hidden or esoteric); these sinful forms can be immediately identified and rejected by anyone who is seeking after God. [and I’ll skip over some details regarding biblical discernment so I don’t duplicate the stuff I promised to post on Scott’s site] As you understand, the discernment process I use to evaluate church worship services is the same process I would use to evaluate any aspect of the Christian life. I do this because I believe worship is an “all of life” activity rather than a Sunday morning activity; and because I believe there is no NT distinction between the ethical decision making in a church service and the process used any other time. As noted in a previous post, I affirm the examples in the NT narrative regarding proper activities in church, but I’m no church Luddite. I’m comfortable using a method of technology to help the church's worship, mutual edification, the declaration or teaching of biblical truth, or for fellowship.

And, this may surprise you, I would use Col. 2 as support for this kind of biblical discernment. I’d emphasize that our worship should not be “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind;” this will lead to a rejection of any worship that does not “hold fast to the Head.” All of our ideas about worship must be Christocentric, whatever format they take. On this point you got it wrong; the passage is not ruling out a particular form or technology—it’s much more broad. It’s ruling out anything that does not have Christ as its center (and it gives the example of angel worship, asceticism, personal visions, human reason), but it is not making a ruling on pipe organs, pitch pipes, stereopticon slides, or movie projectors.

In fact, our human “pronouncements” about such things is just what the passage is condemning. In my teaching of this passage, I always point out that any attempt to ban “dotted rhythms” or “stopped anapestic beats” or “movie projectors” will always amount to a “taste not, touch not rule” that does nothing to stop sensuous living. This is why biblical discernment—the chief weapon of those living under Grace—is so important.

2/23/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin, I am not sure how to take your first paragraph. If it is a knock, I probably deserve it. If it is anything else, it is completely incoherent. But I like that sort of thing . . . incoherence, that is.

If you are referring to Roger Kilian, I love the man dearly. I have very high regard for him, just as you do.

I agree with your Heb 5 principle, and I think I nearly agree with you on Law and Gospel, but I would probably offer little differences here and there. Those points seem somewhat incidental to our discussion.

When you go from your principle “the deeds of the flesh are obvious” (not hidden or esoteric);” all the way to say that that phrase means “these sinful forms can be immediately identified and rejected by anyone who is seeking after God.” I would respectfully disagree. We are far too prone to self-deception and idolatry. All I have to do is look at the vast majority of American evangelicalism for that to be quite obvious. For example, all I have to say is that I seek after God, and that I find movies to be a “work of the flesh.” Besides, we are not talking about sinful or good forms. We are talking about what God finds acceptable in worship, which may be a completely different question. Is cooking sinful? No. But should a little cooking show be part of a worship service? No! I could ask the same concerning the “one flesh” relationship between a husband and wife.

This would tie into your statement, “I believe worship is an “all of life” activity rather than a Sunday morning activity; and because I believe there is no NT distinction between the ethical decision making in a church service and the process used any other time.” So if all of life is “worship,” and there are no distinctions, why not show a Christian movie instead of having a service at all? And why not have the Lord’s table at home on a Thursday night with your wife and kids? Are there distinctions between these things? When does “church” start and when does “church” end. You yourself say there are “no distinctions.” Hmmm. This sounds like it came from America and equalitarianism.

I am not sure that I warrant the term Luddite. I have condemned both movies and drama, and even opera! My beef is not with technology, though technology should be used responsibly. Someday, the church I pastor will probably have at least some use of technology . . . maybe lights, or air-conditioning . . . maybe even a microphone (though I’m not sure I’ll need one).

Then you said, “our worship should not be “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind;” this will lead to a rejection of any worship that does not “hold fast to the Head.” All of our ideas about worship must be Christocentric, whatever format they take. On this point you got it wrong; the passage is not ruling out a particular form or technology—it’s much more broad. It’s ruling out anything that does not have Christ as its center.”

Whoa, there. First of all, this discussion is not about technology. I am the one, it seems who is adhering to what Christ prescribes and going no further. I am the one who is putting Christ as the center of worship. You are the one adding the elements you prefer to those listed in Scripture to worship the One True and Living God, based on your hopefully [!] correctly “trained senses.” Are you saying that the one who adheres only to what the Scripture allows is “puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind”?

