Could Instruments Be Idols?

re-posted from May 2007. In light of the discussion prompted by the brief snippet from Calvin on instruments this seems appropriate.

Friday, in the Medieval-Reformation course I gave a lecture on Calvin’s doctrine of worship during which a student asked about instruments. I replied that Calvin (and most of the Reformed) would have viewed the introduction of instruments into the service the same way they would have viewed someone slitting the throat of a bull during a stated service.

Let’s say that my response elicited considerable response from the students. During the good-natured, free-wheeling, give and take I suggested that musical instruments are not mere circumstances in worship. I say that because I get the same (shocked) response every time I suggest that we return to original Reformed practice, i.e. to worship God without the aid of musical instruments and without the aid of uninspired songs.

The only vaguely Reformed defense of instruments and uninspired songs is that they are only circumstances and not elements. The latter are essential to worship. They are usually said to include Word, sacrament, and prayer. Historically we’ve defined circumstances to refer to things truly indifferent such as time, place, and posture. A circumstance is supposed to be something that is genuinely indifferent, i.e. something that neither adds to worship nor, if omitted, takes away from worship.

When I say, “If they’re only circumstances, let’s get rid of them” I get a reaction that suggests that they aren’t really adiaphora (indifferent) or circumstances at all. “You can’t smash that organ. Why Mr So and So donated money for that organ back in 1870.” Or “We can’t stop singing that hymn, after all, that’s my favorite hymn.” Or even more to the point, as one student said years ago, “When I hear the organ, I feel the presence of God.”

When we hear objections like these we can see that it’s quite unclear whether musical instruments function as mere circumstances. When I propose to change the time of worship no one says, “But 11AM means so much to me.” When I say, “Let us stand,” no one says, “But when I sit, I feel God’s presence.” If folk do become so attached to a time or a posture or a place, well, then it’s probably time for a change. Worship isn’t about time, place, or posture, it’s about being met by the living God.

People react to the mere suggestion of the removal of instruments as they do because instruments and music are affective. Worship has become so identified with the affect produced by the instruments (or our favorite scripture song) that to take them away seems almost blasphemous. We love our instruments in a way we don’t love posture, place, or time. There is a categorical difference between instruments and P, P and T. If we can’t change them or if they have become sacred, well, maybe they have become idols?

There’s a second problem with instruments that is even more fundamental than our experience and that is those instruments that folk love so much come with some pretty heavy baggage. The only biblical ground for instruments also entails the sacrifice of animals. In other words, how are we going to use Moses’ or David’s instruments without killing Aaron’s lambs or engaging in holy war? The same instruments we want to borrow from Moses come covered with the blood of bulls and goats and resonating with the sounds of holy war against your local Canaanite city. The old Reformed churches understood that the Mosaic covenant was totalitarian. It’s pretty hard to borrow just a little bit of Moses. Just ask the medieval church. How are we going to do what the medieval church did, borrow Mosaic elements (and for the same reasons) without gradually reproducing the Mosaic worship system just as the medieval church did?

Maybe the Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries knew what they were doing when they rid our worship of instruments and of uninspired songs?

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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155 comments

  1. Either instruments should be banned for personal and corporate worship, or be allows for both of them. In consistency between personal and corporate worship is very odd.

  2. Hun,

    St Paul distinguished between eating at home and eating the Supper. It’s the two kingdoms. You may eat one way at home and another at church. The stated service is a public service. You may sing songs at home that you wouldn’t sing at church. I was just now reading Calvin who distinguished between the songs “that one makes to give joy to men at table… and the Psalms, which are sung in the church in the presence of God and his angels.”

  3. I think you misunderstood my question. I am considering how a single Means of Grace should be approached in personal and corporate level, and I am saying that they should be harmonious and consistent. Just as the Lord’s Supper should not be taken carelessly in corporate level, it cannot be taken carelessly in personal level (actually, personal Lord’s Supper doesn’t even make sense). Likewise, if instruments are corrupting our corporate praise, then so they do to personal praise.

  4. Your premise is flawed. There is a distinction between “harmonious” and “identical.”

    We may sing one thing at home in Christian freedom but worship operates on a distinct principle (the RPW) that isn’t meant to be applied outside of public worship. There’s a discussion of this in RRC.

  5. Hun,

    What you said implies that worship is a means of grace, and you seem to be speaking specifically of singing, and you make no distinction between corporate and private singing.

    While I freely admit that some broadly evangelical (especially charismatic) churches have elevated singing to the point of being sacramental, the reformed do not speak broadly of worship as a means of grace, nor narrowly as singing as a means of grace.

    Depending on who you talk to, the means of grace are either the preaching of the Word and the sacraments OR the preaching of the Word, the sacraments and prayer.

    That the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Supper) are means of grace is not, to my knowledge, disputed in any meaningful way. Many think prayer is a means of grace, but I personally don’t understand why that would be the case, unless it’s because God certainly answers prayer.

    At any rate, the means of grace being primarily the Word and the sacraments, these are things of the public worship service only.

    In other words, Dr. Clark can go to a Michael W. Smith concert (on any of the other 6 days of the week) in good conscience that he is not violating any law of Scripture (even though he might be violating good taste) even if he would not abide such a concert in his church on Sunday night in lieu of the regularly scheduled worship service.

  6. In the other thread, I said that I think instruments are a circumstance of worship – or at least I said that that was a more reasonable argument. But to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, to prove that I really mean it, I do hereby declare that I don’t care if the piano (which I think helps me sing) is removed from worship. If enough people know the tune, and if the pastor doesn’t pick the most obscure tunes he can find that don’t make sense to my ear – then fine. What do I care?

    I had a friend who moved to an area in which the only decent preaching was at the RPCNA, which sings only psalms acapella. He said he and his wife were having a difficult time with the decision, because they were afraid that they would miss hymns and music, etc. I told him, however, to think in these terms: are acapella psalms INVALID forms of worship? Is God going to be displeased if you don’t have a piano and if you sing only psalms?

    The VERY obvious answer should be: of course not. Of course singing acapella psalms is a valid way to worship God.

    So since it was the only church in town that preached the gospel, there he went. A year later, he was gushing about how they LOVED it, how they didn’t miss hymns or music or anything, and how glad they were to be getting good, gospel preaching.

    If my denomination changed to only acapella psalms, I would probably vote against it if I had a vote, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it, and I certainly wouldn’t leave the denomination.

    I would vote against it because of the question of authority. Dr. Clark’s question is: who has the authority to put uninspired songs (words) on the lips of God’s people?

    This question is what I perceive to be the very best argument for psalm or inspired song singing only, but I think it can be answered very reasonably. The answer is, the pastor. In the worship service, the pastor preaches, putting uninspired words on the lips of God himself. During the pastoral prayer, the pastor prays on behalf of the people, and his words are not inspired. If he can do these things, then he can also put uninspired words on the lips of the people.

    Nonetheless, if my denomination voted to go psalms or inspired song singing only, I would shrug my shoulders and go with it. It wouldn’t bother me. It’s not like they’d be taking away my ability to worship God or to lead the people of God to worship him (as a future minister).

  7. Dr. Clark-

    As always thanks for the great stimulating posts.

    I am unpersuaded that because you have observed certain negative reactions when suggesting the church rid itself of instruments in worship that therefore that aids the argument that instruments are not circumstances.

    I observed a conversation where the suggestion to not have musical instruments was made to a congregant and the congregant said, “ok, show me why from Scripture.” So I would have to say that reactions vary and are not conclusive.

    Anyway, it is a small point, and I know that it is not what is conclusive for you, but that point just seems moot. People have bad reactions to all kinds of good things.

    If exegetically it can be shown that instruments cannot be considered as valid circumstances without bringing back the medieval stuff, now then…

  8. Hun, Dr. Clark,
    I think in the past, most who were serious about the RPW, considered it to be applicable to not only public, but also family and private worship. Worship is worship, which is why for instance what is sung in family worship is so important. Bushell notes the popularity of the revival hymns first making their inroads in family worship. Once there, it was only a matter of time. Likewise whatever gets the nod in the young people or Sunday school meetings – neither of which are reformed – generally makes its way into public worship, whether contemporary worship music or pictures of Christ. That is not to say instrumental music or instrumental accompaniement per se is unlawful. Just keep it out of worship.

  9. Austin,
    Reactions vary, but when the reaction is pretty much unanimously opposed to what the historic P&R church believed, taught and practiced, then we got problems. And while I am not willing to fight a world war over it, it does go to show how much people can accept something as gospel, when it’s more like a custom or tradition.
    We would think nothing of singing Amazing Grace, Happy Birthday or Old Lang Syne without accompaniement. Yet there have been days when Christians knew their psalter just as well. For that matter, I was once at a meeting of believers who eventually ended up forming a URCNA church a couple of years later. When the speaker didn’t show on time due to airport delays (R. Godfrey) in the meantime we didn’t even know any hymns we could sing by heart.

  10. Isn’t there a practical need for musical instruments? In the durch Reformed tradition we are used to organs and if I listen to the lack of musical talent in our congregation I would imagine that unaccompanied singing doesn’t make things better.

    A question concerning the exclusive singing of the psalms: Does it aplies to the Psalms as they are written in the Book of Psalms or are paraprhases such as the Genevan okay as well? I would imagine that, being serious about only singing inspired songs would lead to getting rid of all variatons of metrical psalter as well.

  11. Machiavelli, your post brings up a problem for the inspired only position. The English translation is not the inspired text. It’s a translation of the inspired text.

    We can’t sing in Greek and Hebrew because we don’t know Greek and Hebrew.

    But perhaps one who holds to inspired only would say that this is a compromise that must be made. We must be content to sing a reflection, a translation of the inspired text in our own language.

    To that I say that such a translation necessarily is also an interpretation. This leads me to conclude that inspired only singing is an unattainable ideal. Even singing the Scriptures in English is a restatement of the text, not the true inspired text itself.

    But, perhaps they say, it is a faithful restatement of what is in the text.

    So why can’t a hymn faithfully capture the truths of Scripture and restate them in words that make sense to us? In so far as they restate the truths of Scripture, how are they all that different from a translation?

    But, perhaps they say, you are taking things too far.

    Am I? Don’t we call the preaching of the Word by an ordained man the Word of God? Don’t we say that he speaks for God? Isn’t he restating what the text says in his own words? And isn’t that what a hymn is doing?

    I grant that the vast majority of hymns will make us ashamed we ever sang them in glory. I grant it freely. I often catch myself not singing a line here or a line there because it makes me a little squeamish. But can’t we say the same about most sermons preached? Sure, you hope for something better with Reformed preachers, but still, isn’t what they say fallible? Yet we call it the Word of God, a faithful restatement, a translation if you will, of the text to the audience. Yet still not inspired, inerrant. Hymns are no different.

    But just as the preacher must be very careful when he preaches, so too he must be very careful when picking songs or hymns. He must be careful to pick songs that are faithful to the text. For many of us, that means being limited to only a scant few hymns – and psalms too!

    Sure, you can throw caution to the wind when picking a psalm to sing. You don’t have to worry about being in error, because it’s the Word of God (translated). But you could also just read, e.g., the book of Ephesians to your congregation, instead of a sermon, and sit down with no comment. Then you’d be sure you never said anything contrary to Scripture (though it would still be in translation, in which something is always inevitably lost).

    If the concern is never to say anything contrary to Scripture, then we must stop preaching sermons. We must stop praying prayers. To be consistent, no one can utter anything but Scripture in the worship service.

    Why is this not the logical conclusion of the inspired only position? I think it is.

  12. Austin, Dr. Clark’s argument is a little different than you suggest in my opinion. He suggests that perhaps instruments can become an idol. This is undoubtedly true. Then he suggests that because of this, perhaps the Reformers knew what they were about when they got rid of them.

    The suggestion implicit in his post is that instruments in worship are a temptation to idolatry, and therefore, perhaps, they are inherently evil.

    I’m only suggesting that your restatement of his argument missed the premise regarding the idolatry.

    However, I would suggest that just because some people turn something into an idol is by no means definitive in deciding whether or not to get rid of it. Many people turn alcohol into an idol, but we aren’t teetotalers.

    There’s nothing evil about alcohol. What’s evil are people. Instruments are not evil. They’re just instruments. If people turn them into idols, the problem isn’t with the instruments, the problem is with the people.

    That is, of course, exactly what you were getting at Austin.

    However, instruments in worship may actually have the character of being inherently idolatrous. If, say, Scripture intends to forbid the use of instruments in worship, then their use in worship is inherently idolatrous. In that case, the problem wouldn’t be in the hearts of the people first and foremost, but in the thing itself.

    But then you’ve got the RPW. Does Scripture command the use of instruments? If so, then it’s not inherently idolatrous. If not, then it is – unless it’s a circumstance.

    Scripture clearly commands the use of instruments in OT worship. Does it command it in NT worship?

    No, it doesn’t. I don’t know that anyone would argue that it does.

    But the NT DOES command singing. It commands the content, “psalms, hymns, spiritual songs” (however you interpret that), but it doesn’t command that it be acapella, nor does it command instruments. The task that is commanded is singing.

    Therefore, if instruments are used, it should be as an aide to singing. Nothing more. That is, by definition, a circumstance.

    In a similar way, a big parking lot that makes it easy for everyone to park on Sunday is also an aide to worship, making it easier. This is the definition of a circumstance. A nursery makes it easier for parents with babies to worship. These are circumstantial aides to worship. They help us undertake the tasks that Scripture commands us for worship.

