Redeemer PCA in New York shared this little gem from one of their worship services.
Life Together from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.
This is contrary to God’s will for worship. Why? Let me explain.
The biblical instruction regarding worship is this: we are to offer only what God has commanded as particular worship actions with hearts of holy devotion. With regard to worship, God says, ‘Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.’ (Deut. 12.32)
Unlike the ordinary pursuit of the creative arts, worship is not the place for our own imaginations to be employed in crafting for ourselves what seems beautiful to us. In worship, God does not ask us to invent — indeed, He forbids it. In worship, God calls us to the humble pursuit of His beautiful holiness by the means of His commanded ordinances.
In other contexts, we should employ every inventive capacity of the human genius to the glory of God; but worship is in a special category. Worship is not the same as the rest of life. Worship is set apart by God as sacred time in which we come into His special presence at His command and by His means. Presbyterians summarise this biblical teaching in our confessional standards.
‘…the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21.1)
See also Westminster Larger Catechism # 108-110, and Westminster Shorter Catechism # 50-51.
In an article published recently by The Aquila Report, Rev. Terry Johnson bemoaned the liturgical chaos we find in the PCA and noted the display of this in the General Assembly worship services. I have greatly benefitted from the ministry of Rev. Johnson and I am definitely a co-belligerent in the effort to restore and promote distinctively Presbyterian worship. Although I appreciate his thoughts in this article, his focus upon preferring one style of worship over another is unhelpful and will always be unpersuasive. Moving the discussion in the direction of preferences simply dissolves it into a squabble about subjective tastes. I know Rev. Johnson is trying to find a way around that subjectivity in this article, but I’m afraid his efforts fail. The moment we say that all worship formats are valid, we’ve conceded that this is fundamentally just a debate about differing tastes.
From the article, Rev. Johnson:
‘I’m not saying that anything that was done was wrong or invalid per se. There are many ways to worship God. What separates various Christian groups is their disagreement as to what is the best way to worship.’
I have to disagree. The concert format led by non-ordained ‘worship leaders’ is wrong per se. It is indefensible from Scripture, and clearly contrary in its aims to the intentional framing of worship found everywhere in Scripture. Given other things I’ve heard and read from Rev. Johnson, I think he’d be inclined to agree with me were he in a less conciliatory mood than he appears to be in this article. 🙂
I think most theologically conservative Presbyterians miss how deep and wide the reach of the regulative principle is. Contrary to the modern framing of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), it is not simply concerned with general worship practices or ideas that end up taking a wide variety of completely divergent forms. Rather, the RPW is concerned with anything that has religious significance in worship. When Rev. Johnson speaks of a ‘worship culture of Presbyterianism’ he’s getting closer to the mark, but I think he has it backwards. He describes this worship culture like a mindset we bring to worship decisions. Surely, there is some of that, but it is more the other way around. God so regulates worship in Scripture that He creates a recognisable ‘worship culture’ in His people that reaches all the way to what we do and how we do it, not merely as one stylistic preference over another, but as a conscious submission to the shaping effects of His commanded worship ordinances.
The decisions that shape our worship are to be driven by theologically thick and biblically defensible imperatives. I’m not talking about the trivialities of ‘chairs vs. pews’. I’m talking about anything that enters into the practice and piety, the devotion and meaning, of worship. God has given us far more to work with on this in Scripture than we are typically willing to admit. Frequently, we are unwilling to go where the Scriptures lead us because we find that direction uncomfortable or not in keeping with our cultural tastes.
Over at the Purely Presbyterian web site they offer some helpful and practical advice on Sabbath keeping for parents with younger children. In our home, we came to practise all of these as we searched for ways to keep the Christian Sabbath with our children and to make our experience of the Lord’s Day special for them when they were younger. It’s encouraging to see that others have developed similar practices for the same reasons, and have summarised them here so helpfully!
Parents with young children who have recently become convicted about honoring the Christian Sabbath often find it extremely difficult to practically implement in their households. And to our shame, there is a dearth of mentors and church officers in their churches who can counsel them on how to practically honor the Lord’s Day. We don’t want to be legalistic tyrants in the household, yet we want to honor God joyfully with our families. We often think about what not to do, don’t work, don’t purchase things, etc., and those are important, but we rarely think about what positive activities we should do on the Lord’s Day. The following are some practical things Sabbatarian parents can implement to teach their children to joyfully honor God on the Lord’s Day, followed by a list of Sabbath appropriate resources.
Parents, especially fathers, should lead their families in spiritual recreations and worship on the Lord’s Day and seek to make the Sabbath a delight to everyone in the household. We should not divorce the concept of rest from the purpose of resting in Christ. Basically, you have one day a week to prepare yourself to face the trials of the week ahead through closer communion with Christ. Will you spend the hours of this day filling your mind and heart with the things of heaven? The key is spiritual recreation and worship. We participate in that which promotes thinking of, speaking about, and communing with, God. Many Christians continually pursue mountain-top experiences at camps, conferences, and revival meetings, yet our God intends to set us atop Mount Zion at the beginning of every week to behold the wonders of Christ and spend the following days living out of this close approach to our King.
The author goes on to give five very practical pieces of advice as well as many helpful resources for carrying out that advice. Read the brief article here.
Over at OldLife.org, Dr Hart has published a brief article by Pastor Jonathan Inman, a fellow Elder in the PCA. According to the introductory comment, Pastor Inman submitted this to the PCA denominational periodical, ByFaith magazine, but they declined to publish it.