Finally, you said, In fact, our human “pronouncements” about such things is just what the passage is condemning. Again, this is not about human “pronouncements.” This is about what the Scripture prescribes. Is it a human pronouncement to say that the Bible alone will regulate what we include in worship? If I add a new category of church leadership (I am thinking “Duke” or Chief Koombah”) in the name of Christ, am I adding a “touch not, handle not” “human pronouncement” if you protest? If I add a few new sacraments in the name of Christ (something like last rights and baseball games is what I’m thinking) is that a “touch not, taste not” “human pronouncement” if you protest?

Well, I guess I have to “follow” you and “let” you violate my conscience with your “whims” of worship preference. Yipee. I can’t wait to worship.

Okay, that was a little sarcastic (I mean that paragraph in fun), but you are not really answering that point of mine very well. What about my conscience? Where do you get the right to tell me that we have a new way of worshipping God when I do not see such a warrant to include these elements from Scripture? Where does my conscience come in? Why must my freedom to worship the Holy Son of God be so upset by your freedom to impose your random religious preferences, and going even above Scripture, the very book the Lord’s Spirit inspired for his church?

By the way, I am kind of getting mixed signals from you. I expected this conversation to fall flat because you do not believe the church is for worship. Yet you seem to be conceding that point at several instances:

“I’d emphasize that our worship . . .”

“. . . a rejection of any worship . . .”

“All of our ideas about worship . . .”

“I’m comfortable using a method of technology to help the church's worship . . .”

Etc.


Sorry to badger you a bit about after a perfectly polite response.

2/24/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I don’t consider this badgering, since the person you construct in your reply barely resembles me. You’ve asked a few fair questions, and if you are genuinely confused I think I owe you the time for another answer; I pray that I write clearly.

About my use of the word “worship”: Yes, I do refer to worship when the church gathers on Sunday morning, because I believe that this is one of the purposes of the gathered church. I don’t believe this is the only time we worship, and I don’t believe that worship is the only thing the church does when it gathers. So don’t be scared if I suddenly use the word in reference to a church service (and I’ve used it a few times in the article I just gave Scott).

About your conscience: I don’t see how anything I’ve written violates the theological idea of individual soul liberty, neither do I believe it to be inconsistent with the way Baptists have practiced the idea. If you lived in Ames, I’d probably counsel you to join another church—you would violate your own conscience too many times if you attended our church. If a member of my church regularly attacked a policy of our church in a public way (say, in a blog), I’d probably sit down with the member and counsel them.

About Col 2: I knew my approach with the passage would irritate you. Here is what I would like you to consider: First, the context of the passage is not limited to the gathered church on Sunday morning. The main difference between the RP and the NP is that your position treats Sunday morning worship differently than the rest of the week (ie, the RP accepts adiaphora the rest of the week, just not in the worship service). So, you need to make your point using a passage that is limiting itself to worship as a “Sunday Morning Gathered Church” thing. Citing a passage that has “all of life” as its context does nothing for you. Second, I believe v. 16-17 are not restricting the believer, they are freeing the believer. Clearly Paul is allowing individual believers to decide whether they wish to eat a particular food or observe a feast day (Paul is being consistent with himself, though he does not bring up his “weaker brother” qualification that he mentions elsewhere). Verses 16-17 are, if anything, adiaphora. Paul says “don’t let anyone judge” whether your practice on these issues is wrong. Third, I believe v. 18-19 addresses doctrinal error that must be condemned and exposed: angel worship, asceticism, personal visions, and over-emphasis on human reason. I’m happy to condemn all that Paul is condemning here. And I agree with Bauder that the common element among these is a “roll your own theology.” Fourth, v. 23 concludes the adiaphora idea introduced in 16-17. The net effect is to allow the individual to decide certain matters for themselves—a prohibition of “taste not, touch not” rules. If I could attempt to isolate our differences in this passage, I would be happy to identify as adiaphora some of the “trends” that concern you; you would not.

Your post seems to indicate, obliquely, that you are opposed to doctrinal error and I’m not. Here is where I must apologize for writing too quickly or too obscurely. Surely I’ve failed to write well (you said “you’re not answering my point well”), or maybe you’ve been unfair? I want to think the best about you, and I doubt you wish to imply that only your position features orthodox theology. It is possible that your literary style tends toward hyperbole, which makes you a good blogger and sometimes makes me a nerd. But I personally don’t see how your examples of “a little cooking show…part of a worship service.” or “the Lord’s table at home on a Thursday night with your wife and kids,” or “a new category of church leadership (I am thinking ‘Duke’ or ‘Chief Koombah’” are anything close to what I’ve suggested. It is for this reason that I take no offense; again, the person you construct in your reply barely resembles me.