  13. I will refrain from saying anything on the instruments issue.

    On inspired-only, there really are some issues. Others have already mentioned the sermon as non-inspired speaking, and quite rightly. We can add to that prayers – may we only pray in public worship the exact words of scripture? What about responsive liturgy? May we say the Lord’s prayer in its traditional form (which of course is two separate parts of the Bible mushed together)? May we say the Apostle’s Creed/Nicene Creed together? May we refer to Bible passages by verse and chapter? Or quote Augustine, Luther or Calvin in a sermon?

    You know, even as (particularly as?) a church musician, I have some sympathy with your position. In a vast number of churches, doing exactly what you say (and all the suggestions above) would improve corporate worship to no end (for the 5 people who still showed up, of course). But strict Regulative principlists/Psalms-only advocates are in real danger of being prescriptive beyond what the Bible says. It’s all inference here, implication here, along with denials that sung worship in the Davidic period has any implications of its own. I’m making no accusations here, but is it possible that you are following in the noble line of pharisees who tithe from their spice rack, straining gnats and swallowing camels?

    Out of interest, how do you deal with all the Psalms that you want us to sing (and I do too) which specifically tell us they’re for the stringed instrument? How can we sing the words faithfully, as new covenant people without keeping the musical direction?

    You point out the possibility of instruments being idols in church, and you’re right. I’ve found that pews, pulpits and fonts can be idols too. I once tried removing them all with a sledgehammer but everyone got mad with me. Good thing I have internet access here in my jail cell…

  14. Scott, I remember attending an old style Brethren church in the North of Scotland over a year ago. They too hold to a form of the RPW and refused to use musical instruments in worship. There were about 250 people there and it was the best singing I’ve heard in a long time. I think one effect of modern worship bands is to drown out the congregation. When this happens, one loses the desire to sing out.

    Furthermore, a ‘church’ down the road from me, that will remain nameless, have a ‘sexy’ band. By word of mouth, I heard that they didn’t let a fat girl (with a good voice) join the worship team because it projected the wrong image! I’ve heard stories like this from a couple of churches. It’s pathetic, sad and makes you cringe. Why are they trying to be rubbish replicas of th world?

  15. @Nick: It is possible to have neither a strict adherence to the RPW as RSC here advocates and not having a horrible worshipband. Organs en metrical Psalter FTW!

  16. Machiavelli – all credit to you for using FTW on a theology blog. But metrical Psalters rearrange the order of words and therefore are strictly forbidden under 132.78 of the TRACK (Truly Reformed and Calvinistic Konfession).

  17. Clark –

    You say:
    There’s a second problem with instruments that is even more fundamental than our experience and that is those instruments that folk love so much come with some pretty heavy baggage. The only biblical ground for instruments also entails the sacrifice of animals. In other words, how are we going to use Moses’ or David’s instruments without killing Aaron’s lambs or engaging in holy war? The same instruments we want to borrow from Moses come covered with the blood of bulls and goats and resonating with the sounds of holy war against your local Canaanite city. The old Reformed churches understood that the Mosaic covenant was totalitarian. It’s pretty hard to borrow just a little bit of Moses. Just ask the medieval church. How are we going to do what the medieval church did, borrow Mosaic elements (and for the same reasons) without gradually reproducing the Mosaic worship system just as the medieval church did?

    But can anyone really accept this argument? You are advocating for the use of the OT Psalter (only) in NT worship!! Can you have the OT Psalter without the blood of the OT lambs? You have a hermeneutical problem here, that I’m sure you have addressed elsewhere. Then you will say, well the NT advocates for the singing of psalms (Eph. 5 and Col. 3). But then I will say to you, how do you know that those texts only include the lyrics (in Greek at that time, I suppose), and not the musical arrangement the Christians would have learned from the synagogue? A psalm is a song sung to the harp.

    John

  18. If one examines the Liber Usualis (the authorized book of official music of the Roman rite prior to Vatican II), one will find only Psalms or portions of Psalms intended to be sung a capella. While “hymns of human composure” had made certain in-roads into the mediaeval Mass (in the form of Sequences sung before the reading of the Gospel), this was largely suppressed by the reforms of the Council of Trent. The plea for exclusive psalmody, sung a capella, strangely resembles a return to pre-Reformation worship. The phrase “a capella”after all means “in the manner of the chapel,” not “in the manner of the meeting house.”

    Dr Clark’s case against musical instruments seems air-tight. But I must ask how he finds room in the RPW for re-writing the inspired psalms into LM or CM rime-schemes? And for that matter, what is the Biblical warrant for congregational singing, a thing unheard of before the invention of printing?

  19. This post seems to have really started a landslide of comments. Many of the comments really forget the difference in offices between the minister and the people. They are real and distinct differences that allow the minister to preach and to pray that which is other than a direct quotation from Scripture. And we are commanded to sing Psalms whether we like it or not (which I hope we do enjoy). There is no more choir, or levitical system which causes a separation amongst God’s people in that manner. We are all priests, and are all the thank offering, the temple, the choir, etc. (and I guess in the no-instrumentation view, the instruments) and yet are led by someone who interprets and gives discourse about the Word read, in the sermon. We are led together into God’s presence by the invocation and prayers by the under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd.

  20. Mach, (what a screen name!),

    What if I said, “We Dutch are used to slaughtering goats in worship”? Wouldn’t you respond, with the book of Hebrews, by saying, “I’m sorry but you will just have to get over it. The blood of bulls and goats belonged to the Mosaic covenant. They’ve been fulfilled. You’re in love with types and shadows.”

    The historian in me would say that perhaps THAT (see RRC) is when things began to slide in the CRC. Many “conservatives” (who regularly violate the RPW as it was understood by those who gave it to us in the Reformation) think that things started to “go bad” in the CRC in the ’50’s or the 60’s or whenever but perhaps they don’t go back far enough? Perhaps the in-roads of evangelistic revivalism began much earlier, at the turn of the 20th century, when the church was unable to articulate the RPW and thus the 1912 Psalter became the 1932 (or whatever) Psalter-Hymnal?

    As to pitch pipes – Fine. If that’s all it takes to get rid of musical instruments. Chuck ’em! I’ll take that trade. The argument that “You’re inconsistent therefore I get to be inconsistent” doesn’t work. Try arguing this way: “Well, you beat your wife, so I get to beat my wife.” No, actually hitting people in that way is a crime in most places. It’s wrong for both of you and both of you should stop it.

    As I show in RRC, “circumstance” once covered only time of worship and place and not much more. That’s why the old Reformed (as reflected in the WCF 21) speaks of them being governed by the “light of nature” (gasp! natural revelation and a capella psalmody, what will Reformed theology come to?)

  21. As to singing in Greek and Hebrew — it’s not like we don’t have 1 Cor 14. We do have a positive command from God about worshiping in the common language.

  22. On inspired v non-inspired prayers.

    As I show in RRC (how many of you have read it yet?) the historic Reformed view was to distinguish between the vocation of the minister to preach to and pray for the congregation and the vocation of the congregation to respond to God’s Word with God’s Word. Different offices. Different vocations.

    Many of the responses (as the last time I posted this, and probably the next time I post it) make my point. Why do we love instruments SO MUCH? One would think I had proposed to legalize child kidnapping!

    Ask yourself, “Why I am so passionate about instruments? Why do I disagree with Calvin, the Heidelberg Reformers, with the Synod of Dort, and all the Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries? On what ground?”

  23. Nick,

    That’s commonplace here. I can’t count the times I’ve been in congregations (some of them Dutch Reformed) where I cannot hear the congregation for the tremendous volume of the organ and piano.

    Hey, if we can have instruments then why exactly can’t we shake our “groove things” (whatever they may be) to the glory of God?

    Why can’t we dance in the aisles?

    It’s amusing that the same folks who wouldn’t let us dance or play cards or attend the cinema (once upon a time) at the same time re-introduced instruments into their services. I’ve expressed sympathy for the “cinema” part of that (many early films were pornographic and the whole thing was unregulated) and the dancing prohibition (many of the popular the dances in the 20s were lascivious) and it’s clear to me that the gambling culture is corrupting common life (my argument against gambling is a natural law argument). Yet, at the same time folks were opposing these “vices” they admitted instruments into church. Why wasn’t that straining at gnats and swallowing camels?

  24. John,

    Read RRC. I don’t advocate exclusive psalmody but exclusive canonicity.

    Who is at the center of the revelation in the Psalter? Whom do the psalms reveal?

    Which NT songs use the name of Jesus explicitly?

  25. re: the wife-beating argument… there is, historically speaking, something called a reductio ad absurdum argument. They’ve been used for centuries (even before the Reformation). Come to think of it, I’ve read one or two in Calvin… are you unfamiliar with them? (I’m jesting here…)

    The point of those examples was to show (apparent) inconsistencies in your argument against extra-scriptural singing in church, and to show your argument against instruments to be dubious. We may have failed to do so, and we have certainly failed to put positively the case for using instruments, but the argument against your argument remains unanswered.

    I have never seen the argument that musical instruments are types/signs of Christ put at all convincingly. Maybe you can point me to a good article (say, by a reformer) that puts me right on that one. I’d genuinely like that.

  26. It’s amusing that the same folks who wouldn’t let us dance or play cards or attend the cinema (once upon a time) at the same time re-introduced instruments into their services…

    Instead of amusing, I might suggest ironical in how some think RPW when the category is adiaphora, adiaphora when the category is RPW. Moreover, I have found that common sense is wickedly useful second category after that of adiaphora is employed.

    Signed,

    Member of a Dutch Reformed tradition who can’t hear himself or anyone else sing (or think) in the balcony, which is only helpful when prayers to “sanctify our instruments” are offered. How the he he heck do organs and flutes get sanctified? I thought that was exclusively for agents made in the image of God.

  27. Zrim – point taken. 1 Timothy 4:4-5 – “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

    Made holy -> sanctified, surely? and that’s talking about food and marriage. Not saying it’s wise or helpful to talk about sanctified instruments, just nitpicking.

  28. Paul,

    Call me nit-picky, but speaking of categories, could it be your have your creation and redemption ones a little blurred? Individual image bearers share with food, marriage and instruments their being created very good, but only the former also need sanctification because they chose to plunge themselves into total depravity. In other words, being made holy and being sanctified seem like two different things.

  29. Zrim – true enough – We obviously need to be sanctified in a different sense to bread, marriage, other parts of creation. All I was saying is that if you look up sanctify/ sanctification in a dictionary it will talk about something being made holy, a term which the Bible uses for things other than fallen human beings. So if I were visiting a church which had just had a new organ installed, and they publicly thanked God for it, asking for it to be sanctified… I’d look at them a little strangely, but I wouldn’t leap up and down in annoyance. I wouldn’t interpret them to be asking for the organ to be changed from one degree of glory to another of the likeness of Christ.

  30. Let’s talk practical applications:

    1) What may/must one do if found in a church that sings uninspired songs and believes this is a violation of the RPW and consequently God’s law?

    2) What may/must one do if found in a church that not only uses instruments to “aid” the singing of the congregation but has a choir or special music soloists?

    Does one have a right to absent himself from these particular instances of worship (i.e. pay a visit to the men’s room while all this is going on)?

    What if one’s conscience is so bothered by these practices? What may one do?

  31. Paul,

    I’m not given to leaping in annoyance either, but share your simple raised brow.

    And while dictionaries are very helpful they tend not to tell the whole story, which is why Bibles and their exegetes are also handy. Whatever else this all helps to do, it helps distinguish how ivory can be transformed into keys, human beings are transformed into images of Christ but it’s best to describe to the latter as “being sanctified,” since often times folks seem to think our “transformation” is a lot like how ivory turns into keys when it’s nothing like that at all.

  32. All of this conversation backs why I will never, ever set foot in a “reformed” church again. The amount of time arguing about the RPW and instruments, and calling people (our brothers and sisters in Christ) who don’t buy the RPW seudo-heritics for their use (or misuse) of instruments. I find it interesting that “reformed” churches recite the Nicene Creed that states “I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…” yet they spend hours and hours on the internet totally bashing other churches for not being “reformed” enough. You should be saying that you believe in “one Holy reformed church” because a united church isn’t an option for you. You have too many “theological” issues with you’re rivals to care enough about “unity”. Why are there URC, OPC and PCNA churches? Why not one “reformed” denomination? Because they all have minor disagreements with each other. Petty things that have little to do with the Lord-ship of Christ and more to do with ego and control. I just can’t handle the arrogance amongst people in “reformed” circles. I’m surprised that someone on this blog hasn’t made the comment that those of us in Lutheran or Anglican or Presbyterian seminaries should just drop out since we are “in error” theologically speaking right from the get-go. Those of the “reformed” faith have it all figured out right? I have never claimed to be a theologian although I am studying and learning daily. It’s good to know that when it comes to Unity in the Body that I am not welcome in “reformed” circles. I am not welcome to partake of the Eucharist. I am not welcome to bring a pitchpipe or a guitar to worship. I am not welcome because I don’t believe that “reformed” theology has all the answers. (Just like Lutheran theology doesn’t have everything figured out.)

  33. Victor,

    What I do is bring my psalter along and before the service, cross reference the Trinity Hymnal hymn selections in our church bulletin with my psalter index to see if there are matching tunes (or at least psalm settings). Ninety percent of the time there are, and I can then sing a psalm quietly along with the rest of the congregation while they are singing the hymn. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect solution, but I find it FAR more satisfactory than remaining silent. (Dr. Clark had made this suggestion in a previous blog post which I can’t seem to locate.)

  34. “Made holy -> sanctified, surely? and that’s talking about food and marriage. Not saying it’s wise or helpful to talk about sanctified instruments, just nitpicking.”

    Does that mean I can take my golf clubs to church and pray for them to be sanctified too?

  35. Thank you very much for various replies. But I am a little frustrated that most of the answers were dealing with the branches of my question, not the trunk. It feels like I am pointing to the moon, and people discuss which finger I am using. Maybe it’s my poor English.

