Pastor Dechert is Reading RRC

At Guard Yourselves from Idols.

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  1. Dr. Clark,

    Aside from the comments on the comments on this blog, has anyone engaged you in formal debate about the use of instruments in respone to RRC? Is there an authority out there taking the affirmative who has written in depth about?

  2. Scott,

    I’m trying to respond to you on the instruments as idols thread. Did you close comments there?


  3. Scott,

    This belongs in the instruments thread, but I don’t know how to get it there.

    A few thoughts to summarize my concerns with your no-instrument view. As to the feeling of loneliness searching for more Biblical worship, I think most of us relate to this. I have as many stories as the next serious Christian of squirming during worship services; finally leaving over crisis of conscience; I even left a good ministry position because of the lack of reverence and gospel-focus in the worship. So the long, difficult journey is one common even to those of us who do not hold as strict a view as you on what constitutes Biblical worship.

    As to whether I agree with the Confession, yes, I believe that the Word informs how we are to worship, and only the Word. As I said before, the entire Book of Hebrews, in my thinking, concerns first and foremost proper, Christ-centered, New Covenant worship. So yes, the only way to know how to worship God is found in the Scriptures. I just do not think that the Scriptures are as concerned with exact detail as you are. I do not believe the Bible can be approached like a law-code to determine what exactly is allowed and what is not in a worship service. I think the proper truths of the gospel revealed in Scripture inform and direct our worship.

    Not too long ago I attended a worship service in Guadalajara, Mexico (National Presbyterian Church in Mexico). You would have liked it – weekly communion even. During the service a woman came up at the pastor’s invitation and shared her story of repentance – she had been disciplined from the Table for fornication and had been recently reinstated, and the pastor wanted the congregation to hear from her why she had been reinstated. It was very beautiful and fitting. Of course the key to something like this is proper oversight. But I found no prohibition in the Bible for this to occur during a worship service.

    The same is true with choirs. The question I ask is not, are choirs allowed in Scripture, because I don’t think it can be answered that way. My question would be; is the choir we use edifying or distracting to worshiping Christ? This may be answered differently according to circumstance.

    Scott, my concern is that in your zeal for biblical worship you are stirring up an unnecessary discontent in your readers with their local churches. When you begin to set the bar so high (no instruments, weekly communion, no uninspired hymns), higher than I believe Scripture sets, you enhance the loneliness and discontent you wrote about earlier, instead of reminding them of the weakness of this age, and that we are accepted into heaven through faith in Jesus Christ, not through having only the proper elements of 17th century reformed worship that many believers have never even heard of. That doesn’t mean we set the bar too low either, or fail to teach on these matters, but you get my point.



  4. Todd,

    I appreciate much of what you say, but implied in your post is a principle that is directly opposite the RPW and what is explicitly taught in WCF 21. The principle with which you seem to be operating is: Whatever is not forbidden is permitted.

    This was the Lutheran and Anglican principle. It is NOT what WCF 21 says.

    Ask yourself this: why does my service look (theoretically) so different from those who gave us the RPW? We (who worship differently than they did) and they cannot both be right.

    As far as I know, Calvin, Ames, Gillespie, and the Westminster Divines were quite aware of the book of Hebrews. They used it as their chief argument against Rome and it was the backbone of their opposition to things such as choirs — which they regarded as Romish and Mosaic.

    Here’s the problem, in your reaction to all things Mosaic you’ve embraced the very principle that Rome used to re-institute the Mosaic cultus gradually between the 9th and 13th centuries.

    The Reformed responded by saying that that we may do only that which God has commanded. With this principle they rid the church of instruments, of choirs, and memorial sacrifices etc and in their place instituted a service organized around Word, sacrament, and prayer.

    Is there are a place for confession of sin and profession of faith in the historic understanding of the RPW? Are these things commanded? Yes.

    Is weekly communion of the essence of Reformed worship? No. It was Calvin’s desired practice and it is, in my view, optimal, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. I hope I haven’t given that impression.

  5. Scott,

    No, I wouldn’t say I go by the Lutheran principle, but I can see how you might come to that conclusion from your perspective. I guess yours, and admittedly the Reformers,’ application of the RPW is much more precise than mine. Such is life. Have a good week.


  6. Hey Dr. Clark,

    Here’s a quick question that was just raised in my mind regarding the issue while reading these comments, but by which I am truly not attempting to be facetious.

    If we argue that the use of choirs should be abolished, because they are of the Mosaic economy of types and shadows, and that in the more glorious worship of the New Covenant these things have ceased – what then do we do with the angelic choirs of heaven seen in Luke’s Gospel, as well as those choirs (both of angels and the redeemed) seen praising God in Revelation 5, 14, and 15?