About progressive sanctification: you have correctly identified the challenge of my position, in that it relies on fallen and regenerated people to make spiritual decisions. Yes, I agree that a spiritually immature person could make the wrong decision (call this sin) and make wrong worship choices. But I’m not sure how this negates the truth of “the deeds of the flesh are obvious.” All you have succeeded in demonstrating is that immature people act immature. You use the word “hopefully” to suggest that we can’t trust our people to become spiritually mature. I’m resting in what Ketcham once called “God’s provision for normal Christian living.” I can’t be a musical priest, stepping in making every decision for our church members. (Though yes, we do have rules). If I am to do my job correctly, I should be building disciples who recognize that “the deeds of the flesh are obvious.”

Ryan—there’s a system at work here. I understand that it is not your system or your position, but I’m laboring to integrate my theology into my life and worship. If any of this discussion has interested you, good, I’ve been happy to talk to you. But I need to move on…blessings.

2/24/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Kevin,

I am truly sorry if I can across as accusing you of advocating cooking shows, new leadership titles, or anything else.

I know I have a tendency towards hyperbole, and I am sorry that I have not been treating your argument fairly.

Really, what I intended to ask is What mechanism do you have in place to forbid these from worship? If there are no distinctions between worship and "all of life" (and these are part of "all of life"), why do movies get a pass and these do not? On what basis do you forbid 1) "cooking shows," (let's say for the purpose of teaching) 2) new sacraments, or 3) new leadership roles, and not movies? I think this is a straightforward question. Hopefully I have stated it in a fairer way.

Let's say I want to have as part of the worship service a wrestling demonstration, maybe to teach or to show the glory of God in creating man. Why would you say yes or no to that? I am not saying you would (I would hope you would not!), I want to know your method of saying No.

I hope you will favor me with a return and an answer.

2/24/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Mud wrestling or jello?

In either case, will they be fully immersed, or just sprinkled with goo?

Will they be wearing singlets?

[okay. busy right now. more later.]

2/24/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I nearly said mud wrestling, so let's go with that.

2/24/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Okay Ryan. I quickly clipped the headings from some other stuff I’m working on right now, just to give you a fast answer on where I’d head on the idea of musical discernment. This is fast hack job, sorry about the incomplete cut and paste.

Part of this assumes that we’ve already built a few fences that put both of us inside the same chorale. For instance, we would have to agree on a similar epistemology (one that embraces some form of critical realism). And we’d have to agree on a few core theological beliefs (I would list the following as “fences” that would separate orthodox church musicians from the rest of the church music world: The Bible is true, The Bible can be understood by all, Scripture is sufficient, All people are individually accountable to God, All people are depraved, New Testament believers live under grace, not Law, The role of the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture, convicts of sin, and sanctifies the believer) Again, I’m just cutting and pasting so you get a quick idea of where I would go…

Next, I’d emphasize these teaching points in discernment:
1. Discernment through Bible study.
2. Discernment in the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Discernment through grace principles for godly living.
4. Discerning weights to our spiritual life.
5. Discernment by separation from ungodliness.
6. Discernment and communication to the world.
7. Discernment and the weak believer.
8. Discernment and Christian liberty.

And, if you’ve read what I posted on Scott’s website, you can see how I might work these out on a practical, local level. Got to run. I’ve got the garden hose running into the baptistery, and the Jello sets up pretty fast if you don’t watch it carefully.

2/24/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No, Kevin. I know I am sounding persnickety (spelling?), but I want you to reason how wrestling is not appropriate for worship while drama or movies is. Again, if there is no distinction between worship on Sunday morning and other times, why can't a family have the Lord's table at home among themselves? Why can't we introduce new sacraments? Why can't we introduce new leadership? Or liturgical dance or some ballet of a Bible story? Why not mud wrestling or cooking shows this Sunday . . . particularly since all of life is worship?

Why "yes" to movies, and "no" to all these other things? I do not want your principles. I want to see your reasoning powers specifically at work. Let's assume that I am going to embrace every principle you believe. Let me see your reasoning at work.

I am asking all of this respectfully. I want to understand the position, partly so that I can speak against it coherently, partly so that I can understand my own. There is also the possibility that I may change my position (I believe that even those who embrace the normative principle should forbid drama and movies). I am also not seeing from your principles why I could not include these different specific elements, particularly if all of life is "worship." For example, I can play "shoots and ladders" with my kids to the glory of God. Why can't I shoots and ladders as part of a worship service to the glory of God? There is no distinction right?

2/24/2006 03:44:00 PM  

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