    Anyhow, here’s a simple yes or no question. I think many people here thinks that I should not use instruments during family worship and personal worship. Yes, or No?

  36. There are some who object to what we have here said, and affirm in support of will-worship, that those passages which we have cited as condemning it, speak only in reference to the ceremonies instituted by Moses and of the unlawful commandments of men, such as constitute no part of the worship of God ; and not of those precepts which have been sanctioned by the church and bishops, and which command nothing contrary to the word of God. But that this argument is false, may be proven by certain declarations connected with those passages of Scripture to which we have referred, which likewise reject those human laws, which, upon their own authority, prescribe anything in reference to divine worship which God has not commanded, although the thing itself is neither sinful nor forbidden by God. So Christ rejects the tradition which the Jews had in regard to washing their hands, because they associated with it the idea of divine worship, although it was not sinful in itself, saying, ” Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” ” Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ; for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within ye are full of extortion and excess.” (Matt. 15 : 11 ; 23, 25.) The same thing may be said of celibacy and of the distinction of meats and days, of which the apostle Paul speaks, (Rom. 14 : 6. 1 Tim. 4 : 1-3,) and which he calls ” doctrines of devils,” although in themselves they are lawful to the godly, as he in other places teaches. Wherefore, those things also which are in themselves indifferent, that is neither commanded nor prohibited by God, if they are prescribed and done as the worship of God, or if it is supposed that God is honored by our performing them, and dishonored by neglecting them, it is plainly manifest that the Scriptures in these and similar places condemn them.
    Such works, therefore, as are indifferent, must be carefully distinguished from those in which we worship God: 1. Because to imagine a different worship of God from that which he has prescribed, is to imagine another will of God, and so another God. And those who do this, as Aaron and Jeroboam formerly did, are no less guilty of idolatry, than those who professedly worship another god, beside that Jehovah revealed in the church. 2. Because, by such a mingling of the true worship of God with that which is false, the true God is confounded with idols, which are honored in the forms of worship invented by men. 3. Be cause whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Rom. 14 : 23.) But he who does any thing in order that he may worship God by it, his conscience not knowing or doubting, whether God will be worshipped in this way, or not, does it not of faith ; because he is ignorant whether his work pleases, or displeases God, and so does not regard him, inasmuch as he rcresumes to do it, notwithstanding it is displeasing to him.

    http://www.us.archive.org/GnuBook/?id=commentaryofzach00ursiuoft#559
    What I think Ursinus is getting at–and I can be corrected–is that if an action albeit inherently indifferent (i.e. use of instruments apart from the public assembly), that is neither sinful nor forbidden by God, is performed with the intent of worshiping God, or supposing it to be honoring to God and dishonoring by not performing it, is wrong.
    I, personally, have a hard time calling what I do when catechizing my children at home, “worship.” I know some puritan-lovers won’t like this but catechizing and worshiping are, to me, two very distinct things. I have a resource written by Rev. Terry Johnson, entitled Family Worship, that even has liturgies for family worship. I believe that things that pertain to the public worship of God, such as Aaronic benedictions for example, are reserved for the lawfully-ordained minister to perform.
    Again, I can be proven wrong. It is not a belief I can say I have nicely polished.

  37. David,

    That’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought of bringing a psalter. We use a Psalter-Hymnal in church and so we can usually find a psalm to sing. Sometimes I’ve simply sung a psalm out of Scripture stretching the meter to adapt.

    Hun,

    I think we understand your question but we don’t accept the premise on which it’s based. You assume that what is done in church must also be done at home. I reply by saying that church is one thing and home is another. They are distinct spheres. God’s Word governs public worship in a way it doesn’t intend to govern what is done in private.

    I’m not saying that God’s Word doesn’t govern private devotions but the RPW was not intended to govern all of life outside of worship.

    The question the RPW asks is: what must be done? At home we are entitled, in Christian freedom, to ask, “What may be done?” I may turn left or right when driving the car but I must not hit anyone.

    See RRC. Read the book. It might help.

  38. Justin,

    1. Let us know when you find the perfect church. We’ll stay away as we don’t want to corrupt it. We are all sinners here.

    2. What did you think you would find at a blog subtitled: Recovering the REFORMED confession?

    3. Did your browser force you to come here? If so you might want to get your computer checked for viruses.

  39. Dr. Clark,

    Wouldn’t you say though that to assume that one is worshiping God by turning left instead of right, listening to Christian talk radio as opposed to progressive talk radio, &tc is idolatry as Ursinus commented?

  40. I missed Bob S’s comment above; I now read it and he surely understood what I was asking above. So he’s answer is “No”, instruments should not be accompanied to singing praise during personal worship as well as corporate worship.

    By the way, it should be pointed out that usually 10 people give 20 different definition of worship. Having a wrong or vague definition of a term is a guarantee to various misunderstandings, wrong conclusions, and confusions. (No wonder this posting has so much comments.) I’ll say more on this on my blog.

  41. Justin writes, “Those of the “reformed” faith have it all figured out right?”

    I don’t think “reformed” blogs would exist if we did. This discussion exists because instead of putting important issues, such as the correct worship of God, in the back burner, we decide to talk about them passionately.

    I’d rather be in a reformed church plagued with debates and discussion than in a Lutheran church that doesn’t want to offend anyone (but God) by not discussing essential issues.

  42. Justin,

    Don’t look now but you’re, ahem, “taking issue.” So, how is your rant different from the sorts of criticisms you point out here? And why do I hear that “non-denominational denomination” tune in the background? There’s a principled difference between being divisive and rightly dividing.

  43. Victor,

    There are Lutheran churches that are not in the market of appeasing everyone. CLCA Lutheran Churches are quite orthodox in their Worship and Theology. Same goes for many Anglican churches in the US. Those churches debate and discuss essentials as well and many of those churches/denominations were born out of a debate against liberalism and a Faith void of absolutes.
    But the gist I get here is that because we have musical instruments or because we have differing views on this theological issue that we are somehow lesser. Heritical. Apostate. I am pointing out that that is how you come off to an outsider looking in. I have professors who aren’t “reformed” yet studied at Oxford and believe that the Bible is the Word of God. They are Lutheran. Their take on things is a little different, yet why is it that any church, para-church organization or denomination that isn’t “reformed” gets bashed here. My point is that we are to be unified. You call it being “rightly divided” and I view it, as an outsider, as complete arrogance theologically.

    I never said there was the perfect church. I merely speak as someone who isn’t “reformed”. I am not welcome in your church. So be it.

  44. Justin,

    But the gist I get here is that because we have musical instruments or because we have differing views on this theological issue that we are somehow lesser. Heritical. [sic] Apostate. I am pointing out that that is how you come off to an outsider looking in… I am not welcome in your church. So be it.

    Try a thought experiment: Joe Pagan says, “You Christians come off as saying (fill in the blank with any point of doctrine from the ecumenical creeds) and anyone who says otherwise is less-than…I’m just telling you how you come off…I am not welcome in your church. So be it.” Do you think you’ve been more understood or misunderstood? Is that a charitable read of Christians? Granted, some of us Christians may well deserve some exhortation for doing Christianity really poorly (have you been reading the HB?!?), but does that mean the doctrines of, say, the Trinity or the atonement are any less valid?

    While going from Christian-to-pagan is different from Reformed-to-non-Reformed the principle here is one of charity. Your comments might say more about your inferences than our implications. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of what we might wrongly convey without saying it, but by the same token, perhaps you might think about how the crass notion that you “aren’t welcome in [our] church” can’t really, honestly be what we mean.

  45. Justin,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that we are to be unified. However, this unity must have a foundation. For the Reformed folk, this unity has its foundation on the Creeds and Confessions, which in turn are founded on Christ and the Apostles teachings. In other words we subscribe to these confessions _because_ they are biblical.

    Now, these confessions have, I believe, clearly and biblically, taught how _every_ Christian ought to worship. Hence, the regulative principle of worship. It is precisely this blog’s intent, Dr. Clark may correct me if I’m wrong, to RECOVER these confessions.

    So that Justin, if you want to talk about unity and apostasy you are talking to the wrong group and barking up the wrong tree. You need to address yourself to those who disagree with the confessions and scripture.

    Besides, it is illogical to think that the veracity of our claims depends on how we “come across” it depends on the claim itself when compared against scripture.

    And by the way, any time you are in SoCal, you are more than welcome to drop by our church and discuss these issues further. We have no problem with that.

  46. Is it relevant that lots of people simply can’t sing without accompaniment? This may be more true now than it was in 1550. The choice may literally be between accompaniment of some sort and no singing. It seems to me that this ia analogous to metrification, which at least some Puritans defended by saying that if God intended Western (not their word, of course) to sing the Psalms, he must have intended that the Psalms be put into a form that they could sing.

    • People learned to sing WITH instruments in the 18th and 19th centuries. Couldn’t we UNLEARN how to sing with them? It’s been done. We could make the same argument for pictures of Jesus (another problem with the 2nd commandment. “I just can’t worship Jesus without them.” Sure you can! Imagine making that argument about bulls at Bethel and Dan. “Now that we’ve become accustomed to worshiping Yahweh with bulls, we just can’t go back.” I doubt the prophets would buy that one.

  47. Scott, I love you, but this is stupid. OT instruments were not typological of anything. This is why they are not in the same category as the sacrifices. Nor was their use exclusive to the priestly/levitical service. This is where Calvin and everyone else fail in their argument. This is why some have attempted torturous explanations such as “they are typological of the greater effusion of the Holy Spirit.” Really? That’s what you’re going with? Really!

    And of course circumstances add and detract from the worship! Anyone up for meeting at 2 am in a dark alley? Please stand on your head for the reading of God’s Word.

    You may also want to check out the use of the phrase “sing and make melody” (Eph 5:19) in the LXX since it is likely that the LXX influences Paul’s use of this phrase.

    Oh, and Justin, you are welcome at my church. We hold to the Westminster Confession but we are proud to have both Baptists and Lutherans as members.

    • Stupid means “thoughtless.” This argument isn’t thoughtless. You may disagree with it, but have you read RRC? Are you aware of the historic Reformed exegesis of Eph 5 and Col 3.

      I’ve been reading the LXX since about 1984. How long have you been reading it?

      A circumstance by definition is morally immaterial. That’s why it’s a circumstance dictated by the light of nature and prudence.

      I may be stupid but at least I under the historic position. This post doesn’t give evidence that you do.

  48. “Oh, and Justin, you are welcome at my church. We hold to the Westminster Confession but we are proud to have both Baptists and Lutherans as members.”

    Yikes!

    • Baptists and Lutherans and papists and Mormons and all sorts are welcome at any true Reformed Church! All are welcome to hear the law and the gospel. Who ever gave the idea that sinners aren’t welcome in a Reformed Church. Of course they were.

      It doesn’t follow, however, that because folk are welcome to hear the law and the gospel that they are necessarily welcome to participate in the Holy Supper. All Reformed Church fence the table. The question is to what extent. There is disagreement on this point among contemporary Reformed folk. At OURC we follow the policy adopted by the Synod of Dort (while the international delegates were still present) which opens the table to all who profess (in ecclesiastical not private terms) the Reformed religion.

  49. Josh,

    “OT instruments were not typological of anything. This is why they are not in the same category as the sacrifices.”

    If they weren’t typological, then what WAS their purpose – surely not so the Levites could sing on key …

  50. Dr. Clark,

    You wrote:

    The only biblical ground for instruments also entails the sacrifice of animals. In other words, how are we going to use Moses’ or David’s instruments without killing Aaron’s lambs or engaging in holy war?

    But does this logic not also preclude the erection of church buildings?

  51. Ron,

    No more than it precludes breathing! There’s nothing Mosaic about buildings but there is something Mosaic about instruments and bloody sacrifices.

    That said, we are probably far too attached to buildings. In my ministry “the building” was often an albatross. I suspect that the building gets in the way of faithfulness.

    If the cost of following the RPW is giving up church buildings, I’ll pay it.

  52. Thank you for this very thought-provoking article and all the comments.

    Although there has been an abuse of the use of unsound doctrine in hymns and although there has been an abuse of sensational music designed more to tickle the ear than to assist true praise to God and although there may be those “blood of bulls” typology arguments which were much more clearly fulfilled by Christ’s blood, I don’t believe they win the argument (at least not yet in my mind) over the clear commands of use of instruments in Scripture about worship, particularly in the Psalms 150:
    “1 Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in His sanctuary;
    Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
    2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
    Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
    3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
    Praise Him with harp and lyre.
    4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
    Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
    5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
    Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
    6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”
    Praise the LORD!”

    I also don’t think Psalm 150 was intended to be an exhaustive list of permitted instruments. I think the key is lyrics not musical instruments. We need to have sound doctrine in the lyrics.

    In conclusion, it is hard to ignore such clear and strong Scripture. I thought it was very appropriate to include Psalm 150 in this blog. Thank you.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Bill Hornbeck

  53. Dr. Clark,

    I guess I’m having a difficult time seeing how musical instruments were a necessary feature of the Mosaic economy to the point that we cannot get rid of sacrifices and holy wars without also getting rid of musical instruments.

  54. Dr. Clark,

    You also wrote:

    If the cost of following the RPW is giving up church buildings, I’ll pay it.

    But that raises an interesting question: if the cost of following the RPW is giving up church building, why didn’t the people who put the RPW into our confessional heritage get rid of their church buildings?

  55. Bill,

    No one disputes that believers under the old covenant were commanded to do these things, to prosecute holy wars, and to shed blood as part of worship.

    The question is how can we selectively save the instruments we like from the holy war and the blood that we don’t like or that were fulfilled by Christ?