    It would seem that if the praise of the Church Triumphant in the heavens includes the use of both choirs and stringed instruments (kitharas, or “guitars/lutes/lyres” – I think some harpist got the upper hand in our standard English translations…), that the praise of the Church Militant surely could not be restricted from doing the same. Wouldn’t placing instruments and choirs strictly under the types and shadows of the OC have to deal with these passages where their use is found, even now, in the heavens?

    • Hi Adam,

      I understand. I get this question frequently. I address this point directly in RRC.

      Ask yourself, “What hermeneutic undergirds this question? What does the question assume about the nature of the eschatological state? What is the intended purpose of these narratives?”

      I think to ask these questions and to answer them well is to address the problem.

  7. Thanks Dr. Clark,

    I guess this would be a clear indication that I haven’t yet picked up my copy of RRC, but I hear that may be remedied soon with some incoming tax returns.

    I could possibly see an allowance for differing views of the choirs in revelation, based on differing hermeneutical approaches, but shouldn’t we take Luke’s Gospel account as being completely historic? And if we do so, shouldn’t we affirm that there were/are angelic praises being sung in the heavens?

    Although not being a Dispensationalist, I am not certain that taking an overly figurative approach to the imagery in the Apocalypse is a good thing. If we cannot affirm that the redeemed in heaven sing praises to God in the form of a heavenly choir then what can we affirm? What is it saying to us? And if we cannot affirm anything with certainty about what the image is saying of our heavenly state, then what good is the imagery at all? I do not think that doubt and uncertainty should be the result of a good interpretive process, but I should also probably read your thoughts in RCC before asking any more questions on this. Thanks again.

  8. Is Jesus standing before the Father or sitting on a throne? Is he really sitting on a literal throne? How well does that hermeneutic work in the Apocalypse?

  9. If you believe that Christ still assumes his full humanity, then you must affirm that indeed he has a location and movement in heaven. Just because a throne symbolizes authority does not rule out a heavenly throne or otherwise. It is a major assumption to assert that everything in the Apocalypse must be fully symbolic, and whose symbolism has practically no reflection in anything that we understand by our earthly experience. Amillenarianism, as symbolic is it is, does not mandate that sort of hermenuetic.

    This kind of argumentation is what begins to turn people away from our Reformed congregations. It is nothing other than taking any number of verses that don’t seem to fit as nicely into a particular formulation of the RPW as we would like, and so apply hermeneutical maneuvers to them so that practically any verse that might seem to conflict with our formulation is explained away.

    People begin to see us as manipulators of Scripture for our theological ends, rather than inquirers who are submissive to it. I understand all about the necessity of a hermeneutical framework within which our interpretations must take place, but sometimes I honestly believe that our desire for what we wish to be can end up driving both our hermeneutic and our exegesis in a manner that remains unconvincing, and I want to convince my sheep, not strong-arm them.

  10. 1. I think that is a question to be debated (but not on my time – I’m about to go on a family vacation!). If we assert (as we should) that all Scripture is fully and divinely inspired, and that it is profitable for “teaching, reproof, correction” etc., then the question must at least be raised as to whether or not John’s Apocalypse can help us understand our worship. If we see this style of worship in heaven (shown to us by the angelic host in Luke 2, as well, as previously noted), should we not at least ask ourselves whether or not this sort of thing is truly displeasing to God in our congregations on earth? Why would he be pleased with that kind of worship in heaven, but not by his saints on earth?

    2. Although there is a great deal of OT imagery found in the book of Revelation, I was cautioned by none other than our mutual friend and NT guru, prof S.M.B. himself, not to assume that John was always using OT imagery just because there seem to be parallels between, say, a passage in Revelation and one in Ezekiel. There are parallels, but there is also new revelation. The Apocalypse is not just the OT restated. So again, it is a matter that should be up for discussion, I believe, and I do think that a good case can be made for the side of instrumental/choral worship. If it glorifies God in heaven (so it seems), it should also be glorifying to God on earth as His saints express their praise and adoration to Him for His love and saving works.

    That will have to be all from this side. I need to finish packing for that vacation!

  11. Todd,

    In the temple only Levitical choirs were allowed. But the Levitical priesthood has been done away with in Christ, as per Hebrews. Consequently the congregation – the priesthood of believers – becomes the NT choir in the worship of God. That is the RPW take on choirs.


    You need to prove that the examples, angelic and otherwise, in Revelation of heavenly worship are approved and an example for us to follow down below here on earth. And if instruments, so too thrones, vestments, 24 elders and crowns of gold just as those who appeal to Ps. 150 for approval of musical instruments must also include dancing along with the them. This, on the basis of the hermeneutic that if something is merely mentioned in the Bible, it is lawful at all times for Christians, even in public worship. But that is not the P&R understanding of the implications of the Second Commandment.

    More could be said, but it would be better perhaps, to open up the comments again for the Instruments and Idols post and resolve some of the unfinished business/discussion.

    Thank you.

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