Fully a third of our BCO is devoted to how our courts should deal with our members’ sin, and one section in particular, BCO 38-1, spells out how our courts should receive confessions of sin. I do not begrudge anyone’s earnest attempts to deal honestly and graciously with the sins of God’s people. I am calling upon the officers of the PCA to do so in a fashion to which we’ve all agreed.
If you think you have sinned, and not just a little, or in some ordinary fashion, but in an especially heinous sort of way, then 38-1 is totally the way to go. Serious sins, public sins, sins perpetrated by officers of the church – if ever there were occasion for serious, public and official confession and judgment, wouldn’t this be it? And all without the rigmarole of process!
Read Pastor Inman’s brief and thought provoking article at Old Life!
A friend asked me to summarise my critique of the new PCA Agenda. What follows is a very brief summary of my critique based on many weeks of Sabbath School discussions ranging across the broad sweep of the proposed agenda. It is by no means exhaustive, but is intended to be brief and summary.
There are typically three subjects used as motivations urging the PCA to adopt a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural agenda of ‘diversity’ and racial reconciliation. Those subjects are statistics, bible examples, and history. In relation to our history, it is argued that we must repent and demonstrate our repentance by specific actions. I’ll address these one at a time. Continue reading
‘You cannot measure opportunity by outcomes, and that’s what redistributionists insist on doing.’ ~ Thomas Sowell
Here are some thoughts I jotted down a while back about whether we are responsible for our feelings and dispositions even if we do not choose them or act upon them. This matter comes up generally in theological discussions of guilt and culpability, often with the assertion that we cannot be held morally responsible for how we feel but only for how we act. This perspective is frequently expanded to vindicate same sex attraction by suggesting that the absence of volition also removes culpability. The follow-on to that suggestion is that such feelings and inclinations must be viewed as innocent and natural if they are inborn. Quite apart from the ethical incoherence of this latter expanded position, the former assertion, that we are not morally responsible for our dispositions or feelings, is entirely contrary to biblical morality.
Heart sins are still sins even if they are not taken to the level of overt actions. For example, this is Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5.21ff regarding heart dispositions of hatred and overt actions of murder, in Matthew 5.27ff regarding heart dispositions of lust and overt actions of adultery, in Matthew 5.33ff regarding heart dispositions of duplicity and overt lies. James teaches us that overt sins arise out of sinful dispositions or desires (1.13ff; 4.1ff). As we confess in Westminster Larger Catechism 99 part 2, the Moral Law of God addresses inward dispositions of the soul and not only outward actions. ‘2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.’ (Romans 7.14; Deuteronomy 6.5; Matthew 22.37-39; Matthew 5.21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37-39, 43-44)
Of course, this is part of what folks find so offensive in this context. If I’m born this way, they say, then I can’t be held responsible because I didn’t choose. This is one reason why Reformed Protestants are sometimes despised: we teach the doctrine of original sin; that is, we are conceived already guilty of Adam’s first sin, and corrupted in our whole nature, apart from any act of our own will (Westminster Shorter Catechism 18).
This is an excellent five minute civics lesson by constitutional law professor Robert P. George. Most citizens don’t know this basic information about our system of government. This is well worth the time to listen.
‘Freedom can be taken away, but it can also be given away — out of sheer ignorance.’ ~ Robert P. George
Reverend Batzig provides practical and biblical advice for parents when their children stray from the faith.
Of all the painful experiences that I have had to face through nearly a decade in ministry—the death of a mother, couples enduring the heartbreak of miscarriage, strife, abuse, divorce, scandal, etc.—having to walk with a godly father and mother through the dark shadows of having a child rebel is among the most difficult. There are many difficult and painful experiences that ministers face, but the spiritual rebellion of a child of a believer weighs heavily on the heart of any true minister of the Gospel. Perhaps it weighs heavy on my heart because I was one such rebellious child brought up in a Christian home. Though I was nurtured in an extremely spiritually and theologically strong Christians home, I ran from it–and to the spiritual darkness and sin of this world–as far and as fast as I could.
Drawing from the example of his own parents when he strayed from the faith as a young man, Reverend Batzig describes practical spiritual care focussing on the power of prayer and God’s Word in the mystery of God’s Providence. I encourage you to read this helpful article at the Feeding on Christ blog.
Dan Phillips over at the PyroManiacs blog asks us to imagine…
Suppose political reporters wanted to pretend to be anything vaguely approximating even-handed.
Hey, I said suppose. Stop laughing. Use your imagination, and work with me here.
We know they’re going to ask every Republican presidential candidate deep and probing vital-issue-of-the-day questions like:
- Should “gays” be stoned?
- Would you go to a “gay” “wedding” if you were invited?
- Would you go to a “gay” “wedding” if it were your son or daughter?
- Is being “gay” a choice?
…and so forth. I don’t need to do their work for them.
So what if they were even to pretend to be even-handed on this issue? What questions could they ask of the Democratic candidates?
I’m absolutely serious about these, and I’ve come up with the lot of them on the run, without even breaking a sweat. Here goes:
He goes on to offer some questions that highlight the real differences between the ethical perspective of a genuinely Christian morality (also known as moral sanity) and the default ethical position assumed (and promoted) by the popular news media. Enjoy. 🙂
→ Let’s pretend: imagine an even-handed media