    Why weren’t the instruments fulfilled by Christ? That’s the 64,000 question.

    Our forefathers all concluded in the 16th and 17th centuries that the instruments were so linked to the other aspects of the Mosaic types and shadows that they were fulfilled by Christ.

    In the modern period we’ve come to disagree but do we have good reason to depart from the historic understanding of the RPW? Yes, Ps 150 is clear but so are those psalms (as I show in RRC) that command holy war and the spilling of blood in worship.

    Ron,

    The question isn’t whether they were ontologically necessary. The question is whether they were commanded as part of that economy. We agree that God commanded them as part of that economy.

    Read RRC and see if that doesn’t help.

  56. One of the final straws for me has been to realize that I find it easier to sing in a cappella congregations. The URC we now attend has an interesting practice of singing some verses a cappella and others with the piano. I find it so much easier to sing out strong and on key during the a cappella verses. The only requirement is one strong voice in the congregation to follow.

    After comparing my experiences singing with and without instrumental accompaniment, I cannot understand how one can argue for instruments as a circumstance of worship. A cappella song means that I can hear myself and the melody line loud and clear. Perhaps the melody line alone tapped out on the piano might prove useful. However, I have yet to encounter any church that uses an instrument in such a manner. Instruments in our churches are not employed in such a way as to make singing easier. The moment the pianist begins the offertory background music, everything that was said about it being a circumstance goes out the window.

    I know of one RPCNA congregation that gathers a small group to regularly practice their psalms prior to stated worship. The voices of these practiced singers amidst the congregation make singing easy and enjoyable. There are incredibly easy ways to make sure an a cappella congregation follows the music.

  57. Bill,

    If you go back one psalm, to #149 you will read the following:

    1 Praise the LORD!
    Sing to the LORD a new song,
    And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
    2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
    3 Let them praise His name with dancing;
    Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
    4 For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
    He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
    5 Let the godly ones exult in glory;
    Let them sing for joy on their beds.
    6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
    And a two-edged sword in their hand,
    7 To execute vengeance on the nations
    And punishment on the peoples,
    8 To bind their kings with chains
    And their nobles with fetters of iron,
    9 To execute on them the judgment written;
    This is an honor for all His godly ones.
    Praise the LORD!

    So that, by your logic we will not only implement the use of instruments–tymbrel and lyre– in congregational worship but also dancing (v3), beds (v), and swords! (v6). Not only must we praise God but we must also execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the people (v7); for that, we will need chains (v8).

    Now, unless you plan on bringing your bed to worship this Sunday along with swords and chains, I wouldn’t apply your hermeneutic to the psalms.

    As for me, it is enough of a burden to have to bring bread, wine, and offering plates to add to that all of that.

  58. Ron,

    We don’t have to get rid of the building because they are circumstances and not elements.

    I was just making the point that, IF (not the hypothetical) that was cost, THEN (given the purely hypothetical) I’ll pay it. I’m merely explaining my priorities.

    That said, I don’t believe that it is necessary logically. We’ve always included “times and places” in the category “circumstance.”

    That’s why we worshiped in hedge rows in the 16th century when the Spaniard were trying to murder us. That’s why we called the Lord’s Supper a “dinner party” in order to meet for worship secretly during the same period in private houses. There’s nothing holy about buildings.

    By contrast, offerings are elements. Instruments are elements. They fundamentally change the nature of worship. Calvin speaks about the affective power of music in his Epistre au Lectur (old spelling) to the 1543 Form of Prayers. That’s why he said that we must only worship as God has commanded in the New Covenant and we should only use God’s Word (and specifically the Psalms!) in worship.

  59. Bryan,

    Exactly. Calvin trained and used children to teach the grownups how to sing without instruments. It can be done. We may have to start from scratch as they did. If they did it, so can we.

  60. Wasn’t Zwingli, with the RPW, reacting to the myriad of things that the catholic church had included in their worship services that he found to be heritical? The reenactment of the death of Jesus, the addition of sacraments, and the more wild aspects of worship that had developed in thatl period like ornate vestments, incense, the proliferation of statues, the use of scepters, crucifixes, etc..

    So Zwingli was reacting to what he saw as Luther not taking his “reforming” of the catholic church far enough. But don’t scholars from both sides think they are correct? Lutheran “normative principles” and Zwingli/Calvin with the RPW? I merely ask the question since there are larger theological minds posting here than I.

  61. Dr. Clark,

    You wrote:

    Instruments are elements. They fundamentally change the nature of worship.

    I have difficulty with the words “fundamentally” and “nature” in this sentence. How are musical instruments able to effect such a far-reaching, all-encompassing change? And what exactly is changed by them in the fundamental nature of worship?

  62. Ron,

    Is music affective?

    If it isn’t, why are people so passionate about this topic? If I had posted on banning butterflies from worship, I doubt any one would have cared. This is the second time I’ve posted this and the second time the comments have gone wild.

    I answer your objection in RRC.

  63. Justin,

    Zwingli articulated his principle of worship on principle. It was not a purely reactionary position, but the view that I’m defending on the HB (and in my recent conference lecture) is Calvin’s.

    Go to the WSC bookstore site to download the lectures on the recent Calvin conference.

  64. Dr. Clark,

    “This is the second time I’ve posted this and the second time the comments have gone wild.”

    This is a great tool for marketing RRC! LOL

  65. Dr. Clark,

    I’m actually not very passionate about the topic of music in worship per se. What I am passionate about—and I’m not implying that you are guilty of this—is the avoidance of legalism in worship. If musical instruments violate biblical worship, then so be it: they’re out. And I say this as one who plays a musical instrument in worship services. On the other hand, if they do not violate biblical worship, then banning them would be unnecessary legalism.

    I guess I’ll just need to get your book to understand your position.

  66. Ron,

    I understand. This is an important issue that you should think through carefully. A blog isn’t the best medium for that. I try to stimulate thinking here and to get people to read more substantial treatments of the issues. I hope you’ll take the time to read RRC where I deal with this issue at some length.

  67. Thank you Dr. Clark! Thank you Victor! I really appreciate your time in replying to me. You make similar points. I will try to reply to both of you by answering two questions by you, Dr. Clark.

    Here is the first of two of your questions, Dr. Clark:
    The question is how can we selectively save the instruments we like from the holy war and the blood that we don’t like or that were fulfilled by Christ?

    My answer:
    Scripture allows us to make that selection by expressly and clearly telling us the subject matters that were fulfilled by Christ and that either also either expressly or by sufficent inference informs us that we should not continue their practices.

    Hebrews 10:4 provides the best example. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It is clear and direct and identifies the subject matter and tells us not to do it.

    Regarding holy war, I think of Scripture such as Galatians 5: 14-15: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Although this does not expressly identify “holy wars”, there is enough Scripture in the New Testament for the reader to make this distinction and selection that we should not continue with such holy wars. Scripture also shows us that the nation of Israel should no longer be protected by such “holy wars”.

    My question is what is the best Scripture in the New Testament that you have that either expreslly or by inference tells us that musical instruments were fulfilled by Christ to the extent that they are prohibited in worship?

    Here is the second of these two questions:
    “Why weren’t the instruments fulfilled by Christ? That’s the 64,000 question.”

    My answer:
    I suppose that you could say that everything is fulfilled by Christ on the basis of Ephesians 1:10: “… the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. ”

    But, on the basis of that logic, you could argue (wrongfully in my opinion) that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath based on Scripture like Mark 2:27-28: “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
    But, no one or few would argue that based on such fulfillment that we should not honor the Sabbath and use Sabbath as a day of worship and rest.

    In conclusion, there are these distinctions by Scripture between blood of bulls and goats, holy war, and musical instruments. As shown above, we have Scripture for the first two that can allow us to argue that they were fulfilled in Christ and should not be practiced. But, we don’t have sufficient Scripture to allow us that musical instruments were fulfilled in Christ and should not be practiced. Thank you again.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Bill Hornbeck

  68. Thank you Dr. Clark! Thank you Victor! I really appreciate your time in replying to me. You make similar points. I will try to reply to both of you by answering two questions by you, Dr. Clark.

    Here is the first of two of your questions, Dr. Clark:
    The question is how can we selectively save the instruments we like from the holy war and the blood that we don’t like or that were fulfilled by Christ?

    My answer:
    Scripture allows us to make that selection by expressly and clearly telling us the subject matters that were fulfilled by Christ and that either also either expressly or by sufficent inference informs us that we should not continue their practices.

    Hebrews 10:4 provides the best example. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It is clear and direct and identifies the subject matter and tells us not to do it.

    Regarding holy war, I think of Scripture such as Galatians 5: 14-15: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Although this does not expressly identify “holy wars”, there is enough Scripture in the New Testament for the reader to make this distinction and selection that we should not continue with such holy wars. Scripture also shows us that the nation of Israel should no longer be protected by such “holy wars”.

    My question is what is the best Scripture in the New Testament that you have that either expreslly or by inference tells us that musical instruments were fulfilled by Christ to the extent that they are prohibited in worship?

    Here is the second of these two questions:
    “Why weren’t the instruments fulfilled by Christ? That’s the 64,000 question.”

    My answer:
    I suppose that you could say that everything is fulfilled by Christ on the basis of Ephesians 1:10: “… the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. ”

    But, on the basis of that logic, you could argue (wrongfully in my opinion) that Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath based on Scripture like Mark 2:27-28: “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
    But, no one or few would argue that based on such fulfillment that we should not honor the Sabbath and use Sabbath as a day of worship and rest.

    In conclusion, there are these distinctions by Scripture between blood of bulls and goats, holy war, and musical instruments. As shown above, we have Scripture for the first two that can allow us to argue that they were fulfilled in Christ and should not be practiced. But, we don’t have sufficient Scripture to maintain that musical instruments were fulfilled in Christ and should not be practiced in worship now. Thank you again.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Bill Hornbeck

  69. Scott, you are certainly not stupid, and I in no way meant to impugn your Greek skills, which I am sure are excellent. I am very familiar with the Reformation polemics against instruments, but I don’t find them persuasive. My point (that some have made more tactfully) is that instruments don’t correspond to an identifiable antitype. Sacrifices – easy. Holy war – easy. Incense – easy. Temple and vestments – easy. But instruments are just instruments.

  70. Are not the questions that needs to be asked is (1) WHEN and HOW were instruments in the Old Testament used?

    If the argument from Dr. Clark is correct, then we would expect that instruments were associated with sacrifices: not simply associated with the temple but specifically with the sacrifices. I am fairly confident that Dr. Clark can make this argument persuasively. (To those who want to look for themselves, it might be prudent to examine the OT to see where the first instance of instruments being instituted and used in worship appears.)

    Moreover, the second part of the question, how were the instruments used? Were they used to guide OT Israel’s singing? Or, were they played cacophonically: Were they simply making a joyful noise to announce the mighty works of the Lord on behalf of His people?

    It seems to me that even if you prove that instruments were associated only generically with the temple, you still have to prove that they were used in a manner that we use them today–particularly if that is your warrant for how they are being used today. It could be you only have warrant for playing instruments to make a joyful noise, but not to have them “keep us on pitch.” But, if it is shown that they were connected to the sacrifices (particularly if they were played while the sacrifices were being offered), then it seems to me that Dr. Clark and all the reformers have won their case.

  71. Barks,

    Why must the bar be so high? Why won’t any association with the Mosaic/temple cult do? I don’t think the Reformed set the bar as high as you are and it’s not obvious why it should be so high.

  72. Dr. Clark,

    Perhaps Barks’ question can be put a little more reasonably this way: can it be proven that the OT’s use of instruments is an element rather than a circumstance?

    If instruments were elements in the OT, then they should be considered elements in the NT, and should therefore be banned (because not commanded).

    While I can see that it is obvious and self evident to you that instruments are elements, not circumstances, perhaps you would indulge the rest of us?

    Maybe I don’t fully understand the distinction between elements and circumstances. But it seems to me that singing is commanded in the NT. If it is commanded, then it is an element.

    Now here’s where it gets interesting. Instruments were commanded in the OT in very specific circumstances for very specific reasons. I posted a bunch of passages in the other thread of a couple days ago that prove just that. Is it therefore true that instruments were provably elemental for OT worship and were to be used only in very specific ways?

    Have I made your case for you or is there more to say?

    E

  73. E,

    Why is the burden of proof on those who would call instruments an aspect of the the element of typological worship?

    My concern is that the assumption seems to be that they were a “circumstance” unless proven otherwise.

    As I understand the 16th/17thc view, “circumstance” applied to place and time and that’s about it.

    I think, in Reformed Churches, the burden of proof should fall on those who want to redefine circumstance more broadly rather than on those of us who accept the original definition.

    As I understand the case, the essence of the typological cultus was the same as the essence of worship in the time of fulfillment. What differs are the accidents. Those who want to bring back instruments are attempting, in Calvin’s view, and in the view of the Reformed, to bring back the typological forms.

    They are the very arguments that Rome uses to bring back the priesthood and the “memorial,” propitiatory sacrifice!

  74. Hun,
    WCF 21:6 says:

    . . . God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth;
    as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself; so, more solemnly, in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by His Word or providence, calls thereunto.

    Consequently the Scottish Church added the Directory for Family Worship to the Westminster Standards and buttoned up that loose end. IOW along with the RPW, the Sabbath and the second service, recovering the reformed confessions in our day would also entail daily family worship (. . . and elder visitation and . . .)

    I think it pretty easy to argue that both the divines and the Scots considered worship to be worship, beginning in the home and even more solemnly in public, with the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments and discipline.

    Again, as re. the overall discussion, instruments were only brought into the temple worship by the explicit command of God to David. But anything that was exclusive to the temple has been fulfilled and abolished in the New Testament with Christ at Calvary and Pentecost: sacrifices, washings, candles, incense, vestments, instruments, choirs etc. You name it, it is all gone. Only the reading, preaching of the Word, prayer and praise of God, the sacraments and so forth as set out in WCF 21:5 remain.

    And while we may not think worship a big deal, that is not the view of Calvin and other notables. Further, alot of the FV crew got their wings and earned their cub scout badges hacking on the RPW – Jordan, Schlissel, Wilson, Leithart, Horne. That might seem to be a cause for pause, even for those who aren’t quite up to speed on the reformed exposition of the second commandment.

  75. The tradition of prohibiting the use of musical instruments in worship fails, what I call, the three prong test:
    1. Scripture does not prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship. Just the opposite! Scripture commands it. See Psalm 150 as stated above.
    2. The Reformed Confessions do not prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship. No where in the Belgic confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, or Westminister Confession of Faith does it prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship.
    3. The whole case for prohibiting musical instruments rests on the basis that it can from “good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”.

    “The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter I, paragraph VI, states, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

    This Westminister Confession of Faith paragraph warns us against adding anything based on “traditions of men”.

    I realize that it is a matter of opinion as to whether or not prohibiting musical instruments in worship is “good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”.

    However, we should be very hesitant about prohibiting something that is commanded in Scripture and about which the Reformed Confessions are silent.

    In conclusion, it is my opinion that it can not be deduced from Scripture. Thus, the tradition of prohibiting the use of musical instruments in worship fails, what I call, the three prong test. Thank you.

  76. A good resource on Instruments in worship is By John L Girardeau available on the Web and recently published and available at Heritage Books. Also is his excellent essay available on the web “On the Disretionary Power of the Church.”

  77. Scott, how many comments would you get here if you advocated having no sermon in church? Or if you denied penal substitution? I think the sheer volume of comments highlights your point.

    If you want to illustrate your example, the next time an old person dies and donates money to your church, spend it on a heifer and machete instead of an organ.

  78. 1. Psalm 150 is not all about instruments in corporate worship, just as Psalm 149 is not all about corporate worship. Tambourine and dance… not! Beds and two-edged swords… never!

    2. Reformed confessions never prohibited the use of instruments because it was assumed that Reformed churches did not use instruments.

    3. The whole case for prohibiting musical instruments rests on the basis that it can from “good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” What about the doctrine of the Trinity and the hypostatic union?

  79. Bill,

    You couldn’t be more wrong about the Reformed Confessions prohibiting instruments. The Reformed confessions were adopted by churches who all rejected instruments! I know I should stop saying this but please see RRC.

  80. Maybe you can explain this a little more fully for me:

    I recall hearing on an episode of the White Horse Inn about Calvin having INITIALLY rejected musical instruments in corporate worship, but that later he allowed them to be returned after he came to realize that it does benefit corporate worship. I seem to recall Michael Horton saying something along these lines.

    Does this reflect any aspect of reality or am I remembering this incorrectly? If there is some truth to this, please put some meat on the bare bones provided above.

    • John,

      I know of no evidence that Calvin ever used instruments in public worship. The historical, institutional history is that he rid the Genevan church of instruments. His explicit teaching (as I demonstrated in the earlier post quoting Calvin’s comments on Pss 149 and 150) was against instruments. The Reformed Churches after Calvin all rejected and banned instruments. They only came back into the Reformed Churches when they stopped believing and applying the Reformed or Regulative Principle of Worship. I’ve not heard anyone on the WHI say that Calvin used instruments. Calvin did hire people with the ability to write music to put the psalms to music but he used no instruments.

  81. Dr. Clark,

    You say you do not affirm exclusive psalmody, but rather exclusive canonicity. No, I haven’t read your book (yet), but I’d like your help in fleshing out exactly what that means.

    A few years ago I wrote a song based specifically on the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15. I wonder if a hymn “based” on a passage of Scripture honors the RPW in your opinion, or would the lyrical content need to be, say, the ESV put to music?

    Here’s a link to the lyrics of the song posted at my blog:

    http://capthk.wordpress.com/2006/02/21/the-main-thing-what-else-the-gospel/

    Does this pass muster, or must I relegate it to my own personal or family worship?

    Thanks.

  82. Back to Echo’s discussion of instruments as circumstance,

    Do any of you really worship in congregations where instruments are used solely to aid congregational singing?

    I state my challenge again: the first time a piano or organ sounds during an offering without congregational singing, you’ve completely lost the argument for instruments as circumstance.

  83. Bryan,

    How true! It’s as though there’s a huge collective blind spot here. I’ve questioned my pastor on this (our OPC church has two organ solos during the service – the offertory and the “interlude”) and haven’t been answered yet. I don’t get it. I would LOVE to see someone try to defend this practice in view of the RPW. I plan to bring the issue to the session soon.

  84. Hi John,

    I really like this as a paraphrase. I think it’s much more faithful than most to the text of Scripture. It’s really well done. It’s still a paraphrase, however. I’m sure that most people would (or do already!) think me crazy but I think we should sing God’s Word period. As Calvin says in his preface to the Prayers in 1543, it’s the only thing we know with certainty we may take on our lips in public worship.

    I love the graphics on your blog. That’s great stuff. I’ll subscribe.

    E etc,

    re: circumstances.

    Maybe it would help to notice the connection in the WCF between “the light of nature” and circumstances. The use of instruments in the typological period, in worship, was not the product of “the light of nature.” WCF 21 says, ” As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set
    apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and
    perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly
    appointed one day in seven…”

    Notice how the divines juxtaposed “the light of nature” with “a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment.”

    Circumstances are those things that belong to the light of nature. The same juxtaposition occurs in 21.1:

    “The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and
    sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be
    feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart,
    and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of
    worshipping the true God is instituted by himself….”

  85. Thanks on the song and the site, Dr. Clark, and I appreciate the compelling discussion on instruments. Hadn’t dug too deeply on the subject to date, but you’ve given me a good orientation on the subject.

    Like YR&R (“Young, Restless & Reformed” type) artist Derek Webb sings, “The truth is never sexy” — compelling, yet repulsive at the same time–to God be the glory!

    Also thanks for subscribing. My blog wades in the shallow end of the Reformed blogosphere, but it would certainly benefit from your input from time to time.

  86. By the way, I forgot to mention that if you want to hear the song’s tune, you can find a recording of it in the lower portion of the sidebar in the black BOX widget. Unfortunately, the recording started after I finished singing the first verse, but the rest of the song, and my ensemble partners, are there.

  87. I realize that musical instruments were permitted under the Mosaic Law, but where in the Law were they specifically commanded to be used in ceremonial worship?

  88. Reply to Bob’s comment on March 5, 2009 at 12:30 am>

    Worship is the most important thing we must give to God. However, the crucial mistakes often made in discussions related to worship is that people don’t start the discussion with a well-agreed definition of worship (More on this issue at my blog.) For instance, we often see people assuming

    Old testament sacrificial system = Old testament worship system

    But this is not correct. (See for instance how the Scripture distinguishes the sacrifice, praise, and worship in 2 Chronicles 29:28–30. More on this in the last section of this posting.)

    If the above equation is incorrect, then all the arguments based on that assumption, for instance, such as
    (a) Instruments were tied to sacrificial system.
    (b) Sacrificial system is the Old Testament worship form.
    (c) Therefore use of instruments is confined to Old Testament.
    breaks down. (Actually, I think statement (a) is also wrong because 2 Chronicles 29:28–30 strongly indicates that instruments were used for public singing of psalms after the sacrifice is given, in view of verse 25.)

    And let me copy the comment I made in other posting on this blog, which is related to Mr. Henzel’s question above. Use of instruments when “singing” was systematically introduced by David, not by Moses and his Law. David was a prophet and delivered God’s revelation. Many of them, especially the Psalms were not only intended for use in the Old Economy but also in the New Testament. So, what do you think about his implementation of instruments? Do you think it was intended only for the Old Economy? Was it tied to the Sacrificial System? If that was God’s design, isn’t the Law (the Pentateuch) the proper place to stated it, along with various ceremonial laws written there? Why would He tell them “later” to use them?

    My conclusion: Scripture teaches us not to think worship as a collection of reading of scripture, prayer, praise, or whatever. Scripture always uses the term with a precise meaning, and it is not equal to, say, “Burt Offering”. So it is wrong to extract everything about Old Testament worship and praise from the sacrificial system. Use of instruments when sining praise was not confined to the sacrificial system. This whole confusion, in my view, is based on defective definition of worship. (By this problem of “definition” lies also on the root of many debates related to the Sabbath.)

  89. Dr. Clark

    While I am not persuaded that the use of musical instruments in contrary to the RPW per se, I have been convicted that my understand of them in worship IS in contradiction to the RPW.

    If it counts for anything, reflecting on this post has been spiritual beneficial for me 🙂 I appreciate your insight and scholarship on these issues. Thank you.

  90. Hun,

    So far I have not been able to find any reference to musical instruments in the Law itself, and as far as I can tell, you’re correct when you say they seem to have been introduced into Levitical worship by David. If anyone can show otherwise it would be very helpful.

    Meanwhile, however, although I’m not sure this is what you intended to communicate, I don’t feel comfortable with making a complete bifurcation between worship and Levitical sacrifices. I agree that worship cannot be reduced to sacrifices, and it’s also interesting that the word “worship” itself does not appear in Leviticus. It’s also interesting to come across verses that seem to make a distinction between worship and sacrifice (e.g., Ex. 32:8; 1 Sam. 1:3). On the other hand, we have Isaiah saying, “They will even worship with sacrifice and offering” (Isa. 19:21), so it appears that while worship is not exhausted by sacrifice, sacrifice was still considered an act of worship. Thus I think it is also legitimate to consider reading scripture, preaching, prayer, and singing acts of worship today.

  91. I agree with you Mr. Henzel. Allow me to state what you have just said this way: One can read the scripture, pray, sing psalms, give offering, participate the sacraments with a worshiping soul, or even bow ones head to the ground like the Old Testament people (which is the literal meaning of ‘worship’), yet at the end, what makes it a worship is not what he did outwardly but what he did in spirit and in truth.

  92. Hun,
    I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say. The temple worship included sacrifices and singing with instruments, though there were other aspects to it. But the synagogue worship which was also OT worship, included neither sacrifices or instruments and continued in the NT, as well that it is largely the pattern of Christian worship.

    Again, 1. David only introduced instruments (2 Chronicles 29:25,26) into the ceremonial worship as a prophet/ commanded of God. They therefore can’t be a circumstance.
    2. They accompanied the sacrifices (2 Chronicles 29:27) and the singing – which was by chosen Levitical choirs (1 Chronicles 25:1).
    3. When the temple worship was fulfilled by Christ at Calvary and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the old ceremonial typical economy ceased. Today Christ, the paschal lamb has been sacrificed, the Holy Spirit has been given/poured out and the congregation/priesthood of believers is now the choir. For the P&R churches, to go back on all this is essentially to judaize.

    Further, the reformed largely take the second and third commandment to refer to the external and internal worship of God – see GI Williamson on the same in his SCat. study – and the requirements for both are required in order to truly worship God – not one or the other. IOW let us not separate what God has joined together and propose a false dichotomy.

  93. Addendum to the previous.
    David added/ changed a lot in the worship first instituted by Moses. The reason for this in part is that once the Israelites and the tabernacle settled down after wandering 40 years in the wilderness, the Levites no longer had to pack up the tabernacle and unpack it, after carrying it around. Consequently under the prophetic direction of David, their job description changed and they became porters, caretakers, singers and instrumentalists in the temple and its worship, which replaced the tabernacle paraphernalia and cult.
    Again, there were no instruments in the tabernacle worship other than the call of the silver trumpets to worship. David changed that under inspiration. Yet both the Mosaic and Davidic worship was typical and ceremonial. Not so the synagogue, which was moral and didactic; the reading and preaching of scripture, prayer and song.

  94. Bob,

    You wrote:

    David only introduced instruments (2 Chronicles 29:25,26) into the ceremonial worship as a prophet/ commanded of God. They therefore can’t be a circumstance.

    Even so, centuries had gone by during which time there was no command from the Lord to use musical instruments during Mosaic worship. This would seem to indicate to me that they were not an essential part of that worship.

    • That’s correct, Ron. That means they are either typical or a mere circumstance and it can’t be the latter. Further, once the types are fulfilled, there’s no point for them, unless one is a judaizer.

      • Bob,

        I scrolled back to your reply to Hun (March 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm) and I found the answer to my question:

        David only introduced instruments (2 Chronicles 29:25,26) into the ceremonial worship as a prophet/ commanded of God. They therefore can’t be a circumstance.

        These statements seem to depend on the following syllogism:

        MAJOR PREMISE: God never commands mere circumstances of worship.
        MINOR PREMISE: David introduced musical instruments to worship at God’s command.
        CONCLUSION: Musical instruments were not mere circumstances in Davidic worship.

        I have my doubts about the major premise.

  95. Thank you Dr. Clark and “dvopilgrim”!

    Which is more correct? “dvopilgrim’s” statement:
    “2. Reformed confessions never prohibited the use of instruments because it was assumed that Reformed churches did not use instruments.”

    or Dr. Clark’s statement to me:
    “You couldn’t be more wrong about the Reformed Confessions prohibiting instruments. The Reformed confessions were adopted by churches who all rejected instruments!”

    Let us clarify this matter. Is there anything in the “four corners” of the Reformed Confessions that expressly prohibited musical instruments in worship, or not?

    If so, it should be easy to point it out.

    If not, are you, Dr. Clark, maintaining that The Reformed Confessions prohibited instruments just because (or in part because) “The Reformed confessions were adopted by churches who all rejected instruments!”?

    At least “dvopilgrim” admits: “3. The whole case for prohibiting musical instruments rests on the basis that it can from “good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

    By your strong statement to me, I am not sure whether you, Dr. Clark, maintain that The Reformed Confessions expressly prohibit instruments or whether you maintain The Reformed Confessions by implication prohibit instruments based on your subsequent statement: “The Reformed confessions were adopted by churches who all rejected instruments!” Thank you.

  96. Hi Bill,

    Why are these two views mutually exclusive? When I interpret the confessions I do so in the light of historical circumstances in which they were written and adopted. None of the Palatinate, nor Belgic/Dutch, nor the Scottish Kirk who adopted the HC, the BC, and the Westminster Standards used instruments. Why not? Because they rejected them on principle as incompatible with new covenant worship — for the same reasons that Calvin rejected them. Thus when HC 96 says “96. What does God require in the second Commandment? That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word,” the Palatinate Churches and other Reformed Churches who adopted the HC did so with the understanding that the principle expressed there excluded musical instruments. The Palatinate Church and the Dutch Churches and the French Churches and the Genevan Church and the English Church all got rid of instruments.

    The question is how the principle articulated in HC 96 or BC Art 7 or WCF 21 was originally understood. It’s true that none of these documents expressly mentions instruments but they implied e.g. in WLC Q. 109 when, in answer to the question of what sins are forbidden by the 2nd commandment: “corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.”

    Neither the WLC nor the HC mentions all manner of Romish practice that was outlawed. They don’t mention the “screens” or the use of the table as an altar (well, Q. 80 does implicitly), or vestments (albs, chasuble, surplice), for figured bread, or the sign of the cross or any one of the dozens of Romish corruption of the Western liturgy. They didn’t have to mention them because the Reformed had spent nearly a century GETTING RID of these very things. They expressed a principle which they believed was clear and clearly understood.

    So, I might have said, “Understood according to their original intent, the Reformed confessions….” On this please see RRC where I give the background for this argument.

    Nollie (DVOP) and I are expressing two aspects of the same argument. The silence to which you are appealing argues more than I guess you want. Are you saying if the confessions don’t mention something explicitly we’re free to do it?

    As I show in RRC, the history is clear. In the 18th and 19th centuries we gradually forgot or ignored our confession and practice of worship.

    How can we use that corruption now as a ground to continue it? We can’t say, “Well, the cow is out of the barn, it’s too late now to turn back to the old understanding.” What happened to “semper Reformanda”?

  97. Dear Bob,

    In 2 Chronicles passage we are discussing, notice that they sang and worshiped after the sacrifice was “finished”. And also notice that they worshiped “twice”. It is the Scripture that treats Praise, Offering, Worship, Scripture Reading as activities that can be distinguished with unique meaning attached to each of them. Just as prayer and singing psalms are not exactly the same — although sometimes prayers can be sung and be part of a praise — it is a unbiblical to think that singing psalms and reading scripture corporately is what constitute a worship, although singing psalms can be an expression of one’s worship to God.

    Because worship is one of the most important thing we must give to our Lord, please allow me to use some strong words here. Who gave the authority to define

    Worship = scripture reading + prayer + singing + (whatever you think should be here)?

    This is the kind of definition used when you write

    Yet both the Mosaic and Davidic worship was typical and ceremonial.

    However, almost no where in the Scripture the word ‘worship’ is used in that sense. The Scripture always uses the word “worship” to mean “bow down”. Who gave the authority to interpret or define worship as some religious event or ceremony? Our Lord taught us that the one must worship, that is, bow down, in spirit and in truth. God rejected certain offerings in temple although Israelites brought it exactly according to the Law, according to the Regulative Principle (Isaiah 1:12–13), because when He said ‘worship me’ He didn’t mean ‘bring offering or read scripture according to this and that procedure’. Scripture clearly distinguishes singing of psalms, reading of scripture, brining offering, and worship.

    People say Christian worship is in trouble and that there is ignorance on “how” to worship; but the root cause of that is ignorance on “what” worship is. In some sense, we need to build a home but people are focusing on what kind of wood you should use to build a house. It’s not easy to separate house (worship ceremony) from home (worship), but the problem is that people build a bad house because they don’t have a good definition of a “home”. More and more people approach worship as some religious ceremony. But read, for instance, 2 Chronicles 20:18, Job 1:20; where’s the ceremony? Where is the ceremony in the worship recorded in, for instance, Matthew 2:11, Matthew 14:33, John 9:38. How can we worship God when we don’t even know properly what worship is? I am very afraid that there’s a tendency to make worship into a ceremony, and failing in giving what God really asked for, and people being happy because their ceremony is biblical.

    • I can relate somewhat Hun, in that when this whole thing started out for me, I did a word study on worship or “bowing down” before the Lord. The problem is there is more to it than that – a literal fundamentalistic read of Scripture that ignores good and necessary consequence – incidentally which we see Christ appeal to in the argument with the Sadduccees over whose wife of the seven was she.
      The short answer is the WCF 21. A longer answer is, if your heart is right before the Lord or you want it right, you have to sit under his Word – you have a desire to know what he wants – and obey what he has commanded re. “worship” – i.e. prayer, praise, the sacraments, etc. We are not free to zone out and worship our own will or imagination.

  98. Dear Dr. Clark:

    Thank you very much for your detailed answer to my question. Thank you for your grace and patience towards all those who made comments, particularly toward me and others who may disagree with some of your conclusions. We also do want to pay proper respect to your knowledge and study of this issue.

    This issue is understandably difficult for even those with some Reformed experience to agree without at least trying to make penetrating questions and points.

    To answer your question, I am not saying that if the Reformed confessions don’t mention something explicitly that we are free to do it. I am saying that we need to be careful to make binding worship practice of prohibiting musical instruments in worship service based on the traditions of men, particularly where Scripture, such as in Psalm 150 and elsewhere, so clearly and strongly commands us to engage in that practice.

    It is not unusual for “the baby to be thrown out with the bath water”, so to speak. In the urgency and haste to deal with a wide rage of abuses by Romish practice, it is possible that the churches went too far.

    If we are “always reforming”, then maybe the allowing of the musical instruments back into the worship service is an example of a good reform.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Bill

  99. Bill,

    I think I understand the reluctance to turn loose of instruments. That’s why I wrote the post. People love their instruments. I think they love them too much.

    Re the baby/bathwater argument (which has been made a few times here): The Reformation was actually quite conservative of the mass. This may shock people but it’s true. The confessional Protestants weren’t radical. There’s no evidence that they took a baby-bathwater approach to the Western liturgy. Indeed, I just completed a study of Calvin’s doctrine and practice of worship and the history is that he was quite patient and pastoral in his application of the RPW to difficult situations.

    Ask yourself this question: have we been better off since we adopted instruments or were we better off (liturgically, theologically, spiritually) when we practiced the original understanding of the RPW?

    What we don’t appreciate, because we the frog in the kettle, is how warm the water is!

    I hope you’ll read RRC but I’ll stop pestering you about it.

  100. Dr. Clark,

    You wrote:

    Ask yourself this question: have we been better off since we adopted instruments […]

    You’ve just caused me to re-experience the moment in the 1980 presidential campaign when Ronald Reagan stood next to the shopping cart on TV and asked Americans if they felt better off than they were prior to the Carter administration. It’s like déjà vu all over again!

  101. Bill

    “If we are “always reforming”, then maybe the allowing of the musical instruments back into the worship service is an example of a good reform.”

    That’ the reformed church is always reforming’ in the original context does NOT mean ‘always evolving’. Rather it means continuing to conform to what the church confesses, in that the natural human tendency is to depart from the truth once confessed. Again, it does not mean the church has license or liberty to jettison its confession, which is what is at issue in principle, even though it is not spelled out explicitly in the confessions.
    That is what history is all about. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and it behooves us to at least know what they believed and taught, rather than pretend the Bible fell out of the sky yesterday and only you, me and Chicken Little have had a chance to not only read it, but thoroughly understand it. This is after all, the year of our Lord 2009.
    The P&R church held to a view of the second commandment that cleaned house at the time of the Reformation, while today’s P&R church in the name of progress, wants to bring back those banished practices. Ecclesiatical feastdays, instruments and uninspired hymnody are just a few of the “improvements” and “progress” that have no foundation in reformed doctrine and practice.

  102. I hope I am not irritating or being rude to the brothers here. That is certainly not my intention, and if I did so, please accept my apologies. With respect, allow me to add few of my thoughts.

    According to my reading of Calvin, he thought spiritual “bowing down” is the only method of worship from the beginning. That is the primary (if not the only) reason why he tried to get rid of unnecessary activities, say, using instruments, in worship services. He thought we should read God’s word, give prayer and praise in public (or personal) worship because they are worshipers response as one kneels down before God; not because they are ingredients of a worship: The following is from The Necessity of Reforming the Church by John Calvin (emphasis mine)

    Let us now see what is meant by the due worship of God. Its chief foundation is to acknowledge Him to be, as He is, the only source of all virtue, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, power, goodness, mercy, life, and salvation; in accordance with this, to ascribe and render to Him the glory of all that is good, to seek all things in Him alone, and in every want have recourse to Him alone. Hence arises prayer, hence praise and thanksgiving — these being attestations to the glory which we attribute to Him. This is that genuine sanctification of His name which He requires of us above all things. To this is united adoration, by which we manifest for Him the reverence due to his greatness and excellency, and to this ceremonies are subservient, as helps or instruments, in order that, in the performance of divine worship, the body may be exercised at the same time with the soul. Next after these comes self-abasement, when, renouncing the world and the flesh, we are transformed in the renewing of our mind, and living no longer to ourselves, submit to be ruled and actuated by Him. By this self-abasement we are trained to obedience and devotedness to his will, so that his fear reigns in our hearts, and regulates all the actions of our lives. That in these things consists the true and sincere worship which alone God approves, and in which alone He delights, is both taught by the Holy Spirit throughout the Scriptures and is also, antecedent to discussion, the obvious dictate of piety. Nor from the beginning was there any other method of worshipping God, the only difference being, that this spiritual truth, which with us is naked and simple, was under the former dispensation wrapt up in figures. And this is the meaning of our Savior’s words,

    “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23.)

    For by these words he meant not to declare that God was not worshipped by the fathers in this spiritual manner, but only to point out a distinction in the external form, viz., That while they had the Spirit shadowed forth by many figures, we have it in simplicity. But it has always been an acknowledged point, that God, who is a Spirit, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

    Notice that by “wrapt up in figure” he means that “this spiritual truth” was so, not the worship itself. Worship always had a clear meaning of “bowing down” in Hebrew. Calvin is pointing out that such bow was to be done in spirit and in truth regardless of ages. In the same letter he writes, (words in brackets mine)

    “For, next to idolatry, there is nothing for which they [the prophets] rebuke the people more sharply than for falsely imagining that the worship of God consisted in external show.”

    Arthur Pink’s words also helps us to think about this issue. In Worship, he writes (emphasis mine)

    People imagine that if they attend a religious service, are reverent in their demeanor, join in the singing of the hymns, listen respectfully to the preacher, and contribute to the collection, they have really worshipped God. Poor deluded souls, a delusion which is helped forward by the priest-craft and preacher-graft of the day. Over against this delusion are the words of Christ in John 4:24, which are startling in their plainness and pungency: “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

    It is my strong belief that, just as Calvin saw the reformation of worship as the primary goal of his time, the church of our day are in need of reformation of worship again, especially in understanding “what” worship is. From the convoluted definition so wide spread, we need to restore the biblical definition of worship, the true bowing down in spirit and in truth. Once that is done, “how” to conduct a public worship service (or ceremony) will follow quite naturally. God’s grace towards true worshipers is that He accepts such true worship and seeks them. May we have that grace and be filled with the power of the Kingdom, rather than words.

  103. in the spirit of semper reformanda it would be nice for the absolution and weekly communion to make its way back to the reformed liturgies…hint hint…

  104. in the spirit of semper reformanda it would be nice for the absolution and weekly communion to make its way back to the reformed liturgies…hint hint…dr clark maybe we should have a new post for that

  105. RSC,

    I was going to put this under “Calvin: Our Churches and Ministry Founded on Luther,” but couldn’t comment for some reason:

    What are your thoughts on worship as a fourth mark of the church?

  106. 1. Semper Reformanda did not mean “always evolving.” Ecclesia Reformata = “Always Reformed.” That’s a baseline. Always Reforming (semper Reformanda) means always returning to that baseline. The history of redemption and of the post apostolic church has been that we wander into corruption and need to be called back to greater purity. People have wanted to call corruption “purity” or “improvement” since Bethel and Dan.

    2. Zrim,

    Worship is mark since it’s inherent to “discipline.” It wasn’t church the correcting of sins but also discipline. Where discipline is, there something resembling the pure preaching of the gospel and the pure administration of the sacraments (both liturgical acts) will be also. They’re inter-related. It’s interesting that the word “pure” wasn’t used for discipline in BC 29 — but they are certainly inter-related.

  107. Hun,

    I don’t think anybody here disagrees with the fact that the worship of God bust be done in spirit and in truth, or that worship in its essence is an obedient submission to and glorifying of God, or “bowing down.”

    The crux of this post and its ensuing comments is not only that one must worship the right god with the right attitude, as is spelled out in the first commandment of the Decalogue, but that we must worship the right god _in the right, or proper way_ as is warranted by the second commandment.

    Check out this link to further understand what I’m referring to.

  108. Dear Victor,

    I understand your good intention. I am not saying “how” is not important. But I am afraid you are still reading “in spirit and in truth” as a question about “attitude”. I’ll have to refer to Calvin and Pink I quoted above that “in spirit and in truth” is not much about the attitude, but rather, the only “method” God gave us from the beginning.

    All the best—

  109. it would be nice for the absolution and weekly communion to make its way back to the reformed liturgies

    We already have it…BCP all the way! 😉

  110. “MAJOR PREMISE: God never commands mere circumstances of worship.
    MINOR PREMISE: David introduced musical instruments to worship at God’s command.
    CONCLUSION: Musical instruments were not mere circumstances in Davidic worship.

    I have my doubts about the major premise.”

    Ron,
    If God commands a mere circumstance, ipso facto it is no longer a circumstance, but a moral or typical element of worship. Instruments were not a circumstance but a commanded, albeit typical and temporary, element of the temple worship.

    Hun,
    IMO nobody disagrees with you. Rather again, the reformed position has already got the point covered that you have been championing all along as per GI Williamson on the second and third commandment and the external means and internal attitude or frame of mind for worship. That, if not your comments continue the supposed dichotomy between Calvin’s humanism and reformed scholasticism/rationalism.
    Yes, going through the motions in worship is offensive and sinful before God. But I can just about guarantee you that everybody that practices contemporary Christian worship – dancing, drama, instruments – truly believes that they are worshiping in spirit and in truth -and that anybody that observes the reformed exposition of the Second commandment is not only a legalist, but also guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit (speaking of charity).
    IOW those who follow the second commandment might still be breaking the third. But those that break the second are also necessarily breaking the third. Mind you, I am not talking about when they are actually obeying the Lord’s commandment for his stated worship, i.e. prayer, preaching and singing of psalms. Still, if we are worshipping in spirit and in truth, we will be worshipping in accord with the second commandment, whatever the contemporary evangelical circus goers might claim.

    Zrim,

    If the RPW is not the basis for the second mark of the church, it is a corollary: Only those sacraments instituted by Christ are lawful in the worship of the church (see the Belgic Conf. Chapt. 29, 33). Those that are not commanded/instituted by Christ are no sacraments at all, much more are forbidden in the church’s worship. IOW the RPW was the broom that swept the five sacramental additions of Rome along with a lot of other additions and extras out of public worship and onto the dung heap.

    —————–
    FWIW, G.I. Williamson, who is well known in American presbyterianism for his popular study guides on the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism, also wrote a not so well known tract on Instrumental Music in Worship . In “Part III. The Testimony of History” of his essay on the question, he says that musical instruments returned in the worship of the Dutch reformed churches after their banishment because the civil magistrates were in favor of Sunday concerts on the great organs in the municipal cathedrals. This eventually wore down the resistance to the use of organs in the public reformed worship.

  111. Bob S.:

    You wrote:

    If God commands a mere circumstance, ipso facto it is no longer a circumstance, but a moral or typical element of worship.

    Now you’re just begging the question.

  112. Dear Bob,

    I understand your good intention. I am not saying “how” is not important. But I am afraid you are still reading “in spirit and in truth” as a question about “attitude”. I’ll have to refer to the quote of Calvin and Pink I gave above that “in spirit and in truth” is not much about the attitude, but rather, the only “method” God gave us from the beginning.

    All the best—

    P.S. On your next reply (if you wish to write one) please do share with me your definition of worship. Many thanks—

  113. Well, here’s a grab bag of comments:

    1. The reason why many are putting the burden of proof on the “instruments as element” is that the conclusion–“you must get rid of instruments or you’re in violation of the 2nd commandment”–sounds to many like legalism. That doesn’t mean it is, but those things that seem to infringe Christian liberty should be subjected to a significant standard of proof.

    2. Just saying that many people like instruments a lot does not by any means demonstrate that they are therefore not circumstances.

    3. Musical instruments are first mentioned as a creation-ordinance(Gen. 4:21). Why are they not subject, then, to considerations of “natural light”?

    4. David commanded the use of cymbals, trumpets, and other specific instruments. Why does the prohibition extend to all instruments?

    5. Only under the Law was the Church commanded to meet in a certain building dedicated to worship. God commanded this, which means that meeting in a certain building (and the location changed, so it’s not simply Jerusalem) is not a circumstance, but an element, or typological. A good case can be made that it is typological (see Heb. 12:24, or Peter on “living stones”). Thus, meeting in a building dedicated to the worship of God is forbidden on the RPW. Note: it’s not a circumstance, or adiaphora, but as part of the OT Levitical economy, it is forbidden. So, the church must not meet in a building dedicated to worship…and look how many people are writing to oppose that! See, I must be right.

    6. I’m not buying the book.

    7. God commanded that worship be offered specific times of day. God never commands circumstances. Therefore, we are not permitted to meet at any time of day stated in the Mosaic law. Look how many people are complaining about this…I must be right!

    8. Special garments are only commanded in the Mosaic economy. God never commands circumstances. Therefore special garments are essential to the Mosaic economy. Therefore, we are not permitted to use special garments in worship.

    9. This is at the bottom of a long list of comments, so I don’t know whether anyone will read it. I’m not coming back to find out, since I’m just venting, and Clark’s response will be that:
    -my vehemence must mean that instruments are too important to me (false: I prefer a capella singing)
    -but this is how the Reformed church has always done it (invalid, given WCF 1)
    -buy the book (No.)
    -I’m stupid (then you shouldn’t have signed that diploma, should ya?)

  114. Ron,
    I’m begging the question, but by the same token here are no judaizers in the house?
    Seriously, God commanded David to bring musical instruments into the typical and ceremonial worship of the temple. But the temple worship has been fulfilled and is passed away. Yet we may still rummage though the wreckage and pull out what we think fit? How so?

    Major: The worship God commanded that was particular to the Temple was typical and passed away at Calvary, if not Pentecost.
    Minor: Musical instruments were commanded in the Temple worship and were typical of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
    Concl. Musical instruments have passed away after Pentecost.

    No, Hun, if anything I am reading “spirit and in truth” as in a spirit of acknowledging God for who he is and abasing oneself before him and in truth by worshipping him externally as he has commanded, not according to my own imagination and fantasies, the last of which most evangelicals, if not charismaniacs, do today and thereby demonstrate that they are not truly worshipping him in spirit. IOW they think he is not a God who has declared how we must approach him in worship. Sincerity is enough, regardless of what we do. Yet if we love Christ, we obey his commandments and they are not burdensome. We worship the only true God, in body and soul, in public worship on the sabbath, IOW the first table of the law.

    “those things that seem to infringe Christian liberty should be subjected to a significant standard of proof.”

    Josh,
    Bringing in an aspect of the OT typical worship that has been fulfilled and done away with infringes on a Christian’s freedom from the ceremonial law. That you are confused about what a creation ordinance is not encouraging, much more the RPW does not apply to our liberty or instruments outside of worship. There is also a failure for example, to distinguish between a church building for worship and the temple, now destroyed, of which everything about it was significant and typical. There are a lot of problems with the dispensationalists wanting to rebuild the temple; there is no problem with the RPW when it comes to building a church. But whatever.
    As for the diploma, Judas was also an apostle.

    Again as mentioned previously, this whole issue boils down to the fact that P&R church’s slip showing; the now is better or nunc super tunc mentality is insidious and never far from any of us anytime which means we ought to pay more attention to how the church did it in the past and if they are wrong, be able to demonstrate it, rather than by default allowing something they opposed in principle.

    Ciao

  115. Bob S.

    You wrote:

    Ron,
    I’m begging the question,[…]

    At least you admit that you’re committing a logical fallacy. But then you write:

    […]but by the same token here are no judaizers in the house?

    This is simply an extension of your previous logical fallacy.

    Seriously, God commanded David to bring musical instruments into the typical and ceremonial worship of the temple.

    But how does that make those instruments anything more than circumstantial?

    But the temple worship has been fulfilled and is passed away. Yet we may still rummage though the wreckage and pull out what we think fit? How so?

    Who says the use of musical instruments is based solely on their use under the Law? True, I have seen people try to justify them on the basis of various references in the Psalms, but my ultimate justification for them would be that they are simply circumstances of worship. Which I suppose also means that I do not subscribe to the view that musical instruments affect the emotional experience of individual worshipers and thus they are essential to worship.

    Major: The worship God commanded that was particular to the Temple was typical and passed away at Calvary, if not Pentecost.
    Minor: Musical instruments were commanded in the Temple worship and were typical of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
    Concl. Musical instruments have passed away after Pentecost.

    I’m grateful that you have here answered what was going to be my next question: if musical instruments are typical, what are they typical of? But I’m afraid I can’t agree with your identification of the antitype, since (a) I believe it is precarious to do that for any type not identified in the New Testament, and (b) I don’t think we should look for types of the Holy Spirit in the Temple worship, which was typical of Christ, as is made explicit in the New Testament.

    I broke away from my Dispensationalist background back in the 1990s, and when I did I left behind (pun intended) the vast and reckless typologizing that the Plymouth Brethren were once famous for, particularly through the writings of C.H. Mackintosh, who managed to find an antitype for every color of thread in the Tabernacle.

  116. Bob S.,

    No, Hun, if anything I am reading “spirit and in truth” as in a spirit of acknowledging God for who he is and abasing oneself before him and in truth by worshipping him externally as he has commanded, not according to my own imagination and fantasies, the last of which most evangelicals, if not charismaniacs, do today and thereby demonstrate that they are not truly worshipping him in spirit.

    Sorry, brother, but when you go back and re-read your own words, don’t you detect just a smidgen of censorious elitism in them? The vast majority of evangelicals have not been educated in the RPW, let alone your particular take on it (i.e., no musical instruments), and the majority of those in the Reformed camp who have been educated in your view reject it. And yet it seems that your response is to simply dismiss the whole lot of them as borderline idolaters. If that’s where your position leads, I want nothing to do with it.

    • I wholly second Ron’s thoughts. The non-instrument view does lead to a spiritual elitist mentality – the few who somehow “get it” and worship God rightly opposed to the vast majority. It also leads to a skewed view of God. The God who saved me from legalism is the God who is so picky and meticulous on how we approach him that if someone accompanies our grateful singing with an instrument, it is not now acceptable worship? If Sunday morning worship is too formal or picky, it becomes a barrier to walking with God the rest of the week. Since my life is a mess, and not so orderly and formal, the God presented in such formal, meticulous worship surely is not pleased with my messy humanity. Too often reverence and orderliness, which is Biblical, is defined by formality and meticulousness, which is not.

      Todd

      • Hi Todd,

        I agree that an “elitist” mentality is always a danger and too often a sad reality but try to sympathize with the tiny minority who today hold the historic RPW. Imagine not being able to find a place to worship where your conscience is not bound by not just one but perhaps a dozen blatant violations of God’s law. Imagine living in a time when the statues of Bethel and Dan were THE ACCEPTED form of worship, where dissent from the status quo was not permitted.

        Well, it’s like that for many of us who hold the historic RPW. In reaction to that isolation those who still hold the RPW are tempted to adopt attitudes that are less than desirable.

        Your post, however, does not really help us to be more faith to God does it? Aren’t you really saying, “Hey you lot, fall in line. Everyone knows that the calves are the way to go! Stop complaining you spiritual elitists!”? What should those Israelites have done who realized that the calves were sinful?

  117. Dear Bob,

    I asked you what your definition of worship is. I am afraid you are using an unbiblical definition of worship. Without starting with a proper definition, all discussions are worthless and pointless.

    All the best—

  118. Todd,

    First of all, I find that I generally agree with, and much appreciate, your comments–but not on this issue. Here’s a question for you from one who holds to the “non-instrument view”: Just out of curiosity, do you hold to the regulative principle (in the historic sense)?

    It appears to me from your last post that maybe you don’t. Just for fun, I tried an experiment by changing a couple of things in your post, as follows:

    “[Holding to the historic regulative principle of worship] does lead to a spiritual elitist mentality – the few who somehow “get it” and worship God rightly opposed to the vast majority. It also leads to a skewed view of God. The God who saved me from legalism is the God who is so picky and meticulous on how we approach him that if someone accompanies our grateful singing with [drama or dance, or anything else that seems appropriate in our own eyes], it is not now acceptable worship? If Sunday morning worship is too formal or picky, it becomes a barrier to walking with God the rest of the week. Since my life is a mess, and not so orderly and formal, the God presented in such formal, meticulous worship surely is not pleased with my messy humanity. Too often reverence and orderliness, which is Biblical, is defined by formality and meticulousness, which is not.”

    The experiment works pretty well, and changing your post this way would well express the views of my non-Reformed friends. This causes me to wonder whether you would accuse all those who hold to the RPW of having a skewed view of God? Or is the accusation just for those who hold the “non-instrument view”?

    Also, didn’t the “God who saved [you] from legalism” also save you from license?

    David

    • David,

      Yikes, what did I get myself into 🙂

      Actually, I do appreciate the question. I hold to the RPW, but I believe the RPW is regulated by the gospel, not law. I do not believe the Scripture gives us exact laws in which we can say “this would be allowed in worship, this would not,” etc… Choirs are an example – I do not believe one can approach the Scriptures with the question, “Are choirs lawful in worship” and receive an answer. New Covenant worship is regulated by the truths of the gospel.

      Since Hebrews teaches that through the gospel Christ has brought us near, and that we live by faith and not sight, and that we do not need the OT symbols to bring Christ to us, we do not need smells and bells to symbolize Christ in worship. Simple worship adorns the gospel and teaches us that we live by faith.

      Since the simple preaching of the gospel is what saves and sanctifies, that preaching is the center of worship. Since we are to offer thanks for the gospel in prayer and singing, which is a natural response, we do.

      Since the gospel is the serious proclamation of life or death, serious proclamation deserves direct communication, not puppet shows, drama, etc…

      There are more examples but I’ll stop there.

      This doesn’t answer every question on what can be done in worship, but that’s okay. Worship is to be orderly, but different cultures will worship somewhat differently. The answer to every question of public worship is not, is it lawful, but, does it magnify God and adorn the simple gospel? If we ask the right question with the right concerns, I do not believe the Lord minds if the answers look a little different church to church.

      Todd

      • Todd,

        Much of what you say here is quite compatible with the RPW, but the question you propose in place of the RPW opens up a subjectivisit Pandora’s Box. If we get to decide what is glorifying to God then Katie bar the door!

        As to the RPW being governed by gospel instead of law, well doesn’t the RPW come from the 2nd commandment? Yes, the history of redemption does transform the circumstances of the RPW but it doesn’t transform the RPW itself any more than the progress of redemption and revelation changes the substance of the 1st commandment or, ahem, the 4th commandment, or the 7th commandment.

        This is the point of the Reformed doctrine of natural law, i.e. to say that the decalogue, in its essence, isn’t Mosaic. There are Mosaic accidents attached to the decalogue in Ex 20 and Deut 5 but we’re not bound to that which is distinctively Mosaic.

        Further, the Reformed understanding of the RPW as expressed in HC 96 or WCF 21 accounts for the progress of redemption and revelation.

        Aren’t you laying siege to WCF 21?

  119. Scott,

    See if my post to David answers some of your question. I believe you present too strong of a dichotomy, one beyond Scripture. Is it really no instruments or calves? Is it that clear? Wouldn’t it be better to say worship is always more or less pure, but always at some level impure this side of glory, so there there will always be some level of discomfort with worship; the question is, what can I put up with in good conscience. I could live with a non-instrument service unless it was being suggested that all who do not agree are not worshiping God purely. I would not remain around such elitism. So no, I am not suggesting at all that others need to fall in line, just remain humble and not speak beyond Scripture.

    Todd

    • Todd,

      When the Reformed rid the churches of instruments and all the other Mosaic/Medieval accoutrements that had developed between the 10th century and the 16th they weren’t being elitist. They were attempting to be faithful to the Word of God. They were operating on the principle that we do only that which is commanded by God.

      When I appeal to the example of Bethel and Dan I’m simply trying to help you enter into the experience of those who (like me) have rediscovered historic Reformed worship and the RPW as originally understood and how alienated we are from most of what passes for worship.

      You call it legalism and elitism and I reply by appealing to Bethel and Dan. That’s a fair rhetorical trade isn’t it?

      It’s not about elitism or legalism. It’s about the freedom of the Christian to worship not according to the dictates of opinion or whim or feeling or experience or subjective judgment but according to the clear revelation of God. Circumstances are a matter of freedom, but elements are not . They have been clearly revealed by God. According to the Reformed (in Europe and Britain) Church the dialogical pattern of worship is clearly revealed: God speaks in his Word and we respond with his Word.

      We’ve been operating under your principle for about 250 years and where has it taken us? Are we more Reformed or less? Are we more biblical or less?

      I understand that this is a semi-eschatological age. I don’t think that seeking to be faithful to the RPW is an over-realized eschatology. Can it lead to that? Sure. Can the application of the law lead to abuses? Sure. Abuses, however, don’t invalidate the law nor do they excuse our refusal to even consider the law or what fidelity requires.

      The problem of our age is not the few thousand in the NAPARC churches seeking to recover the RPW. The problem in our age is that 90% of churches who have no idea what the RPW is. It is those congregations who worship like neo-Pentecostals or 2nd Great Awakening revivalists or worse, who’ve turned divine worship into a circus.

      I quite realize that it is the gospel that is the power of sanctity, but the moral law is the divine norm for the Christian life and public worship. These two words work together in Christians. The Gospel powers our life in union with Christ; indeed by it the Spirit creates that life! The law, however, norms that life. To deny the normative role of the moral law is antinomian and I’m sure you’re not saying that.

      How can you reconcile your principle with that expressed in WCF 21 (as adopted by the OPC):

      “…But 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.”

      I hope you’ll read RRC to see a bit more of the background of this discussion.

  120. “Much of what you say here is quite compatible with the RPW, but the question you propose in place of the RPW opens up a subjectivisit Pandora’s Box. If we get to decide what is glorifying to God then Katie bar the door!”

    Scott,

    I am not a pessimist when it comes to true believers. I do not believe redeemed sinners filled with God’s Spirit need a law to tell them exactly how they are to worship. When churches begin to introduce unseemly
    (gimmicks, gags, etc… or symbolic (smells, bells, icons) elements, it is not because they have failed to see the legal code of worship in the Old and New Testaments, but that they are denying elements of the gospel, they are losing their first love, they are trusting in man, living by sight, forgetting the holiness of God displayed at the cross, forgetting the depths of their sin they have been saved from, etc… Believers in love with Christ and that understand the gospel will worship just fine, though it may look a bit different church to church, culture to culture.

    Todd

    • Todd,

      Who says that observance of the RPW has to look the same in every culture?
      There are churches in Nigeria right now who are following the RPW. Who says that the RPW is culturally bound?

      That said, the RPW was given to us, in redemptive history, in a time and place yet there’s nothing about it that makes it so culturally bound to that time and place that we cannot observe it faithfully in our time and place.

      How is the “cultural” argument not a red herring?

  121. Todd,

    You said, “I do not believe redeemed sinners filled with God’s Spirit need a law to tell them exactly how they are to worship.”

    If I may interject, the “greatest worship service” recorded in scripture happened to be one full of “sinners filled with God’s Spirit” who disobeyed the law by taking it upon themselves to worship God as they saw fit. Of course, I’m referring to Exodus 32 and the golden calf. Would you say that Aaron “failed to see the legal code of worship in the Old Testament.”

    Peace

  122. Dear Vic,

    “Sinners filled with God’s Spirit” cannot make idols because they are filled with God’s Spirit. Exodus 32 is an example where people were filled with human spirit. A reasonable rejection to Todd’s comment “I do not believe redeemed sinners filled with God’s Spirit need a law to tell them exactly how they are to worship.” would be the fact that the Spirit uses scripture, not that one can be filled with the Spirit yet sin.

    Best—

    • Hun,

      Please explain your comment, “‘Sinners filled with God’s Spirit’ cannot make idols because they are filled with God’s Spirit” in light of Romans 7.

      Paz

      • Dear Vic,

        Your question is a little vague, so correct me if I understood you wrong; it seems like you are assuming that “Romans 7 describes a man who was filled with the Spirit yet sinned.” If this is indeed your claim, allow me to respond as follows:

        (1) We all know that the Spirit dwells in the regenerate man and never leaves. So what do we mean when we say “filled with Spirit”? An analogy might be helpful. Let us picture ourselves as vessels and the Spirit as the water in us. The water could be overflowing or just be partially filled. By “filled with Spirit” I mean the former case and would correspond to the state which Ephesians 5:18 describes. The partially filled picture would correspond to the state which Ephesians 4:30 describes.

        (2) Romans 7 has to be read together with the beginning part of Romans 8, in particular verse 4, where it says

        “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

        Galatians 5:18 is also helpful:

        But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

        (3) In light of chapter 8, we see that Romans 7 (although it could be applied to the unregenerate man) applies to the regenerate man, who cannot bear fruit by his own will-power. It is only when one trusts the gospel, especially that he is crucified with Christ, and rely on the Spirit who applies Christ’s work to him and empowers him with the everlasting life of Christ, he can finally fulfill the requirement of the law.

        (4) There are times when such work of the Spirit is so abundant that it is obvious that the person is totally immersed under the work of the Spirit, so that it is proper to say that the person is “filled with the Spirit”. But we do confess we are not always so. Hence we are to seek to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Yet, it is important that we cannot achieve such state by our works.

  123. Bob S.,

    In a comment from a few days ago (March 5, 2009 at 12:30 am) you wrote:

    […] anything that was exclusive to the temple has been fulfilled and abolished in the New Testament with Christ at Calvary and Pentecost: sacrifices, washings, candles, incense, vestments, instruments, choirs etc. You name it, it is all gone.

    And a little later (March 5, 2009 at 11:54 pm) you dated the termination of temple worship to Pentecost when you wrote:

    When the temple worship was fulfilled by Christ at Calvary and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the old ceremonial typical economy ceased.

    I suppose that dating the termination to Pentecost heads off the problem of the last two verses of Luke’s gospel, where we read: “And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:52-53, NASB). But if participating in anything found in the Mosaic Law after Pentecost constitutes a violation of the second commandment, how do you account for Paul’s actions in the following account by Luke?

    And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

    And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. “Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”

    Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.

    [Acts 21:18-26, NASB]

  124. (From 3/10/09 but comments were closed at that time)

    Hi Ron,
    In reply to yours from last to first or something like that, regarding the connection between musical instruments and the Holy Spirit (or Spirit of Christ):
    I’m working off of Girardeau’s S. Presbyterian classic on the question, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1888) (which is reviewed by Dabney here and reprinted here).
    Or if you prefer Sean McD on Mar. 2 quotes Calvin on Ps 92:3 about a third of the page down on the Feb. 28 Calvin on Instruments which provoked the re-posting of this page from May ’07.
    Calvin doesn’t come quite out and make the connection, but he alludes to it.

    As re. Paul and the temple, good question. IMO the apostolic age was transitional, the temple wasn’t destroyed until 70 AD and the break definitely made, so arguably Paul and the early church had some leeway, most of whom were Jews at the start.
    As re. the circumstance syllogism and BTQ, the argument is yours, not mine. But if I am willing to ‘give’ you circumstances, turn about is fair play and you ought to be able to give me judaizing. [A circumstance is something without which worship cannot occur, but is not part of the element of worship itself such as time or place. We have to meet somewhere at sometime for public worship, but other than on the Lord’s Day, 9:00am is not more sacred than 10:36 am. Singing God’s praises in psalms does not require musical accompaniment. Further, if something is a circumstance, we can change it or even drop it. Try that in some churches. The piano/organ is sacred and an inviolable “part” of worship. But a guitar and congas? Never.]
    As re. elitism, the issue is not a dealbreaker for me. (Uninspired hymnody is.) Of course if I played piano or organ I wouldn’t lift a finger if the church “needed” an accompanist.
    Further, Calvin, Knox, Ursinus, Voetius, the West. divines, Owen and Spurgeon all held the position. Them are big guns. Maybe you can take up the elitist thing with them. I still think the issue is a telltale as to how easily we take things up on less than a principled base. After all, if instrumental accompaniment is really a NT circumstance, then what is the piano/organ accompanying at the prelude, postlude, inbetweenlude and every other instance of ‘dead air’ at services I have been at?

    Greetings Hun,
    If you could spell out more specifically what is wrong with my definition of worship it would be appreciated. After all you gave us a big quote of Calvin on “spirit and truth” w.o. any exposition/explanation or paraphrase. I merely went through it and cherrypicked it for a summary for my definition – after all I agreed with it. But how and what we understand it to say seem to be two different things. Now you don’t like my definition. Sorry, but I am smelling the typical anabaptist (Amer. evangelical) pseudo pious evasion of the confessional reformed use of the law as the rule of gratitude.
    As per Vic’s comments contra yours and Todd’s, the converted sinner still needs the law, but neither of you seem to think so, especially as regards the second commandment, the good and necessary consequences of which are summarized in the RPW.
    I might further take that to mean neither of you probably adhere to or agree with the 3 Forms or the West. Stands. Fair enough, I suppose, but that might explain a lot going into this discussion.

    Thank you.

    • Dear Bob,

      Replying to your three comments,

      (1) I thought I already gave mine in my comment made on March 6, 2009 at 9:37 am. Let me repeat here in a clear format: Worship = “bowing in spirit and in truth” = “soul bowing in adoring contemplation of God”. Bob, with all the respect, it would be really helpful if you would clearly state your definition of worship in your own words.

      (2) Regarding the Law, I said we “need” the Law. See my comment made on March 10, 2009 at 10:08 am.

      (3) I am a member of RPCNA and I made myself clear to the church where I stand with respect to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger/Shorter Catechisms. We sing only Psalms and never use instruments in worship services. I cannot imagine a better way to praise God then singing the Psalms. Yet, I don’t agree with some of the modern RPW proponents who try to define worship using external activities.

      I am sorry Bob and I hate to say this, but you leave me no choice than to think that you are reading my replies superficially and rather haste in making judgements. I will have to leave this discussion. I have already written enough and wrote more in detail on my blog. I pray that we be filled with the power of His Kingdom, rather than words.

      All the best—

  125. FWIW/FTR Hun, re:

    1) My definition of worship again above from Mar. 9:

    I [understand worshipping in] “spirit and in truth” as in a spirit of acknowledging God for who he is and abasing oneself before him and in truth by worshipping him externally as he has commanded.

    2) But the Law has something to say about how we worship God. See the WCF on the first table of the law. What’s the problem? You admit it in general and deny it in particular as per 3) “Yet, I don’t agree with some of the modern RPW proponents who try to define worship using external activities.”

    !Huh? The external is a good check on where the internal is at. No, it doesn’t rule out hypocrites, but most papists, muslims and mormons that I have run into, think they are worshipping in spirit and in truth, else why would they bother?

    As for:

    “you leave me no choice than to think that you are reading my replies superficially and rather haste in making judgements. I will have to leave this discussion. I have already written enough and wrote more in detail on my blog.”

    Whatever.
    Or you took the words out of my mouth.
    Again.
    I don’t care what you wrote on your blog and you don’t care or shouldn’t what I have written elsewhere. The point is what is being said right now here. I find it contradictory and confusing. You don’t. Fine. I’ll leave it there.

    Thank you. Believe it or not, it has been edifying.

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